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Posted 10/21/2009

AMARCORD Ever wonder what kind of place could produce an idiosyncratic cinema genius like Federico Fellini? Fellini gave his own answer with Amarcord, a semi-autobiographical work built around his youth in the small Italian town of Rimini in the 1930s. The title loosely translates from regional dialect as "I remember," and the movie is little more than a string of memories recounting a year in the life of the town and a single family. But what memories: a carnival of fantasy and no-less-surreal actual events entailing everything from an old man encountering a taste of his own death in a blanketing fog to the village idiot's Busby Berkeley-style seduction of a visiting potentate's harem. Utterly plotless, Amarcord nonetheless balances nostalgic reveries with ugly truths, the all-too-serious absurdity of Italian Fascism with the grim comedy of sex, death with rebirth and renewal. Poetic, rude, poignant, and just plain funny, Amarcord doesn't enjoy the same renown as La Strada or , but deserves to. (Lee Gardner) At the Charles Theatre at noon Oct. 24, 7 p.m. Oct. 26, and 9 p.m. Oct. 29. More info at thecharles.com

AMELIA Mira Nair directs this biopic about pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank). Opens Oct. 23.

BALTIMORE WOMEN'S FILM FESTIVAL The third-annual, non-profit Baltimore Women's Film Festival runs Oct. 23-25 at the Landmark Harbor East, with 50 percent of all ticket sales donated to breast cancer research and outreach/survivor programs. The lineup includes an eclectic mix of documentaries, features, and shorts, including Pip and Zastrow: An American Friendship, about Roger "Pip" Moyer, Annapolis' mayor in the late 1960s, and convicted felon Joseph "Zastro" Simms, who together calmed Maryland's capital following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King. For reviews of BWFF entries, visit citypaper.com/film. For more information visit bwfilmfestival.com.

CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT Director Paul Weitz and screenwriter Brian Helgeland (?!) co-adapted this first entry in Darren Shan's young-adult horror-novel series, ostensibly about an average teen guy (Chris Massoglia) who gets turned into a vampire. Or something. Opens Oct. 23.

LES DIABOLIQUES Teacher Nicole (Simone Signoret, in stone-faced disciplinarian knockout mode) helps Christina (Véra Clouzot) murder Michel (Paul Meurisse), Christina's abusive husband who runs the boys' boarding school where they all live. This still-lively 1955 French thriller from Henri-Georges Clouzot toys with the whodunit crime idea and becomes something else entirely, and its impeccable pacing holds you until its final seconds. At the Hexagon Space Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. More info at hexagonspace.com

ENOCH PRATT SALUTES SHERLOCK HOLMES The Pratt library wishes Holmes a happy 155th birthday with two dependable productions from Twentieth Century Fox's 14-flick series starring Basil Rathbone as the deerstalkered investigator and Nigel Bruce as his trusty partner, including 1939's The Hound of the Baskervilles and 1946's Terror by Night. At the Enoch Pratt Southeast Anchor branch Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. More info at prattlibrary.org.

THE FBI WAR ON TUPAC SHAKUR AND BLACK LEADERS John Potash's documentary based on his 2008 book of the same name examines federal law enforcement's surveillance and policing of a generation of African-American activists. At Coppin State University's Dining Hall Center Oct. 24 at 7 p.m., with a post-screening discussion.

FIELD OF DREAMS Kevin Costner builds it in an Iowa corn field so that he will come in director Phil Alden Robinson's 1989 fantasy hokum about baseball, chasing dreams, and fathers and sons. The granddaddy of all male weepies? At the Towson University's Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. More info at towson.edu.

GOOD HAIR This Chris Rock co-produced/-written, Jeff Stilson-directed documentary explores the relationship between African-American women and their hair, and which has already drawn some ire and a copyright-infringement suit. Opens Oct. 23.

SAW VI Series editor Kevin Greutert directs this sixth entry in this surprisingly durable gore-porn franchise. Isn't everybody dead in this story by now? Opens Oct. 23.

VAMPYR Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 silent version of the bloodsucking story turns vampirism into more of a plague than a mythic human agent, and the creeps comes more from the surreal black-and-white imagery, the plot's oneiric flow, and an overall uncanny atmosphere. At the Hexagon Space Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.. More info at hexagonspace.com.

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