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Cinema A to Z: Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive 

Film Titles from S to T

July 22 (Saturday) 7 pm

Show Boat

Directed by James Whale
US 1936, 35mm, b/w, 112 min.
With Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Helen Morgan

Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan reprise their Broadway roles with wonderful effect in director James Whale’s cinematic take on the much-loved Kern-Hammerstein musical—the second, and best, of the three film versions of this sentimental favorite. The cast’s performances are enhanced by handsome sets and the lustrous camera-work of John Mescall. Robeson’s voice is at its peak, the young Dunne is delightful in her cakewalk sequence, and the screen seems to come to life with every appearance of Morgan. Director Whale, better known for reviving the horror genre with his Frankenstein (1931) managed to breathe new life into the musical comedy form as well in this melodramatic tale of two contrasting love affairs on a Mississippi riverboat.

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July 22 (Saturday) 9 pm
With Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Directed by Buster Keaton and Charles F. Reisner
US 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 71 min.
With Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron

One of Keaton’s finest comedies, Steamboat Bill, Jr. casts Buster as a city-bred boy who returns to the deep South and to his steamboat-captain father, whom he reluctantly joins in fighting a rival trying to take over the river. Keaton’s trademark combination of emotional restraint and outrageous athletic gags is in full display here, particularly in the film’s classic cyclone finale. Writing in the Village Voice, Jim Hoberman described Steamboat Bill, Jr. as Keaton’s "most entertaining balance of the instinctual and the cerebral in a tale of father worship, young love, abject humiliation and heroic redemption."

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July 23 (Sunday) 7 pm

Sullivan's Travels

Directed by Preston Sturges
US 1941, 35mm, b/w, 91 min.
With Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick

One of director Preston Sturges’s many great comedies of the 1940s, this brilliant probe into the psyche of a comedy filmmaker—decades before Woody Allen or Blake Edwards found success with the theme—is his most personal film and a classic road movie. Joel McCrea stars as a successful movie director who, longing to direct a "serious" film, sets out on the road, dressed as a hobo, to see the "real world." Along the way he befriends an actress wannabe and learns a few valuable lessons on human resilience and the power of laughter. A masterful combination of razor-sharp satire and sentimentality, Sullivan’s Travels inspired the recent Coen Brothers feature Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?

July 23 (Sunday) 9 pm

Science Friction

Directed by Stan Vanderbeek
US 1959, 16mm, color, 10 min.

One of the most innovative figures in experimental film, Vanderbeek specialized in combining radical formal techniques and progressive politics, as exemplified in this kinetic collage-animation satire on the Russian-US space race.

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January 9 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm

Seasons of Monsters (Szornyek Evadja)

Directed by Miklós Jancsó
Hungary 1987, 35mm, color, 88 min.
With György Cserhalmi, Ferenc Kallai, Jozsef Madaras

Renowned for the extraordinarily fluid, ornate, and highly stylized virtuosity of his camerawork, Miklós Jancsó repeatedly applies his formal preoccupations to the creation of what might be called dialectical "musicals." The subjects are frequently the same: parables on the theme of tyranny and revolution, betrayal and resistance, power and corruption. Admittedly difficult to absorb in a single viewing, the sheer dream-like construction and visual audacity of Season of Monsters richly rewards the open viewer. The film contains two story fragments: the first concerns an émigré professor who commits suicide after returning to Hungary and his former classmate, a physician who is called to the scene; the second focuses on a bizarre birthday celebration the physician attends. Jancsó uses different cinematic discourses—realistic and non-realistic—to articulate the story fragments, creating a complicated, puzzling vision of impending doom.

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July 24 (Monday) 7 pm

The Trial (Le Procès)

Directed by Orson Welles
France/Italy/West Germany 1962, 35mm, b/w, 120 min.

With Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau

Hailed upon its release as a masterpiece by European critics but dismissed as a failure by the British and American press, The Trial is arguably Welles’s finest film after Citizen Kane (and with Kane, the only other film over which he exercised complete creative control). Welles’s rendition of Franz Kafka’s nightmarish story of a man arrested for a crime that is never explained to him is entirely faithful to the novel, even with the necessary transpositions made to update the action. Anthony Perkins portrays Josef K., a sensitive, "twitchy" individual pursued by a repressive bureaucracy, obsessed by an undefined guilt, and bewildered by the burden of living. Much of the action was filmed in the vast, fantastic setting of the then-disused Gare d’Orsay in Paris, which Welles turns into a kind of antechamber of Hell. Replete with unforgettably baroque, expressionistic imagery, The Trial evokes a caustic vision of the modern world, where implausible events seem like everyday occurrences.

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July 24 (Monday) 9:15 pm

The Third Man

Directed by Carol Reed
England 1949, 35mm, b/w, 104 min.
With Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard

Based on an original screenplay by Graham Greene, this Carol Reed classic epitomizes the aesthetics of film noir. Amid the lurid decadence of a shell-shocked, postwar Vienna, a lonely American (Cotton) searches for his maligned friend, a mysterious "third man" in a city of rampant deceit and corruption. The film’s famous haunting score, shadowy cinematography, and top-notch performances (notably Welles as the utterly immoral Harry Lime) make this one of the memorable tales of intrigue in film history. Robert Krasker won an Academy Award for his cinematography.

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July 25 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Two Men and a Wardrobe (Dwaj Ludzie Z Szaza)

Directed by Roman Polanski
Poland 1957, 16mm, b/w, 15 min.

Polanski’s celebrated student film presents a parable about two men who emerge from the sea lugging a large wardrobe and encounter an inhospitable world at every turn.

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July 25 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Two Women (La Ciociara)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Italy 1960, 35mm, b/w, 110 min.
With Sophia Loren, Eleonora Brown, Jean-Paul Belmondo

Sophia Loren earned the distinction of being the first actor in a foreign film to win an Oscar. In a heart-rending performance, she plays an Italian widow who, together with her thirteen-year-old daughter, flees south after the Allied bombing of Rome in 1943, only to encounter further dangers, deprivation, and ultimately rape by soldiers. Based on a novel by Alberto Moravia, the screenplay was written by Cesare Zavattini, who had previously collabor-ated with De Sica on the neorealist classics Shoeshine, Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D, and Miracle in Milan. Writing about De Sica’s films—"the greatest love message our period has had the good fortune to hear since Chaplin"—critic André Bazin clarified their artistry: "I have used the word love. I should rather have said poetry."

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July 25 (Tuesday) 9:15 pm

Three Women

Directed by Robert Altman
US 1977, 35mm, color, 124 min.
With Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule

One of the more unusual of the many unique films in director Robert Altman’s canon, Three Women originated for Altman in a dream, which may go a long way in explaining the strange, enigmatic tenor of the film. The result is an audacious, richly textured film about two vapid roommates in a Palm Springs, California, motel who are coworkers in an old-age convalescent home. The third woman is a mute painter, who fashions her fears and fantasies into mythic murals. Shelley Duvall highlights the ensemble in a mesmerizing performance as Millie Lammoreaux, a self-assured physical therapist who models her life on the inspirations she finds in Good Housekeeping. Love it or hate it, Three Women is a true original.

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