The French Film Festival, once a summertime event, moved to earlier in the year. And the indie film-focused Film-O-Rama, another festival held at the Prytania Theatre, is no more.
Seeing an opportunity, Prytania Theatre operator Robert Brunet is presenting Filmtopia — a chance to soak up great movies on a big screen in the chilled darkness of New Orleans’ oldest operating theater.
Brunet, along with his daughter, Paige, the Prytania’s executive director; New Orleans Film Society artistic director emeritus John Desplas; and Prytania general manager Eric Ramstead curated the first Filmtopia. They hope the festival’s eclectic schedule of 23 films, running July 20 through July 26, will be cinema paradise.
The lineup includes the 2016 documentary about New Orleans restaurateur Ella Brennan; feature films and documentaries about several artists, including painters Jean-Michel Basquiat and Paul Gauguin and filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard; a Stanley Kubrick retrospective; and the American classics “Scarface” and “The Wizard of Oz.” And several French features are in the mix.
“We decided we’re just going to do this with good movies,” Brunet said. “No matter whether it’s an independent film, art film, retrospective film or just something we want to see on the big screen.”
For Brunet, a third-generation film exhibitor in New Orleans, the big screen part is a big deal.
“My youngest daughter, who’s 18, watches movies on her cell phone all the time,” he lamented. “That drives me crazy. It’s cool that you can watch a movie on a plane or anywhere, but you miss so much by watching movies on an 8-inch screen.”
The screen in the 104-year-old Prytania Theatre is 38 feet wide and 16½ feet tall.
“The Prytania is a blast from the past,” Brunet said. “That’s part of Filmtopia, too.”
A theater itself and the communal environment therein is part of the cinema experience, Brunet said.
“There’s something magical about that,” he said. “My family has been in the business for more than 100 years. There’s something special about this business and something unique about a theater like the Prytania.”
Filmtopia will have some filmmakers in attendance, including Leslie Iwerks, director of “Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table,” and “Zydeco Breakfast” director Tom Uhl.
“In future years we hope to have more Q&As and make more of an event out of it,” Brunet said.
Brunet is a Kubrick fan. Filmtopia’s Kubrick retrospective, in commemoration of the late director’s 90th birthday, includes “A Clock Orange,” “The Shining” and the little known 1956 film “The Killing.”
Another Filmtopia selection, “The Wizard of Oz,” is a Prytania staple.
“We try to show it at least once a year,” Brunet said. “It was one of my dad’s favorite movies. Obviously, it’s one of those films every kid loves.”
“The Gospel According to André”: Friday at 7 p.m., Monday at noon and Wednesday, July 25 at 2:30 p.m.
A documentary about fashion designer André Leon Talley featuring Talley, Naomi Campbell, Sean "Diddy" Combs and many fashion luminaries.
“Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat”: Friday at 9:15 p.m., Sunday at 8 p.m., Tuesday, July 24 at 2:30 p.m. and Thursday, July 26 at noon
“Boom for Real” recounts the now famous artist’s pre-fame years in New York.
“Zydeco Breakfast”: Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
Southwest Louisiana’s unique zydeco music is documented from the music’s roots to its emerging artists.
“Final Portrait”: Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Actor Stanley Tucci directs this feature about the friendship of American writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) and artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush).
“Mountain”: Saturday at 5 p.m. and Tuesday, July 24 at 5:30 p.m.
Willem Dafoe narrates the exploits of mountaineers, ice climbers, free soloists, heliskiers, snowboarders, wingsuiters and parachuting mountain bikers.
“Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti”: Saturday at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, July 24 at noon
Seeking inspiration, French artist Paul Gauguin (Vincent Cassel) journeys to Tahiti. In French with English subtitles.
“Love, Cecil”: Sunday at 4 p.m. and Wednesday, July 25 at 5 p.m.
A documentary about Cecil Beaton, the Oscar-winning set and costume designer, writer, painter and official queen’s photographer.
“Cold Water ( L’eau froide)”: Sunday at 6 p.m. and Thursday, July 26 at 2:30 p.m.
Previously unreleased in the U.S., “Cold Water” is an early drama from director Oliver Assayas. The tale of teenage lovers on the outskirts of Paris in the early 1970s, the film features a rock music soundtrack redolent of the era. In French with English subtitles.
“Godard, Mon Amour”: Friday at noon and Monday at 2:30 p.m.
Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning director of the silent film era-set "The Artist," takes moviegoers to another era in cinema history, France in the late 1960s. Actress Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin) juggles political protests and the challenges posed by her marriage to filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel). In French with English subtitles.
“The Band's Visit”: Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Monday at 5 p.m.
In June, the musical adaptation of this 2007 film won 10 Tony awards. The story follows Egyptian musicians who mistakenly arrive in a small town in Israel. In Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
“Rodin”: Monday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday at noon
In this biopic about Auguste Rodin (Vincent Lindon), the 40-year-old sculptor receives his first state commission, which leads to the creation of “The Kiss” and “The Thinker.” In French with English subtitles.
“The Guardians”: Tuesday, July 24 at 7 p.m.
In this World War I-era drama directed by Xavier Beauvois (“Of Gods and Men”), the women of the Paridier farm must handle the farm’s labor while the family’s men are on the front fighting. In French with English subtitles.
“Damsel”: Wednesday, July 25 at 7 p.m.
Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska star in a revisionist Western.
“Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table”: Thursday, July 26 at 5 p.m.
New Orleans restaurateur Ella Brennan’s exceptional life and influence on American cuisine is highlighted in this 2016 documentary. Director Leslie Iwerks will attend.
“The Wizard of Oz”: Friday at 10 a.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m.
The beloved musical from 1939 starring Judy Garland returns to the Prytania’s big screen.
“Film Worker”: Thursday, July 26 at 7 p.m.
A documentary about Leon Vitali, the young actor who abandoned his acting career to be filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man.
“Scarface”: Sunday, July 22 at 9:30 p.m.
A 35th-anniversary screening of the classic gangster film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Al Pacino.
Stanley Kubrick 90th birthday retrospective
“A Clockwork Orange”: Saturday at 9:15 p.m.
“The Killing”: Sunday at 10 a.m. and Monday at 9:30 p.m.
“Barry Lyndon”: Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
“Full Metal Jacket”: Tuesday, July 24 at 9:30 p.m.
“The Shining”: Wednesday, July 25 at 9:15 p.m.
“Eyes Wide Shut”: Thursday, July 26 at 9:15 p.m.