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A Tribute to Zeitgeist Films

Just a decade ago, two enterprising New York women, Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo, dared to start up a distribution company which would specialize in anti-mainstream, formally inventive, thematically unusual films, these made by filmmakers who showed no compromise. Gerstman and Russo also showed no compromise, choosing to distribute only the very few films which they both genuinely admired. Often, their choices were so bold that they were not only ahead of audiences but of many critics also.

However, Gerstman and Russo persisted. They picked up young filmmakers for Zeitgeist early in careers, such as Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin, Todd Haynes, the Quays. They managed to attract important gay filmmakers, women filmmakers such as Yvonne Rainer, inventive Europeans such as Derek Jarman, Peter Greenaway, Jan Svankmajer. They built up a major reserve of great films so that their Zeitgeist Tenth Anniversary Catalogue is a veritable treasure. And many of the so-called "difficult" films now are part of the standard repertoire. They finally seem as accessible to audiences and critics, as they always have to Gerstman and Russo, the prescient, impressively avant-garde distributors behind Zeitgeist.

Happy Birthday! Thanks for your sublime Zeitgeist films!—G.P.


June 3 (Thursday) 7 pm

Wittgenstein

wittgenstein.jpg (11189 bytes)Directed by Derek Jarman
Britain 1993, color, 35mm, 76 min.
With Karl Johnson, Clancy Chassy

Made by Derek Jarman when he was dying of AIDS, this marvelous gift is a minimalist, home-movie biography of the logical positivist philosopher. The same as Jarman, Wittgenstein was London-based and homosexual and movie-mad (he loved westerns and Carmen Miranda), and he died desperately frustrated. in the middle of his work. But this movie is rarely self-pitying. In fact. Jarman’s elegy (to Wittgenstein, to himself) is sprightly, inventive, an entertaining string of sketches, piano interludes, and blackouts.

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June 3 (Thursday) 9 pm

Family Viewing

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1987, color, 35mm, 96 min.
With David Hembien, Gabrielle Rose, Arsinée Khanjian

Atom Egoyan’s early film of familial estrangements, technology breathed everywhere, and people most alive when captured on videotape. The fractured family consists of Stan and Sandra, who is his live-in mistress and video bondage partner, and Stan’s resentful 17-year-old son, Van. The boy decides to free his beloved grandmother from an old age home and establish a new, blissfully free idea of "family." "Brilliantly original"-SanFrancisco Chronicle.

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June 10 (Thursday) 7 pm

Faust

faust.jpg (14811 bytes)Directed by Jan Svankmajer
Czech Republic/Britain 1994, color, 35mm, 97 min.

Svankmajer’s Faust is an inquisitive Everyman who, exiting a Prague metro, is handed a map which leads him to his Mephistopheles in an abandoned theater. Brimming with seductions of the supernatural, shape-changing demons, puppet versions of characters from Goethe, leading Faust, attracted by satanic promises, toward his doom.

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June 10 (Thursday) 9 pm

London

Narrated by Paul Scofield
Britain 1994, color, 35mm, 84 min.

In this utterly unique film, two former lovers, always unseen, journey through the heart and soul of London, as ravishing images of the city unfold. As the pair get a grip on London’s history, contemporary events take them off their route. "Funny, poignant, remarkable"-New York Magazine Directed by Patrick Keiller.

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June 17 (Thursday) 7 pm

Lungta: The Forgotten Tibet

Directed by Marie Joual de Poncheville, Franz-Christoph Giercke
France 1991, color, 35mm, 86 min.
Narrated in English by Richard Gere

Exquisitely photographed images of one of the most splendid areas on earth are contrasted in the narration with the horrors inflicted on Tibet during forty years of Chinese occupation. The film is co-directed by Marie Joual de Poncheville, who was a guest of Harvard during the recent visit here of her companion, Abderrahmane Sissako. (She was under house arrest by the Chinese for two months when she made this documentary.)

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June 17 (Thursday) 9 pm

Kristina Talking Pictures

Directed by Yvonne Rainer
USA 1976, color, 16mm, 90 min.
With Yvonne Rainer, Ivan Rainer

Yvonne Rainer dramatizes her preoccupation with the contradictions between the public and private persona as it affects women artists, focusing on the story of Kristina, a lion tamer from Budapest (played by the filmmaker), who comes to New York to become a choreographer.

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June 24 (Thursday) 7 pm

Lightning Over Braddock

Directed by Tony Buba
USA 1988, color, 16mm, 80 min.

There are few legendary "cult" documentaries, but this is one of them, a charming, hilariously ironic, piece of Americana to set alongside Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March. The filmmaker, Tony Buba, plays himself as a director trying to make a movie with a crazy street hustler named Sal. The setting is Buba’s incredibly ill-luck home town, Braddock, Pennsylvania, which once flourished as "Pittsburgh’s shopping center." 

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June 24 (Thursday) 9 pm

Art for Teachers of Children

Directed by Jennifer Montgomery
USA 1995, b/w, 16mm, 82 min.
With Caitlin Grace McDonnell, Duncan Hannah

When Jennifer Montgomery was in prep school, the then-teen future filmmaker had an ardent affair with teacher Jock Sturges, later infamous as the "art" photographer of pubescent boys and girls. In this narrative film, done in the style of an educational documentary, Montgomery recreates her very troubling relation with Sturges and also, years later, the odd aftermath. The FBI contacted her to testify against the photographer in a pornography case. Montgomery had to balance a chance for revenge against a repugnance about informing to the FBI. Also, she is a feminist who honors the First Amendment, and believes in foregrounding issues of sexuality in art. Montgomery’s ambiguities are all here in this thoughtful, certainly sexually provocative, work.

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July 1 (Thursday) 7 pm

The Falls

Directed by Peter Greenaway
Britain 1980, color, 16mm, 185 min.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover filmmaker Peter Greenaway’s rarely seen first feature is a brilliant, Nabokov-like synthesis of narrative and experimental techniques. Greenaway is monumentally ambitious: 92 characters, all of whose surnames begin with Fall, are among the 19 million victims of a catastrophe called "the Violent Unknown Event."

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July 8 (Thursday) 7 pm

Tales from the Gimli Hospital

Directed by Guy Maddin with Kyle McCulloch, Margaret Anne McLeod
Canada 1988, b/w, 35mm, 72 min.

A major hit on the midnight circuit in New York, Guy Maddin’s magnificently hallucinatory comedy, saturated by the excesses of 1920s German expressionism, never played theatrically in sedate Boston. Yes, it’s as indescribable as it is wonderful: unconsummated necrophilia sets the nightmare tone for the surreal Icelandic sagas shared by two patients confined during a smallpox epidemic in turn-of-the-century Manitoba. 

Gentle Giants

Directed by Bruce Weber
USA 1995, color, b/w, 35mm.

Newfoundland dogs, pre-Stonewall days in Greenwich Village, and the narrator’s passion for 1940s "B" movie actor Guy Madison.

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July 15 (Thursday) 7 pm

Calendar

calendar.jpg (8473 bytes)Directed by Atom Egoyan  
Canada 1993, color, 16mm, 75 min.
With Egoyan, Khanjian, Ashot Adamian

The filmmaker, Atom Egoyan, plays a photographer hired to make twelve images of Armenian churches for a calendar. He travels with his wife (Arsinée Khanjian, his real-life live-in partner) as translator; and, as they journey with an Armenian guide, their relationship begins to unravel.

The photographer returns to Canada with the pictures but wifeless, and begins to go on some humorous, Woody Allen-like dates. For this movie, Egoyan is in a tender, satiric mood, and Khanjian gives a firepower performance. (Shooting really occurred in the difficult terrains of Armenia.)

dottie.jpg (9843 bytes)Dottie Gets Spanked

USA 1994, 27 min.

Todd (The Velvet Goldmine) Haynes at his most polymorphously perverse in this funny short about a young boy obsessed with a Lucy-like TV star.

 

 

 

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July 15 (Thursday) 9 pm

The Brothers Quay Collection

Britain 1979-1987 (81 min)

A variety-pack of early Eastern European-influenced surrealist shorts by the identical twin animators from Pennsylvania, who live in London and make movies under the aegis of Koninck Studios.

Nocturna Artificiala

Britain 1979, color, 16mm, 21 min.

 

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer

Britain 1984, color, 16mm, 14 min.

 

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Britain 1986, color, 16mm, 11 min.

 

Street of Crocodiles

Britain 1986, color, 35mm, 21 min.

 

Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies

Britain 1987, b/w, 35mm, 14 min.

 

 

 

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July 22 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 24 (Saturday) 7 pm

Swan Lake - The Zone

Directed by Yuri Illienko
Ukraine/Canada/Sweden 1990, color, 35mm, 96 min.
With Victor Solovyov, Liudmyla Yefymenko, Maya Bulhakova

This dense, visually potent political allegory from the Ukraine was directed by Sergei Paradjanov’s virtuoso cinematographer and based loosely on Paradjanov’s own prison experience in the late days of Communism. A man escapes from a notorious jail in the Ukraine and takes refuge in a huge hammer-and-sickle monument. The Los Angeles Times: "A film of astonishing beauty."

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July 22 (Thursday) 9 pm

Careful

careful.jpg (11423 bytes)Directed by Guy Maddin
Canada 1992, color, 35mm, 100 min.
With Kyle McCulloch, Cosia Dobrowolska, Paul Cox.

Guy Maddin’s loony, hysterical masterpiece is about a 19th–century village where repressed desires threaten to erupt and cause an avalanche. "Careful!" is the village’s buzzword admonition, against star-crossed lovers, blind ghosts, and incestuous obsessions. The awe-inspiring Winnepeg sets seem transported from UFA Studios in Germany in the 1920s.   The Village Voice: "Laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end."

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July 29 (Thursdsay) 7 pm

Speaking Parts

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1989, color, 35mm, 92 min.
With Michael McManus, Arsinée Khanjian, Gabrielle Rose

A postmodern thriller about loss, love, power, and the distance modern technology puts between us. The story of four people—an actor/gigolo (McManus), a frustrated chambermaid (Khanjian), an obsessed writer (Rose), and the film producer who manipulates them all—is filmed as if we were watching their machinations through the lens of a surveillance camera.

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July 29 (Thursday) 9 pm

Shorter Films by Peter Greenaway

greenaway.jpg (8366 bytes)Britain 1976-78, 115 min.

Mostly unseen early works of the British master.

Dear Phone

Britain 1976, color, 16mm, 17 min.

 

Water Wrackets

Britain 1978, color, 16mm, 12 min.

 

Vertical Features Remake

Britain 1978, color, 16mm, 45 min.

 

A Walk Through H

Britain 1978, color, 16mm, 41 min.

 

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