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Key Cinema Club

     Maybe its American anti-intellectualism which contaminates everybody, but who among us doesn't feel like a bombastic jackass talking about "the meaning" of a film we've just seen? Sounding off as we leave the theatre, we're certain we're being pegged by those listening in as some irritating fool who would be parodied mercilessly in a Woody Allen movie.

     But such self-consciousness is ridiculous, of course. An interesting film demands to be talked about, to be figured out, and it's a natural impulse to want to do so. What avid filmgoers might need, though, is a forum, a kind of safe area for serious discussion - what most adults lose forever simply by graduating from school.

     Enter the Sunday Cinema Club, starting February 8 and continuing alternate Sunday mornings into May at Cambridge's Kendall Square Cinema. On seven occasions, a new foreign-language or American independent film will be sneak previewed in its Boston premiere. Afterward, over coffee, club members can ask questions, supply commentary and interpretations, argue cinema with each other, and do everything that's so exhilarating about taking a college film course. And there are no downside: no grades, exams, grueling papers.

     At $98, a bargain!

     The Sunday Cinema Club is coming to us from Washington D.C., where, since Fall 1992, it's been an extraordinarily successful adjunct of the arthouse screenings at Georgetown's Key Theater. Some of the films that have premiered at the Key Cinema Club are Passion Fish, The Full Monty, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Shine. Many movies come with a guest speaker: a film critic, or the movie's star or director. Among the Club celebrity guests: directors John Sayles, Steven Soderbergh, actor Terence Stamp charming with his Priscilla stories.

     The Key Cinema Club series has sold out the last two years, 530 people per series. (There are no single admissions.) "We recreate the college experience of discussing things," said Dr. Peter Brunette, the George Mason Univerity professor who moderates the weekly discussions. "Film is a kind of communal experience but it's rare that you get to discuss it in a public or communal way. An hour's exchange after each film often puts it in a completely new light for the viewers. Our audiences have always been extremely articulate, and we go into not only the artistry of the films but ethical, political, and gender issues."

     It's reasonable to say that such a program succeeds or fails based on the talents and knowledge of the moderator. Brunette, my long-time friend, is an expert on French and Italian cinema and has written the essential book on director Roberto Rossellini. I'm pleased that the Key Cinema Club director, David Levy, has made an inspired choice for moderator of the Sunday Club at the Kendall. He's Dr. T. Jefferson Kline, an extremely popular Boston University French professor who is as personable as he is immensely brilliant. I'm in awe of his scholarship on French cinema and of his study of director Bernardo Bertolucci.

     Oh, one caveat. For contractual reasons, you can't know what film will be shown until you show up. David Levy has assured me that "Our members love the anticipation associated with NOT knowing."


GERALD PEARY
(Boston Phoenix, January, 1998)

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