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Cinema A to Z: Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive

Film Titles from A to D  

As a special midsummer interlude here at the Harvard Film Archive, we have assembled a month-long series that focuses entirely on works from the Archive’s extensive holdings of more than 5,000 prints. Presented repertory-style in homage to the art-house programs of a bygone era, Cinema A to Z embraces its subject literally: beginning with Jan Lenica’s animated allegorical short A and concluding with Costa-Gavras’s political thriller Z. Taking the alphabet (minus the letter x) as our curatorial template, we have sampled the diverse spectrum of cinematic expression in a lively cross-section of the Archive’s collection.

Acquired over the past two decades, the collection has several current areas of concentration. Of particular note are our holdings of European "auteurist" cinema —from classic directors Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, and Robert Bresson to major figures of the French and Eastern European New Waves and the post-neo-realist Italian cinema. Equally represented are pioneering figures of the American independent cinema: both industry mavericks like John Huston and Haskell Wexler and more contemporary figures like Terrence Malick and Hal Hartley. Our presentation this month includes major works from nearly every genre of mainstream cinema—a Lubitsch comedy, a Mamoulian musical, an Anthony Mann western, a Billy Wilder drama—as well as seminal examples from the cinematic avant-garde and the world of animation. In the centennial year of the birth of Luis Buñuel, we are able to highlight the finest work of this pioneering director, well represented in our collection. Finally, there are Orson Welles and Jean Vigo, without whom this season, the Harvard Film Archive, and the history of the medium would be vastly diminished. Treasures all.

We invite you to partake of this cornucopia of cinema liberally. A single admission fee will gain you entry to all the features and shorts presented on a given evening. Stock up on this filmic feast, for we will be closed the month of August for renovation of our projection facilities. See you in September with a new season that includes our usual eclectic mix of cutting-edge new work, rare archival rediscoveries, and classic repertoire.


Film Titles from A to D

July 1 (Saturday) 7 pm

A

Directed by Jan Lenica
Poland 1964, 16mm, b/w, 10 min.

Inspired by Ionesco’s observations on the power of language, Lenica created this animated allegory about a man whose life is altered when his apartment is invaded by a giant letter "A."

 

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July 1 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Apartment

Directed by Billy Wilder
US 1960, 35mm, b/w, 125 min.
With Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray

In this follow-up to the enormously successful Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder deploys his comic lens to lampoon double standards behind the sterile facade of corporate culture, again focusing on the hypocritical sexual mores of Americans. Jack Lemmon plays a nondescript insurance clerk who gains entry into the upper echelons of the firm (and a coveted key to the executive washroom) in exchange for the use of his dumpy bachelor pad as a trysting spot for the big boys. In a role that continues to earn kudos (witness Best Actor Kevin Spacey’s homage at this year’s Academy Awards), Lemmon’s C. C. Baxter regains some of his tarnished idealism when he becomes enamored of the elevator girl (MacLaine), paramour of one of the top executives (MacMurray). Noted at the time for its frank dialogue and open look at infidelity, The Apartment earned Wilder and writing partner I. A. L. Diamond an Oscar for their original screenplay.

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July 1 (Saturday) 9:30 pm

Adebar

Directed by Peter Kubelka
Austria 1956–57, 16mm, b/w, 3 min.

The second film by the brilliant Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Peter Kubelka, Adebar was produced as an advertisement for a café of the same name.

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July 1 (Saturday) 9:30 pm

Arabian Nights (Il fiore delle mille e una notte)

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Italy/France 1974, 35mm, color, 128 min.
With Ninetto Davoli, Franco Merli, Tessa Bouche

Pasolini’s penultimate film and the final installment of his trilogy that includes The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, this loose adaptation of the classic anthology of love and enchantment features ten tales connected by the story of Mur-el-Din (Merli) and his feverish search for a kidnapped slave girl. Along the way, Pasolini inserts stories of amorous caliphs and man-hating princesses, licentious monks and star-crossed lovers, each lavishly produced and set in stunning locations throughout northern Africa and the Middle East. Despite the myriad escapist pleasures of its subject, Arabian Nights embraces the wider concerns of Pasolini’s filmic enterprise: it makes extensive use of non-actors and brings to the screen faces and landscapes that suggest the director’s interest in creating a post-colonial celebration of regions long under European dominance. It was an accomplishment that earned Pasolini the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.

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July 2 (Sunday) 7 pm

Blinkity Blank

Directed by Norman McLaren
Canada 1955, 16mm, color, 5 min.

In one of his greatest technical achievements, the legendary animator Norman McLaren combines hand-engraving techniques with the striking use of dyes to depict this tale about birds of a feather.

 

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July 2 (Sunday) 7 pm

Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la bête)

Directed by Jean Cocteau
France 1946, 35mm, b/w, 94 min.
With Jean Marais, Josette Day, Marcel André

The first feature film by France’s legendary poet, playwright, actor, and painter, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast is one of cinema’s most gorgeous works. Cocteau brought to his adaptation of this classic fairy tale an astounding group of artists and technicians, from set designer Christian Bérard and dress designer Escoffier to Arakélian, who did the creative makeup, and Henri Alekan, who provided the dreamlike luminosity of the film’s cinematography. Jean Marais is touching in his role as the accursed nobleman who is forced to live out his life entombed in the grotesque body of a beast, and Josette Day is radiant as the young daughter who is willing to sacrifice herself to save her father and, ultimately, to save her captor as well.

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July 2 (Sunday) 9 pm

Birds One

Directed by Frans Zwartjes
Netherlands 1968, 16mm, b/w, 7 min.

In this early work by the leading figure of Dutch experimental cinema, Zwartjes focuses on a young woman in entranced play with a mechanical bird.

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July 2 (Sunday) 9 pm

The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel)

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Germany 1930, 35mm, b/w, 108 min.
With Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron

The Blue Angel is the first in a cycle of films that Josef von Sternberg would make for and with Marlene Dietrich. While von Sternberg had already achieved success in America with his pioneering gangster film Underworld (1927), the Viennese-born director agreed to go to Berlin to direct Germany’s leading actor, Emil Jannings, in his first starring role for the major German studio ufa. Jannings was cast as a respected, middle-aged school teacher who succumbs to the charms of Lola, a cabaret singer played by the then-unknown Dietrich. Her unforgettable performance in revealing costume—feather boa, top hat, and black stockings—and her smoky incantation of "Falling in Love Again" created a new type of screen femme fatale and set both actress and director on a course that would lead to the most visually arresting and narratively seductive films made in Hollywood in the thirties.

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July 3 (Monday) 7 pm

Children of Paradise (Les Enfant du Paradis)

Directed by Marcel Carné
France 1945, 35mm, b/w, 187 min.
With Pierre Brasseur, Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault

A powerful romantic drama set against the backdrop of the Parisian stage in the mid-nineteenth century, Children of Paradise remains one of the most beloved films of the French cinema. Jacques Prévert’s screenplay fleshes out the demi-monde realm of actors and courtesans, cutthroats and aristocrats with all the naturalistic vitality of Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac. The central action takes place in a small theater on the infamous "Boulevard du crime," where Baptiste Debureau (Barrault), a sensitive mime, falls hopelessly in love with Garance, an actress (Arletty), who is courted by three more successful suitors. From this enchanting love story, Prévert and Carné weave an imaginative web of reality and artifice, using the stage as a metaphor for life.

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July 5 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Days of Heaven

Directed by Terrence Malick
US 1978, 35mm, color, 94 min.
With Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Linda Manz

One of the most critically acclaimed American films of the past quarter-century, Days of Heaven was Terrence Malick’s second feature. (His third would not be completed until just this past year, when The Thin Red Line was released.) Set in the rich farmlands of Texas during the early part of the century, the film focuses on a young couple (Gere and Adams) who drift across the country with his younger sister (Manz) in tow. The story is told from the point of view of this last character, a midwestern teenager who mixes commentary with reportage and whose voice-overs have the feel of lyric poetry. Posing as siblings, the trio finds work on the land of a solitary wheat farmer (playwright Sam Shepard, in his film debut as an actor) and briefly enjoys the good life—the film’s titled "days of heaven."

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July 5 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Dodsworth

Directed by William Wyler
US 1936, 35mm, b/w, 101 min.
With Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor

With a career that stretched from the silent cinema through the sixties and ranged from war films to musicals, historical epics to romantic comedies, William Wyler was the consummate Hollywood professional. Among his first major works was this screen adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s celebrated novel. The film stars Walter Huston, who reprised his role from Sidney Howard’s stage version of the book, as Sam Dodsworth, a retired businessman who embarks on a second honeymoon abroad with his pampered wife, Fran (Chatterton). The couple drifts apart as Sam learns of Fran’s affairs and he, in turn, becomes involved with another woman (Astor). A critical and box-office success, Dodsworth received seven Academy Award nominations and was selected for the National Film Registry in 1990.

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