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'National Gallery' and 'Force Majeure' premiere at the MV Film Center this week.

In his 39th documentary, Frederick Wiseman applies his considerable cinematic skills to interpreting art with a three-hour trip through one of the world’s great museums. National Gallery plays Friday, Dec. 19, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. It’s an exhausting and exhilarating excursion. Opening this weekend is Force Majeure, a domestic drama about a Swedish family’s ski trip.

Throughout Wiseman’s career, this master of cinema vérité or observational film (terms he avoids) has used the camera to explore the nature of institutions. One of the earliest films of the Boston-born lawyer turned filmmaker, Titicut Follies (1967), portrayed Bridgewater State Hospital patients in such graphic detail that it was banned in Massachusetts. More recent films include Boxing Gym, Crazy Horse, and At Berkeley.

Now 84 years old, Mr. Wiseman opens National Gallery with a Rembrandt painting, then moves outdoors to a shot of the lions that grace the entrance to the world-famous London museum. A cinematic anatomy of the National Gallery follows, alternating cleaning staff, viewers, docent lectures, administrative meetings, and conservators at work with shots of individual pieces in the collection.

These cinematic images are selected with such care that the film audience can absorb far more than any three-hour excursion through the museum would offer. Mr. Wiseman taps all of the devices that film uses to communicate — cuts, montage (editing), close-ups, establishing shots, to name a few. The soundtrack is the one exception, with the filmmaker relying entirely on the natural sounds and dialogue occurring as the camera moves through the museum exploring its many facets as an institution.

Administrators debate how or whether to market the museum in ways that will draw a wider and different audience. Docents trained in art history talk about the symbolism of a distorted skull in a 16th century Hans Holbein painting and the background behind the 18th century painter George Stubbs’s choice of horses as a subject. The camera looks in on several live-model classes of artists drawing nudes. A group of blind visitors is given Braille-like reproductions of a painting to study and discuss. Museum staff explain the care that goes into hanging paintings in a new exhibit and the way paintings “talk” to one another.

If the film’s length seems taxing, National Gallery presents the audience with as much richness as an entire course in art appreciation. Not to be forgotten is the way Mr. Wiseman animates an essentially static subject through the many cinematic techniques at his command. He reinforces that message in the closing sequences by showing how other art forms, including video, poetry, music, and dance interact with art. And last but not least comes the capacity of film to find inspiration in an art museum.

Avalanche rules Force Majeure

A family on a ski vacation in France provides Swedish director Ruben Ostlund with the opportunity to poke fun at marital trials and tribulations in Force Majeure. The term in the title is a legal one. A little like “act of God,” force majeure is a contract clause that frees the parties from liability for an unavoidable accident. The force majeure in the film is an avalanche.

Tomas is taking time off from a demanding job to spend time with his wife, Ebba, and two children, Harry and Vera. A family-portrait photo op on the slopes opens the film and signals what the subject will be. Soon after, the camera watches Harry from behind as he pees into a bathroom waterfall, suggesting that the mood will be comic. After the scene has been set, day two of this Scandinavian vacation finds the family about to eat lunch on a deck overlooking the slopes. A massive avalanche arrives, looking as if it will bury everyone, and Tomas abandons his family to seek safety inside.

More than a little irritated with her husband’s cowardice, Ebba recounts to friends over dinner what happened. Tomas claims he saw events quite differently from his wife. The avalanche frames the battle of the sexes that follows and incorporates the two children.

Mr. Ostlund captures life at a ski resort and domestic strife with style and sophistication. He peppers the story with an understated humor that perhaps epitomizes a Swedish take on family life. If Force Majeure doesn’t inspire belly laughs, it does offer plenty of chuckles.

“National Gallery,” Friday, Dec. 19, 4 pm.

“Force Majeure,” Friday, Dec. 19, and Saturday, Dec. 20, 7:30 pm; Sunday, Dec. 21, 4 pm.

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—Photo by Michael Cummo

Did the shrill cries of children and haunted harpsichord melodies seeping out of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse make you mistake Monday night for this Friday’s Halloween? If writer Truman Capote, actress Deborah Kerr, or Monday night’s host, Jamie Alley from Island Entertainment Video, had a say, they hoped you were among the fortunate audience who received this early cinematic trick or treat. Monday kicked off the Playhouse’s classic film series with Jack Clayton’s chilling 1961 thriller The Innocents.

If you have yet to experience the gloriously renovated Vineyard Playhouse and the Patricia Neal Stage, one of the Island’s foremost film aficionado’s, Jamie Alley, is thrilled to offer a “quirky but interesting curation of classic films in this equally wonderful venue.” A film fan since the age of 12, a theater professional, and the decades-long manager of Island Entertainment Video in Vineyard Haven, Mr. Alley’s expertise was demonstrated as he gave the introduction to the first in what should be a wonderful film series.

The Innocents, adapted from the Henry James novella The Turn of The Screw, did not fall prey to what so many slashers did at that time,” Mr. Alley said. “Instead, they produced something far more classy and elegant.” Mr. Alley went on to present technical tidbits, screenplay stories, casting choices, and production points as naturally as if we were sharing a seat in his own home theater.

Co-written by Truman Capote, this fantastically chilling and often overlooked Gothic ghost story stars Deborah Kerr as a naive, and perhaps neurotic, nanny charged with two precocious children in an English manor haunted with memories. “Kerr was underrated as an actress, but she’s so great in this role because it required intelligence, a psychological horror she does beautifully,” Mr. Alley said before the screening. “I chose this film to start the series because it’s Halloween week of course, but it’s a little less known than The Haunting and others of the time. It’s really nuanced, and really scary.”

“We had tried a classic film series a couple of years ago, but now with the renovation we thought it would be more successful,” Mr. Alley explained. “As you’ll see, the digital projection is beautiful and the space is intended to host a wide range of events: cabaret, spoken word, and film.” To see The Innocents on such a grand screen was breathtaking, but to hear the haunting soundtrack in such acoustic perfection was the real treat.

A look at the tentative schedule easily turns the Monday night moody blues into Monday night movie memories. Screenings begin at 7:30 at the M.V. Playhouse. $5 cash only.

Nov. 3: The Trouble with Harry (1955, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)

Nov. 10:  All That Heaven Allows (1955, directed by Douglas Sirk)

Nov.  17: Sitting Pretty (1948, directed by Walter Lang)

Nov. 24: Miracle on 34th Street (1947, directed by George Seaton)

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From left, Alfred Molina as George and John Lithgow as Ben. —Photo by Jeong Park, Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Love at the movies usually concerns the romantic life of young couples. Not so with Ira Sachs’s new film, Love Is Strange. This director’s love story explores and celebrates the long-abiding love of two aging men, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina). The film, which opens this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, offers viewers an unusually rich view of urban domestic life. Love Is Strange opens on the morning of Ben and George’s wedding in Manhattan. The camera work quickly signals that while this couple’s world may not include the usual Hollywood signifiers — movie-star good looks and youthful, toned bodies — it seeks out unusual perspectives and lingers in unexpected places. The film lovingly immerses the viewer in the urban landscape that is so much a part of this gay couple’s life together, in some of the ways Woody Allen has paid tribute to New York in his movies. By relying on Chopin and other classical music, the soundtrack reinforces yet another element of the couple’s world, since George is a piano teacher and choral director.

The post-wedding party, held at Ben and George’s co-op apartment, uses none of the clichés so often found in movie versions of parties. Instead it introduces us to the couple’s distinctive extended family. Ben’s nephew Elliott (Darren Burrows), a filmmaker, is there with his novelist wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenaged son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), whose remarkably subtle performance will make the viewer realize how inauthentic most movie teenagers are. On George’s side are Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez), the gay cop couple that are George and Ben’s next-door neighbors. The slightly kookie Mindy (Christina Kirk) is significant primarily for living outside of Manhattan, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. What is important about Ben and George’s extended family is that they are recognizable less for their connections to gay culture than to any middle class world.

The classic model for romantic comedy keeps its putative couple at odds, or at least apart, at the start and ends with their happy union. Mr. Sachs up-ends that convention by starting with marital bliss and finishing with separation. The switch is particularly appropriate for a gay couple, since Ben and George have already lived together happily and successfully for many years, while their marriage marks society’s recent legitimization of gay marriage. The twist that separates Ben and George physically, if not emotionally, situates the story in the real world, where bigotry rears its ugly head even in the wake of social change.

George loses his job at a Catholic school because his marriage defies Church doctrine. Like so many other Americans, George and Ben (who is retired) are then tossed on the shoals of economic distress. They must sell their co-op apartment and move in with family and friends. The world of New York real estate being the space-challenged place that it is, no one has enough room to house both members of the couple. Ben, a chatty amateur painter, ends up with his nephew and family, sharing bunk beds with a resentful Joey, and workspace with novelist Kate. George, who favors solitary pleasures, finds himself on the sofa of his ex-neighbors, Ted and Roberto, who always seem to have a party in the making. The friction caused by overcrowded living arrangements generates plenty of gentle humor.

Love Is Strange’s masterful acting, headlined by Lithgow, Molina, and Tomei, brings rare depth to this story of domestic life. It is a quintessentially modern story, one told with care and great affection rather than sentimentality or melodrama.

Love Is Strange, Friday, October 24, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, October 25, 4 p.m, M.V. Film Center. For more information, see

Updated, Thursday, October 2, 10 pm. Note that the correct date and time for The Hungry Heart showing is Friday, October 10, at 7:30 pm.

“The Hungry Heart,” a new documentary film on prescription drug addiction and recovery in Vermont, will be screened at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Friday, October 10 at 7:30 pm. Director Bess O’Brien will run a Q and A session after the screenings. The Martha’s Vineyard community is welcome to be a part of the conversation about this issue. The Martha’s Vineyard Times, a media sponsor of the event, has covered the prevalence of opiate addiction on Martha’s Vineyard in an ongoing series.

HH TRAILER-VIMEO from Bess O’brien on Vimeo.

According to a press release from Kingdom County Productions:

“The Hungry Heart” has toured across New England to more than 100 towns and was presented in Washington, D.C., by Senator Patrick Leahy and Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Produced by Kingdom County Productions, “The Hungry Heart” provides an intimate look at the often hidden world of prescription drug addiction through the work of Vermont pediatrician Fred Holmes, whose patients struggle with this disease.

Dr. Holmes works closely with his patients to provide them with therapy and outpatient programs. In addition, Dr. Holmes is part of the Suboxone treatment program. Much like methadone, Suboxone helps many addicts in their recovery process. For some, taking Suboxone is a crucial steppingstone to long-term recovery. For others, Suboxone is abused and diverted onto the street. Through the film, Dr. Holmes struggles with these challenges, trying to make sense and keep the faith in the midst of many contradictions.

The film is not ultimately about Suboxone, or the medical treatment these young people receive from Dr. Holmes. It is about the simple but profound connection that Dr. Holmes creates with each patient, and how important listening and respect is for these young addicts as part of their recovery process. The film shines a light on the healing power of conversation, and the need for connection that many of these young addicts yearn for but do not have in their lives.

In addition, the film interviews a number of older addicts and family members who share their stories of struggle and redemption. The road to recovery is paved with success stories and strewn with relapses, downfalls, and tragic losses. However, throughout the movie the viewer meets the many faces and diverse populations of addiction, and their continued search for a life of recovery.

Best-selling author David Sheff, who wrote the book “Beautiful Boy” about his own son’s addiction, called “The Hungry Heart” “a brilliant and beautiful film that captures the true lives of people in recovery.” MSNBC called the film “deeply moving.”

Geoff Kane, M.D., chief of addiction services at Brattleboro Retreat, raves, “‘The Hungry Heart’ displays the unflinching honesty necessary for addiction recovery. Dr. Fred Holmes displays the unwavering respect, hope, and accountability that people need to get there.”

“The Hungry Heart” opens up dialogue around many issues connected to addiction and recovery, and serves as a jumping-off point for discussion and action steps that many of our communities need.

To watch a trailer of the film or for more information, visit or call 802-357-4616.

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Actress Lisa Carlehed in "The Fall."

Ten short films from around the world will play at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Sept. 26, Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, as part of the 17th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival. Vineyard filmgoers, along with others in more than 250 movie theatres on six continents, will have the chance to vote for their favorite short and their favorite actor.

Combining live action, animation, and special effects, the finalists were drawn from 589 entries and 47 nations. A breeding ground for cinematic success, the Manhattan Short Film Festival has produced Oscar nominees and winners as well as other international prizewinners.

Animations by Sam Chou in "Crime."
Animations by Sam Chou in “Crime.”

From the Netherlands, director Ben Brand tells a particularly topical story in “97 Percent.” The central character chases a would-be romantic interest through his smartphone. American directors Alix Lambert and Sam Chou employ animation for their powerful graphic novel–style, episodic documentary “Crime — The Animated Story.” Ms. Lambert has already directed a full-length documentary on Russian prisons and written a book on crime. “We wanted each episode to showcase a completely different visual style to complement the stories being told,” Mr. Chou said in an interview with Manhattan Short founding director Nicholas Mason.

“On the Bridge,” an English finalist by Sameer Patel, develops an original premise derived from an actual event that took place on Waterloo Bridge in London. One man sees another getting ready to jump off the bridge and assumes he is trying to commit suicide. The reality is shockingly different, and offers a fascinating exploration of courage.

A scene from "Mend and Make Do."
A scene from “Mend and Make Do.”

Australian director James Croke’s “Shift” revolves around an inventor who develops a device that allows him to vanish from one location, then reappear in another. “The Fall,” by Norwegian director Andreas Thaulow, uses the visually potent premise of mountain climbers to narrate its story comparing two kinds of trust, between climbers and between lovers. “We had an experienced crew of climbers and experts in charge of safety,” Mr. Thaulow has said. “The trickiest part was to get the equipment safely to where it needed to be.”

Outer space provides the setting for French director Thierry Lorenzi’s film “ON/OFF.” “[Science fiction writer] Philip K. Dick is one of my influences,” he said. “I wanted ‘ON/OFF’ to feel like a science fiction novella.” The film was shot in a studio, and the director uses special effects to create the illusion of outer space. “La Carnada,” the Mexican entry by director Josh Soskin, addresses the hot-button topic of immigration. Although it’s a fiction film, the director based the film on his time living and traveling in Mexico since 2008. Shot on both sides of the border in Tijuana and Sonora, “La Carnada” uses the perspective of a teenager to narrate its story about immigration and smuggling.

Actor Lindsay Farris in "Shift."
Actor Lindsay Farris in “Shift.”

“Mend and Make Do,” another finalist from England by director Bexie Bush, combines animation and live action for its interview of one of the elderly women who were clients in Ms. Bush’s grandmother’s hairdressing salon. Describing life before and after World War II, Ms. Bush said, “Lyn Schofield was one of my favorite customers, who would burst through the door every Tuesday exclaiming, ‘I’m here’ in a tuneful announcement with a giant smile on her face.”

A mother’s encounter in an elevator with two U.S. Army officers in “The Bravest, the Boldest” provides the theme of American director Moon Molson’s short. The news these officers have come to deliver is not something any mother would want to hear. The director evokes the setting in a New York’s housing project with shadowy tones of yellow, orange, and green. “Rhino Full Throttle,” the title of German director Erik Schmitt’s entry, reflects its use of magical-realist production values to explore a man’s romantic encounter with a mysterious young woman in his search for the soul of a city. Mr. Schmitt’s walks in Berlin provided the foundation for this unusual tale. He explains that he and a friend developed a variety of analog film tricks like stop-motion, pixilation, and playing with perspectives to convey his emotional story.

The 10 shorts range in length from eight to 17 minutes. Each filmgoer will be provided with a ballot to vote for his or her favorite short and actor, and the local winner will be announced after the two screenings. The worldwide winner will be announced by the Manhattan Short Film Festival on Monday, Oct. 5.

Manhattan Shorts Festival: Friday, Sept. 26, Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m. M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $12 (MV Film Society members $9; 14 and under $7). For tickets and information, see

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A scene from "Granite Stoke," one of the Surf Night screenings. —Courtesy TMVFF

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival in Chilmark has joined forces with the California-based High Line Festival of Surfing to offer Surf Night, a day and evening dedicated to surfing. This celebratory and community-oriented event on Saturday, Sept. 20, is free and open to all. It includes surfing lessons, music, films, art, and food.

Community and family surfing lessons will begin at noon at a location to be announced so that they can take advantage of the best wave conditions. The event is not limited to surfers, though. The beach gathering is open to all. Surfboards will be available at no charge at the Green Room, 6k6 Surf, and the Boneyard Surf Shop. A sunset potluck dinner will begin at 5:30 pm in the Chilmark Community Center with music by Alex Karalekas and friends, and the photographs of Ian Durkin will be on exhibit. Three short surfing films will follow, starting at 7 pm. A dock dance at Memorial Wharf in Edgartown will round out the evening’s events at 8:30 pm.

Planning for Surf Night began last year after MVFF managing director Brian Ditchfield bumped into High Line Surf Festival founder Ari Lurie at Morning Glory Farm. Based in Mill Valley, Calif., Mr. Lurie spends the fall on the Vineyard surfing and fishing with his wife and daughter. Once he met MVFF founder Thomas Bena, a 24-year surfing veteran, the two caught waves and began planning for Surf Night. “Surfers around the world speak the same language,” says Mr. Lurie. “It’s the same religion. Surf Night is really an open evening because that’s the nature of the sport.”

“I have been a fan of his for a couple years,” Mr. Lurie says of the New York-based surfing photographer Mr. Durkin. “A lot of his photography is based on the trips he takes with his friends up and down the East and West coasts.”

“It’s basically a celebration of the ocean,” Mr. Bena said in a telephone interview last weekend. The event also reflects the sense of community that characterizes the surfing world around the globe. Twenty people, age six to 60, had signed up for lessons by last weekend. There will be a variety of instructors for surfers at all levels of the sport.

Mr. Bena has selected three of the High Line Festival’s best films to screen at Surf Night. “High line” is a surfing term that references riding in the top third of a wave. The film “Granite Stoke” describes the surfing scene in New Hampshire, where a mere 18 miles of coastline and frigid winter temperatures still foster an active surfing community. The film’s title reflects New Hampshire’s label as the Granite State and the surfing term for the state of mind surfing inspires. Director Dylan Ladds will lead a discussion after the screening.

The 68-minute film program also includes “The Gathering,” a 22-minute Australian short that profiles the social and environmental activist surfer Dave Rastovich. The third film of the evening, “Catch It,” is about a Frenchwoman who spends her time surfing in Norway.

“It’s a very organic thing,” Mr. Bena says. “Music, art, and food are a big part of what we do.”

The Vineyard does not rank as a top surf destination, because of its lack of consistent waves and cold water temperatures. But Surf Night offers something for everyone, no matter the skill level. One of the advantages of the event’s surfing lessons is to teach beginners surfing etiquette. Novices may not realize that “dropping in,” the term for taking the same wave as another surfer, is dangerous to both. “That’s where we’ll begin,” says Mr. Bena. One important aim of Surf Night is to provide surfing education.

“It made sense to bring what we do in Mill Valley to the Island,” Mr. Lurie says. “We all go through the same trials and tribulations of trying to surf all year round.” He describes the surfing community as very bonded, with plenty of stories to tell. “Thomas and I really want to do this every fall,” he says. “The hope is that it becomes a really special gathering for the Island and surfing communities.”

For more information and to sign up for Surf Night, see

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Saturday, Sept. 6, brings to the Island a dazzling array of five first-rate movies from the six-day Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival.

The action starts at 10 am with the French film “Belle and Sebastian.” After this compelling boy and dog story comes a bad-boy and maid story from Singapore called “Ilo Ilo” at 1 pm. The always popular George Plympton’s “Animation Showcase” screens at 4 pm, and the French comedy “Attila Marcel” follows at 7 pm. The evening winds down with a music documentary, “Austin to Boston,” at 9:15 pm.

The show time for “Belle and Sebastian” suggests it’s a film aimed at children, but it deserves a much wider audience. It’s not really appropriate for children under 10, since it opens with a particularly dramatic and harrowing rescue sequence. Sebastian is a six-year-old who lives with his adopted grandfather César in the remote French alpine region of Saint Martin. Based on a popular novel by Cecile Aubry that was made into a TV series in 1965, the story takes place during WWII after the Germans have occupied France.

Director Nicolas Vanier takes full advantage of the breathtaking snow-covered Pyrenees with beautiful cinematography. The film opens with Sebastian and César hiking through the mountains. They hear a shot fired and the camera watches as a mortally wounded deer tumbles down one of the precipitous cliffs. It’s a doe whose fawn is left bleating on a ledge. César quickly ties a rope around Sebastian and lowers him down the dizzyingly sheer cliff to rescue the fawn.

After this opening sequence, the film turns toward the search for what César grumblingly calls “the beast,” because he believes it has been attacking his sheep flock. It is a feral mountain dog that Sebastian, convinced that the animal is not responsible for killing sheep, befriends and names Belle. German soldiers who have entered the area seem more of a threat than the dog as they search for local Resistance fighters who have been helping Jews escape through the mountain passes to Switzerland. That is what Sebastian thinks is America, where he’s been told his mother has gone.

These multiple narrative threads, in combination with the glorious scenery, will keep the viewer interested and satisfied. The only false note in the film is the magical way Belle changes color from dirty gray to pure white after a quick bath in a stream.

“Ilo Ilo,” a film from Singapore by Anthony Chen that won the 2013 Cannes Golden Camera award, is far more somber. Jiale is the classic bad boy, acting out in response to the tensions between his parents, who both hold down busy jobs. Added to the mix are the deteriorating economic conditions in Singapore. Jiale’s mother, Leng, who is pregnant with the family’s second child, has decided to hire a Filipino maid, Teresa, to help run the house and take care of Jiale. Jiale, of course, quickly challenges Teresa’s authority, but as the story unfolds, the audience will see how Teresa balances a firm hand with sympathy for her alienated charge.

The pleasures of “Ilo Ilo” come through its illustration of family life in Singapore, an affluent city-state that mixes democracy with rigid rules. Both Jiale and his father respond to Teresa’s kindness and contrast in personality to Leng, who rules the family with an iron hand. The film works best through its unspoken and understated story telling, most evident in the way it shows how Teresa establishes her position in the family.

“Belle and Sebastian” and “Ilo Ilo” represent just two of the many weekend offerings of the M.V. International Film Festival, which is screening all of its films at the M.V. Film Center in Vineyard Haven for the first time this year.

“Belle and Sebastian,” M.V. International Film Festival, Saturday, Sept. 6, 10 am.

“Ilo Ilo,” M.V. International Film Festival, Saturday, Sept. 6, 1 pm. All films at M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For a complete listing of Festival films and screening times, visit  

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Director Mike Nichols, right, died on Wednesday in New York. He is seen in this photo with Richard Paradise on stage at the M.V. Film Center this past summer. — File photo by Tony Omer

Audience members at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society’s sold-out screening of The Graduate on Saturday night knew they were in for a retro delight as the 1967 film opened with then-unknown actor Dustin Hoffman playing the vaguely discontented college graduate Benjamin Braddock flying home with The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel’s signature folk rock hit, setting the just the right tone in the soundtrack.

But the highlight of the evening, a collaboration of the M.V. Film Society and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, was the appearance of Mike Nichols, the film’s 82-year-young director, for a post-movie question-and-answer session moderated by the Film Society’s founder and director Richard Paradise.

Mr. Nichols, one of the few entertainment industry professionals whose stage, screen, and television work has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards, along with the National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, and the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of The Graduate, the highest grossing film of 1967 and one of the top earners in history to that date.

Responding to queries from the audience, he discussed the film’s popularity, theme, casting, soundtrack, collaboration with screenwriter Buck Henry, ambiguous ending, use of elaborate detail and metaphor. With wit and wisdom, Mr. Nichols dispelled the myth that Doris Day was a candidate for the role of the seductive older woman, Mrs. Robinson. But he also related a humorous anecdote about being summoned to New York City’s Regency Hotel to discuss the same part with then 44-year-old screen siren Ava Gardner.

“Why wouldn’t I go?” he quipped. According to the director, Ms. Gardner then informed him that she never took her clothes off for anyone and that she couldn’t really act. He assured her that she was marvelous and left shortly thereafter. “We never saw each other again,” he said.

As for the selection of Mr. Hoffman for the part of Benjamin, whose sense of anxiety and alienation from his affluent parents’ southern California lifestyle suffuses the film, Mr. Nichols offered: “We saw over 100 young guys, but Dustin had that thing — like Elizabeth Taylor — they get better on film. He’s a wonderful movie actor, beautiful but plain.” He said that he’d been largely unfamiliar with Mr. Hoffman’s work, deciding to offer him a screen test solely on the basis of having seen him in an off-Broadway play in which the actor had portrayed “a transvestite Russian fishwife.”

“She’s the dream,” Mr. Nichols said, describing the choice of the radiant Katharine Ross as Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s innocent daughter. Like Mr. Hoffman, Ms. Ross was one of scores of young women who sought the role. “She walked in wearing the rain jacket she wore in the film and I said, ‘She’s the one.’”

As for the sultry, husky-voiced Anne Bancroft, the director maintained that there had never been another choice for the world-weary, manipulative, and predatory Mrs. Robinson. “It was always Annie,” he said simply. “She was brilliant.” He compared her character to that of the devil or heroin, suggesting that she was “all the things that arouse the senses and give you hours of joy and kill you slowly.”

Characterizing the plot of The Graduate as a retelling of the Hippolytus and Phaedra myth of the younger man/older woman, Mr. Nichols said it took him 48 years to recognize its origin. “That’s why it’s such a popular theme,” he said. “It’s an old story but it always comes back.”

Simon & Garfunkel’s quintessential songs, The Sound of Silence, Scarborough Fair, and Mrs. Robinson comprised the soundtrack, along with jazz musician and composer Dave Grusin’s instrumental tracks. Mr. Nichols explained that he had spent hours listening to Simon & Garfunkel as he conceived the film, realizing suddenly and accidentally that, “It was the score.”

“We put the music in and it fit to the frame,” he said. “It changed everything. It means that you’re young. It happens once or twice and then it doesn’t happen again.”

But happening again is what Mr. Paradise and Mr. Nichols promised the audience for next summer. “We’d love to have you come back to spend an evening with us,” Mr. Paradise said. Mr. Nichols nodded in agreement, offering film patrons another opportunity for an intimate event with one of the Island’s most cherished talents.

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— Martha's Vineyard Film Society

An expanded Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, opens Tuesday, Sept. 2, in what festival director Richard Paradise calls a soft opening.

After two additional days of film screenings, the Festival’s grand opening takes place on Thursday, Sept. 4, at Saltwater Restaurant, followed by A Trip to Italy, starring British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Also for the first year, the festival films will be screened entirely at the state-of-the-art Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven.

The Polish movie IDA screens on Tuesday, Sept. 2, followed on Wednesday, Sept. 3,by Land Ho from Iceland, followed by appetizers and Icelandic cocktails at The Port Hunter in Edgartown, with live music by the Mike Benjamin Band.

The documentary Austin to Boston, playing Saturday, Sept. 6, in its U.S. premiere, epitomizes what is best about the M.V. International Film Festival. This independent film is a gem not likely to be found at the local multiplex. It follows the 2012 road tour across the U.S. of a group of primarily British musicians, traveling more than 4,000 miles in five VW buses. Starting out in Austin, the group travels from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Nashville, New York, and Woodstock, N.Y. before ending up in Boston. Narrator-musician Gill Landry says, “What drew me into this trip was the ridiculousness of it.”

Beautifully photographed and edited, Austin to Boston, directed by James Marcus Haney, captures the youthful exuberance of a group of scruffy-looking musicians who have none of the slickness of musical headliners but all of the natural talent that the best of them offer. Playing guitar, drums, and bass, as well as other instruments, Ben Howard, the Stave, Nathaniel Rateliff, Bear’s Den, and Communion convey a sense of pure joy performing their folkie-based music. The musical odyssey is for some of them their introduction to America, reminiscent in tone of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 hit, America. By the end of the tour in Boston, one member of the group says, “I didn’t think I’d fall in love with America the way I have.” Along the way, the movie illustrates what it’s like to be a musician on tour. “It’s a damn good time,” says another member of the group.

More new elements of the M.V. International Film Festival include post-film coffee discussions at Nat’s Nook Café in Vineyard Haven, and a Closing Night Party at the Film Center with music and refreshments. Reel Food returns on Friday, Sept. 5 with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and spirits at Saltwater Restaurant. Following that is the Juried Competition of International Shorts with nine finalists from more than 450 entries. Bill Plympton’s signature Animation Showcase screens on Saturday, Sept. 6.

“What I like best each and every year is the reaction and feedback of the audiences, whether good or bad,” Mr. Paradise said in a telephone interview this week. “The more you can learn about other cultures, the more you understand your own culture. The tolerance for differences is very important.”

Other films playing over the six-day event include Child’s Pose from Romania, Metro Manila from the Philippines, the children’s film Belle and Sebastian from Switzerland, Ilo Ilo from Singapore, Attila Marcel from France, May in the Summer from Jordan, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter from Japan, Hunting Elephants from Israel, and A Five-Star Life from Italy.

Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, Tuesday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 7, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven, For screening times, additional information, and tickets, visit

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— Matt Lankes / IFC

Director Richard Linklater’s new film, “Boyhood,” opens at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. One of the superstars from the 1990s Indie movement, Mr. Linklater is probably best known for his trio of films about a couple, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who meet on a train in Europe and fall in love in “Before Sunrise,” (1995); renew their romance nine years later in “Before Sunset,” (2004); and, most recently, continue their seasoned relationship after 20 years together in “Before Midnight” (2013).

A highly versatile director, Mr. Linklater has produced comedies like “Bad News Bears” (2005), “School of Rock” (2003) and his breakout film, “Slacker” (1991); as well as documentaries including “Fast Food Nation” (2006). Linklater fiction films tend to take place over 24 hours and be set in Texas, where the director was born, grew up, and returned after working on an oil rig.

In “Boyhood” the director tries a new approach, following the life of Mason  Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane, from the age of five to 18. Mason lives with his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, and his sister Samantha, played by the director’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater. Mason’s dad –– divorced from his mom –– is played by frequent Linklater cast member Ethan Hawke. Viewers will enjoy the remarkable experience of watching not just Mason Jr., but the actor who plays him, grow up before their eyes, since the film was shot over 12 years.

Mr. Linklater masterfully depicts the messy but loving dynamics of a Texas-based, Middle-America family. Mom runs through three marriages, gets an advanced degree and a job teaching psychology, and moves the family numerous times over the course of the movie. Viewers will watch how Mason Jr., a dreamy, sensitive boy, reacts to the life-changing experiences thrust upon him and his sister Sam by their parents. His father, Mason Sr., plays an important role in Mason Jr.’s life, as do his mother’s other husbands and the stepsiblings who move in and out of his world.

As Mason Jr., moves toward adulthood, the viewers see him struggle with his responses to his experiences and to the decisions that arise over the 12 years covered by the film. Shooting from 2002 to 2013, Mr. Linklater brought the cast together annually, and, in effect, first created a series of 10 to 12 short films, each representing another year in Mason Jr.’s life and that of his family. Amazingly enough, the entire film was shot in 39 days over 12 years’ time. Rather than rely on the conventional Hollywood melodrama formula, “Boyhood’s” two-and-a-half hours unfold in an episodic format. As such, the movie establishes the deeply satisfying kind of intimacy that comes from the serial nature of the best TV shows.

“Serendipity: The Story of Tony Hussein Hinde,” Thursday, August 21, 8 pm, The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and information, visit

 “Boyhood,” Friday, August 22; Saturday, August 23; Monday, August 25; Tuesday, August 26, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Society, Vineyard Haven. $12; $9 members; $7 under 14. For tickets and information, visit