19-10-23 ARTS Magic Lantern 2.jpg

From left to right: Anthony Quinn, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif star in “Lawrence of Arabia.”

 Amid tiresome blockbusters and early-onset awards-seeking prestige dribble, Ketchum moviegoers will soon get the opportunity to witness a different caliber of films on the big screen in a series of special engagements featuring Hollywood classics and a foreign-language documentary.

The latter actually opens first, courtesy of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. Continuing The Center’s 2019/20 film series, Thursday, Oct. 24, will see two showings of the Italian-language documentary “Spettacolo.”

The film chronicles an unusual tradition in the small Tuscan community of Monticchiello. Each year, the denizens of this region come together and stage a play about their own lives, starring themselves.

Established in the aftermath of the shock and awe that swept Italy in the Second World War, this self-reflective practice allows the citizens of Monticchiello to take a step back and analyze, in a dramatic fashion, the highs and lows of the previous year.

The documentary tells a heartfelt story of community, the necessity of drama and fiction, and the inevitable decline of most proud traditions, especially in the wake of struggling economies and rapidly advancing technology.

The first showing will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the second will follow at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for Center members and $12 for non-members.

Meanwhile, Magic Lantern Cinemas in Ketchum is gearing up for some limited-period special screenings of its own. Inspired by the impending tenure of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”—which boasts a 209-minute runtime—cinema owner Rick Kessler recalled his love of classic Hollywood epics, films that ran long and demanded to be viewed on the big screen.

In this case, he selected two films by iconic British director Sir David Lean: “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago.”

“These are simply not movies meant to be seen anywhere but in a movie theater,” Kessler said, and quite rightly, too—both films predate regularly available home video formats. “It’s been four years since I’ve shown ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ and ‘Doctor Zhivago’ hasn’t been up on the big screen here since the late ’70s. Even in 2019, these films still have a great deal of relevancy.”

From intimately framed dramas such as “Great Expectations,” “Oliver Twist,” and “Brief Encounter” to largescale sweeping epics such as “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “A Passage to India” and the two screening at Magic Lantern, Lean’s career—along with those of Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and Carol Reed—all but defined British cinema throughout the war and post-war years.

“Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago,” although both lightly criticized for historical inaccuracies and trivialization, nonetheless became instant classics.

Lean’s biopic of T.E. Lawrence claimed seven Oscars in 1963, including Best Picture and Best Director for Lean—his second such win out of seven total nominations. Just a few years later, “Doctor Zhivago” took home five Academy Awards, although lost Director and Picture to “The Sound of Music.”

In true epic fashion, both “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia” clock in well beyond the three-hour mark, with the former running 197 minutes and the latter exceeding “The Irishman” by a cool 19 minutes. Each film has an intermission about halfway through.

“Lawrence Arabia” will screen daily from Friday, Oct. 25, through Thursday, Oct. 31. “Doctor Zhivago” will begin the next day and continue through Thursday, Nov. 7.

For details on ticketing and showtimes, visit mlcinemas.com.

Learn more about “Spettacolo” at sunvalleycenter.org.

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