Sag Cinema Screens Films of Political Turmoil

"An adventurous mix"
Elliott Gould is a passive photographer who is beaten by street thugs in “Little Murders,” a dark comedy written by Jules Feiffer.

The next four films in the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center’s Present Tense series demonstrate the center’s characterization of the series as “an adventurous mix of new releases, classics, documentaries, and rarely seen subversive comedies, which speak in a variety of ways and styles to our present political and cultural time.”

Exhibit A is Joe Dante’s prescient 1997 satire “The Second Civil War,” which will be shown on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. Set in what was then the near future, the film stars Beau Bridges as the governor of Idaho, who shuts down his state’s borders to prevent the arrival of a planeload of Pakistani refugees.

Meanwhile, an inept president, played by the late Phil Hartman, delegates all his decision-making to his advisers, while the prevalence in the film of political opportunism, terrorism, mass shootings, and criticism of the liberal media led Mr. Dante to conclude that today his film “plays like a documentary.” The cast also includes James Coburn, James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Pena, and Denis Leary.

After art school, Mr. Dante served his Hollywood apprenticeship with Roger Corman’s New World Pictures before going on to make such feature films as “Gremlins,” “The Howling,” and “Matinee.” The screening of “The Second Civil War” will be followed by a conversation via Skype between Mr. Dante and Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, head of the cinema’s programming committee. Tickets are free, but a $15 donation has been suggested.

Reviewing a 1987 revival of “Little Murders,” Jules Feiffer’s first play, Frank Rich of The New York Times called it “the darkest and perhaps the funniest comedy ever written about what it was like to be alive and half-crazed in the urban American jungle of the 1960s.” 

The play premiered on Broadway in 1967, and Mr. Feiffer adapted it four years later into a film directed by Alan Arkin and starring Elliot Gould as a passive fashion photographer saved from a mugging by street thugs. “Little Murders,” which also stars Donald Sutherland, Lou Jacobi, and Marcia Rodd, will be shown at the Southampton Arts Center on March 3 at 3 p.m. Mr. Feiffer will be present for a post-screening conversation with Ms. Vallan. Tickets are $15 and $12 for SAC members. 

The U.S. presidency figures in very different ways in “Gabriel Over the White House,” a 1933 political fantasy that will be shown on March 17, and “All the Way,” a 2016 biopic starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson during the first year of his presidency, set for March 31. Both screenings will take place at Pierson High School.

Bruce Goldstein, a programmer since 1986 at New York’s Film Forum, will discuss “Gabriel Over the White House,” and Robert Schenkkan, who wrote both the play “All the Way” and its screen adaptation for HBO, will discuss that multiple award-winning film.