Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in March

Regent Square Theater relaunches its Sunday-night series with milestones of Asian cinema; Galactic Empire plays Mr. Smalls.


PHOTO BY JOHN ALTDORFER
 

When the Regent Square Theater reopened in October, it did so without its traditional Sunday-night lineup of classic films. Arranged along monthly themes from director retrospectives to genre deep dives, the once-a-week showings served as a de facto film history course for years.

As repertory showings have become more common in the area, however, simply showing familiar classics on the big screen lost its novelty. So in reviving the Sunday-night series for 2018, Pittsburgh Filmmakers (cinema.pfpca.org), which operates Regent Square Theater, decided to partner with Silk Screen to launch a yearlong look at milestones of Asian cinema.

“We wanted to show films from countries with large, robust industries that have deeply influenced cinema,” says Kirsten Strayer, Silk Screen’s operations and programming director. “Silk Screen’s mission is to show the richness and diversity of Asian cinema, and I was really interested in exploring that rich history through some of Asia’s most beloved artists.”

Rather than show a new film every week, the theater will show each selection every Sunday evening in a given month. The series began with Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress,” a key influence on the “Star Wars” series; this month, the focus shifts to Taiwan, with “Legend of the Mountain,” the 1979 fantasy-mystery by Chinese director King Hu.

“We chose a piece that’s both a popular genre film and a great example of cinematic artistry,” Strayer says. “‘Legend of the Mountain’ is an early wuxia film that really is a key example of the genre and a great look at that filmmaking style.” (The term wuxia refers to fiction concerning medieval Chinese martial-arts practitioners.)

“Legend of the Mountain” will be shown at 6 p.m. each Sunday night in March in a new digital restoration. Coming in April: Indian legend Satyajit Ray’s pivotal “Pather Panchali.”
 


 

Speaking of “Star Wars,” there are many odd and intriguing outposts of the gargantuan film series’ fan culture, but Galactic Empire may be the loudest.

The five-piece metal band, based in Lancaster, Pa., performs heavy metal renditions of the iconic instrumental music from the film’s original trilogy. The self-titled debut album includes the most iconic pieces of the “New Hope” score, from Darth Vader’s sinister theme music to that jazzy cantina number.

In music videos and live performances — including a March 12 gig at Mr. Smalls — the band appears in full “Star Wars” regalia, led by frontman Dark Vader.

Dark, not Darth. “We don’t like getting sued,” Vader — real name Chris Kelly — says.

The band’s popularity grew rapidly, as a web video led to television appearances and, eventually, an album. “Pretty much everything involving this band starts with, ‘Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if,’” Vader says.

Don’t let the gimmickry fool you, however; virtuoso-level guitar work and furious drums are the hallmarks of Galactic Empire’s performance. (Along with an intense light show.) And yes, the band members are fans of the more recent films; in fact, “Kyle” Ren has entered the group.

“In the most recent music video, the original second guitar player, Shadow Ranger, was killed off by Kyle Ren, [who has now] replaced him, much to the dismay of the rest of the band,” Vader jokes.

On this tour, they’ll be joined by another group of costumed shredders: Mac Sabbath, who don twisted takes on the costumes of McDonald’s mascots to perform parodies of Black Sabbath tunes, rewritten to skewer the fast-food industry.

Could Vader and a certain red-haired clown interact at these gigs?

“I don’t exactly know how we’d work it in on our end, but … we’re happy to do it,” Vader says. “The more ridiculous, the better.”
 

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