This summer, the Harvard Film Archive again pays homage to the
art-house programs of a bygone era by assembling a season of
double-feature screenings drawn from the Archive's extensive collection of
7,000 prints. This year, our alphabetical arrangement shifts from film titles to what the great American director Frank Capra called "The Name above the Title." Prior to Capra's contractual insistence, that space
was typically the provenance of a film's producer and its stars. Capra held that a film's credits should reflect the "one-picture, one-director" ethos that guided the work of major practitioners. While most cinephiles
trace the advent of such an auteurist approach to the early days of Cahiers du cinéma and the impassioned writings of the American film critic Andrew Sarris, we prefer to let the director be our guide.
Among the directors showcased this season are auteurs old and new, east and west, mainstream and independent. Included are such masters of the medium as Almodóvar, Antonioni, Bergman, Campion, Godard, Huston, Keaton, Kubrick, Lubitsch, Oshima, Vigo, and Wyler. Several of the pairings allow us to bring together directors with oddly similar names (Lee and Leigh, Roemer and Rohmer), to contrast films from the same year, or to trace the evolution of the literary adaptation. As well, we have included masterpieces of the movie musical (Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon), the best of the b-films (Detour and The Naked Kiss), and classic comedies (Some Like It Hot and The Producers). And the season would not be complete without the chanceto spotlight the director who placed his name above the title-Frank Capra, in a rarely revived, key early work, The Miracle Woman.
We again encourage your active participation by offering a single admission fee, which will gain you entry to all the features for a given evening.
July 9 (Monday) 7 pm
Live Piano Accompaniment Composed
and Performed by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Alexandrov
USSR 1929, 35mm, b/w, silent, 90 min.
Marfa Lapkina, Vasya Buzenkov,
Russian intertitles with translation
Originally neglected because of its release at the end of the silent era, The Old and the New was Eisenstein's only completed film to deal with a contemporary subject. Focusing on a peasant woman and her attempts to fight greed and superstition, the film depicts the mechanization and collectivization of a farm. Using his signature montages of brief, graphically insistent images, Eisenstein creates visual drama from economic policy in sequences as unlikely but compelling as the introduction of the cream separators and the "dance" of the tractors.
July 9 (Monday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Victor Erice
Spain 1973, 35mm, color, 98 min.
With Fernando Fernán Gómez, Teresa Gimpera, Ana Torrent
Spanish with English subtitles
The Spirit of the Beehive is a haunting allegorical film on innocence and illusion, set in post-Civil War Spain. Ana and Isabel, two lonely young sisters, see the film Frankenstein at a makeshift theater. Ana, unsettled by the brutal acts of the monster and the townspeople in the film, desperately seeks explanation. Taking her to an abandoned barn, Isabel claims to see the immortal spirit of the monster in the well; Ana becomes obsessed with the idea of befriending it. The Spirit of the Beehive is a deceptively lyrical tale of idyllic childhood memories and a disturbing portrait of isolation.
July 10 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Samuel Fuller
US 1965, 35mm, b/w, 93 min.
With Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante
The Naked Kiss is arguably the finest example of Samuel Fuller's post-noir Hollywood cult cinema. Drawing on the director's tabloid sensibilities, the film dwells on the uncomfortable and taboo subjects of deviancy, prostitution, and small-town sanctimony: only when viewed up close and in retrospect does it become clear the entire film is about the abuse and exploitation of women. Prostitute Kelly (Constance Towers) decides to give up her illicit lifestyle after a bad tryst with Griff, the town's sheriff, and becomes involved in working with handicapped children. Just as Griff begins to believe that she may be on the level, a murder and scandal threaten to destroy Kelly's new life.
July 10 (Tuesday) 9 pm
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
West Germany 1977, 35mm, color, 111 min.
With Kurt Raab, Elisabeth Trissenaar, Bernhard Helfrich
German with English subtitles
Fassbinder's The Stationmaster's Wife is a critical and brilliantly stylized look at the affairs of beautiful woman in pre-Hitler Germany of the twenties. Married to the local stationmaster, Hanni manipulates both her servile husband and a series of local lovers in order to further her philistine existence. Bitter and claustrophobic in equal parts, the film deals with the conditions of prewar petit-bourgeois life that contributed to the rise of fascism.
July 11 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
France 1962, 35mm, b/w, 85 min.
With Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot, André S. Labarthe
French with English subtitles
My Life to Live is a highly stylized and unconventional rendering of a simple story: a young woman seeks freedom and dreams of stardom, only to fall into a life of prostitution. The narrative emerges from the film's structure--twelve loosely connected tableaux, or "chapters," which complement the literary allusions that run throughout and amount to a series of cinematic portraits. Godard and cameraman Raoul Coutard use these visual occasions to create unmistakable filmic allusions as well: Nana (the director's then-wife Anna Karina) is at times the Louise Brooks of Pandora's Box and the Falconetti of Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc. A paean to the eternal feminine of cinema, the film is nevertheless-in consummate Godardian style-never too far from a critique of the politics of consumption and the society of the spectacle.
July 11 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
France 1983, 35mm, color, 85 min.
With Maruschka Detmers, Jacques Bonnaffé, Myriem Roussel
French with English subtitles
While many argue that Godard's later films pale in comparison to his seminal work from the 1960s, First Name: Carmen belies this myth. All the classic Godard trademarks are here: fatalism, romantic scorn, socialist rhetoric, visual symbolism, tortured narcissism (with Godard himself playing Carmen's lecherous filmmaker uncle), and a healthy dose of Americanisms. Loosely based on the source of Bizet's opera, this Carmen has its heroine rob a bank in order to fund a film she wants to make. Weaving Beethoven's late quartets with the cacophony of Parisian traffic and high tragedy with comic farce, Carmen becomes at once a parody of the director's own work from the 1960s and a prototype for a new cinema for its own time.
July 12 (Thursday) 7 pm
Directed by Howard Hawks
US 1932, 35mm, b/w, 80 min.
With Edward G. Robinson, Richard Arlen, Zita Johann
A key early work that draws on Hawks's lifelong fascination with the codes of professionalism and the emotional bonds between men, Tiger Shark features Edward G. Robinson as Mike Mascerena, the self-professed "best fisherman of the Pacific." Mike develops an Ahab-like obsession with sharks after losing his left hand to one and becomes a marked man in the Hawksian cosmology because of this physical and psychic disability. Complicating his life is a romantic relationship with the daughter of a fisherman who had perished in a shark attack, a girl also pursued by his best friend and fishing partner (Richard Arlen). Hawks inter-mixes vibrant, near-documentary sequences of deep-sea fishing with moody melodrama to create an action film with a complex moral vision.
July 12 (Thursday) 8:30 pm
Directed by John Huston
UK 1956, 35mm, color, 116 min.
With Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Orson Welles
Critically acclaimed but a failure commercially, Huston's ambitious adaptation of Melville's maritime epic began with a screenplay by the celebrated
science-fiction novelist Ray Bradbury (revised in production by Huston). While shifting discursive details into action and transforming speculative rumination into dialogue, Huston's Moby Dick remains extraordinarily faithful to the tone of the book and to its perilous portrayal of the whaling industry. The film is notable not only for its pronounced mid-nineteenth-century look and what critic Bosley Crowthers described as its "strange, subdued color scheme" (achieved by desaturating the Technicolor stock with a matching black-and-white negative) but for the visceral quality of its action sequences, which frequently placed Huston and his crew in real peril.
July 13 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Howard Hawks
US 1939, 16mm, b/w, 121 min.
With Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess
Based in part on the director's own aviation experiences in Latin America, Only Angels Have Wings remains, according to critic Andrew Sarris, "the most romantic film of Hawks's career." The story takes place in an obscure Andean outpost serviced by a small commercial airline, which must maintain regular service in order to win a lucrative contract. Cary Grant plays the operations manager, who seems always to be scrounging a light for his ubiquitous cigarette. Through this small gesture, Hawks reveals the nature of social interaction in the microcosmic community he has created among the flyers-both the heroes and the failures-and the women who love and betray them (Jean Arthur as a stranded showgirl, Rita Hayworth before she was a star). As in his best work, Hawks deploys the genre's action elements as a foil for the emotional turmoil that becomes the real test of character.
July 6 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by John Huston
US 1961, 35mm, b/w, 124 min.
With Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift
Noted as much for the woebegone fate of its three stars as for the stellar pairing of its celebrated screenwriter (playwright Arthur Miller) and prominent director, The Misfits remains a landmark work of the American cinema. The story had emerged from Miller's brief stay in rural Nevada while awaiting a divorce and his encounter there with a small band of cowboys who survived by rounding up wild horses. He expanded this narrative by introducing a woman into this male community-a role he imagined for his new bride, Monroe-and then collaborated with Huston on a screenplay. The resulting film inventively mixes aspects of classic cinema (particularly by way of studio veteran Russell Metty's stunning cinematography) with an equivalent demystification of the American dream of the West.
July 14 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by James Ivory
UK 1985, 35mm, color, 117 min.
With Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands
One of the best works to emerge from the more than three-decade collaboration of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is this lively adaptation of E. M. Forster's wry novel about an upper-middle-class English girl (Carter) on holiday in Florence under the care of a spinsterish cousin (Smith). The title alludes to the typical desire of tourists (then as now) to gaze upon scenic splendor from the windows of their hotel rooms-a desire thwarted here by a thoughtless proprietor who has ensconced the women in a room with no view. Two English gentlemen, a father and son, offer their assistance in exchanging accommodations. This encounter sets into motion a seemingly innocuous series of events that subtly shifts the coming-of-age tale into an illuminating, engaging, and thoroughly stylish comedy of manners.
July 14 (Saturday) 9:15 pm
Directed by James Ivory
UK 1984, 35mm, color, 122 min.
With Christopher Reeve, Vanessa Redgrave, Madeleine Potter
This adaptation of Henry James's classic presents a nuanced portrait of the emerging women's movement in the civilized East of the 1870s through the tale of Verena Tarrant- daughter of a faith healer and an inspired orator in her own right-and the forces competing for her heart and mind. Chief among these forces are her benefactor, Olive Chancellor, a wealthy Boston feminist who seeks to further Verena's education, and Olive's cousin Basil, a traditional Southern gentlemen who pursues Verena for his bride. Beyond the meticulous period detail and the pleasures of its narrative twists, The Bostonians also boasts one of Merchant-Ivory's finest casts, including Jessica Tandy as an aged Boston reformer, Linda Hunt as a no-nonsense physician, Nancy Marchand as a scheming New York society lady, and Wallace Shawn as a meddlesome newspaper reporter.
July 15 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Neil Jordan
UK 1984, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Stephen Rea
A rarity among a generation of socially committed auteurs, Neil Jordan has consistently focused on the inner lives of his characters and in the process opened up a space within the contemporary vogue for naturalism (be it the school of Leigh or Loach) that embraces the genuinely unnatural. Prefiguring the wrenching walk through the inner life of the male child in The Butcher Boy, this early fantasy film probes the pubescent dreamlife of a highly imaginative thirteen-year-old girl. An adaptation of Angela Carter's writings, In the Company of Wolves functions as a postmodern version of "Little Red Riding Hood," with Jordan's wolf "hairy on the inside."
July 15 (Sunday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Derek Jarman
UK 1986, 35mm, color, 93 min.
With Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton
The late British filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman was drawn to the early-seventeenth-century figure of Caravaggio not only because of the Renaissance master's skill with the highly cinematic technique of chiaroscuro but, more so, for the outsider status the artist achieved through his indulgences in the Roman demimonde, whose murderers and prostitutes became models for his paintings of saints and madonnas. Shot entirely in a studio, the film is a highly episodic portrait of the painter rendered through a series of tableaux that probe his complex relationship with the violent young gambler Ranuccio and his female lover. Eschewing exteriors and location shots and using dialogue sparingly, Jarman created one of his most visually arresting and personal works-one that allowed him to "recreate many details of my own life, and, bridging the gap of centuries and cultures, to exchange the camera with a brush."