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Séance Screenings


May 14 (Sunday) 7 pm
May 18 (Thursday) 7 pm

The Laughing Heirs (Die Lachenden Erben)

Directed by Max Ophüls
Germany 1932–33, 35mm, b/w, 75 min.
With Heinz Ruhmann, Max Adalbert
German with English subtitles

We are proud to present, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut of Boston, this early, rarely seen film by the great German director Max Ophüls, who remains best known for the films he made as an émigré: Letter from an Unknown Woman and La Ronde. A Romeo-and-Juliet story of two champagne-producing families at war whose children become romantically involved, the film is a comedy, shot through with Ophüls’s characteristic irony. A highly cinematic work—unique in this period of transition to sound, which reduced many films to stage-bound productions—The Laughing Heirs employs inventive camera techniques that vividly render the theme of romantic love as a crucial life force.

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May 30 (Tuesday) 9 pm
May 31 (Wednesday) 9:30

The Shanghai Drama (Le Drame de Shanghaï)

Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst
France 1938, 35mm, b/w, 105 min
With Christl Mardayn, My Linh Nam, Vladimir Inkijinoff
French with English subtitles

Filmed in France and French Saigon after Pabst’s departure from Nazi Germany, this film is a fantastic spy thriller set in an imagined Shanghai imbued with opium smoke and darkness, a place of intrigue and excess and a hyperbolic extension of the Paris Pabst had created earlier in Jeanne Ney. Here, nationalist political turmoil, gang activity, the threat of Japanese military invasion, and individual lust and cruelty overwhelm the film’s struggling central character, nightclub singer Kay Murphy (Mardayn). Like much of the director’s work in the 1930s, The Shanghai Drama deals with exile and displacement as abiding human conditions.

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June 17 (Saturday) 1 pm

Dialogue with a Woman Departed

Directed by Leo Hurwitz
US 1980, 16mm, color, 225 min.

In the 1930s, Hurwitz was an active member of the Film and Photo League, a politically engaged arts collective, and worked together with Pare Lorentz, Willard Van Dyke, Paul Strand, and others to produce such films as Scottsboro, The Plow That Broke the Plains, Heart of Spain, and Native Land. Over an eight-year period in the 1970s, Hurwitz made this film tribute to his deceased wife and colleague, the film editor Peggy Lawson. His most personal work and his last major production, Hurwitz’s film is at once epic and lyrical; a portrait of an individual and chronicle of the times; an ode to the spirit of artistic collaboration and a testament to political idealism. The film contains documentary footage, reconstructions, and excerpts from a number of films; the voices of Paul Robeson and Alfred Drake; and music that ranges from Shostakovich to Mark Blitzstein (subject of the recent The Cradle Will Rock).

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700