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 16 (Monday) 7 pm
Live Piano Accompaniment Composed
and Performed by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Lev Kuleshov
USSR 1924, 35mm, b/w, silent, 94 min.
With Porfiri Podobed, Boris Barnet
Russian with English intertitles
The most celebrated yet least seen of the early Soviet directors, Lev Kuleshov is known for a seminal workshop in which he instructed a new generation of filmmakers in his innovative new principles of film construction, including the so-called "Kuleshov effect" of film editing. The seriousness of his teachings notwithstanding, Kuleshov was drawn to comedy, and this tale of an American named West who visits Moscow accompanied by his cowboy valet is his masterpiece. Mixing satire with sight gags, Kuleshov parodies American-style serials as he tracks the hapless, Harold Lloyd-like West and his six-gun toting sidekick through their encounters with mad, savage Russians and thieving Bolsheviks.
July 16 (Monday) 9 pm
Live Piano Accompaniment Composed
and Performed by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Buster Keaton
US 1925, 35mm, b/w, silent, 69 min.
With Buster Keaton, Ruth Dwyer
In this contemporary comedy, Keaton plays Jimmie Shannon, a young man as unsuccessful in business as he is in love. His extreme reticence (what other romantic approach could we imagine from "the Great Stoneface"?) has kept the girl of his dreams from discovering his true feelings; meanwhile, the imminent financial ruin he faces forces him to dodge a stream of subpoena-bearing lawyers. One of these, however, has a will rather than a summons: Jimmie will inherit $7 million if he marries before 7:00 p.m. on his 27th birthday, which happens to be that very day. What ensues is an amalgam of the early chase film, old-fashioned slapstick, and brilliant sight gag. Seven Chances spotlights Keaton's mastery at mixing social satire with visual humor and highlights his artful athleticism.
July 17 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 86 min.
With Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
This devastating anti-war film focuses on an actual incident that took place among French forces during World War I in which three soldiers from a regiment that failed to advance on the enemy were randomly selected and executed for cowardice. Kubrick relentlessly demonstrates how the real act of cowardice was perpetrated not by the soldiers in the field but by a vain, ambitious general who has willingly sacrificed his troops to advance his own agenda at headquarters. Kirk Douglas both produced the film and stars as a colonel who attempts to intervene in what he rightly sees as the antithesis of military justice.
July 17 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
UK 1964, 35mm, b/w, 93 min.
With Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
No major director seemed better able to plug into the zeitgeist of his era (particularly in the 1960s) than Kubrick, and no film so completely captured the country's growing disaffection with the military-industrial complex as Kubrick's adaptation (with writer Terry Southern) of Peter George's political satire Two Hours to Doom. The resulting work is a chronicle, at once hilarious and frightening, of the fallout from the decision of the deranged General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to deploy a bomber wing of the Strategic Air Command to drop the big one on Russia. The President immediately convenes his security council, which includes the eponymous Dr. Strangelove and Group Captain Mandrake. All three characters are played by the inimitable Peter Sellers.
July 18 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Spike Lee
US 1986, 35mm, b/w & color, 84 min.
With Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, Spike Lee
Inspired by Jim Jarmusch's success with his debut feature, Stranger Than Paradise, young NYU-trained director Spike Lee set out to create his own vision of the contemporary independent narrative film. She's Gotta Have It was shot in a dozen days on a paltry budget with four Lee family members contributing both on and off screen. (Lee costars, while his jazz-musician father Bill Lee scored the film and appears as the female protagonist's father.) The film is a contemporary sex farce about Nola Darling, a very independent single black woman whose sexually liberated life is presented through a Rashomon-like series of encounters with each of her current boyfriends (a schleppish nice guy, a narcissistic male model, and a sly Brooklyn trickster named Mars).
July 18 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Mike Leigh
UK 1993, 35mm, color, 126 min.
With David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge
The most visceral work to emerge from the socially progressive, highly improvisatory film form honed to perfection over the past two decades by independent filmmaker Mike Leigh, Naked is a potent, post-Thatcher portrait of the British angry young man. Part sexual predator, part apostle of some unfocused apocalypse, Naked's protagonist, Johnny (David Thewlis, from Leigh's Life Is Sweet), insinuates himself into the damaged lives of a motley array of Londoners who are seduced by the adrenaline rush of his charms but find themselves worse off for the encounter. Developed through an exhaustive process of improvisation, the film earned an international audience and awards at Cannes for both its lead actor and its director.
July 19 (Thursday) 7 pm
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
US 1933, 16mm, b/w, 90 min.
With Gary Cooper, Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins
Adapted by Ben Hecht from the play by Noel Coward-but decidedly changed in both substance and tone-Design
For Living is the very essence of the kind of light, sophisticated romantic comedy with a touch of bedroom farce that
was Ernst Lubitsch's trademark. A painter (Cooper) and playwright (March) both fall in love with Gilda, another American living in Paris. Unable to choose between the two, she comes up with the perfect solution: she will
live with them both but on a strictly platonic basis. While their careers thrive, tensions inevitably erupt and lead to Gilda's temporary flight to a marriage
of convenience. In the end, the unorthodox "design" is reestablished, giving Lubitsch free reign to wield his celebrated
July 19 (Thursday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
US 1942, 35mm, b/w, 99 min.
With Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack
Created at the height of Germany's power during the Second World War, To Be or Not to Be is an anti-Nazi satire set in occupied Warsaw, centering on the resistance of a Polish theater company and the ham antics of its narcissistic husband and wife stars (Benny and Lombard). Ernst Lubitsch managed to pull off the impossible in this witty, sophisticated comedy: to successfully satirize Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party without wallowing in bad taste. More sardonic and less sentimental than Chaplin's The Great Dictator, Lubitsch's film successfully achieves its political message, primarily through comedy that displays the absurdities contained within the fascist ideology.
July 20 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Louis Malle
Canada/France 1980, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Michel Piccoli
The late Louis Malle had one of the more illustrious and varied careers in modern cinema: from his early work as a cinematographer shooting underwater films for Jacques Costeau to a stint as assistant to the legendary French director Robert Bresson, to his emergence in his own right as one of the founding figures of the French New Wave. Atlantic City was part of yet another extraordinary shift marked by Malle's move to the U.S. and his commitment to English-language production. Written by the noted playwright John Guare, the film focuses on a very American tale with universal appeal as it follows the lives of two very different generations of people who attempt to live their lives
in the shadows of the gambling casinos of Atlantic City.
July 20 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
US 1953, 35mm, color, 112 min.
With Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan
One of the masterpieces of the American movie musical, The Band Wagon uses satire to lampoon the pomposity of the theater and in the process reconfirms the artistic standards of popular cinema. With more than a hint of the biographical, Fred Astaire stars as Tony Hunter, an over-the-hill movie star who is lured to Broadway for a musical role that could revive his career. Reworking the formula of the back-stage musical, director Minnelli contrasts Astaire's populist performance style with the artsy machinations of the show's director (the brilliant Jack Buchanan), who wants to pair Tony with a moody ballerina (Cyd Charisse) and transform the simple stage musical into a modern-day version of Faust. The results are hilariously disastrous.
July 21 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by Mike Nichols
US 1967, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
The wit and socially aware humor that characterized the best of Mike Nichols's early work as a writer and performer (along with the equally gifted Elaine May) find a thoroughly cinematic vehicle in his masterful satire The Graduate. The film follows the picaresque adventures of the young graduate of the title (Dustin Hoffman, in the role that launched his career), who is fresh out of college and back in his parents' home in Beverly Hills. His Ivy League education, however, has ill-prepared him for the vagaries, vulgarity, and hypocrisy of the adult world he encounters-from the alientating state of communications with his parents to the unsettling seductive behavior of Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father's law partner. With vivid location shooting by Robert Surtees and a sound track filled with tunes by Simon and Garfunkel, The Graduate spoke with affection to viewers about the disaffection of this new generation.
July 15 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Mira Nair
US 1991, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Denzel Washington, Sarita Choudhury, Roshan Seth
In the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut feature, Salaam Bombay!, independent filmmaker Mira Nair shifts her focus from South Asia to the American South. The story of Mississippi Masala actually begins in Uganda in the early 1970s, when the dictator Idi Amin seized the property of all Asians and expelled them. Nair chronicles the exile of the family of a successful Indian lawyer and its resettlement in Greenwood, Mississippi, in a rundown motel. Out of these unlikely elements Nair (with screenwriter Sooni Taraporevela) creates a latter-day multicultural Romeo and Juliet tale in which the family's daughter begins dating a local black businessman (Denzel Washington), to the consternation of both the African-Asian and the African-American communities.