‘Nova Cultural Film & Lecture Series kicks off

Elana Starr

Villanova’s semi-annual Cultural Film & Lecture Series kicks off its 23rd year with a line up titled “Signposts: Births, Deaths, Marriages and Reunions.” All 10 of the thematically linked films in this series deal with one or more of these life-changing events. As usual, each picture will be screened four times: Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m. The Monday screenings only will feature a guest speaker, who will both introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward.

The series opens with “In the Bedroom” (Sept 6, 7, 8), a courageous drama about a married couple grieving over their son’s untimely death. Oscar nominees Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson ably portray the emotions that wash over this film. CFS founder and former director Joan Lynch is the Monday guest speaker.

The second feature is “Italian for Beginners” (Sept. 15 – 17). One of the few comedies to emerge from Denmark’s Dogme filmmakers, it focuses on a group of 30-something singles who have all signed up for an Italian class that ends up changing their lives. Dogme specialist Mark Mussari will speak at the Monday evening showing.

Next up is “The Anniversary Party” (Sept. 20 – 22). Co-written and directed by actors Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, this shoestring production follows 24 hours in the lives of a successful Hollywood couple about to celebrate their seventh anniversary. This is a piece of cinéma-vérité featuring the collaborators’ real-life friends, including Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. Reilly, Parker Posey, Jennifer Beals and Kevin Kline, with wife Phoebe Cates and their two kids in tow. Film professor Rick Worland will perform the Monday evening honors.

The final September offering is the Bergman classic “Cries and Whispers” (Sept. 27 – 29). In this lyrical film, two sisters come to an isolated estate to care for a third sister, who is on her deathbed. Gerard Molyneaux, F.S.C., from LaSalle University, is the Monday lecturer.

October begins with “You Me Them” (Oct. 4 – 6). This recent Brazilian comedy, based on a real-life human interest story, is reminiscent of the Brazilian classic “Dona Flor and Her Three Husbands,” as it focuses on a woman who lives in the hinterlands with a passel of children and three men in an intriguing ménage à quatre. Philadelphia Inquirer critic Desmond Ryan is the featured speaker.

The other October offering is “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (Oct. 25 – 27). The first film directed by Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”), is a romantic comedy starring Alan Rickman as a cellist who comes back from the grave to console his grieving lover. Temple University’s Paul Swann is the featured Monday speaker. November proffers “Decalog 2: Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain” (Nov. 1 – 3), one of 10 short films Krzysztof Kieslowski made for Polish television that are about the Ten Commandments. Ruth Perlmutter, who has spoken on Kieslowski for CFS several times before, will be the Monday guest lecturer.

Next on the roster is “Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine” (Nov. 8 – 10), a black comedy from Bahman Farmanara, who has been dubbed the Iranian Woody Allen. He self-reflexively stars as a filmmaker making a documentary about Japanese funeral rites who begins to contemplate his own passing.

Next is “Monsoon Wedding” (Nov. 15 – 17). In Mira Nair’s color-drenched, Indian version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” an extended family gathers in New Delhi for a nuptial celebration. Sattya Patnayak will be on hand Monday night.

The series’ final film is the 1995 Japanese import “Picture Bride” (Dec. 8 – 10). Director Kayo Hatta did 5 years of research on the real-life mail-order brides who went to Hawaii from Japan at the turn of the last century before making this feature film. Masako Hamada of the language department will speak at the Monday showing.

Each screening will be in the Connelly Center Cinema, and admission is $3 for students and $4 for others.