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They're Not All Popcorn

The art houses will offer at least a few films free of dinosaurs, car chases and disasters.

May 11, 1997|Judy Brennan | Judy Brennan is a regular contributor to Calendar

'Before your teeth begin to rot from all of the popcorn movies," says Fox Searchlight Pictures President Lindsay Law, "turn to us. We're the alternative."

If you're an art-house buff, Paul Degarabedian, executive vice president of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations, says you're in luck this summer.

Miramax, arguably the most high profile of the independent studios, has 12 releases this summer. "What [the big blockbusters] don't serve is a large part of the audience--my mother and everybody else like her," said Mark Gill, president of marketing of Miramax. "She won't go to 'Batman' or 'Speed 2' or 'Lost World' or 'Men in Black.' "

Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Century Fox Domestic Film Group, agrees in part. "You do start to get more highbrow stuff in August as a rule. But I think even the broader films, like 'Out to Sea' [a Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon summer comedy], appeal to that audience as well."

One of the most eagerly awaited films is Mike Leigh's follow-up to "Secrets & Lies," "Career Girls," about two young career women in London who run into a number of their old friends six years after leaving the university and how their lives and relationships have changed.

Here are some other films that art-house audiences can look forward to, by month:


May brings the film version of Terrence McNally's "Love! Valour! Compassion!," starring Jason Alexander, about eight gay friends who get together over three summer holiday weekends at a country house.

Oscar nominee Pete Postlethwaite stars in "Brassed Off," a film set against the backdrop of the impending closure of a mining pit in Yorkshire, England, tracing the story of a group of miners who also happen to be in a brass band. Stephen Frears directs "The Van," the third installment in the Roddy Doyle Barrytown trilogy set in Ireland (following "The Commitments" and "The Snapper"). The release stars Colm Meaney, who was in the previous films. The story is about two men and their ill-fated partnership in a fish 'n' chips van.

"Gabbeh" is an Iranian import telling a mythical tale about a tribe of rug weavers and a woman's story that comes to life in the weaving of a Persian carpet.

"Rough Magic," a film noir thriller, stars Bridget Fonda and Russell Crowe in a tale of a magician's assistant who flees to Mexico with footage of her controlling fiance killing her mentor; she is then pursued by an American reporter.

"La Promesse" is a French drama about a 15-year-old boy who must betray his father to determine his own moral compass.


"Shall We Dance" is a wildly popular Japanese film about people in that country who secretly take up ballroom dancing. The film caused a huge fad after its release in Japan.

The Chen Kaige-directed "Temptress Moon" debuted at Sundance after being banned in Chen's native China. It is about a young boy who moves into a family estate only to learn it is a world of decadence and drugs.

"Ulee's Gold," starring Peter Fonda, traces the story of a withdrawn, widowed war veteran and beekeeper working in the tupelo marshes of the Florida Panhandle who sees trouble in his children's lives alter his gloomy life dramatically.

The winner of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or award, "Love Serenade," produced by Jan Chapman ("The Piano"), is a comedy set in rural Sunray, Australia, about two sisters who think life is passing them by until a new king of Brisbane radio shows up in town.


"For Roseanna" stars Mercedes Ruehl and Polly Walker, telling the story of a trattoria proprietor madly trying to keep sick people in his small Italian village alive so he can secure one of only three burial plots left in the cemetery for his wife, Roseanna (Ruehl).

The Mexican director of the chilling "Cronos," Guillermo Del Toro, directs "Mimic," a sci-fi horror tale starring Oscar winner Mira Sorvino and Charles Dutton. The story is about a genetic engineering miracle conjured up by two young scientists to save children that in time becomes a nightmare of the worst kind.

A tale of unrequited love, "Mrs. Brown," directed by John Madden ("Ethan Frome"), is about the grief-stricken Queen Victoria who can't seem to come out of mourning after the death of her beloved Prince Albert until her horseman becomes an unlikely healer.

"Star Maps," the directorial debut of Miguel Arteta, tells the story of a young man trying to break free of his oppressive father and the family business: prostitution, under the guise of selling maps to movie stars' homes.


Can Sylvester Stallone star in an art-house film? His "Cop Land," which also stars Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro, tells of a sheriff in a quiet New Jersey town who must choose between protecting his idols--the local cops--and upholding the law.

"Box of Moonlight," starring John Turturro, is about life, liberty, rediscovering a self-purpose and the pursuit of lawn ornaments. "The Full Monty" is about six out-of-work steelworkers who form their own strip act after a troupe of Chippendale dancers comes to town.

"She's So Lovely," directed by Nick Cassavetes and based on his late father John Cassavetes' screenplay, stars Sean Penn, Robin Wright and John Travolta. It's about a couple who become separated only to have the husband leave and then return to find his ex has married another.

"How to Be a Player" tells the story of a womanizer who gets his comeuppance when a bunch of his dissed girlfriends seek revenge. It stars MTV's Bill Bellamy.

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