‘Green Fire,’ ‘Holy Motors’ lead weekend films


In collaboration with Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and the Vineyard Conservation Society, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center’s Green Screen series presents the Emmy award-winning documentary “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time” on Saturday, Jan. 12. Playing at the center on Thursday, Jan. 10, is “Holy Motors,” a prize-winning French experimental film.

The subject of “Green Fire,” Aldo Leopold, has been called the most influential conservationist of the 20th century, according to his biographer, Curt Meine, who narrates the movie. Author in 1948 of “The Sand County Almanac,” a collection of essays about the environment, the late Mr. Leopold was a forester, a scientist, a teacher, and an author. Born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1887, this foresighted conservationist grew up exploring the outdoors using his mother’s opera glasses for binoculars.

After attending the Yale Forestry School, Mr. Leopold joined the U.S. Forest Service and was assigned to the Apache National Forest in Arizona. The green fire in the film’s title describes what he saw in the eyes of a dying wolf.

It led Mr. Leopold to understand the interconnection of soils, water, plants, animals, and communities in restoring the well-being of forests and wilderness. He came to appreciate early on the importance of burning in returning prairies to their natural state. His enthusiasm for hunting and initial support for predator control did not prevent him from coming to an understanding that predators like wolves play an important role in wilderness ecology and should not be eliminated.

Like the best of documentaries, “Green Fire” takes a straightforward approach to explaining who Mr. Leopold was and what his contribution to environmental ecology has been, using testimony from a variety of environmentalists. Each of his five children became environmentalists.

After his work for the U.S. Forestry Service, Mr. Leopold returned to the Midwest and taught at the University of Wisconsin. He bought a worn-out farm in Sand County, Wis., and restored it, promoting the conservation ethic of learning how to live on a piece of land without spoiling it. Suffering a heart attack while helping a neighbor fight a forest fire, Mr. Leopold died in 1948.

Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation Executive Director Adam Moore will introduce “Green Fire” and a Q&A session follows the film. The Green on Screen film series is supported by a grant from the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard.

The M.V. Film Center will also screen “Holy Motors,” a surrealist film that follows nine appointments in the day of Oscar (Denis Levant), an actor who travels in a white stretch limousine that serves as his dressing room. Chauffeured by Celine (Edith Scob), Oscar transforms himself into a variety of characters that seem to have no real narrative connection to each other.

During one of his appointments, Oscar dresses in a dark, form-fitting body suit and hood that are covered with luminescent orbs. He performs a series of dazzling acrobatics alone and then in an erotic dance with a similarly dressed female. In another appointment, he transforms himself into a monster who enters the Parisian sewers, wanders through a cemetery eating flowers, and eventually makes off with a beautiful model (Eva Mendes). By the end of the film, Celine drops Oscar off at home and returns the limo to a lot filled with other white stretch limos.

“Holy Motors” will not appeal to every moviegoer, but it won its director, Leos Carax, an award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, as well as prizes from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. A key to this film may well lie in its final scene. Those who appreciate the cinematic invention and confrontations in “Holy Motors” well before that scene will find its fantastical meanderings in what may or may not be the real world sometimes comical, other times sad, and often astonishing.

“Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time,” Saturday, Jan. 12, 4 pm, $10; $7 for members.”Holy Motors,” Thursday, Jan. 10, 7:30 pm, $10; $7 for members.

M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For more information and additional listings, see MVFilmsociety.com.