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Close Encounters

Harvard Film Archive is pleased to inaugurate a new series of ongoing programs that brings members of the community together with its archival holdings. Each month, we invite a guest to select a favorite film from the Archive and to introduce the work to the public. We are gratified to begin our series with the selections of two particularly distinguished members of the Cambridge community: Robert Brustein, noted director, playwright, and critic, artistic director of the American Repertory Theatre, and director of the Loeb Drama Center; and Sally Fitzgerald, biographer of Flannery O’Connor and editor of Flannery O’Connor Collected Works (Library of America, 1988) and The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (Noonday, 1988).


March 25 (Saturday) 4 pm

Wise Blood

Introduced by Sally Fitzgerald
Directed by John Huston
US 1980, 35mm, color, 108 min.
With Brad Dourif, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton

One of Huston’s best late works, Wise Blood presents a singular tale of hell and salvation in its portrayal of a young man (Dourif) who returns from the army, stages a doomed private rebellion, and establishes the "Church of Truth Without Jesus Christ."

Part comedy, part tragedy, part philosophical farce, Huston manages to imbue this version of Flannery O’Connor’s remarkable first novel with the same zest with which it was written. We present the film as a \tribute to O’Connor, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of her birth. As Vincent Canby of the New York Times has noted, "This is not Elmer Gantry land or Marjoe material. Wise Blood is an American classic set in that particular O’Connor country where the rational and irrational intersect and become, for one blinding moment, the same thing."

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April 5 (Wednesday) 8:15 pm

Jacob's Ladder

Introduced by Robert Brustein
Directed by Adrian Lyne
US 1990, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello

Visually astounding and truly frightening, Adrian Lyne’s hallucinogenic film centers on a Vietnam veteran (Robbins) whose life shifts seamlessly between past, present, and future—between reality and terrifying illusion. Deeply affected by his experiences in Vietnam, including being dosed with a derivative of LSD to increase his capacity for killing, Jacob experiences multiple realities: divorced and living with another woman; married and successful with children; dead on a field-hospital table in Vietnam. Robbins’s remarkable performance as a man experiencing the baddest of bad trips anchors this challenging work.

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