Since he broke onto the scene in 1977 with his ultra-bizarre experimental film Eraserhead, David Lynch has remained one of cinema’s most eccentric personalities both on and off screen (check out what he did for his long-time muse, Laura Dern). Now fans will get to see what shaped this curious visionary when Row House Cinema presents the Pittsburgh premiere of David Lynch: The Art Life.
The documentary from Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard looks at Lynch’s art, music, and films, shining a light into the dark corners of his unique world and giving audiences a better understanding of the man and the artist. Shot over a four-year span, the film offers private views from Lynch’s compound and painting studio in the hills high above Hollywood, as he tells personal stories that informed his early works.
David Lynch: The Art Life screens from May 26-June 1 as part of The Artistry of David Lynch week.
The independent feature film from writer/producer/director John Jaquish follows a group of criminals who, while fleeing a gun possession charge, take over a farm in rural Appalachia and try to secede from the United States. The film, which was shot in West Virginia on black-and-white 35mm film, used an all-Pittsburgh crew, as well as some local acting talent.
The Mutineer premiere takes place at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $7. The screening includes appearances by Jaquish along with a number of cast and crew members.
Cartoonist Dash Shaw recently made waves (pun intended) when he premiered My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, an absurd animated feature that’s exactly what the title suggests. On April 25, Row House Cinema welcomes Shaw for the Pittsburgh premiere of his new work.
Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) are preparing for another year at Tides High School muckraking on behalf of their widely-distributed but little-read school newspaper, edited by their friend Verti (Maya Rudolph). But just when a blossoming relationship between Assaf and Verti threatens to destroy the boys’ friendship, Dash learns of the administration’s cover-up that puts all the students in danger. As disaster erupts and the friends race to escape through the roof of the school, they are joined by a popular know-it-all (Lena Dunham) and a lunch lady (Susan Sarandon) who is much more than meets the eye, in this wild send-up of disaster cinema, high school comedy, and blockbuster satire. (Synopsis courtesy of GKIDS)
The My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea Pittsburgh premiere begins at 7:15 p.m. Shaw and cartoonist Frank Santoro will kick off the event with a live interview followed by the screening. Tickets cost $12, $20 for VIP tickets that include a private meet-and-greet in the Bierport taproom. The film will continue to show as part of Row House’s High School Sucks week.
From April 7-13, Row House Cinema hosts the second annual Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival, the city’s only event dedicated solely to Japanese cinema. Presented in part by the Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society and the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, the festival features seven handpicked historically and culturally significant films from Japan, all representing different eras and genres.
See film descriptions and details below:
Opening Night Film – Samurai Cat (2015, Takeshi Watanabe/Yoshitaka Yamaguchi)
This action comedy follows a feared swordsman who gets caught between two warring gangs after he absconds with a warlord’s cat.
The Opening Night event includes a special screening of the Studio Ghibli short film Ghiblies: Episode 2. Tickets cost $15 and include admission to the screenings, Japanese snacks, special treats by bakery Yummyholic, and goodies from the Black Cat Market.
House (1977, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi)
Director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s bizarre fantasy horror film follows a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions.
Sailor Moon R: The Movie (1993, Kunihiko Ikuhara)
Long before Mamoru found his destiny with Usagi, he gave a single rose in thanks to a lonely boy who helped him recover from the crash that claimed his parents. This long-forgotten friend, Fiore, has been searching the galaxy for a flower worthy of that sweet gesture long ago. The mysterious flower he finds is beautiful, but has a dark side – it has the power to take over planets. To make matters worse, the strange plant is tied to an ominous new asteroid near Earth! Faced with an enemy blooming out of control, it’s up to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians to band together, stop the impending destruction and save Mamoru.
Harakiri (1962, Masaki Kobayashi)
Following the collapse of his clan, an unemployed samurai (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to be allowed to commit ritual suicide on the property. Iyi’s clansmen, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for a new position, try to force his hand and get him to eviscerate himself—but they have underestimated his beliefs and his personal brand of honor.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013, Sion Sono)
There’s a war going on, but that won’t stop Director Hirata and his inexperienced wannabe film crew from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And Hirata and his crew are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real, live yakuza battle to the death.
Closing Night Film – Ghost in the Shell (1995, Mamoru Oshii)
Set in the year 2029, Oshii’s anime masterpiece follows a female government cyber agent and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of a “The Puppet Master,” a computer virus capable of invading cybernetic brains and altering its victim’s memory.
Check the Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival website for ticket prices and showtimes. The festival also includes performances by Pittsburgh Taiko, food and movie pairings with Blue Sparrow Food Truck, local vendor tables, and more.
In 1993, Philadelphia became one of the first mainstream films to depict the struggles of people living with HIV/AIDS. On March 13 and 15, Row House Cinema hosts two fundraiser screenings of the drama for the Pittsburgh-based LGBTQ+ organization Proud Haven.
Hailed as a landmark film, Philadelphia stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington as two competing lawyers who join forces to sue a prestigious law firm for AIDS discrimination. As their unlikely friendship develops, their courage overcomes the prejudice and corruption of their powerful adversaries. Hanks went on to win the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance.
The Philadelphia benefit screenings take place on March 13 at 7 p.m. and March 15 at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $11. $3 of each ticket sold will go towards Proud Haven, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless and unstably housed LGBTQ+ youth in the Pittsburgh region find resources and housing options. The screenings are presented as part of Row House’s Denzel Washingon week.
Muggles and wizards alike will have loads of fun when Row House Cinema and its sister store, Bierport, host the Harry Potter Film And Cultural Festival. The event will feature two weeks of live music, themed food and drinks, and, of course, film screenings dedicated to one of the most successful and widely beloved YA series in history.
The itinerary includes regular showings of the Harry Potter screen adaptations. Starting in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and ending with the two-part finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the expansive franchise follows the adventures of the young wizard Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) as they hone their magic skills at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Along the way, they face increasing peril as they unravel the mysterious connection between Harry and the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), whose band of rogue wizards are intent on destroying Harry along with anyone who stands in their way.
During the festival, fans young and old can enjoy a number of other activities, including a performance by the Harry Potter tribute band Muggle Snuggle, storytime with the Carnegie Library, and a house sorting night where people can discover if they belong to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. There will also be crafts, trivia, costume contests, and treats of both the alcoholic and kid-safe variety.
The Harry Potter Film And Cultural Festival runs from February 17–March 2. Tickets and additional information about the event are available at the Row House website.
On January 17, Row House Cinema will bring a little known Studio Ghibli gem to Pittsburgh when they present the 4K restoration of Tomomi Mochizuki‘s 1993 anime drama Ocean Waves.
Rarely seen outside of Japan, Ocean Waves is a subtle, poignant story of adolescence and teenage isolation. Taku and his best friend Yutaka are headed back to school for what looks like another uneventful year. But they soon find their friendship tested by the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful new transfer student from Tokyo whose attitude vacillates wildly from flirty and flippant to melancholic. When Taku joins Rikako on a trip to Tokyo, the school erupts with rumors, and the three friends are forced to come to terms with their changing relationships.
The Ocean Waves sneak preview begins at 7:45 p.m. Tickets cost $9 and are available for purchase online at the door.
For decades, the Italian American Program at the Heinz History Center has worked to preserve and interpret the history and culture of Italian Americans in Western Pennsylvania. On January 10, the program will continue its mission with a special movie event.
The Heinz History Center will present a screening of the 2000 Italian romantic comedy Bread and Tulips at Row House Cinema. After being left behind during a family vacation, Rosalba (Licia Maglietta), an unhappy housewife, decides to start a new life in Venice. She finds room and board with Fernando (Bruno Ganz), a charming maître d’, and they soon fall in love. Meanwhile, Rosalba’s husband hires a private detective to look for her. Although the relationship between Fernando and Rosalba grows stronger, she is forced to return home. But will Fernando rescue her?
Bread and Tulips begins at 7:30 p.m. Guests can also hear about the Italian American Program and take part in a pasta guessing game for a chance to win four Heinz History Center passes. Tickets cost $9. The screening is presented as part of Row House’s Italian Cinema week.
Local artist Matthew Buchholz is best known for his movie-inspired pop art business Alternate Histories. While his work displays a fascination with Godzilla, King Kong, and 1950s space invaders, he decided to return to his more high-brow film roots with Hitchcock 52, a year-long project dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock.
“My background is in film production and criticism and I’d been feeling that I was getting away from my love of movies,” says Buchholz, an NYU film school grad who managed the BAMcinématek program for almost seven years before moving to Pittsburgh. “I wanted to do something that got me thinking and writing critically, and Alfred Hitchcock was my first real film obsession.”
When Buchholz realized Hitchcock made 52 feature films – excluding the auteur’s lost 1927 work The Mountain Eagle – the synergy “was too good to ignore.” Starting last January, he set about watching one film per week and writing about it. He completes his monumental task on December 30 at Row House Cinema, where he will present a screening of North by Northwest.
The 1959 thriller stars Cary Grant as a New York ad exec forced to go on the run after a case of mistaken identity makes him the target of a mysterious organization. Regarded by scholars and critics as one of the greatest American films of all time, it became notable for its ambitious use of setting – including the famed crop duster scene and the iconic Mount Rushmore finale – and laying the groundwork for modern action thrillers.
“It’s my favorite Hitchcock movie and probably my favorite film of all time, so I’m always looking for a reason to watch it on the big screen,” says Buchholz.
Though North by Northwest is the last Hitchcock 52 selection, it’s not the director’s final film (that title goes to the 1976 dark comedy Family Plot). Buchholz explains that he chose to watch Hitchcock’s films out of chronological order to keep the experience more interesting for himself and for the reader.
“I felt it would be better to jump around and when possible and compare and contrast movies like the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much and the 1956 remake,” says Buchholz. “Beyond that, it was often based on my whim and what I felt like watching that week.”
Hitchcock 52 allowed him to take a more balanced approach to analyzing the work of a director often regarded with blind reverence. Even as he praises Hitchcock’s enduring brilliance, he also takes a step back to point out flaws or moments that fail to stand the test of time.
He also deals with the uncomfortable aspects of Hitchcock, who has frequently garnered criticism for his depictions of women, people of color, and characters coded as gay or transgender. In one Hitchcock 52 post, Buccholz touches on the glaring homophobia displayed in the 1929 film Murder! and relates it to the director’s frequent attempts at exploring sexuality “in a shocking and provocative manner.”
“You can argue that Hitchcock provided some of the most sympathetic portraits of coded gay characters to be seen before 1960,” he writes. “But virtually all of his ‘gay’ characters (Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, the Leopold & Loeb-like duo of Rope, Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train, and Leonard in North by Northwest) fall into the ‘deviant sexuality’ camp; they’re villains who commit or attempt murder and are caught and punished.”
In his most recent post on The Birds, Buchholz even confronts his own hypocrisy when it comes to actress Tippi Hedren, whose long-held claims that Hitchcock sexually assaulted her during production on Marnie resurfaced in her recently released memoir.
“I admit that, because of my idolization of Hitchcock, I overlooked Hedren’s accusations in the past, in part because Hedren is the only actress to ever make these claims,” says Buchholz. “But reading her book, and seeing how respectful she still is to him, it makes me think that something must have happened. Because why would I believe the women who say these things about Woody Allen and Bill Cosby but not Hitchcock? It’s disappointing, obviously, and I’m wrestling with my feelings in [The Birds] essay.”
While Buchholz says he enjoyed doing the project, he doubts he will pursue another one like it.
“Surprisingly, while I thought it would reignite my critical passion, it’s actually driven me back to thinking more creatively, and trying to find a way to write or make movies,” says Buchholz. “It’s impossible to spend so long with someone so talented and not be inspired.”
The Hitchcock 52 screening of North by Northwest begins at 7:35 p.m. with an introduction by Buchholz. He will briefly discuss the Hitchcock 52 project, what he has learned, and why North by Northwest is his favorite Hitchcock film. Tickets cost $9 and are available for purchase at the Row House website or at the door.
Since it opened in 2014, Row House Cinema has entertained audiences with an eclectic selection of beloved classics, acclaimed new releases, and offbeat cult films. Now moviegoers can support the local single-screen theater and receive special perks with the Row House Film Club.
The program offers identical benefits with two payment options: the $10-a-month Sustaining Membership and the $100-a-year Annual Membership.
“The Film Club gives members a personalized experience every time they walk through our doors,” says Row House owner Brian Mendelssohn in an official statement.
Each member receives the following benefits:
- One free movie ticket as a thank you for joining
- One free birthday movie in the month of your birthday
- One free movie entry each month with complimentary small popcorn
- Access to advance and discount tickets for special events and screenings
- On-screen recognition at each movie screening
- Invitation to an Annual Member Appreciation Day
Those interested can sign up for Row House Film Club online.