Since 1979 Webster University's Webster Film Series has brought art-house cinema to sleepy Webster Groves. Just this year WFS became the first place to see David Lynch's Inland Empire
as the Twin Peaks
creator's foray into weirdness made the festival circuit, still unready for prime time. As you peruse the calendar, it becomes plain why the series has succeeded for years: The non-mainstream film work it brings to St. Louis is as compelling as it is varied. Some programs dip low screenings of cult classics Escape From New York
or Repo Man
, stuff that's just not the same unless you're relaxed in the Winifred Moore Auditorium with like-minded movie freaks. Sometimes the programs revisit icons rare Warhol screenings or a string of masterful war films from around the world and some bring films walking firmly in the present, a cinema of immediacy that reveals the world as it is now on the patiently flickering screen. Thirty years ago you couldn't fill your Netflix queue with Criterion Collection releases of long-forgotten titles, because none of those things existed the art house was the only place to see them. These days the WFS fills the same vital role, bringing in filmmakers from D.A. Pennebaker to John Waters and films from French Nouvelle Vague
classics to recent documentaries about zoophilia. Burn, Hollywood, burn! Vive la cinéma!