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Topics in Film: Mapping and Fashioning Space

This continuing series explores the ways in which cinema is involved in the production of space, the architectonics of visuality, and the "fashioning" of the body—in other words, the crucial ways in which the moving image has shaped our changing perception of physical space and the bodies that inhabit it.

March 14 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
March 15 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

The Red Desert (Il Deserto Rosso)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Italy 1964, 35mm, color, 116 min.
With Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chianetti
Italian with English subtitles

"Michelangelo Antonioni’s first color film all but subjugates its characters to its landscape. Antonioni trans-forms Ravenna, the city of Dante’s tomb, Byzantine murals and marble churches, into a terrifyingly beautiful desert of slag heaps, factories and sulphorous skies. . . . Vitti is the traumatized heroine who, in a desperate search for love, has a brief affair with the owner of a factory, which her husband manages. Prescient in its connection of existential and ecological concerns, Red Desert is . . . one of the greatest works of European cinema."—James Quandt

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March 21 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
March 22 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

Mamma Roma

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Italy 1962, 35mm, b/w, 110 min.
With Anna Magnani, Franco Citti
Italian with English subtitles

Pasolini’s second film, reminiscent of his Accatone (1961), is a study of the sub-proletariat of Rome. Referencing her roles in the Italian Neorealist classics, Magnani is cast as a woman trying to escape her past as a prostitute as she harbors middle-class ambitions for her teenage son. Her former pimp, however, threatens to reveal to the boy his mother’s profession unless she goes back "on the game."

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April 4 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm

Letter From an Unknown Woman

Directed by Max Ophuls
US 1948, 16mm, b/w, 90 min.
With Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan

This crowning work of Ophul’s Hollywood period has in recent years become an important focus of critical study. Transforming a story by Stefan Zweig, Ophuls recreates turn-of-the-century Vienna with dazzling sets and lighting and his signature mobile camera work. The film presents the life of Lisa (Fontaine), obsessed since adolescence with a charming musician (Jourdan) who hardly remembers her, despite their brief, intense affair. Lisa narrates the film through a deathbed letter to her lover—one of the most celebrated conceits of the narrative cinema. In a notable flashback sequence in the film, the couple boards one of the more curious attractions of the precinematic era: Hale’s Tours, a railway car presenting moving panoramic landscapes.

April 11 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
April 12 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

HFA Archival Print

Death in Venice (Morte a Venezia)

Directed by Luchino Visconti
Italy 1971, 35mm, scope, color, 130 min.
With Dirk Bogarde, Bjorn Andresen
Italian with English subtitles

It was no easy task to translate Thomas Mann’s psychological novella Death in Venice to the screen. Bogarde gives a subtle and moving performance that fits beautifully with the atmospheric realism of the pre–World War I Venice depicted by Visconti in exquisitely painterly style. Bogarde plays a German composer on vacation and on the verge of mental and physical collapse whose obsession with a young boy leads to his over-extended stay in plague-ridden Venice.

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April 18 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm

Sans Soleil

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1982, 16 mm, color, 100 min.

A founding member of the French New Wave, filmmaker/media artist Chris Marker is best known for his La Jetée (1962), a post-apocalyptic allegory composed almost entirely of still photographic images. Made two decades later, the feature-length Sans Soleil remains Marker’s masterpiece. Ostensibly constructed from a series of letters sent by a freelance cameraman to an unknown woman, the film presents portraits of distant locales captured in ravishing imagery and through the poetic letters of the unseen cameraman. Remarkable for its prescient incorporation of video processing, Sans Soleil equally prefigures contemporary work in the fictionalized documentary as Marker pushes beyond the boundaries of the traditional narrative cinema to invent a singularly personal film genre––part diary, part essay, part documentary, and part fiction. As Chris Marker notes, ". . . out of these juxtaposed memories is born a fictional memory, and in the same way as Lucy puts up a sign to indicate that ‘the Doctor is in,’ we’d like to preface this film with a placard: ‘Fiction is out’––somewhere."

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April 25 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm

A Walk Through H

Directed by Peter Greenaway
Great Britain 1978, 16mm, color, 41 min.

Alternately titled The Re-incarnation of an Ornithologist, this eccentric film is based on an ornithological treatise by Greenaway’s fictive alter-ego, Tulse Luper, that describes a mystical journey through the land of H. As Time Out’s Tony Rayns has noted: "You could call it across between a vintage Borges ‘fiction’ and a Disney True Life Adventure, but that wouldn’t get close to its humor or to the compulsiveness of its Michael Nyman score."

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April 25 at 6:30 pm with "A Walk through H" above


Directed by Charles and Ray Eames
US 1955, 16mm, color, 13 min.

One of a dozen or so films created by the modern design team of Charles and Ray Eames, known for their bold experiments in furniture design, architecture, and multimedia, House is a portrait of the structure the couple built in 1949 on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The emphasis is less on architecture or film than on the sense of space and intimate relationship between building and site. Composed entirely of stills, the film blends individual fragments to form a cohesive whole, with color, reflections, light, and the pattern of shadows as recurring motifs.

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