David Lynch famously called Philadelphia “the sickest, most corrupt, decaying, fear-ridden city imaginable.” While this might sound like a putdown, the celebrated filmmaker — once again in the news thanks to the Showtime revival of Twin Peaks, his one-of-a-kind TV show — viewed the city as a vital influence on his work. Decay, after all, can be fascinating to an outsider.
Lynch lived in the Callowhill neighborhood for a few formative years in the late 1960s, and the area’s postindustrial eeriness left an impression. You can see it in such films as Eraserhead (some now refer to Callowhill as “Eraserhood,” a tribute to the director) and Blue Velvet, the 1986 neo-noir that totally upended the genre with its surreality. The film is notable for stellar early performances by Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan, and especially for Dennis Hopper’s role as a crazed, gas-huffing gangster named Frank. CineMug will show Blue Velvet on July 20. Admission costs $5, but you can BYOB.
If that doesn’t satisfy your cravings for ’80s experimentalism, you can return to CineMug on July 27 for a screening of Santa Sangre. Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, the notoriously violent film follows the dreamlike flashbacks of a Mexican boy who grew up in a circus and currently resides in a mental institution. Jodorowsky’s son, Axel, stars in what would be his father’s second-to-last film before a 13-year hiatus that ended in 2013. Admission costs $5.
Love letters, hate letters, and it’s-complicated letters
In 2015, two local filmmakers put a project up on Kickstarter. Their mission: to fund the documentary Camden Love/Hate, which follows six high-school students from our neighboring city across the Delaware as they learn about their hometown and give their own accounts of what it was like to grow up in one of the most violent places in the country. The film was completed in March of last year and started appearing at festivals a few months afterward. On July 24, Scribe Video Center will host a screening of Camden Love/Hate at the Roxy Theater. Tickets cost $6.
Comedian Dave Chappelle isn’t from Brooklyn, but he crafted a perfect love letter to the borough — and to black neighborhoods just like it across the nation — in the 2005 documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Featuring career-defining performances by the likes of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Mos Def, the film introduced an entire generation to hip-hop and R&B and sealed Chappelle’s legacy as one of the premier comics of the mid-2000s. The Trocadero will show Block Party on July 31 as part of its Movie Mondays series. As usual, admission costs only $3.
Festivals and marathons
The BlackStar Film Festival started in 2011 and quickly became one of the most buzzed-about events celebrating black filmmakers in the U.S. and abroad. This year, the festival will run from August 3 to 6 and offer up about two dozen feature films, documentaries, short programs, panel discussions, and more. There will even be a Friday-night dance party at Johnny Brenda’s and an interview with directorial powerhouse Ava DuVernay. All-access festival passes go for $150, while tickets to individual screenings cost $12 apiece. (Look out for more coverage of the Festival here in WNWN.)
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention an essential gathering for all the connoisseurs of kitsch out there. Exhumed Films will throw its annual B-movie extravaganza, called the Schlock-O-Rama, on July 28 and 29 at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, Pa. The program includes eight films from the 1950s and ’60s that are sure to be equal parts thrilling, gory, and hilarious. General admission costs $10 for each day.