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Screening Kafka's surreal stories

With its complex, surreal style and nightmarish plot, Orson Welles's ''The Trial" is the visual definition of ''Kafkaesque." Anthony Perkins plays Josef K., who awakens to find the police in his room asking questions. He's arrested and put on trial but is never told why. Shot in black and white, the film delivers striking images and an almost palpable sense of paranoia. Even with masterpieces such as ''Citizen Kane" and ''Touch of Evil" behind him, Welles still considered ''The Trial" his best film.

See if you agree when the Harvard Film Archive opens its series ''Kafka Goes to the Movies" on Friday. ''The Trial" screens at 9 p.m., after the documentary for which the program is named and two short films, ''Franz Kafka" and ''The Hunger Artist."

Of course, no Kafka series would be complete without film versions of the author's best-known story. In ''Metamorphosis," Yevgeni Mironov plays Gregor Samsa, the mild-mannered clerk who wakes up one day to find that he's turned into a giant insect. No special effects here, just Mironov's twitchy, convincing performance. Animator Caroline Leaf puts her own spin on the story with a 10-minute film called ''The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa." The series ends June 29 and is copresented with the Boston Jewish Film Festival. For more information, call 617-495-4700 or go to

DEAN ON-SCREEN: Fifty years after his death, James Dean remains frozen in time as a brooding young rebel. He starred in only three films, but they catapulted him from TV actor to film icon. In its series ''Celebrating James Dean," the Brattle Theatre will show new 35mm prints of the films now considered classics: ''East of Eden," ''Rebel Without a Cause," and ''Giant." Dean brings electricity to his roles as a son desperate for his father's love; a lonely, misunderstood teenager; and a cowboy turned oil baron.

Starting Friday, a double feature of ''East of Eden" and ''Rebel Without a Cause" will play every night at the Brattle through the 30th. For the first three days of July, all of the films will be shown back to back. For more information, call 617-876-6837 or go to

VISIONS OF ROMANCE: The Institute of Contemporary Art gets in the mood for love this summer with the Reel Rush film series. The first program takes place Friday at 8 p.m.; the remaining screenings will be held July 22 and Aug. 19. First up is a trio of short films and Ilil Alexander's debut feature, ''Keep Not Silent." The film, which won an Israeli Oscar for best documentary, follows the struggles of three Orthodox Jewish women in Jerusalem who are also lesbians.

Filmmaker/photographer Tracey Moffat's ''Love," a collection of clips on the subject from classic films, makes its Boston premiere as part of the series, and two of Moffat's other films, ''Nice Colored Girls" and ''Night Cries" round out the lineup. Reel Rush is presented in conjunction with an exhibit at the museum titled ''Getting Emotional," which runs through Sept. 5. Call 617-266-5152 or go to

AV CLUB: Few things could break up the monotony of the school day quite like educational filmstrips, with their loopy naïveté and tough talk. The titles alone -- ''Alcohol Is Dynamite," ''Keep Off the Grass," and ''VD Is for Everybody," just to name a few -- were enough to scare kids straight. These odd gems move from darkened classroom to the big screen this weekend with the Coolidge Corner's ''AV Geeks" series.

AV (audiovisual) geeks were those teacher's-pet types who always got to run the movie projector at school. Skip Elsheimer proudly qualifies, and the Coolidge series draws from his online archive. Elsheimer has spent more than 10 years building a collection of 15,000 educational and training films culled from thrift stores, school auctions, and Dumpsters. ''AV Geeks" features midnight showings of original 16mm films. Things get started on Friday with ''Blackboard Bungle," a group of films on the hazards of going to school, and finish up the next night with ''Kids and Kritters." For more information, call 617-734-2500 or go to

SHORT TAKES: Area filmmakers will add a local element to the five-day Boston International Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday. The latest documentary from Boston-based director Maryanne Galvin, ''As Is: A Downsized Life," makes its world premiere next Sunday at 3 p.m. Galvin will answer questions about the film after its screening at Hynes Convention Center. Also on the bill is ''An American Race," a documentary by Marblehead's Marc Wortman that was coproduced by his 13-year-old son, Jake. Shot in Swampscott, the film follows three boys' attempt to create a winning race car for the Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby. It screens at Hynes Saturday at 10 a.m.

Rhonda Stewart can be reached at

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