Pre-millennial clearinghouse

The Brothers Warner's studio brings back, mostly, the best of bygone eras.

In 1998, accessible and affordable technology means a home theater is no longer the domain of the very wealthy. Yet as home viewing options (and quality) have increased, Americans have not abandoned the experience of cinema. We'll still sit in the dark, surrounded by other people, being absorbed into the flickering images on a large screen.

"Best of" movie lists (including the one compiled by the American Film Institute) are mainly marketing ploys to boost videotape sales. Still they serve as reminders of the pleasures that can be found by digging into movie history.

When VCRs became common in American homes, the repertory movie houses that once showcased older films dwindled. Today, older movies rarely get shown outside of museums unless they're a new "director's cut" or an anniversary rerelease. Those films are just as likely to be Dirty Dancing as Gone With the Wind.

The Warner Brothers 75th Anniversary Film Festival begins this Friday at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak. It's an excellent opportunity for moviegoers to immerse themselves in the history of American film as it used to be presented at repertory cinemas.

This retrospective is worth it for the inclusion of three films by director and professional enigma Stanley Kubrick alone. They include The Shining (1980), his love-it-or-loathe-it adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel. Also showing are A Clockwork Orange (1971), an amazing peek into a future desensitized to violence, and Full Metal Jacket

Warner Brothers, once known for the lean and mean style of gangster/crime films such as Public Enemy (1931) and John Huston's startling directorial debut, The Maltese Falcon (1941), has a number of groundbreaking films in its catalog. For historical significance, there's 1927's The Jazz Singer (a silent film interspersed with sound musical numbers) which is credited as changing the direction of Hollywood movies to "talkies."

But quite a few others here have made indelible impressions on the collective American consciousness. Rebel Without a Cause (1955), along with Catcher in the Rye, helped define the particular nature of teenage angst. In All the President's Men (1976), the Watergate investigation serves as a real-life (and much scarier) blueprint for conspiracy theory fare such as The X-Files. And Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott's amazing vision of the American melting pot after it's boiled over, managed to even alter the way we imagine the future.

There are plenty of reasons to dive headfirst into this week-long, thirty-one film retrospective (a mixture of the sublime and the questionable, not unlike old repertory house schedules). It's a timely reminder of the sheer enjoyment of getting lost at the movies.

The schedule for the Warner Brothers Festival is:

Friday, Aug. 21 (the 1970s): All the President's Men (2 p.m.), Dog Day Afternoon (4:45 p.m.), Blazing Saddles (7:30 p.m.), The Exorcist (9:30 p.m.), A Clockwork Orange (midnight).

Saturday, Aug. 22 (the 1980s): The Color Purple (11 a.m.), Chariots of Fire (2 p.m.), Full Metal Jacket (4:30 p.m.), Blade Runner (7:15 p.m.), The Shining (9:45 p.m.).

Sunday, Aug. 23 (the 1990s): Driving Miss Daisy (11:30 am), The Fugitive (1:30 p.m.), Unforgiven (4:15 p.m.), GoodFellas (7 p.m.), JFK (10 p.m.).

Monday, Aug. 24 (the 1920s/30s): The Jazz Singer (3 p.m.), 42nd Street (5 p.m.), The Adventures of Robin Hood (7 p.m.), Public Enemy (9:15 p.m.).

Tuesday, Aug. 25 (the 1940s): Mildred Pierce (2 p.m.), Now, Voyager (4:30 p.m.), Casablanca (7 p.m.), The Maltese Falcon (9:15 p.m.).

Wednesday, Aug. 26 (the 1950s): The Searchers (2 p.m.), Dial M for Murder (4:30 p.m.), A Streetcar Named Desire (7 p.m.), Rebel Without a Cause (9:30 p.m.).

Thursday, Aug. 27 (the 1960s): The Days of Wine and Roses (2 p.m.), Bullitt (4:30 p.m.), Bonnie and Clyde (7 p.m.), The Wild Bunch (9:30 p.m.).

Individual tickets are $7. Festival discount cards are available (five admissions for $20). An all-day pass is $15 (or 3 discount card admissions), and a festival pass ($60) covers the entire week. Call the Landmark Main Art Theatre at 248-542-0180 for more information.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].