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Film Notes: Opinions clash on anecdote about a general and his God

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

A recent Post-Gazette interview with Robert Duvall, who plays Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals," inspired several e-mail missives insisting on setting the record straight about a line saying Lee refused to pray in church with a black man after the war.

The story was just the opposite, the correspondents said: Lee knelt down to pray with the man when no one else would.

A reader in Jacksonville, N.C., forwarded an e-mail from James I. Robertson, a Virginia Tech professor and a historical consultant on "Gods and Generals." He called the story "a staple of Virginia history," adding that it took place at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Richmond shortly after the war ended.

But a query to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond drew a response from assistant librarian Toni M. Carter stating, "There is much speculation today of whether this event actually occurred."

Carter cited Nelson Lankford's book "Richmond Burning," in which, she wrote, "he discusses the probability that this event is fictitious."

She also sent a copy of a story from The Confederate Veteran in 1905 featuring an eyewitness account from Col. T.L. Broun of Charleston, W.Va., who viewed the event as something less than compassionate.

"By this action of General Lee the services were conducted as if the negro had not been present," Broun wrote. "It was a grand exhibition of superiority shown by a true Christian and great soldier under the most trying and offensive circumstances."

Broun's interpretation, of course, may not accurately reflect Lee's intent. But like the other accounts, it depicts Lee kneeling down with the black man. Did it actually happen? Even if it didn't, perhaps the classic movie Western "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" said it best: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Grant and Kubrick

The films of Cary Grant and Stanley Kubrick will be featured in weekly series this month at the Regent Square Theater in Edgewood.

Among the films in the Grant series, offered on Sundays, are "His Girl Friday" (showing Sunday), a gender-bending screwball comedy version of "The Front Page" with Grant and Rosalind Russell; "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (March 16), with Grant and Myrna Loy as a couple building a country home; and "Notorious" (March 30), a Hitchcock classic with Grant as an American agent sending Ingrid Bergman into danger for her country.

The Kubrick series features some of the director's earliest works and will be shown Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland.

The films are "Killer's Kiss" (tomorrow and Thursday), about a prizefighter in love with a nightclub dancer; "The Killing" (March 12 and 13), with Sterling Hayden and Elisha Cook in a film about a race track heist; "Paths of Glory" (March 19 and 20), with Kirk Douglas in a 1957 movie still considered one of the greatest anti-war films; and "Lolita" (March 26 and 27), with James Mason, Shelley Winters and Sue Lyon in an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel.

For more information: 412-682-4111.

Film Kitchen

Also at Melwood: the monthly Film Kitchen program.

Highlight of the March 11 event is Jason Hutt's award-winning feature-length documentary "Breezewood, Pennsylvania."

This look at the self-proclaimed Town of Motels spends time with restaurant workers, truckers, motel housekeepers, hitchhikers, area residents and Chaplain Bruce Maxwell of the Breezewood Trucker and Traveler Ministry.

The program also features T. Foley's short video "Monkey Forest Tourist." Hutt and Foley will both be in attendance and take questions from the audience. Admission is $4. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the films screen at 8 p.m.

For more information: 412-316-3342, Ext. 178.

'Flying Down to Rio'

The monthly $1 Silver Screen Classics matinee at Showcase Cinemas in March is the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical "Flying Down to Rio," which also stars Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond.

The $1 admission price also includes popcorn and a soft drink. The movie will be shown at 1 p.m. today at Showcase East in Wilkins; at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Showcase North in McCandless; and at 1 p.m. Thursday at Showcase West in Robinson.

Fellowships

Four local filmmakers have won Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships.

A $10,000 fellowship goes to Jeff Morelli, a native of Albany who moved to Pittsburgh in 1996.

Three $5,000 fellowships were awarded to Cecile Desandre-Navarre, a native of Paris who teaches French at the University of Pittsburgh; Nick Fox-Gieg, who also received a PCA fellowship last year; and Eric Fleischauer, a freelance film and video maker.

All four are artist members of Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

Indie cinema

This week's Good Fridays program at The Andy Warhol Museum features the independent Canadian film "Subconscious Cruelty," described as "a surrealistic anthology film structured like a fever dream" that addresses themes of religion, creativity, familial politics, perversion and raw honesty in "vignettes that veer from narrative segments into expressionistic bridges."

Tickets are $5. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Lopez lands Redford

And Jennifer Lopez's next movie co-star is ... Robert Redford.

The two have been cast in director Lasse Hallstrom's "An Unfinished Life" for Miramax Films and Revolution Studios.

The movie is about a woman who is down on her luck and desperate to care for her daughter, forcing her to move in with her father-in-law, from whom she is estranged.

Shame on us

Carnegie Museum of Art's decision to shut down its Film and Video program has engendered yet another outraged response, this time from John Ewing, director and co-founder of the Cleveland Cinematheque.

"What a terrible, short-sighted decision!" he writes in his column, "Cinema Talk," in the Cinematheque's bimonthly calendar publication. "Budget cuts are one thing; elimination of a program or department is quite another. ... Their recent decision does not improve the Carnegie. On the contrary, it makes it look bad. It makes it look backward. It is an embarrassment to a fine museum and a great city. The decision should be reversed."

Cleveland film festival

Speaking of Cleveland, the city's 27th annual International Film Festival is set for March 20-30 at the Tower City Cinemas in the city's downtown.

The festival will offer 100 features and 100 short films from 40 countries.

The opening-night movie is "American Splendor," the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner at the recent Sundance Film Festival. The movie is a dramatized biography of underground cartoonist Harvey Pekar, a Cleveland native. It stars Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis and was written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

For more information on the festival: 1-216-623-3456, Ext. 7, or www.clevelandfilm.org.

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