The First Ever New England Underground Film Festival, Plus a New Movie About Butch

New England Underground Film Festival

La Paloma Sabanera, 405 Capitol Ave., Hartford. $5-$10. (860) 956-5003,


Opens Oct. 14, 86 Temple St. (203) 498-2500,


This weekend, it's time to support your local underground cinema. The 1st New England Underground Film Festival runs for one day — Oct. 16.

The festival presents an occasion to sample local talent — such as Action, Rick Dorrington's film, which opens the festival, about the difficulties of making a film using family members, or It Happened But Nobody Came, the festival closer, a film by J.L. Sonic and E.M. Schrader that documents the Connecticut punk scene of the late 1970s/early '80s.

In between, some local comic touches include Nick Zak's parody of Sergio Leone, The Good, The Bad, and The Eggly, Cliff Cronin's Buster Keaton-style hijinks, and Angel Connell's romp to a Beatles B-side, You Know My Name.

Then there are offerings from further afield: from Spain, Alberto Cabera Benal's Contra el Cine, a montage of exits on film; from Russia, Alexei Dmitrev's Abstract? about the meaning of a line; from France, Jean Nagel's Le Depart d'Ulysse, which contemporizes the Greek hero's departure for war; from Finland, Panu Johanssen's Men at Work, an artsy take on workers at a power plant.

Films were chosen by competition, with submissions via An additional highpoint of the festival will be a screening, at 2:40 p.m., of an early horror film long considered lost: the earliest Frankenstein, from 1910, by J. Searle Dawley of the Bronx. For a full schedule of the festival:

Opening Friday at New Haven's Criterion: Legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy was supposedly killed in Bolivia in 1908 with his partner in crime the Sundance Kid. In Blackthorn, directed by Mateo Gil and written by Miguel Barros, Butch has survived, under the alias James Blackthorn, and become a horse-trader. It's now 1928, and with finally enough money saved, the crotchety, weathered Butch (Sam Shepard) decides to return to the States to see the surviving son of recently deceased Etta Place, the paramour he and Sundance shared in their glory days.

A hitch to this plan emerges immediately in the form of Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), a mining engineer who has made off with a fortune from a silver mine. Thwarted in trying to steal Butch's horse when his own steed dies, Eduardo is soon at Butch's mercy. Together they form a testy partnership to retrieve the money and to elude the posse on Eduardo's trail.

Flashbacks to the days of Butch (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Sundance (Padraic Delaney) and Etta (Dominique McElligott) don't add greatly to the spare current story, and, compared to the sparkle of George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, are lacking in charm, but for a run-in with Mackinley, a dogged Pinkerton detective (the always interesting Stephen Rea) that later comes back to haunt Butch when Mackinley learns Butch is alive and planning to make off with the loot.

The film, like the Cohen brothers' recent True Grit, restores the joys of a late 1960s-era Western: the amazing scenery — from mountains to gulleys to salt flats to a painted desert — the narrow escapes, the gun play, the compromised heroes. Shepard has often played a shit-kicker, but here he has a philosophical dignity and sly humor that helps us believe he is the living remnants of a famous outlaw. His singing of Western standards like "Sam Hall" and "Wayfaring Stranger" add to his character's playful sense of fate.

Whether nemesis or sidekick, Noreiga is likeable enough and furtive enough to be both accepted and distrusted. And Rea shines as the moldering Mackinley, roused from his soused state by one last chance to do something right. They don't make 'em like that any more — except sometimes they still do.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times