Film Notes: Transferred to Digital, Norwich Movie Gets a New Life

  • My Mother's Early Lovers_George Woodard and Sue Ball_photo Bill Stetson copy

  • molly-frame.tif

  • My Mother's Early Lovers_Rusty DeWees & Molly Hickock_photo Bill Stetson copy

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2018

Among the Vermont-made feature films that Norwich director Nora Jacobson thought deserved another look was one of her own.

As much as she wanted her 1998 drama, My Mother’s Early Lovers, to reach new audiences, Jacobson wasn’t expecting it. Her print of the film was showing its age and wear.

“We had showed the 35-millimeter quite a bit,” Jacobson said this week. “It was pretty well worn out.”

Then last spring, Eric Ford, Vermont PBS’ senior manager of local content, offered Jacobson a $3,000 grant to convert the print of Early Lovers to digital, so the network could broadcast it and two of her other features.

The three films will screen on consecutive Thursdays starting on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m., with an airing of The Hanji Box, then following on Dec. 13 and 20 with broadcasts of Early Lovers and Nothing Like Dreaming, respectively.

In addition to giving new life to Early Lovers, the broadcasts are an example of how Vermont PBS is paying more attention to homegrown films.

“In the past, Vermont PBS had not spent any money on anything other than buying shows from the Papa PBS,” Jacobson said this week. “Now they have this wonderful CEO, Holly Groschner (a Corinth resident), who has really been committed to local filmmakers.”

The commitment included the hiring of Ford, who, after a search for restoration companies in the Northeast, suggested Cinelab in New Bedford, Mass.

“I drove there in August, carrying these huge canisters,” Jacobson recalled. “When I got there they were on the first floor of this former textile mill, and I was just completely enchanted by the place. Film paradise. It was a bunch of mostly younger guys running around developing film and transferring old film to digital. And there were stacks and stacks of Super-8 film and 16mm film everywhere, waiting to be sent back to people.

“It’s nice to know that it’s people with a passion who are doing it.”

Moviegoers got their first full taste of Jacobson’s passion for homemade filmmaking in My Mother’s Early Lovers, the script for which she adapted from a memoir by Norwich writer Sybil Smith. In 2004, she released Nothing Like Dreaming, about an unlikely alliance between a Vermont teenager and an eccentric artist. And in 2016, Jacobson unveiled The Hanji Box, which follows the struggles of a woman whose adoptive daughter explores her roots in Korea.

Jacobson describes the chance to reintroduce audiences to Early Lovers as “particularly exciting.

“Making that film was an amazing community effort, involving many local people as actors and crew,” she said. “I would never have been able to afford the scanning and digitizing process without this help.”

Vermont PBS broadcasts three Nora Jacobson movies next month: The Hanji Boxon Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.; My Mother’s Early Loverson Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.; and Nothing Like Dreamingon Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.

On the House

The Mascoma Film Society resumes its series of free screenings of classic movies on Wednesday night at 6:30, projecting Robert Altman’s 2001 costume drama/murder mystery/social satire Gosford Park at Mascoma Valley Regional High School auditorium.

In addition to showcasing such British veterans of stage and screen as Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Charles Dance, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jeremy Northam, Gosford gave several younger thespians a chance to shine. Emerging most brightly were Kelly Macdonald (on my Oscar wish list for 2017 best actress in Puzzle) and American heartthrob Ryan Philippe (Crash, Flags of our Fathers, as well as the future and now-ex-Mr. Reese Witherspoon).

Perhaps most notably, the Academy Award that he won for best original screenplay emboldened Julian Fellowes to conceive and write Downton Abbey, the early 20th-century soap-opera of manners that took first British television and then U.S. public TV by storm between 2010 and 2015, while treating the blue bloods upstairs more sympathetically than Altman permitted in Gosford.

Also coming to the Mascoma screen over the next fortnight, on Dec. 5 is Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the 2018 documentary about children’s-TV pioneer Fred Rogers. While it offers relatively few revelations about the man himself, the movie’s look back over the evolution of his Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood emphasizes his ahead-of-his-time concern about demonizing people deemed “other.”

The fall series ends on Dec. 19, with a screening of The Man Who Invented Christmas, the 2018 biopic exploring how Charles Dickens came to write his A Christmas Carol. While admission is free to all the Mascoma screenings, donations are welcome. To learn more, visit mascomafilmsociety.org.

Tidings of Cinematic Comfort and Joy

Sharon native Dustin Rikert’s second TV movie for the Hallmark Channel, Christmas at Graceland, is running several times in the coming weeks in the cable network’s marathon of holiday romances, including Wednesday night at 10 and the following Saturday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. It stars country singer Kellie Pickler as a business executive who, during a trip to Memphis for work, reunites with her old flame, a music promoter who begs her to perform at the Graceland Christmas Concert. For the complete schedule of this and other Christmas films, visit hallmarkchannel.com/schedule.

■Truth to tell, I’m not sure I’d ever heard of Christmas in Connecticut until Pentangle Arts announced that it would be screening the 1945 comedy on Dec. 6 at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre. It stars Barbara Stanwyck as a food writer passing herself off as a married domestic goddess who meets a returning soldier through a publicity scam. (Maybe next year somebody will have dug up the 1992 remake, starring Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson.)

The following night, Dec. 7, Pentangle will show a more recent rom-com, The Holiday, the 2006 meet-cute that had no right to work except for the performances of Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law.

Both Pentangle movies start at 7:30 p.m., and have a $5 ticket price.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Film and TV news can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.