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Film Picks

[whitespace] By Richard von Busack

The Boys in the Band (1970)
Plays Jan. 15-21 at the Roxie Theater.

Here's a piece of history. William Friedkin's adaptation of Mart Crowley's celebrated play is about a group of very bitchy and decidedly aging gay men at an unfortunate birthday party--a party infiltrated by a token breeder who may not be as breederly as he seems. The boys include Cliff Gorman (who played Lenny Bruce in the underground film Dirtymouth, years before Dustin Hoffman's Lenny) and Troy McCluresque TV star Laurence Luckinbill. Like Friedkin's later film, the 1980 Cruising, The Boys in the Band was denounced as negative stereotyping instead of positive-image building--yet both films are essential viewing for students of gay history. New 35mm print.

Ultimate Classic Cartoon Show--Karl Cohen Benefit
Plays Jan. 17-18 at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St. Tickets $8.

For years now, local animation expert Karl Cohen has given shows from his enormous collection of animated cartoons. Exhibiting pre-code Betty Boop and racist Popeye cartoons, Cohen provided a look at the less-innocent side of the art. Now recovering from a stroke, Cohen will be on hand at this exhibit of a wide selection of cartoons that Walt Disney would have preferred to have had swept under the rug. Cohen's recently published study of censored cartoons, Forbidden Animation, will be on sale during a screening of some of his favorites cartoons.

The Thin Red Line
Plays at selected theaters.

Here's visionary filmmaking at its most perverse: Terrence Malick took hell and changed it into Eden. Bearing only superficial resemblance to James Jones' novel about the World War II South Pacific battlefield Guadalcanal, this rambling, nearly three-hour-long film is never more than a fascinating failure. It's sometimes annoyingly inchoate, almost stream of consciousness in its story-telling. And yet vivid, glittering images of warfare bubble out of its surface, such as a compact scene of the storming of a machine gun nest in chest-high grass, each blade distinct and golden in the sun. There's also Nick Nolte's strongly underplayed scene of replacing a too-cautious subordinate (Elias Koteas). The stars are only window dressing--blink and you miss Travolta and Clooney--but Sean Penn's nihilistic badass of a sergeant seems to have time-traveled back from Nam.

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From the January 18, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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