Aria, The Devil Inside, French Connection, Red Desert, and Two-Lane Blacktop

ARIA You just don’t see omnibus films that much these days, maybe because they are almost invariably uneven. The theme for this 1987 compendium of linked shorts is great (or great enough) directors interpreting great opera arias, so you get the likes of Nicolas Roeg, Robert Altman, Ken Russell, and Derek Jarman tackling the likes of Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini, with varying degrees of literalness, creativity, and success. A personal fave: Jean-Luc Godard’s bit, based on Lully’s Armide, in which two sylph-like bottomless French ladies behave oddly amid a gym-full of bulging bodybuilders. The first in a series of weekly screenings from the Spiral Cinema Series. At the Windup Space Jan. 4 at 9 p.m.

THE DEVIL INSIDE Another ostensible found-footage horror flick, this one focusing on demonic possession and exorcisms. Opens Jan. 6.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION This gritty 1971 crime drama put both director William Friedkin and star Gene Hackman on the map, and with good reason. Friedkin captures a grimy NYC that feels so concrete-cold you’ll imagine you can see your breath in the theater, while Hackman plays an unconventional cop on the trail of a heroin ring like he didn’t ever want to be a second banana again, and he pretty much wasn’t. At the Charles Theatre Jan. 5 at 9 p.m.

RED DESERT Shot in 1964, Michaelangelo Antonioni’s first film in color explores alienation via the industrial landscapes of modern Italy and gorgeous ennui queen Monica Vitti. A new print. At the Charles Theatre Jan. 7 at noon and Jan. 9 at 7 p.m.

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP In Monte Hellman’s 1971 cult classic, a drag racer and his mechanic (singer/songwriter James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson) travel the back roads in a souped-up, stripped-down ’55 Chevy, fleecing local hot-rodders to keep themselves in diner food and petroleum products and rarely exchanging a nonautomotive word or outward emotion. Before long, they’re racing a macho blowhard/compulsive liar (the great Warren Oates) with a yellow GTO across the country. There’s a waifish free-spirit hitchhiker (Laurie Bird) whose presence generates what passes for dramatic tension, but in the end she hardly matters. In fact, the big race doesn’t really matter. But hypnotic and subtly astute takes it from boring and pointless at the finish. At the Open Space Gallery Jan. 11 at 9 p.m.

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