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The Reel Queens: Socrates goes global as Film Forum focuses on Astoria

The summer’s movie season may be winding down, but two Queens-centric cinema series will offer a smorgasbord of classics and foreign films through mid-August.

Socrates Sculpture Park has unveiled the second half of its summer Outdoor Cinema slate, which will show on a large screen along the East River in Long Island City, while Manhattan’s Film Forum is screening a series of 1930s pictures that were primarily shot in Astoria.

The sculpture park is hosting screenings curated by Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image and Brooklyn’s Rooftop films as part of its 12th annual outdoor movie series. Each event is free and accompanied by musical performances as well as food from the film’s country of origin.

The park’s August slate will kick off with “Sita Sings the Blues,” an animated version of the Indian epic poem the “Ramayana” set to the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. The film, which has become a cult hit, will be preceded by sitar player Indrajit Roy-Chowdhury and the Aug. 4 event will include food from Long Island City Indian eatery Five Star Restaurant and Banquet.

“We’re really excited about this one,” said Shaun Leonardo, the park’s special events coordinator. “Animated films are really magical at this venue. We thought it would be great to screen at the park.”

On Aug. 11, Socrates will show “Mid August Lunch,” an Italian comedy about a middle-aged man living with his demanding elderly mother. Food at the event will be provided by Long Island City’s Vesta Trattoria, while music will be performed by Le Nozze di Carlo, a five-piece group that plays its own songs as well as traditional Italian classics on the accordion, base, drums, guitar and soprano saxophone.

The series’s final screening on Aug. 18 will be Colombia’s “The Wind Journeys,” which follows the story of a retired musician and his teenage companion as they attempt to return an accordion that is apparently possessed by the devil.

“It’s one of those films that will screen well in the park because of its amazing scenery and colors,” Leonardo said.

Music for the event is not yet confirmed, but food will be provided by Astoria’s La Fonda Antioquena.

Each screening begins at sunset.

The Film Forum, located at 209 W. Houston St. in Manhattan, is screening a series of films set along the Hudson River, including a number of western Queens locales, through Aug. 10.

“It was a hopping place,” said Bruce Goldstein, director of the repertory programming for the theater, of Astoria. “I think Paramount Pictures saw Astoria as an ideal situation because they were looking to sign Broadway talent, which they thought was the future of talkies. There was more room in Astoria, but the sets were really tight when you compare them to Hollywood movies. You’d never see the camera pull back to show large dance numbers.”

Movies that have already screened as part of Hollywood on the Hudson include 1934’s “Crime Without Passion,” the Marx Brothers’s “Animal Crackers” and 1933’s “Moonlight and Pretzels.”

On Aug. 3, the theater will show “The Smiling Lieutenant,” a 1931 comedy shot at the former Paramount Studios site in Astoria, as well as “Laughter,” a 1930 screwball comedy set in Manhattan.

“Lieutenant,” which was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, stars Maurice Chevalier as a rogue who is in love with a violinist played by Claudette Colbert, but is already married to princess Miriam Hopkins. In the picture’s most memorable number, Colbert advises Hopkins on her relationship with Chevalier with the song “Jazz Up Your Lingerie.”

The film shot at Paramount, which was once located in the site now belonging to Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“Laughter,” directed by Harry D’Abbadie D’Arrast, follows the story of ex-Follies girl Nancy Carroll’s escapades in Manhattan with Fredric March, who has recently returned from Paris, despite being married to the wealthy Frank Morgan.

The final screening of the series will be “The Emperor Jones,” a 1933 film starring Paul Robeson as Brutus Jones, a man who escapes from jail after killing a guard and, through ambition, ends up becoming the ruler of a Caribbean island. The film, which is based on a Eugene O’Neill, at Eastern Service Studios, an Astoria studio where a handful of films were shot in the 1930s.

“I don’t think Hollywood would have made this film,” said Goldstein of the independent picture. “It was too arty. The print we have from the Library of Congress is uncensored. It’s a powerful movie.”

The movie will be accompanied by the 1929 short film, “St. Louis Blues,” which starts legendary blues singer Bessie Smith and was primarily shot in Gramercy Park.

For showtimes, visit the theater’s web site at filmforum.org.

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at criticalconditions.net.

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