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Joe Versus the Volcano

Wednesday, February 4

Writer-director John Patrick Shanley in person for a post-film discussion! 25th anniversary celebration — 35mm print

Once upon a time… When office drone Joe (Tom Hanks) is diagnosed with a rare brain cloud” by doctor Robert Stack and given six months to live, he accepts an offer from business magnate Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) to “live like a king, die like a man” – that is, enjoy the lap of luxury until he acts as a human sacrifice for a tribe of orange soda-guzzling Polynesians (led by Abe Vigoda).

Coming off the heels of his Best Screenplay Oscar win for Moonstruck, acclaimed playwright John Patrick Shanley (later a Pulitzer Prize winner for Doubt) went for broke with this crazily ambitious directorial debut. Featuring co-star Meg Ryan in three roles (!), a rich supporting cast (including Amanda Plummer, Ossie Davis, Dan Hedaya, and Nathan Lane), a score by great French composer Georges Delerue, and wildly stylized production design by Bo Welch (Beetlejuice), this utterly sui generis romantic comedy-adventure-fantasy represents the kind of expressive, idiosyncratic filmmaking rarely seen from a major studio, in 1990 or ever.

Marketed as something far more conventional upon its release, the film puzzled many critics and audiences with its high style, eccentric sense of humor, and unfashionable sincerity. But 25 years later, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO only looks better and more radical than ever, and we’re thrilled to welcome Shanley in person to celebrate the silver anniversary of his strange and beautiful creation.

“John Patrick Shanley’s film is so visionary and epic in conception that it really requires a big screen to make its ideal impact… As I wrote in my review: ‘I had not seen this movie before. Most movies, I have seen before. Most movies, you have seen before. Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies, like little engines built from cinematic Erector sets. But not JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO.’ I continue to believe it deserves greater recognition, and cannot understand why I gave it 3.5 stars instead of four.” – Roger Ebert

Part of the series Celluloid Dreams

  • Country USA
  • Rating PG
  • Year 1990
  • Running Time 102 minutes
  • Director John Patrick Shanley