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Theater into Film

Presented in collaboration with the American Repertory Theater, this ongoing series celebrates the rich history of intersection between cinema and theater by complementing the A.R.T.’s current season with screenings of significant film adaptations of related theatrical works. Each program will be followed by a discussion with an invited scholar, critic, or artist.


January 7 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Lady with a Dog (Dama s sobachkoj)

Directed by Josef Heifitz
USSR 1960, 35mm, b/w, 86 min.
With Iya Savvina, Alexei Batalov, Nina Alisova
Russian with English subtitles

This handsome adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s short story was made by Josef Heifitz, acknowledged master of Chekhov screen adaptations, to commemorate the centenary of the Russian author’s birth. Set among the middle classes of turn-of-the-century Czarist Russia, the film recounts the story of an affair between a banker from Moscow (Batalov, star of the classic The Cranes Are Flying), on holiday in Yalta, and an unhappily married young woman who, as the title suggests, walks her dog daily along the promenade. The relationship assumes a more tragic tone as each party realizes that the temporary liaison is actually a deep love that can never be requited fully. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival the year of its release.

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Special Event—all seats $10
Andre Gregory in Person
January 28 (Sunday) 7 pm

Vanya on 42nd Street

Directed by Louis Malle
US 1994, 35mm, color, 119 min.
With Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, Julianne Moore

In what would be his final film, director Louis Malle reprised his collaboration with theater director Andre Gregory and actor-director Wallace Shawn (stars of the hugely popular My Dinner with Andre) to create this wholly innovative, nontheatrical staging of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Set in a decrepit Times Square theater with a dysfunctional stage and crumbling ceiling, the film documents the preparations for and performance of a David Mamet adaptation of the classic play. Initial scenes follow cast members walking the streets of New York and assembling at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Seamlessly, their banter transitions into dialogue from the play as the performance, in street clothes, takes on a strikingly original immediacy. While no film has investi-gated the transition from theater to cinema with more insight and intellectual rigor, the pleasure of the performances—as the family of actors becomes the family of Chekhov’s imagination—remains paramount.

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February 18 (Sunday) 7 pm
February 21 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Mournful Indifference (Skorbnoye beschuvstviye)

Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov
USSR 1987, film on video, color, 110 min.
With Ramaz Chkhikvadze, Alla Osipenko, Irina Sokolova
Russian with English subitles

This early work by one of the leading figures of contemporary Russian cinema (and a protégé of legendary director Andrei Tarkovsky) is a highly imaginative adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House, a play that invokes the calamitous events of World War I obliquely as a backdrop to its biting satire of the leisure class. Incorporating documentary footage from the Second World War and readings from Shaw’s diaries and letters, Sokurov focuses on the senselessness of war and the consequences of an individualist ideology. These measures effectively distance the characters of Shaw’s house from the monumental social changes occurring all around them.


February 11 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Doctor's Dilemma

Directed by Anthony Asquith
Great Britain 1958, 35mm, color, 99 min.
With Dirk Bogarde, Leslie Caron,John Robinson

One of the masters of literary adaptation, British director Anthony Asquith first gained prominence with the film version of Shaw’s Pygmalion (1938) and became a specialist in bringing the playwright’s satiric vision to the screen. In The Doctor’s Dilemma Asquith, aided by a riotous corps of performers including the irrepressible Robert Morley and Alistair Sim, vividly captures the mockery Shaw makes of British medicine. The story revolves around the titled dilemma of a lung specialist (Robinson) who must choose between saving the life of two men: an impoverished fellow physician or a young artist whose wife has captured his heart. The black humor of this dilemma prompted Shaw to remark of his play: "Life does not cease to be funny when people die, any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."

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