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    Scene Here: Saluting Debra Granik; restoring Gloria Swanson

    Debra Granik will be honored during a retrospective at the Brattle.
    Courtesy of the Boston Society of Film Critics
    Debra Granik will be honored during a retrospective at the Brattle.

    Cambridge-born writer-director Debra Granik, whose most recent film is “Leave No Trace” (2018), has been hailed for the authenticity of her portrayals of characters living on society’s fringes. Granik will be at the Brattle Theatre May 31-June 2 for a retrospective of her four features and to receive an award from the Boston Society of Film Critics.

    A Brandeis University graduate, Granik got her start making documentaries and educational films in Boston. She’ll be on hand to engage with the audience, following screenings of her 2004 debut feature, “Down to the Bone” (May 31, 6:30 p.m.) which stars Vera Farmiga as a working mother battling drug addiction; and her Oscar-nominated “Winter’s Bone” (2010). The latter stars Jennifer Lawrence in her breakout role as a teenager in the Ozark Mountains who goes in search of her drug-dealing father (June 1, 7 p.m.).

    Granik’s 2014 documentary, “Stray Dog,” screens June 2 at 4:30 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by “Leave No Trace.” Adapted by Granik and frequent co-writer Anne Rosellini from Peter Rock’s novel “My Abandonment,” the film stars Ben Foster as a veteran who struggles with PTSD and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie as his teenage daughter.


    After the screening, Granik will be interviewed onstage by Globe critic Ty Burr before being presented with the Career Spotlight Award from the BSFC, a group of about two dozen film reviewers working in the New England area (I am a member).

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    Also screening over the weekend are three films Granik programmed with Brattle creative director Ned Hinkle that she considers influences on her work: Robert Altman’s “Nashville” (June 1, 3:30 p.m.), Monte Hellman’s “Cockfighter” (June 1, 9:30 p.m.), and Aki Kaurismäki’s “The Other Side of Hope” (June 2, 12:30 p.m.). The last two will be shown on 35mm.

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    Glorious Gloria

    The Somerville Theatre presents a rare showing of “Zaza” (1923), starring Gloria Swanson, with live accompaniment by silent film composer Jeff Rapsis on June 2 at 2 p.m. as part of the Silents, Please! series. Swanson plays a temperamental music hall performer in a provincial French theater who falls in love with a high-ranking diplomat played by H.B. Warner. The film helped make Swanson one of the top stars of the Silent Era. She’s now best remembered for her indelible performance as forgotten silent film star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” (1950).

    “Zaza” was “not available for decades and decades,” Rapsis noted in an e-mail. “So as far as anyone knows, [the June 2 event] is the first time ‘Zaza’ has been screened in the Boston area since its original release.” In 2017, Rapsis created the soundtrack for the release of “Zaza” on DVD/Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

    Rapsis said scoring “Zaza” was a challenge because music is central to the movie’s plot. “First, a lot of it takes place in the world of the theatre, where music is a constant presence. But more significantly, a specific old French folk song, ‘Plaisir d’Amour,’ plays a prominent role in the story. On screen, it’s played several times on piano by different characters, so that has to match,” he said. Another issue is that “Plaisir d’Amour” is the basis for “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” the hit song from the 1961 Elvis Presley movie “Blue Hawaii,” an association that could be distracting for modern audiences, Rapsis said.


    “To get around this, I used a ‘classical music’ accompaniment for ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ and did other things musically to ‘de-Elvis’ the melody. I think that helped break the connection, allowing ‘Zaza’ to stay in its own world.”

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    Loren King can be reached at