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Seance Screenings

Bringing classic and neglected films back to light and life!


January 18 (Tuesday) 7 pm

The Red Inn (L'Auberge Rouge)

Directed by Jean Epstein
France 1923, 16mm, b/w, 60 min.
Silent with French intertitles and English translation
Live performance by Sabana Blanca*

Based on the story A Shadowy Affair by Honoré de Balzac, this rarely seen work by French theoretician and avant-garde pioneer Jean Epstein is an eerie, impressionistic tale of crime and murder. In 1825, a banker invites a group of friends over for a banquet. In the course of the evening, Monsieur Herman, a wealthy merchant, is urged to recount one of his "stories that give you the shivers." The story, told in flashback, eventually has consequences for the listeners.

*The musicians of Sabana Blanca are:
Takaaki Masuko, percussion
Johannes Ammon, violin
Andrew Blickenderfer, bass

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January 20 (Thursday) 9 pm

The Fall of the House of Usher (La Chute de la Maison Usher)

Directed by Jean Epstein
France 1928, 16mm, b/w, 62 min.
With Jean Debucourt, Marguerite Gance, Charles Lamy
Silent with French intertitles and English translation
Live performance by Sabana Blanca

The last avant-garde film Jean Epstein made before he broke with the movement is based on a tale by Edgar Allan Poe. The mysterious house of Usher is visited by a friend who finds Roderick following the family tradition: he paints his wife’s portrait with such passion that he draws the very life from her to put into his picture. Refusing to accept her death, Roderick declines to have her coffin nailed shut. Everything in this film is subordinated to the creation of atmosphere. Misty, fog-shrouded scenes, slow-motion filming, low angles, lighting, and camera tricks contribute to a masterful evocation of the macabre.

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February 6 (Sunday) 7 pm

Way Down East

Directed by D.W. Griffith
US 1920, 35mm, b/w, 119 min.
With Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Lowell Sherman
Rare Archival Print
Live Piano Accompaniment
by Yukov Gubanov

One of the finest of Griffith’s later films and a phenomenal commercial success, Way Down East is a classic Victorian melodrama vividly adapted to the screen. The story takes place in New England and revolves around a naive young woman (Gish) who is seduced and abandoned by a city slicker (Sherman). Legendary as much for its expense as for its action, the film builds up to a famous climax with Gish drifting away on the ice floes.


February 9 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm

Topaze

Directed by Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast
US 1933, 16mm, b/w, 78 min.
With John Barrymore, Myrna Loy, Albert Conti

This rarely screened gem is one of only two films believed to exist from the brief eight-film career of director Harry d’Arrast (1893–1968): "eight of the loveliest films ever made by anyone," according to Herman G. Weinberg. Adapted from Marcel Pagnol’s play of the same name, Topaze is the bittersweet story of an impeccably honest but naïve schoolteacher in France who teaches his students that "honesty is the best policy," only to find that in real life it is just the reverse as he unwittingly becomes the dupe for a wealthy baron’s business scheme.

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February 16 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm

Topaze

Directed by Marcel Pagnol
France 1951, 16mm, b/w, 98 min.
With Fernandel, Jacqueline Pagnol, Pierre Larquey
French with English subtitles

The fourth film adaptation of the play that had made Marcel Pagnol famous and the second directed by the author himself, this version pleased Pagnol most, as it is nearest to his original play and is technically superior to the others. This still topical satire features the great comedic actor Fernandel in one of his most irresistible roles as the idealistic schoolteacher who learns from his boss that there are more profitable (and less legal) ways of making a living. 

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