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Cinema A to Z: Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive 

Film Titles from J to M

July 11 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim)

Directed by François Truffaut
France 1961, 35mm, b/w, 104 min.
With Jeanne Moreau, Oscar Werner, Henri Serre
French with English subtitles

In his third feature and one of the most celebrated films of the French New Wave, Truffaut eschewed the contemporary settings of his earlier films to poetically reimagine European life in the early years of the century. Beginning with the friendship between the titled characters—the Austrian Jules and the French Jim—in Paris before the First World War, Jules and Jim depicts the emotional shifts the men undergo in their mutual relationship to a headstrong young woman (Moreau), who precipitates an unusual romantic triangle sustained over decades. Beloved as much for its impeccable performances as for the beauty of Raoul Coutard’s widescreen cinematography, the film confirms Truffaut’s intimate knowledge of and deep respect for the history of French Cinema, especially the classic work of Jean Renoir.

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July 11 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Jesus of Montreal (Jésus de Montréal)

Directed by Denys Arcand
Canada/France 1989, 35mm, color, 119 min.
With Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, Robert Lepage
French with English subtitles

Winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Jesus of Montreal is a political satire that employs a most unusual vehicle for social critique—the Passion Play. Set in a prominent Montreal basilica, the film follows the efforts of a young actor (Bluteau) who has been hired to revitalize the church’s decrepit version of this most sacred performance. A hit with the public, the production takes an unexpected twist as the cast members begin to identify with their roles and modern parallels start to appear in their off-stage lives. This play-within-the-film structure provides Arcand with material for some devastating observations on contemporary media, bureaucracy, and organized religion.

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July 12 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Killers

Directed by Robert Siodmak
US 1946, 35mm, b/w, 105 min.
With Burt Lancaster, Edmond O’Brien, Ava Gardner

A seminal work of film noir, The Killers marked the screen debut of Burt Lancaster, who gives a brilliant performance as a marked man who refuses to flee his hired assassins. Loosely based on a Hemingway short story, the film proceeds through flashback to reveal the circumstances of his murder and, with it, the seamier side of America in the forties. German-émigré director Siodmak combines strong chiaroscuro lighting, moody nocturnal cityscapes, and a potent Miklos Rosza score in approaching the nihilistic vision at the heart of the work. Ava Gardner gives one of the more memorable renditions of the femme fatale in her portrayal of a night-club singer who is the mob boss’s girl.

July 12 (Wednesday) 9 pm

The Killing

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
US 1956, 35mm, b/w, 83 min.
With Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards

The final film of Kubrick’s independent period, The Killing is a low-budget production that has the gritty feel of his early film documentaries and of the still-photography work he produced for magazine assignments. Essentially a heist movie, the film employs a highly elaborate temporal structure, allowing Kubrick to dissect an intricately planned racetrack robbery in successive flash-backs while building suspense. Equally successful is the ensemble cast of mainly character actors, who here receive major supporting roles. With its screenplay by Kubrick and novelist Jim Thompson, The Killing combines the vividness of documentary with the pleasures of great crime fiction.

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July 13 (Thursday) 7 pm
With Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks

Lady Windermere's Fan

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
US 1925, 16mm, b/w, silent, 94 min.
With Ronald Colman, Irene Rich, May McAvoy

Already a critically acclaimed director in Germany, Ernst Lubitsch was invited to Hollywood in the early twenties by the reigning star of the era, Mary Pickford. His success continued in the States as he brought to the American cinema the distinctive aspects of European comedy, replete with what one critic would call "all its charm, decadence, and frivolity." Among his finest American films of the silent era, Lady Windermere’s Fan is a sophisticated adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play that injects the "Lubitsch touch"—a supreme gift for visual detail—into this classic comedy of manners. It is, also, notably, the first film to have been screened at the HFA, in 1979.

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July 13 (Thursday) 9 pm

Love Me Tonight

Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
US 1932, 35mm, b/w, 96 min.
With Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Charles Ruggles

While most directors in Hollywood were still attempting to adapt proscenium stage productions into movie musicals, Rouben Mamoulian was pioneering a fluid form of film operetta that has rarely been matched. Love Me Tonight reprises Lubitsch’s previous pairing of French actor Chevalier with singer-dancer MacDonald in a romantic musical comedy in which Mamoulian’s innovative techniques revitalize a familiar story line. Chevalier is cast as the "best tailor in Paris," whose energetic rendition of the Rodgers and Hart tune "Isn’t It Romantic?" catches the ear of a haughty princess (MacDonald).

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July 14 (Friday) 7 pm

M (M-Eine Stadt sucht einen Moerder)

Directed by Fritz Lang
Germany 1931, 35mm, b/w, 99 min.
With Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Ellen Widmann
German with English subtitles

Based on news accounts of an actual murder case in Düsseldorf, Fritz Lang’s landmark early-sound-era film was produced almost entirely in the studio. Eschewing the expressionist techniques of the period, Lang creates a stylized realism to depict the growing agitation of a town in which a child murderer is on the loose. M captures the prevailing sense of despair and corruption of Germany in the early thirties in its portrayal of the pathetic killer (Brecht-trained actor Lorre in his film debut), who is hounded by an odd alliance of pursuers: the chief of police and the highly organized criminal underworld.

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July 14 (Friday) 9 pm

Monsieur Verdoux

Directed by Charles Chapli
US 1947, 35mm, b/w, 123 min.
With Charles Chaplin, Martha Raye, Isobel Elsom

One of the blackest comedies ever to emerge from Hollywood, Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux is based partly on the real-life crimes of a French Bluebeard who successively married and murdered his unsuspecting wives. Casting himself in the title role, Chaplin plays a hard-working bank clerk who loses his job of thirty years. The only means he can find to support his crippled wife and his son is to secretly court, wed, and kill a series of wealthy women. In a memorable supporting role, Martha Raye plays a highly uncooperative new spouse who manages to avoid death by poison only to save Verdoux when his attempt to drown her backfires.

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July 15 (Saturday) 7 pm

Melvin and Howard

Directed by Jonathan Demme
US 1980, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Paul LeMat, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen

In the spirit of Preston Sturges’s send-ups of American institutions and values, Demme’s finely detailed, quirky comedy recounts the story of a working man (LeMat) who gives a derelict Howard Hughes (brilliantly played by Robards) a lift in the-middle-of-nowhere Nevada. Melvin Dummar is a loser straight out of a country-western lyric, whose wife (Steenburgen) has dumped him and who in Bo Goldman’s Oscar-winning screenplay seems incapable of ever outdistancing the bad luck that hounds him. Then out of the blue (and eight years later), Melvin becomes the heir to Hughes’s "Mormon will" and the cool $156,000,000 that the reclusive multi-millionaire has left him.

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July 15 (Saturday) 9 pm

A Movie

Directed by Bruce Conner
US 1958, 16mm, b/w, 12 min.

The first film by the innovative West Coast artist Bruce Conner, A Movie is an editing tour-de-force, made entirely of scraps of B-movie condensations, newsreels, novelty shorts, and film leader collaged into a powerful portrait of our culture’s fascination with catastrophe and conquest.

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July 15 (Saturday) 9 pm

Medium Cool

Directed by Haskell Wexler
US 1969, 35mm, color, 111 min.
With Robert Forster, Verna Bloom,Peter Bonerz

The directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler, Medium Cool is an ambitious independent production that makes canny use of documentary material in constructing its fiction. Set in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the narrative focuses on a television cameraman (Forster) who becomes involved with the people and stories he covers, including a black taxi driver, a single mother from Appalachia, and several of the protesters who clash with the police outside the convention hall.

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