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Séance Screenings

Bringing classic and neglected films back to light and life


September 16 (Thursday) 9 pm
September 19 (Sunday) 9 pm

The Mirror (Zerkalo)

seance-mirror.jpg (15830 bytes)Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky 
With Margarita Terekhova, Oleg Yankovsky, Ignat Daniltsev
USSR 1974, b/w and color, 35mm, 105 min.
HFA Archival Print
Russian with English subtitles

Tarkovsky poetically depicts the unconscious/ semiconscious reminiscences of a character, confined temporarily to his bed by illness. The film juxtaposes nostalgic visions of the director’s childhood in war-torn exile (seen as hypnotic slow-motion dream sequences) with stark World War II newsreels in an oblique, keenly poetic approach which finds no equal in modern cinema. Highly personal yet visually captivating, this film consists of nonlinear series of visions and associations that utilize powerful visual symbolism and fascinating camera work.

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September 26 (Sunday) 4 pm
September 27 (Monday) 8 pm

The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la Putain)

seance-mother.jpg (8288 bytes)Written and Directed by Jean Eustache
France 1973, b/w, 35mm, 219 min.
With Jean-Pierre Leaud, Françoise Lebrun, Bernadette Lafont, Isabelle Weingarten, Jacques Renard, Jean Douchet
French with English subtitles

Viewed by many as the most monumental achievement of the French cinema of the 1970s, not only by dint of scale (the film runs 3 hours and 40 minutes) but by virtue of its lacerating, confessional portrait of a generation —people who in director Jean Eustache’s words "were desperate because life was passing them by...[and who] could find no explanation for their predicament"—The Mother and the Whore is a film like no other. A work consecrated to the word, consisting almost entirely of lengthy monologues and dialogues, the film is Eustache’s autobiographical meditation on love, sex, and the malaise of living. Not coincidentally, the film stars two veterans of the French nouvelle vague, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Bernadette Lafont, and is itself a work deeply marked by and indebted to that era while at the same time a work which stands in critical opposition to the cinematic excesses of that period. Winner of the Critic’s Prize and Special Jury Award at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. 

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September 29 (Wednesday) 9 pm
October 3 (Sunday) 6 pm
October 5 (Tuesday) 9 pm

The Mystery of Picasso (Le Mystère Picasso)

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot with Pablo Picasso
France 1956, color, 35mm, 90 min.
French with English subtitles

Clouzot could not have followed up his shocking Les Diaboliques, with its impossibly pessimistic view of human nature, with a more different film. Here, the viewer is allowed to watch Pablo Picasso in the act of creation, sketching and painting on a translucent screen, accompanied by a soundtrack ranging from bebop to flamenco. Interspersed are shots of the 75-year-old genius mugging for the camera. Many of the paintings in this technically adventurous and life-affirming work were destroyed after its production, and exist only in this unique film.  

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October 18 (Monday) 9 pm
October 20 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm

A Zed and Two Noughts

Directed by Peter Greenaway
Great Britain/Netherlands 1985, color, 35mm, 115 min.
With Brian Deacon, Eric Deacon, and Andrea Ferreal

With an unabashed passion for symmetry and the power of systems, Greenaway delivers an intriguing digression on the life cycle as the most complex and symmetrical of systems. Separated Siamese twins find themselves enmeshed with a one-legged paramour and twin daughters while they continue their experiments with the time-lapse aesthetics of decay.

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October 29 (Friday) 9:15 pm
October 30 (Saturday) 3 pm

The Burmese Harp (Biruma no Tategoto)

seance-burmese.jpg (16185 bytes)Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Japan 1956, b/w, Japanese with English subtitles, 35mm, 116 min.
With Shoji Yasui, Rentaro Mikuni, Tatsuya Mihashi

Kon Ichikawa first attracted international acclaim with this hauntingly poetic saga of the transformation of a militaristic consciousness into a passionate dedication to humanity and Buddhism. A young Japanese soldier in Burma, horrified by the savagery of war, assumes the role of a Buddhist priest and tries to bury as many bodies as he can. From a script by his wife, Ichikawa’s ravishingly photographed film deftly examines what he termed "the pain of the age." 

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700