I'm not sure the Argenta Community Theater puts Little Rock and North Little Rock on the path to becoming "a little Paris," as Philip Martin said in his introductory remarks at last night's opening party. But it's undoubtedly a boon to our arts community. And a place that arts patrons of all stripes are likely to be visiting regularly — for concerts, theater and, starting this spring, monthly film screenings from the Arkansas Film Society, a new project from the Little Rock Film Festival.
If last night's screening of "Small Town Murder Songs" is any indication of the sort of programs the Arkansas Film Society is going to host, film geeks are going to be in heaven. I thought there was a lot to admire in "Small Town" — notably, Coen brother favorite Peter Stormare's lurching take on a small town cop with a violent past. But whether the film works or not is almost wholly tied to your take on the music. I found the soundtrack, courtesy of Canadian act Bruce Peninsula, to be really powerful, sort of like a grittier Arcade Fire at a shape-note hymn sing. But in context — in this otherwise slowly paced, naturalistic film rooted in a deeply felt sense of place — it felt really manipulative, like it was providing the tension and emotion in a film that otherwise largely lacked it. Still, it was a treat to get a buzz-y indie in town before just about every other part of the country and moreover to have the director, Ed Gass-Donnelly here for a post-screening Q&A. He was really charming and funny.