Screening series of the week: Retropath! teams with Neon Dreams

As David Byrne's tour arrives in Toronto, two film programmers are teaming up to revisit the musician's overlooked classic True Stories


Wonder why Toronto’s repertory cinemas are putting up lovingly bespoke posters for movies you haven’t thought about in forever? That’s because big-screen revival series are back in a big way, offering audiences the chance to discover a buried treasure – or reconnect with an old favourite – with an enthusiastic crowd, a knowledgeable host and sometimes even a floor show.

Every week, we’ll spotlight someone behind one of Toronto’s specialty screening series – and let them pitch their latest event. This week finds two of The Royal’s regular programmers – Richelle Charkot of Retropath! and Neon Dreams’s Brendan Ross – teaming up for a very special presentation.

The Programmers

Charkot is the programming director at The Royal, a Sunday clerk at Eyesore Cinema and a “collector of 60s-80s pseudoscientific paperbacks.” She’s on Twitter at @somepicnic. Ross, who has “a non-film-related day job (Toronto is an expensive city, amirite?),” is a media contributor to Hollywood Suite and a freelance programmer for TIFF Cinematheque.

What’s Showing

David Byrne’s delightfully odd True Stories – in 35mm! – Thursday (August 2) at 8 pm. Among other things, the 1986 musical “about a bunch of people in Virgil, Texas” gave John Goodman his breakout role – and let him sing – and inspired Radiohead’s band name. The screening is timed to coincide with the Talking Heads main man’s sold-out shows at Sony Centre this weekend.

How often do these two series intersect?

“This is only the second collaboration between Brendan and me,” says Charkot. “The first of which being 1989’s body horror paranoia flick Society, with [director] Brian Yuzna in attendance for an intro and post-screening Q&A. Brendan and I took a shot at getting David Byrne to swing by The Royal this time around, but no such luck. Perhaps it’s for the best, because we’d both probably black out.”

“There’s always a chance he could cycle into the theatre five minutes before the film starts,” Ross says, “which would be very in-character.” He adds that audiences will still get to experience an exclusive video introduction from Stephen Tobolowsky, who co-wrote the film. “I just watched it and can confirm that it’s every bit as Stephen Tobolowsky as you’d hope it would be.”

Why this film?

“Brendan is an 80s baby through and through and a lot of his tastes come from that era of film and music, and I love just about anything elevated, colourful and odd,” Charkot says, “so True Stories is really a perfect flick for where our tastes intersect.”

“Every single time we’ve had a drink or two together we end up gushing about how much we love David Byrne,” says Ross. “And that conversation always finds its way to how incredible we think True Stories is and how much of a shame it is that so many people have never seen it, and it’s so frustratingly hard to find. It’s just such a giddy experience that highlights all of David Byrne’s lovable quirks and never fails to put a smile on my face when I need it the most. I think seeing it on a big screen with big sound is really going to blow people away.”

Are there any other collaborations coming up?

Charkot says she and Ross don’t have anything else planned at present, “but The Royal’s team of programmers are really excellent cheerleaders for each other so we’re always thinking of new ways to collaborate. We all try our best to make it to each other’s screening nights, and support each other thoroughly. We’re very fortunate to have such a cool team.”

What’s the general vibe of the evening likely to be?

Ross says True Stories will be a different sort of screening than most of his Neon Dreams presentations, “in that it swaps out bleak violence for upbeat joy, but aesthetically it’s 100 per cent in line with the separate vibes Richelle and I have both cultivated.”

Future screenings in Charkot’s Retropath! series include John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (October 10) and John Boorman’s Point Blank (November 28) Ross’s next Neon Dreams presentation will be “my most ambitious screening to date. On Friday, August 24th I will be (unofficially) reviving Showcase’s bygone Fridays Without Borders programme with a 35mm screening of my all-time favourite 1993, Shannon Tweed-starring, Toronto-made erotic thriller: Cold Sweat. We’re going to have the director Gail Harvey and producer Ilana Frank in attendance to chat about the golden age of early 90s CanCon erotic cinema. It’s going to be a blast and I’m excited to show people a film they won’t find anywhere else.”

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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