Mia Madre and Why You Should Give Foreign Cinema a Try

To tell you about MIA MADRE or, more specifically, why I chose to screen it at Auburn Public Cinema, first I have to tell you about a few of the cinema viewing experiences that led me to it. The very first “foreign” film I saw that got under my skin and into my bone marrow – in a good way – was the Swedish drama MY LIFE AS A DOG. It came out at the end of 1985, the year I graduated from high school, and I went to see it at the movie theater, The Manlius Art Cinema to be exact, three times. And I have watched it several times since then, too. By so many measures, the film is a masterpiece. For three screenings in a row, I was moved to tears. As a teenager. Watching the movie and reading subtitles at the same time. Such was the power of both the photography and the storytelling of that film. The next movie that affected me similarly was Francois Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS. There is a scene in that film of the two young boys watching a puppet show that drifts into my consciousness from time to time and enchants me exactly as it did the very first time I ever saw it. And because I had seen and worshipped THE 400 BLOWS, when a filmmaker friend insisted we watch DAY FOR NIGHT made by the same director, I needed no convincing.  (CINEMA PARADISO is, for me, the Italian, and in some ways derivative, version of DAY FOR NIGHT.) What I loved most about DAY FOR NIGHT, besides the nearly unbelievable elegance of the direction, was the conceit of the film being a film within a film.

When I watched the trailer for MIA MADRE, I was immediately reminded of DAY FOR NIGHT, which whisked me back to a very fond movie watching experience many moons ago. I’m also a huge fan of John Turturro and have been since he first took me figuratively by the shoulders and shook me awake with his performance in Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING. In other words, if John Turturro is in a movie, I’m probably going to want to watch it. Finally, I read the review of MIA MADRE in The New Yorker. And that was all the convincing I needed.

We throw around a slogan here at Auburn Public Theater that someone dreamed up at the beginning of our journey: Bringing Auburn to the world and the world to Auburn. This film falls firmly in the column of bringing the world to Auburn. I hope you will take a look for yourself.

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