How do you choose between an Asian film festival (see sidebar) and a French film festival? We'll leave that one up to you. All we'll say is that if French films are anything like French people, the choice should be fairly simple. We've never been to France--traveling abroad to us means a trip to Mexico--but we did used to work at a Nike outlet about an hour south of Dallas in Hillsboro, a shoe store that, for some reason, was frequented fairly often by traveling French citizens looking for cheap prices on sweat suits and Air Jordans. (Apparently, the French wanna be like Mike too.) Let's put it this way: The word surly was invented for the French. Of course, that doesn't mean they can't make some decent films, but hey, we hold grudges. See for yourself at the University of North Texas' French Films on Campus series, beginning on Thursday with Edouard Molinaro's 1996 film, Beaumarchais, L'Insolent (Beaumarchais, The Scoundrel). A member of the UNT faculty will introduce each film with a brief lecture. The festival is free, and continues every other Thursday through April 22 at 7:30 p.m. in UNT's Speech and Drama Building. Call (940) 565-2591.
It seems like rumors of former Tablet frontman Steven Holt's new project have been making the rounds through Deep Ellum forever, practically since Tablet was dropped by Mercury Records and broke up shortly afterward. Holt's new band Bicycle Thief finally makes its live debut on Friday at Trees, opening for Weezer cover band Weener. It's a low-key return for Holt; you'd think he'd moved past opening for cover bands some time around high school. But Weener is no ordinary cover band (it features members of Chomsky, Baboon, The Commercials, and Pinkston), and it's just the kind of gig Holt needs to get a toehold in the local scene again. Bicycle Thief will release its debut album on Last Beat Records in March. Get a free preview on Friday at Trees, 2709 Elm. Doors open at 9 p.m. $5. Call (214) 748-5009.
It's hard to get a handle on the Undermain Theatre's latest production Wallpaper Psalm, but that's the point. Written by acclaimed playwright Ruth Margraff, Wallpaper Psalm twists and turns through reality and insanity, bending perception until it breaks. What plot there is centers around two sisters (Rhonda Boutte and Kateri Cale) approaching death as they live out their last days in their rundown apartment, joined only by a mysterious doorman and a bizarre intruder proclaiming the impending arrival of The Radio Spider Demon. It's less a play than an experiment combining avant-garde text and music, performance art masquerading as a punk opera. Whatever it is, it's well worth seeing. Just don't be surprised if you can't follow all of it. Wallpaper Psalm runs Wednesday through Saturday until February 13 at The Basement Space, 3200 Main. Shows happen Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8-$15. Call (214) 747-5515.
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The most surprising thing about Cathy O'Brien isn't the allegations she makes in her latest book, Trance-Formation of America--among them, that Boxcar Willie and former Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson sexually abused her daughter, Kelly, and that Bill and Hillary Clinton are both bisexual, drug-sniffing outlaws. It's that she hasn't been, uh, silenced yet. The book is like a Penthouse letter read on an episode of The X-Files watched from the green room of The Jerry Springer Show by a goofy-on-crack Matt Drudge. Practically every government official and just about anyone and anything else you can imagine are mentioned inside. The index is almost the best part. For example, the listing under former president Gerald Ford includes a mention of him as "Mafia pornographer." Even Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood makes a brief appearance as the show Ronald Reagan used to send messages, apparently in an attempt to scramble sexually abused children's memories. Or something. Oh, and O'Brien also claims to be a survivor of the CIA's MK Ultra mind control program. You can bet we'll be there, at least if we can find a bulletproof vest. Then again, O'Brien should fit in pretty well in The City of Hate. O'Brien will speak at the Hiltop Inn, Mockingbird and Central Expressway, on Sunday at 3 p.m. Call (214) 821-9554.
The Light Crust Doughboys have been around so long, sixtysomething guitar slinger Ronnie Dawson was a member as a teenager. And they keep getting better with age. Widely acknowledged as the originators of Western swing, the band earned its second Grammy nomination this year for its 1998 album They Gave the World a Smile: The Stamps Quartet Tribute Album. On Monday, The Light Crust Doughboys will present their annual Valentine's Day show, A Cowboy Valentine. OK, so it's almost a week early. Cut the fellas some slack, they're getting old. The Light Crust Doughboys perform on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird. The theater opens at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $12-$17. Call (214) 821-1860.
The biggest mystery about McKinney resident Deborah Crombie's last mystery novel, 1997's Dreaming of the Bones, is how a Texan can write so accurately about England. It turns out it's not that big of a mystery: Crombie lived in England and Scotland for many years and returns to visit several times a year. Her series of British mysteries involving Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sgt. Gemma James has garnered her several awards, including the Macavity Award for Best Novel of the Year. The series will grow later this year when Crombie's latest, Kissed a Sad Goodbye, is released in the spring. Crombie will talk about Kissed a Sad Goodbye and some of her other books on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Richardson Civic Center, 411 West Arapaho Road. Admission is $10. Call (972) 238-4000.
The MAC always does a good job of presenting events that relate to each other, attracting you to one so you'll want to see the other. In conjunction with its latest art exhibit, Kara Walker's collection of black paper silhouettes (Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage Through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found), The MAC's Wedenesday Night Film and Video Series presents the Academy Award-winning adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Starring Gregory Peck, the 1962 film looks at racial prejudices in the South as seen through the eyes of a 6-year-old girl watching her lawyer father defend a black man accused of rape. Come for one and stay for the other. To Kill A Mockingbird screens at 8 p.m. at The Mac, 3120 McKinney. Admission is $3-$5. Call (214) 953-1212.