Friday, March 31, 2023
March 31, 2023

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Old, new and visually stunning films play at Clark County’s independent theaters

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
Oscar Isaac plays a former solider who just wants to play cards -- but who winds up in big trouble -- in the new crime thriller "The Card Counter." (Contributed by Focus Features)
Oscar Isaac plays a former solider who just wants to play cards -- but who winds up in big trouble -- in the new crime thriller "The Card Counter." (Contributed by Focus Features) Photo Gallery

A mysterious man comes walking out of a dark forest, hauling nothing but his backpack and an awkward rectangle, which turns out to be … a portable massage table.

Is that dark forest the border between prospering Poland and languishing Ukraine, where tragic aftershocks of the Chernobyl nuclear accident still reverberate? Or is it the border between physical reality and one’s innermost soul?

The answer is “yes” in “Never Gonna Snow Again,” a sweetly surreal, comic drama about an enigmatic masseur who seems to sport some kind of Midas touch. It’s playing in the Kiggins Theatre’s online “Virtual Screening Room,” one of several interesting offerings by Clark County’s independent theaters this month.

Portrayed with touching sincerity by the irresistible Alec Utgoff, the masseur hypnotizes his way across the border and into the sad, chaotic lives of typical suburbanites in a gated community in Poland.

The visually stunning Polish film (with English subtitles), by directing team Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert, feels akin to the whimsical visions of director Wes Anderson in the painterly way each shot is framed. The deeply heartfelt “Never Gonna Snow Again” achieves a beautiful balance between tragedy and comedy as our hero seems to heal his clients’ secret sorrows — perhaps with radioactivity. 

Brat Pack

If you didn’t read coming-of-age classic “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton in high school English class — or if, on the other hand, you loved it so much, you just couldn’t forgive the 1983 movie’s cuts and compromises — then don’t miss one of just two special Kiggins screenings of “The Outsiders: The Complete Novel” set for 1 p.m. Sept. 26 and 7 p.m. Sept. 29.

That’s the so-called “director’s cut” of Francis Ford Coppola’s film, which reinserts 22 minutes of scenes that are faithful to the novel — including a new beginning and ending — but were left on the cutting-room floor. This screening also features a new introduction and discussion by director Coppola himself, as well as a rousing rock ’n’ roll soundtrack.

One of the most fun and impressive things about revisiting “The Outsiders” is the strong, fresh performances by a group of young actors that went on to become Hollywood’s Brat Pack of the 1980s: Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Swayze.

Keep counting

In “The Card Counter,” Oscar Isaac stars as a former military man with a dark secret who is laying low and gambling his time away, but cannot gamble away his past. When he’s approached by an angry young man with a plan for revenge on a mutual enemy, Isaac’s character sees a chance to redeem both of them, but the casino circuit and the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas have lots of trick up their sleeves.

Richard Beer, the Kiggins’ programming director, said this much-anticipated thriller ought to vault Isaac into contention for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

“Maybe the best thing he’s done,” Beer said. “The Card Counter” opens everywhere, including the Kiggins, on Friday.


“Stealing a man’s wife, that’s nothing,” says the antihero of “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” “But stealing his car, that’s larceny.”

“The Postman Always Rings Twice,” the Kiggins’ Noir Night offering on Monday, almost never rang at all. That’s because the super-strict decency-watchdog system that used to be a chief gateway to movies getting made frowned on such a pessimistic and frankly amoral story. Rights to the 1934 James M. Cain crime novel were purchased, and sat upon, by two different studios that were doubtful about the extra-dark story about adultery and murder.

Then, along came “Double Indemnity,” which dealt with the same kinds of themes. It skated past the censors and was a box office smash in 1944. Filming of “The Postman” proceeded apace but fog kept swamping the California coast, blocking progress on outdoor scenes and eventually driving director Tay Garnett into a major drinking bender.

Nobody but femme fatale Lana Turner could get Garnett to put down the bottle, emerge from his hotel room and get back to work. Turner’s starring performance in “The Postman,” which was released in 1946, is considered one of the finest in her career, as The New York Times wrote later:

“From the first glimpse of her standing in the doorway in her white pumps, as the camera travels up her tanned legs, she becomes a character so enticingly beautiful and insidiously evil that the audience is riveted.”