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March Movies at Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

Transporting a novel or news story from the page to the big screen does not always have to be disastrous, as Carol,Room, High Fidelity andSpotlighthave demonstrated. Saigon's March film program shows a range of adapted screenplays as well as stories of survival, both physical and emotional.

March 3 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Dude, Where’s My Car? (USA, 2000)

Before he went on to star in indie titles and the popular sitcom Two and a Half Men, Ashton Kutcher launched his career with Dude, Where’s My Car?

Jesse (Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott) are two party-hard stoners who find themselves in trouble when they wake up after a wild night and cannot remember anything, including where they parked Jesse’s car, in which they have left their girlfriends’ anniversary presents. The two inadvertently embark on a series of “adventures” as they try to retrace their steps from the previous night. Dude, Where's My Car? is the kind of wacky, comedic film that is best enjoyed when audiences leave their brains at home and put themselves in the shoes of the two main protagonists.

 

March 9 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Carol (USA, 2015)

Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy clearly understood the essence of Patricia Highsmith’s underground novel when she penned Carol. The screenplay is devoid of melodrama and stereotypes, instead placing its heart in the challenges of love. It is hard to imagine a director other than Todd Haynes bringing this story to the big screen: Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There) understands the female world and psyche. His elegantly shot film follows the relationship between an aspiring young photographer (Rooney Mara) and an older middle-class woman (Cate Blanchett), avoiding the constrictive label of a lesbian love story. Instead, Haynes is far more interested in making a character study of the two different women and the love they have for each other.

Comparing Carol with Brooklyn the other 1950s American love story released in 2015 – is nothing short of fascinating, both in terms of social diversity and cinematic storytelling.

 

March 10 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Listen to Me Marlon (USA, 2015)

Throughout his life, Marlon Brando recorded a vast number of personal audio tapes, self-hypnosis sessions and business meetings. Like a sci-fi film, Stevan Riley’s documentary opens with a digital recreation of the great American actor's face – Brando himself digitally “mapped” his face years before – and that unmistakable voice comes back, booming, from the dead. Throughout the movie, Riley juxtaposes selected audio sessions with archival footage, film reels and still images from Brando's tumultuous and tragic life. From his theatrical breakthrough in A Streetcar Named Desire to his thoughts on acting, his mentor Stella Adler, his political views and his family life, Listen to Me Marlon is the ultimate, intimate portrayal of a great but complicated artist whose work forever changed the art of acting.

 

March 16 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Spotlight (USA, 2015)

Only time will tell if Spotlight can have the same impact that All President’s Men had 40 years ago, but just as director Alan Pakula took down the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal, Spotlight's Tom McCarthy attacks another powerful institution: the Catholic church.

Between 2001 and 2003, the Boston Globes independent team of investigative journalists – known as “Spotlight” and played in the film by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James – is asked by new editor-in-chief Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to look into cases involving priests sexually abusing children.

While it is naïve to expect a single film to restore the public's opinion of contemporary journalism, Spotlightshows the relentless efforts of these reporters, breaking down the many detailed steps they had to follow in the name of accuracy as well as the impact of their results.

 

March 17 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

High Fidelity (USA, 2000)

One of the first films adapted from a Nick Hornby novel, High Fidelitysees John Cusack playing Rob, a self-doubting music snob who runs a store where vinyl records are worshipped like the Rosetta Stone.

Rob surrounds himself with a group of like-minded blokes who further highlight his unintentional separation from other potentially hurtful emotional realities, in particular the ones which stem from his relationship with his girlfriend, Laura.

Apart from High Fidelity's story, The Kinks, Barry White and The Jam are just few of the music delights folded into Stephen Frear’s romantic comedy, in which the hidden male psyche is slowly revealed.

 

March 23 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Room (Ireland, 2015)

It is not always a good idea to ask novelists to adapt their own books (see The Cider House Rules), but in her first screenplay, author Emma Donoghue manages to transport the 2010 story's inner monologues with incredible ease.

Five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) lives in a small room with his young mother (Brie Larson). Almost the entire story is viewed through the eyes of the boy, making it all the more traumatic when we discover that the “room” in which Jack lives is actually a garden shed, not to mention the haunting reason why they are trapped inside.

Director Lenny Abrahamson receives a blessing in Larson and her young co-star, whose performances in Room tell a story of discovery and thrills, but more importantly, a victim’s feeling of displacement when the magical world of childhood is brutally snatched away.

 

March 24 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Meru (2015)

Last year's winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, Merunarrates the two attempts by mountaineers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin (who is also the co-director of the film) to summit Meru Pick on the Indian side of the Himalayas.

Their first attempt, in 2008, was a failure. At the time, no climber had managed to reach Meru's summit, and even the sherpas refused to accompany the mountaineers. All of a sudden, Everest looked like a stroll in the park.

Much of the footage used in the documentary was filmed during the team's ascent, providing an exceptionally close look at the ordeals of climbing one of the most difficult mountains in the world, as well as delighting viewers with stunning vistas. Aside from being a joy for extreme sports enthusiasts, Merus broader appeal lies in its unveiling of the destructive side of humanity which motivates them to undertake such adventures.

 

March 30 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

45 Years(UK, 2015)

After Haneke’s Amour, Andrew Haigh proves again that elderly people can be at the center of a romantic drama. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay electrify the screen by seemingly not doing much in the roles of a wife and husband preparing for their 45th wedding anniversary. Their relationship, which appears to still be quiet ordinary and yet fueled by love, starts to crumble when a letter about the husband's old girlfriend arrives at their peaceful cottage. Haigh’s script places us in front of a burning house whose most destructive flames are hidden deep inside, as Rampling’s character slowly discovers how little she knows the man with whom she has spent almost half a century. Her realization will not come until the last shot of the film in a scene that is extremely subtle but nonetheless excruciatingly poignant.