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The Boston Trilogy of Jan Egleson

The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to present this tribute to local filmmaker Jan Egleson, recipient of this year’s Vision Award for Distinguished Filmmaking from the Boston Film/Video Foundation. Born in New York City in 1946, Egleson began his professional life as an actor, appearing with Al Pacino in the Theater Company of Boston’s productions of Richard III and The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and in several television and feature film productions, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It was this experience that gave him the inspiration to make films of his own. Based on relationships he had developed with working-class Cambridge youth, Egleson made an innovative trilogy of locally produced films in the late seventies and early eighties. Since that time, he has divided his directing efforts between television films and theatrical features, including the screen adaptation of Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky, starring Kevin Bacon (Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival), and A Shock to the System, starring Michael Caine and Liz McGovern. He is just completing a new feature, again shot in Boston, The Blue Diner.

Director Jan Egleson in Person
February 8 (Thursday) 7 pm

Billy in the Lowlands

Directed by Jan Egleson
US 1979, 16mm, color, 88 min.
With Henry Tomaszewski, Paul Benedict, David Morton

The odyssey of a young man in trouble with the law, Billy in the Lowlands stars Henry Tomaszewski as Billy Shaughnessy, a working-class project kid trying to make a place for himself in the world. After being sent away to a Massachusetts reformatory, Billy bursts out in hopes of reestablishing a relationship with his distant father. A fiction film drawn from real-life events and experiences, the cast includes both professional and nonprofessional actors. The late Vincent Canby found in this work "unexpected resources of compassion and humor and, more important, of unsentimental honesty."

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February 9 (Friday) 7 pm

The Dark End of the Street

Directed by Jan Egleson
US 1981, 16mm, color, 89 min.
With Laura Harrington, Henry Tomaszewski, Michelle Green

A compelling depiction of race relations, The Dark End of the Street is a coming-of-age story set in a North Cambridge housing project. When a black youth falls off a building roof, the only witnesses are a white teenage couple. The girl’s impulse is to go to the authorities, but her boyfriend—who has already done time—advises her to keep quiet. As a result, another black youth is suspected of the "crime," and a number of suppressed tensions explode into the open. With a cast culled largely from the Theater Company of Boston and a bare-bones budget of $150,000, The Dark End of the Street represents regional independent filmmaking at its purest and an embodiment of the working-class concerns it addresses.

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February 9 (Friday) 9 pm

The Tender Age

Directed by Jan Egleson
US 1984, 35mm, color, 103 min.
With John Savage, Tracey Pollan, Henry Tomaszewski

The final film of Jan Egleson’s trilogy, The Tender Age (initially released under the title The Little Sister) continues to explore the lives of Boston street kids. The story focuses on Nicki (Pollan), a well-to-do eighteen-year-old girl from the suburbs whose self-destructive behavior leads her into Boston’s once-infamous Combat Zone. On her downward spiral she is aided by a probation officer (Savage), whose interest in Nicki’s case borders on obsession. A complexly drawn portrait of sexual abuse, The Tender Age boasts an original score by Pat Metheny and striking cinematography by Edward Lachman.

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