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Ty's weekend movie picks for Friday, February 20

Posted by Ty Burr  February 20, 2009 08:40 AM

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"Must Read After My Death" isn't opening in Boston theaters today, but you can watch it online; see below.

Some unusual recommendations in this space today, but what else can you expect from a week where the major new theatrical releases are the cheerleading bromance "Fired Up!" and the long-aborning "Fanboys," a cute but predictable road movie about "Star Wars"-mouthbreathers? Wesley does give the full four to "The Secret of the Grain" at the Kendall Square, and there's "Made in U.S.A.," a rarely-seen peak-period Jean-Luc Godard film at the MFA. (Actually, they're showing much of Godard's 60s work there this weekend, so if you've never seen "Pierrot le Fou" or "Vivre Sa Vie," get thee hence and experience a radical master filmmaker at the height of his early powers.)

Director William Friedkin will be at the Harvard Film Archive in person over the weekend, with "The French Connection" (Friday) and the underrated action film "Sorceror" (double-billed with the not-so-hot "The Hunted") on Saturday.

Saturday afternoon at the Archive, there's a fine double-bill of documentaries by Boston-based filmmakers, both of whom will be appearing with their work. Harvard professor and longstanding New England movie mentor Robb Moss will screen 1978's "River Dogs," while his former student Amanda Micheli will show her Oscar-nominated documentary short "La Corona". The event is the last in the "Facing Reality" series of screenings and dialogues about Boston's documentary legacy, organized by the LEF Foundation. If you care at all about what sort of movies have been made here and the people who make them, it's well worth checking out.

And then there's this little bolt from the future of independent movie exhibition: "Must Read After My Death" may only be opening theatrically in New York and Los Angeles today, but you can watch it in high-quality video on your computer as of right now by going to Gigantic Digital Cinema's website, and ordering the film up for $2.99 for a 3-day time period.

Why would you want to? Because it's a creepy, mesmerizing family psycho-documentary in the tradition of "Capturing the Friedmans" and "51 Birch Street," films that are made from the cargo cult of treasured family memorabilia but that put their source material to darker ends. In this case, filmmaker Morgan Dew unearthed hundreds of hours of audiotapes and super-8 film footage kept by his late grandmother, Allis, weaving them together to let the profound and growing gap between what we see (happy 1960s family images) and what we hear (a family plummeting down the rabbit hole of severe dysfunction) create the drama.

And what a drama it is -- an aural history of demons in suburbia. As her rageaholic insurance executive husband Charley drinks, yells at the kids to clean their rooms, and maintains an "open marriage" during long business trips, the children crack under stress and Allis gives herself wholly over to the therapy industry, at one point enumerating the many different psychiatrists she's seeing in one day. The audiotapes were made by Allis as a therapeutic tool, but they quickly become her diary, the confessions of a housewife convinced she's mad because her husband and her shrinks keep telling her she is.

"Must Read After My Death" is a painful movie to experience, and Manohla Dargis in the Times is right to raise the flag over Dew's esthetic exploitation of his mother, uncles, and grandparents. Yet it's worth making the haul through this 75-minute tour through Other People's Misery if only to hear the lightbulb finally click on in Allis' voice: It's not her. And watching the film via webstream is a window on the future and a possible (make that probable) major conduit for off-Hollywood filmmaking as theatrical options continue to die off.

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Contributors

Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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