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Eco-Amok! An Inconvenient Film Fest

July 11, 2007 - August 29, 2007

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Phase IV, July 25

The inconvenient truth is this: cinema has seen it coming for years. How else to account for the black-and-white bestiary that brought us ants the size of SUVs and buffed-up behemoths rising from the ocean floor? Or the more colorful contributions, like a grizzled bear as big as a phone booth, militarized piranhas with excited incisors, or a man-plant with its roots in horror? These are the queer consequences of messing with Mother Nature.

From the fearsome fifties right up to the carbon-coughing present, cinema has ogled the aftereffects of ecological abuse and genetic jerry-rigging. Eco-Amok! takes on this prescient patch of filmdom to relish the monstrosities, as well as considering the causes for consternation. Whether the anxiety arises from rogue radiation, environmental spoliation, or genomic manipulation, a movie can be found to match the menace. There are rarities like Saul Bass's Phase IV, an acute account of ants with larger-than-life intelligence; Jack Cardiff's The Mutations, in which a crazed botanist tries to meld folks and foliage; Michael Lehmann's Meet the Applegates, a tale of terrorist roaches that want to inherit the earth, even if it's radioactive; and Rene Daalder's harrowing Habitat, a greenhouse with effects, in which CGI meets horticultural hell.

Eco-Amok! conjures both Gore and gore, the timely message and the giddy mayhem. And that's the truth, conveniently.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Wednesday, July 11, 2007
7:30 p.m. Them!
Radioactive giant ants run amok in the movie that launched a 1950s wave of post-atomic creature features. "Provides a surfeit of camp pleasures . . . and a deliciously coded narrative. The ants are all too human."—Village Voice

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
7:30 p.m. Frogs
Amphibians of the Everglades unite against wealthy patriarch Ray Milland and his family of plantation-dwellers in this slimy critique of American excess. "Today the pond! Tomorrow the world!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
7:30 p.m. Phase IV
Response by Entomologist Vincent Resh. Intelligent ants plot to make the world their picnic ground in titles designer Saul Bass's sole directorial effort, "a thoroughly terrifying, bizarrely beautiful ecological parable."—L.A. Times

Wednesday, August 1, 2007
7:30 p.m. Prophecy
Industrial pollution generates some mean mutations among the fauna of the Maine woods in John Frankenheimer's thriller that "plays like a cross between The China Syndrome and Bigfoot."—New West

Wednesday, August 8, 2007
7:30 p.m. The Mutations
Mad professor Donald Pleasence attempts a genetic merger between plants and animals in a movie that crossbreeds Island of Lost Souls with Freaks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
7:30 p.m. Silent Running
Directed by Douglas Trumbull, the effects designer for 2001, this parable posits Bruce Dern as the last gardener in the universe, maintaining a man-made Eden on a space station. "An elegiac plea for grass, cantaloupes, and bunny rabbits delivered by a man who kills every human being in sight."—Village Voice

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
7:30 p.m. Meet the Applegates
Michael Lehmann in Person. Ed Begley Jr. and Stockard Channing are Amazonian insects who take on the form of an all-American family as part of a bid to preserve their habitat in Lehmann's suburban eco-comedy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
7:30 p.m. Habitat
Rene Daalder in Person. In a world without an ozone layer, a family's would-be garden of Eden becomes a horticultural hell. Daalder's petri dish of a film offers a florid feast of effects.

Thanks to Jacques Boyreau, Monica Albe, Cinémathèque québécoise, Rene Daalder, and Michael Lehmann, and to Al Gore for inspiring the series.