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On The Case 

Film series investigates private eyes

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."Forget Chinatown? With apologies to the character who utters that immortal line, it's simply impossible to forget Roman Polanski's classic detective yarn, a genuine masterpiece that has endured as a genre mainstay since its debut 30 years ago.

Chinatown is just one of the eight motion pictures that will be presented in the latest installment of the Main Library's annual Summer Film Series. Titled Snoops and Sleuths: American Private Eye Films, the series will be held at 7pm every Monday in the Francis Auditorium at the Main Library on Tryon Street. Kicking off its investigation July 12 and wrapping up the case on August 30, the series will showcase eight private dick flicks, five of them hailing from the 1970s (a rich decade for the genre, second only to the 40s). It's a solid slate: I'm not the biggest fan of Angel Heart -- the obscure but interesting Burt Reynolds vehicle Shamus would have been more worthy of inclusion -- but that's a minor quibble when one looks at the overall quality of the selected titles. The line-up:

July 12: The Long Goodbye (1973), with Robert Altman directing Elliott Gould (as Philip Marlowe) in an update of the Raymond Chandler novel.

July 19: Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Robert Aldrich's uncompromising cult flick featuring Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (played by Ralph Meeker), Cold War tensions, and that glowing suitcase.

July 26: Night Moves (1975), with another great director (in this case Arthur Penn, who also directed Bonnie and Clyde) placing his stamp on the genre, aided by Gene Hackman as a gumshoe on the trail of a missing teenager (Melanie Griffith).

August 2: The Late Show (1977), with yet another first-rate director (Robert Benton) on the case, spinning a fast-paced romp about an elderly sleuth (Art Carney) who agrees to find an eccentric woman's (Lily Tomlin) cat and ends up stumbling across a murder and blackmail scheme.

August 9: The Big Sleep (1946), one of the immortals, with Howard Hawks' direction, Raymond Chandler's story (with William Faulkner serving as one of the adapters), and the sizzling chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall effortlessly standing the test of time. And yes, it's true that the story is so tangled, even Chandler didn't know who committed one of the murders in the film!

August 16: Chinatown (1974), showcasing Robert Towne's Oscar-winning screenplay and a formidable performance by Jack Nicholson as an LA detective who becomes involved with a femme fatale (Faye Dunaway) and a corrupt kingpin (John Huston). (Note: This screening will start at 6:45pm.)

August 23: Farewell, My Lovely (1975), with noir veteran Robert Mitchum delivering a strong performance as a wary -- and weary -- Philip Marlowe.

August 30: Angel Heart (1987), with seedy New Orleans sleuth Mickey Rourke hired by devilish Robert De Niro to locate a missing person.

Admission to all films is free. For further information, call 704-336-6217.

The Fifth Annual Real to Reel Film and Video Festival will be held July 22-24 in Kings Mountain, NC. Twenty-eight films will be shown over the course of the festival, including a pair of documentaries from Carolina filmmakers: Tom Whitaker: Potter at Large, by Jamestown resident Mary Dalton, and The Fort Fisher Hermit, from Wilmington's Scott Davis and Rob Hill. And while the writer-director-star of the 39-minute comedy-drama Veronika's Birthday is listed as a Brooklyn filmmaker, Jessica Burstein's no stranger to Charlotte: She spent most of her formative years here, graduating from East Mecklenburg High School in the mid-1990s before heading to UNC-Chapel Hill and then up north.Admission to the festival is $5 per session or $10 for an entire event pass. For more info on the fest, call 704-484-2787 or go online to www.ccartscouncil.org/realtoreel. For details on Veronika's Birthday (including a look at the trailer), go to www.ponytailproductions.com.

Submissions are now being accepted for the Second Annual Asheville Film Festival, to be held November 4-7. Interested moviemakers may submit entries in the categories of Documentary, Feature Length, Shorts/Animation, and Student Films. Submission deadline is July 23, and forms are available at www.ashevillefilmfestival.com.

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