The 31st annual Three Rivers Film Festival, beginning this weekend, doesn't have the numerical significance of last year's festival, so it will have to get by on movies alone. Luckily, Pittsburgh Filmmakers has a history of picking really exciting, innovative and unexpected movies, without the glossy, star-struck hoopla that sometimes overwhelms larger festivals.
This year, the festival kicks off with a triple-header at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' three theaters — Regent Square, Harris, Downtown; and Melwood Screening Room, Oakland.
Friday's opening-night headliner at the Regent Square Theater is “Silver Linings Playbook,” from David O. Russell (“Three Kings,” Flirting with Disaster,” “The Fighter”), one of the most wildly unpredictable directors working in mainstream Hollywood or independent cinema. It stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, telling a very contemporary story of a man who loses everything and moves back in with his parents, who seem more interested in the Philadelphia Eagles than his problems. Then he meets a mysterious young woman (Lawrence), and his life starts to shift in unexpected directions.
“It's sort of an American semi-commercial film,” says Gary Kaboly, director of exhibition for Pittsburgh Filmmakers. “‘Silver Linings Playbook” opens commercially Nov. 21. “There's a lot of buzz about it. It won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and is talked about as an Oscar contender.”
Also on opening night, there's “Rust and Bone” at the Harris Theater. The French/Belgian production is about a homeless, aimless young father who drifts down to the French Riviera, providing for his son as a nightclub bouncer and unlicensed boxer. Then, he meets a killer-whale trainer at an amusement park — Marion Cotillard (“The Dark Knight Rises”) — and his vagabond, unattached life begins to get complicated.
The third Friday-night film is something completely different — “Beware of Mr. Baker,” a documentary about the eccentric, legendary blues-rock drummer Ginger Baker (Blind Faith, Cream), at the Melwood Screening Room. His reputation for debauchery and self-destruction was almost as well-known as his blinding energy and musical innovation, and “Beware” revisits his intersection with Afrobeat progenitor Fela Kuti in 1970s Nigeria.
Pittsburgh's vibrant local film scene also gets some attention, including acclaimed local filmmaker Tony Buba's “We Are Alive! The Fight to Save Braddock Hospital” on Nov. 9, and the Yinzer web-comedy phenomenon “Greg & Donny,” on Nov. 8.
The Alloy Orchestra, by now a Three Rivers Film Festival tradition, also returns to close the festival on Nov. 17, providing an electric, percussive live scoring of the silent classic “The Overcoat” (1924) at Regent Square Theater. In a similar vein, local band Lungs Face Feet will be providing a live “underscore” on Saturday at Regent Square for the zippy Errol Flynn epic “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938).
“They work in conjunction with the projectionist,” Kaboly says. “At certain times, we'll turn the sound down, and they'll play — when there's a chase scene, fight scene or love scene — then the sound will get turned back up.”
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7901.
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