Black History Month Film Series. The St. Louis Art Museum presents a series in honor of Black History month. This week features Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust, which tells the story of the Peazant family as they ready themselves for a move to the North from their isolated life on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Plays at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at the St. Louis Art Museum. NR
Cinefeminism: Three Decades of American Female Directors. Fontbonne College presents a series dedicated to underappreciated films by female directors. This week's feature is Barbara Loden's Wanda (1971). Praised when it opened in 1971 but largely forgotten since, Barbara Loden's only feature fits comfortably among a small group of Vietnam-era films (Medium Cool, The Last Movie, David Holzman's Diary, to name a few) that called for a revolution in film production, inspired by the changing winds in Europe and the underground. Loden nods in the direction of Cassavetes, Antonioni and -- most of all -- Breathless with a rambling account of a footloose woman who falls in with a two-bit crook, but her film is too original and harshly honest to be dismissed as mere homage. Loden, who was better known as the wife of director Elia Kazan, gives a flawless portrayal of a small-town girl with no future -- she sometimes recalls the Tuesday Weld of Pretty Poison, but she's more like a directionless woman who might once have dreamed of being Tuesday Weld. Michael Higgins is nearly as good as the loutish criminal whose path crosses that of Wanda. Despite its now-unfashionable bleakness, Wanda is a powerful, searing film about dead-end lives, the female equivalent of a Five Easy Pieces and a likely inspiration for such recent films as Allison Anders' Gas Food Lodging. Plays at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Fontbonne College library. (RH)
Cinema in the City. Webster University sponsors once-a-month Wednesday screenings in Beatnik Bob's Cafe. This month features Edward Dymtryk's Captive Wild Women (1943). A doctor who turns an ape into a woman but he's less successful at controlling her libido. Plays at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at Beatnik Bob's Cafe, City Museum, 15th and Lucas streets. NR
Films of Frederick Wiseman. Webster University presents a series of films by documentary director Frederick Wiseman. If Wiseman isn't the greatest living American filmmaker (as one recent magazine article boldly claimed), he certainly holds the undisputed title of the cinema's greatest social scientist. Wiseman's films, ranging in length from a lean 85 minutes to day-long marathons, are no-frills cinema verité at its purest, chronicling -- perhaps even dismantling -- the inner workings of social structures and institutions ranging from high schools, boot camps and welfare offices to racetracks and department stores. Though he avoids narrative or offscreen commentary, he's no simple voyeur; carefully editing weeks of footage with an analytical eye, Wiseman's cameras slip through the cracks of their subject matter and penetrate their public images to expose the subtle dynamics of power within. The first film in the series is Titicut Follies. Shot in 1967 and banned from public screening for nearly 30 years, Titicut Follies was Wiseman's first film and remains his most disturbing. Filmed at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Mass., it records the casual brutality of an institution where prisoners are held without clothing, trivialized, dehumanized and, from all indications, given little serious treatment. Though it has a reputation as a brutal film (Wiseman records an inmate being force-fed with a nasal tube, intercutting later shots of the same prisoner in the morgue), the real horror in Titicut Follies is the sheer banality of life within the prison, where the banter of the guards and questionable efforts of the staff attempt to mask their complete disregard of the broken men in the cells. Plays at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at Webster University. (RH)
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