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The films of Jean-Pierre Melville

3 Dec

6 Films To Celebrate French Noir Master Jean-Pierre Melville’s Centennial At The MFA

Serge Reggiani in Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Doulos," released in 1962. (Courtesy Rialto Pictures)closemore

If he were alive today, Jean-Pierre Melville, one of the great faces of French cinema, would be 100 years old. (He was born in 1917 and died of a heart attack in 1973). To commemorate the filmmaker’s 100th birthday, the Museum of Fine Arts is running a retrospective of the auteur’s work.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name (and too many Americans are), Melville minted chic, noir-ish gangster flicks that have been widely cited for their influence and echoed in the hip, popular works of Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann and John Woo. Melville also was a contemporary of, and collaborator with, many of the iconic directors of the French New Wave in the ’50s and ’60s — namely Jean-Luc Godard — and employed many of the great French actors of the time, most notably Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve.

Now revered for his unique style and approach (he made the fedora and the trench coat as synonymous with the French gangster genre as dusters and 10-gallon hats are to the American Western) Melville almost didn’t become a filmmaker. Born an Alsatian Jew by the surname Grumbach, he fled to England after the 1940 German invasion of France. Later, he returned as a member of the French Resistance. His nom de guerre was indeed copped from the “Moby Dick” author, who the young freedom fighter held in high regard. After the war, Melville applied to become an assistant director, but his license application was denied so he launched his own production company. The rest, so to say, is cinematic history. Melville produced a spartan 14 films — nearly all fine cut gems. Continue reading

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Update on Evergood Market

3 Dec

 

The storefront and fixtures at Evergood Market remain intact at 1676 Massachusetts Ave. nearly a year and a half after the store closed. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The Evergood Market space, empty for almost a year and a half on Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and Porter squares, is being held so it can become another neighborhood grocery store, an owner said.

The 1676 Massachusetts Ave. property was not being actively marketed because Stone Investment Holdings is in negotiations with a butcher and grocer to occupy the space, but specifics couldn’t be given because terms and bank loans were all in flux, said Nancy Stone, one of the principals of Stone Holdings.

When asked about the fate of the property if the deal feel through, Stone said she was committed to bringing a similar business to the space – around 8,600 square feet between the ground floor and a basement.

Evergood shuttered in July 2016 after 67 years of operation, and residents of the Agassiz, North Commons, Radcliffe and Avon Hill neighborhoods have been wondering what will become of the space.

Residents have been frustrated by months of non-responses from the property owners and managers. Some who knew grocers interested in the space shortly after the store closed told identical stories of being stymied when attempting to make contact.

“The whole thing is indeed a mystery,” said Pattie Heyman, a Neighborhood 9 resident. “Why this store would be left almost a year and a half in the same condition with no cleaning up and a total eyesore is beyond my comprehension.”

Stone Holdings also owns nearby properties housing a Starbucks and the swank eatery Shepard. Marc Levin, part of the management team at Chestnut Hill Realty, acts as the leasing agent, but repeated inquiries as to the status of the property and its availability were ignored by Levin. His assistant said the property was not Chestnut Hill business and that Levin would need to respond to the query directly. (Initially the property’s availability was advertised in the window listed by UBA Realty, but eventually it came down. A call to UBA pointed Cambridge Day to Levin.)

The store’s founding family, the Scholnicks, sold the store 16 years ago to manager William R. Carr. Two years later, Carr died. His wife, Diana Carr, took over the store and its financial challenges, but aging equipment and deepening financial pressures took their toll, leading her to close the store.

The unchanged storefront and lingering fixtures inside serve as a reminder of the loss to the community. “As a regular customer I miss a grocery where I can pick up food to make dinner,” resident Sarah Block said.

The nearest grocery stores are Star Markets on Beacon Street in Somerville and in Porter Square.

Battle Over Bike Lanes in Cambridge

3 Dec

 

Fritz Donovan, presiding officer of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association, speaks at a Wednesday group meeting on bicycle concerns. (Photos: Tom Meek)

A neighborhood group gathered and voted Wednesday seemingly to form a committee urging city officials to reevaluate and fix recently installed bike lanes it felt weren’t addressing traffic-safety goals. It was similar to the conclusion of a Monday meeting held by a different group.

There was overlap in attendance between the Monday “Safe Streets for All” meeting in East Cambridge and the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association meeting held Wednesday, but Fritz Donovan, the neighborhood group’s presiding officer, said this was “a neighborhood initiative that had been set up before.” More than 60 people attended the earlier meeting; nearly 100 gathered Wednesday at a Spaulding Hospital meeting room, including association members, bicyclists and other concerned citizens.

After many speakers and a near-unanimous association vote to set up a committee, there was little time to discuss how the two groups might collaborate or cooperate in getting more bicyclist traffic enforcement, “revisiting” the installed bike lanes on Brattle and Cambridge streets and playing a bigger role in future installations. Continue reading

Appreciation

13 Nov

Remembering David Pendleton, film lover whose passion, generosity enlivened HFA

 

David Pendleton

The film community in Cambridge and Boston dimmed Monday when Harvard Film Archive programmer David Pendleton passed away after a long battle with cancer. Pendleton, 52, was a highly respect ambassador of film and its preservation, and a fixture in Harvard and Porter squares.

If there was one aspect about Pendleton – beyond his inexhaustible passion for film – cited universally by those who knew him, it was a kind and easy manner that allowed him to interact with filmmakers and the public seamlessly. “He was a generous collaborator,” said Haden Guest, director of the Harvard Film Archive. Pendleton spent 10 years as the HFA’s programmer, following Guest east from the Film & Television Archive at the University of California at Los Angeles. (Pendleton, who was born in Dallas, earned a doctorate in critical studies from UCLA.)

Pendleton especially loved French cinema and classical Hollywood, Guest said, but had an interest in world cinema that included building strong programing slates focused on Korean, African and African-American filmmakers. Pendleton was “very inclusive and had a soft sport for marginalized people, and wanted to give them a voice,” HFA publicist Brittany Gravely said.

One of the ongoing programs Gravely cites as part of Pendleton’s imprint on the HFA and its community is the monthly film/discussion forum “Cinema of Resistance,” designed to orchestrate a conversation about salient social topics through film. During his tenure Pendleton also complied “complete” retrospectives of some of his favorite filmmakers, including Robert Altman, Pasolini and Jean Renoir, and helped assemble “A Burt Lancaster Centennial Tribute” in honor of one of his favorite actors.

Special guests Pendleton was instrumental in bringing to the HFA, and whose works he helped curate, included Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), Harmony Korine (“Spring Breakers”) and Leos Carax (“Holy Motors”). “David’s legacy,” Guest said, “was his ability to spark conversations between filmmakers and the public. He hosted many great evenings full of energy.”

“If there was one thing about David,” Gravely said, “he was thoughtful and unflappable, and always willing to reconsider things.”

Pendleton’s programs were cited regularly by the Boston Society of Film Critics (I am a member) in its year-end Film Series selections. “David’s programing was diverse, discriminating and eclectic,” Guest said, “and that made it exciting.”

Despite his advanced degrees and revered station in film preservation, Pendleton had a reputation for being accessible and open. “He was very nice and approachable man. I could always commiserate with him about the problems of running a repertory film program,” said John Galligan, curator of the Channel Zero repertory film series. “He was no snob.”

Pendleton is survived by his parents, his brother and two nieces. To honor his legacy, his family has urged donations to the American Civil Liberties Union, human rights organizations or LGBT groups.

Critical Ban

9 Nov

Boston Film Critic Head Explains Solidarity With LA Peers After Disney’s Strike Against Press

Visitors walk through Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in January 2015.
(Jae C. Hong/AP)closemore

Tom Meek, a film critic for The ARTery, is the president of the Boston Society of Film Critics.


Update:

On Tuesday afternoon, Disney told the New York Timesthat the company “agreed to restore access to advance screenings” for Los Angeles Times critics.


Our original post: 

A recent retaliatory measure enacted by the Walt Disney Company triggered a rapid solidarity response by film critics groups, including ours in Boston, over the weekend.

On Tuesday morning, four critics groups announced they would drop Disney-produced films from award consideration until the company rescinds its blackout of the Los Angeles Times.

The Boston Society of Film Critics joined the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics in speaking out against Disney’s systematic blackballing of the Times from its press screenings, interview opportunities and other media access.

The situation erupted last week when the LA Times film critics were barred from attending the press screening of the Disney-produced Marvel adventure “Thor: Ragnarok.” The studio was upset by the paper’s Sept. 24 report about the company and its financial arrangements with — and political influence in — the city of Anaheim (where Disneyland is nestled). Disney cited the paper’s “disregard for basic journalistic standards” as the basis for the move. (The company did not respond to my requests for information.)

Given the course of events, there’s a grave irony that arises in that a company, so effusive in its pursuit to maintain a wholesome, “family-friendly” image, is the hand behind such Machiavellian manipulation tactics. Continue reading

Staying local to protest the Free Speech rally

22 Aug
James Selvitella and Declan Haley run a peace-themed lemonade stand Saturday in front of the Cambridge Main Library. (Photos: Haley family)

As up to 40,000 Bay Staters made ready to descend Saturday on the Boston Common to protest a “Free Speech Rally” linked to white supremacists, many parents – fearful of the same type of fatal violence that broke out at a Charlottesville, Va., white supremacy march the previous weekend – struggled with whether to bring their children. Even though the organizers of the rally insisted they were not affiliated with Charlottesville rally organizers, the slate boasted some of the same speakers with ties to hate groups, and the City of Boston and Boston Police Department were on high alert.

Children make art at the lemonade stand Saturday – an alternative to marching in potential danger in Boston.

For one Cambridge family that wanted to spread the word of peace and inclusion – and be part of the movement without risking getting caught in the fray – the reasonable option took the form of a lemonade stand outside the Cambridge Main Library, with the proceeds going to Black Lives Matter Cambridge and the recently vandalized New England Holocaust Memorial.

Elizabeth Haley, a resident of Inman Square, didn’t feel comfortable taking her 8-year-old son to the rally, and sought other ways to engage the community and support the movement. “It was my son, Declan, who came up with the idea,” Haley said. The stand, prominent on Broadway with the banner “Lemonade for Peace,” wasn’t your typical impromptu corner stand; the Haleys had come wth a large folding table, colorful signs and art supplies to engage thirsty passers-by.

The art angle was the brainchild of Haley’s friend, Julie Selvitella, a Cambridge resident who teaches art in Andover, and her son James, who felt a communal art project would enrich the effort and bring unity. People getting drinks or just stopping by could write a message of acceptance and hope on a heart, with those hearts then hung on pinwheel structures hanging from the great willow tree sheltering the stand.

Hearts with messages left by lemonade buyers became decorations for the kids’ stand.

“The day worked out so well because it was so last-minute and we didn’t complicate things by overthinking it,” Haley said. “We met a lot of people who were on their way to the rally. Also,. there were many families with small children who felt the same way we did, so they were happy to make a donation and work on the art installation.”

The stand raised a few hundred dollars in just three hours, Haley said.

Watch Dogging the Historic Charm of Harvard Square

12 Jun

Harvard Square isn’t losing Defense Fund, it’s just gaining Neighborhood Association

Longtime thorn in side of developers morphs with new generation

Gladys “Pebble” Gifford, Caroline James, Marilee Meyer and Abra Berkowitz amid work on Harvard Square issues. (Photo: Carole Perrault)

The Harvard Square Defense Fund is back – rebranded.

The citizens group had some powerhouse years after its founding in 1979 by Gladys “Pebble” Gifford – blocking fast food franchises, sending the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum off to Boston and reshaping Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts – but has been dormant for years, even as people griped that the quaint square was losing its charm amid an infestation of banks and chain retailers. Believing the fund dissolved as far back as 2008, when Gifford gave testimony against the coming of The Sinclair nightclub in 2011, she did so as just a neighbor.

“The directors all got elderly or died. We thought we’d officially put it to bed,” Gifford said of her organization.

But when the city announced a $4.6 million plan to revamp the square’s 89-year-old Out of Town News kiosk and surrounding plaza, activists worried the alterations would nullify its classic charm and iconic features.

Members of the group Our Harvard Square, which includes Suzanne Blier, a Harvard architectural historian, and Susan Labandibar, president of Tech Networks of Boston, began calling for the structure – already on the list of the National Register of Historic Places – to be designated as a landmark by the Cambridge Historic Commission in hopes it would further ensure its preservation.  Continue reading