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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive

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 22 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Reckless Moment

Directed by Max Ophüls
US 1949, 16mm, b/w, 82 min.
Joan Bennett, James Mason, Geraldine Brooks

High suspense meets the domestic in this thriller-melodrama from famed director Max Ophüls. While her husband is away in Germany, Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) discovers the body of a man about the house. Mistakenly believing her daughter has killed him, the dutiful mother-in a reckless moment-removes the evidence by boat to a nearby island. As fate would have it, however, a blackmailer (James Mason) appears on the scene, and the unfortunate Mrs. Harper is forced to add the securing of $5,000 to her growing list of domestic concerns. The drama heightens and takes several unexpected turns as we follow the morally challenged heroine attempt to extricate herself before Christmas.

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July 22 (Sunday) 8:45 pm

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Directed by Nagisa Oshima
UK/Japan 1982, 35mm, color, 122 min.
With Tom Conti, David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto

This international co-production brought the talents of Nagisa Oshima, one of the founding members of the Japanese New Wave and director of the controversial In the Realm of the Senses, to a more traditional genre: the war film. Oshima, nevertheless, translates the form into an unsettling assessment of two highly ritualistic military cultures in conflict, replete with stylized violence and homoerotic overtones. Set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Java in 1942, the film contrasts the machismo, hara-kiri ethos of the military captors with the stiff-upper-lip resiliency of their British charges. 
David Bowie was noted for his performance as the "soldier's soldier" Major Jack Celliers.

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July 23 (Monday) 7 pm
Live Piano Accompaniment Composed and Performed by Yakov Gubanov

Pandora's Box

Directed by G. W. Pabst
Germany 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 110 min. 
With Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner

In Pandora's Box, Louise Brooks provides one of the great performances of the silent era as Lulu, the hedonistic but otherwise innocent prostitute who unwittingly brings down all who come into contact with her. Released at a time when sound films were flooding the market, Pandora's Box had multiple problems with the censors as well: Lulu sleeps with both a father and his son, gambles, lies, and befriends cinema's first sympathetic lesbian. Panned and forgotten in its own time, it was rediscovered in the 1950s when numerous film historians agreed that Pandora's Box was a masterpiece and Brooks, a minor star best known for her black helmet haircut, a major talent.

July 23 (Monday) 9 pm

A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven)

Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
UK 1946, 35mm, b/w & color, 104 min.
With David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey

Beginning with an advisory title warning viewers that "any resemblance to any other worlds, known or unknown, is purely coincidental," this Powell-Pressburger fantasy is that rarest of cinematic achievements-a sophisti-cated romance with an extraordinary visual design. The story revolves around an RAF squadron leader (David Niven), who establishes radio contact with an American WAC (Kim Hunter) shortly before abandoning his burning plane over the English Channel. By rights he should have perished, but in this otherworldly tale he receives a reprieve from a heavenly tribunal and begins to pursue the woman whose voice had guided him home.

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July 24 (Tuesday) 7 pm

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Directed by José Quintero
US 1961, 35mm, color, 104 min.
With Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty, Lotte Lenya

Celebrated theater director José Quintero crossed over into film in order to adapt this Tennessee Williams novel for the screen. Vivien Leigh (already known for her portrayal of a Williams heroine a decade earlier in A Streetcar Named Desire) plays the title character, a American widow who has abandoned a waning career on the New York stage and come to Rome to assuage her spirits. Ready to assist Mrs. Stone is the legendary stage actress Lotte Lenya, cast as a procuress, and a very young Warren Beatty, the gigolo who attracts her attentions. The real star of this film, however, is the Eternal City itself, captured here in its various moods-glimmering and textured, gauzed and misty-by  cinematographer Harry Waxman.

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July 24 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Paris When it Sizzles

Directed by Richard Quine
US 1964, 16mm, color, 110 min.
With William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Grégoire Aslan

This rarely revived film about filmmaking finds a veteran screenwriter (played by William Holden) ensconced in a luxury Parisian apartment and plying himself with Bloody Marys as treatment for a severe case of writer's block. Audrey Hepburn, clad in stylish Givenchy fashions, is his assistant, who alternates as muse and leading lady as the pair begin to enact in-progress versions of the film. By turns, the writer's screenplay for The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower is envisioned as a comedy, a spy film, a musical, even a western. Ultimately, the screenplay comes full circle to include the couple's budding relationship as the true subject for the film. 

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July 25 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Nothing but a Man

Directed by Michael Roemer and Robert Young
US 1965, 35mm, b/w, 92 min.
With Ivan Dixon, Abbey Lincoln, Gloria Foster

Too seldom revived, Nothing But a Man remains a seminal work in the history of American independent film. An impressive collaboration between director Michael Roemer (The Plot Against Harry) and screenwriter and cinematographer Robert Young (The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez), Nothing But a Man was recently added to the National Film Registry and is regarded as one of the most sensitive films about African-American life ever made in this country. Set in Birmingham, Alabama, in the early 1960s, the film chronicles the story of a dignified railroad worker whose desire to lead a normal life with a beautiful schoolteacher (jazz virtuoso Abbey Lincoln) is unhinged by racial politics and discrimination. The film's Motown soundtrack features Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, and Martha and the Vandellas.

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July 25 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm

Le Beau Mariage

Directed by Eric Rohmer
France 1982, 35mm, color, 97 min.
With Béatrice Romand, André Dussollier, Féodor Atkine
French with English subtitles

The second in Eric Rohmer's series of "Comedies and  Proverbs," Le Beau mariage tells the cautionary tale of 25-year-old Sabine (Béatrice Romand, in a continuation of the younger role she played in Claire's Knee), who impulsively decides it is time to get married. She starts by ditching her married boyfriend and doggedly pursuing Edmond (André Dussollier), a middle-aged lawyer whom she barely knows. As the young woman shuttles between Le Mans and Paris, chattering relentlessly with her best friend (Arielle Dombasle) about the love of her life, the film turns into a mortifying examination of self-delusion. Funny, touching, and beautifully acted, this is Rohmer at his witty best. 

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July 26 (Thursday) 7 pm

The Loved One

Directed by Tony Richardson
US 1965, 35mm, b/w, 118 min.
With Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Rod Steiger

Evelyn Waugh's audacious satire on the Southern California way of life (and death) was a long-time project of Luis Buñuel's, eventually brought to the screen by British director Tony Richardson from an adaptation by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood. Billed on its release as "the film with something to offend everyone," this classic black comedy concerns the sudden suicide of a Hollywood celebrity and his nephew's subsequent problems in paying the exorbitant funeral bill. The Loved One boasts a star-studded cast, including Robert Morse as the Candide-like nephew, Rod Steiger as the Oedipal Mr. Joyboy, and Liberace as a fastidious casket salesman-as well as appearances by John Gielgud, James Coburn, Milton Berle, Dana Andrews, and a host of others.

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July 26 (Thursday) 9:15 pm

Choose Me

Directed by Alan Rudolph
US 1984, 35mm, color, 106 min.
With Keith Carradine, Geneviève Bujold, Lesley Ann Warren

With Keith Carradine, Geneviève Bujold, Lesley Ann Warren Director Alan Rudolph brought his variation on the kaleidoscopic Altman style to perfection in this unique and dreamy meditation on sexual longings. A free-loving bar owner (Lesley Ann Warren) works out her problems with the help of a radio-show sex therapist (Geneviève Bujold) who meddles in other people's romances while repressing her own libido. Enter a mental hospital escapee (Keith Carradine) as the sinuous Lothario who begins to pursue both women with amorous abandon. A companion piece to Rudolph's earlier films Welcome to L.A. and Remember My Name, Choose Me is a delightfully inventive, jazzlike meditation on the ecstasies, disenchantments, and vulnerabilities of the human heart.

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July 27 (Friday) 7 pm

The Killers

Directed by Robert Siodmak
US 1946, 35mm, b/w, 101 min.
With Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien

A seminal work of film noir, The Killers marked the screen debut of Burt Lancaster, who gives a brilliant performance as a marked man who refuses to flee his hired assassins. Loosely based on a Hemingway short story, the film proceeds through flashback to reveal the circumstances of his murder and, with it, the seamier side of America in the forties. German-émigré director Siodmak combines strong chiaroscuro lighting, moody nocturnal cityscapes, and a potent Miklos Rosza score in approaching the nihilistic vision at the heart of the work. Ava Gardner gives one of the more memorable renditions of the femme fatale in her portrayal of a nightclub singer who is the mob boss's girl.

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July 27 (Friday) 9 pm

Mean Streets

Directed by Martin Scorsese
US 1973, 35mm, color, 110 min.
With Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, David Proval 

With Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, David Proval This early masterpiece by Scorsese-and the film that put him on the map as a director-is set in New York's Little Italy and features a tremendous cast that included then unknown actors Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. Keitel plays an aspiring mobster whose fledgling career is hindered by his relationship to Catholicism, his love for a young woman, and his attachment to an irresponsible friend. A superlative 1960s soundtrack is brilliantly integrated into the gritty portrayal of gangland life, and the jagged and immediate photography and editing influenced an entire generation of American directors.

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July 28 (Saturday) 7 pm

Jour de Fête

Directed by Jacques Tati
France 1948, 35mm, color, 76 min. 
With Jacques Tati, Guy Decomble, Paul Frankeur
French with English subtitles

The debut feature by Jacques Tati, France's answer to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, Jour de Fête follows the bungling adventures of a small-town mailman who, after hearing about the efficiency of the American postal service, decides that it is time to do the same in France. His manic new delivery system sets out to modernize but brings about the opposite result: Tati as performer makes cycling along a tranquil country lane as spellbinding as if it were taking place on a high wire. This is the reissued "splash color" version, an early experimental color-film process that Tati shot side-by-side with a 35mm black-and-white version but which proved unworkable at the time.

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July 28 (Saturday) 8:45 pm

Small Change (L'Argent de poche)

Directed by François Truffaut
France 1976, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Georges Desmouceaux, Philippe Goldmann, Claudio Deluca
French with English subtitles

François Truffaut's gift for directing children had already been proven 
by The Four Hundred Blows (1959) and The Wild Child (1970), which neither sentimentalized nor idealized childhood. Small Change examines the lives of several school children in a small provincial town and their relationships to adults and classmates. In the autobiographical The Four Hundred Blows, a young Truffaut portrayed children as confined by the restrictions and insensitivities of the world around them; here, the older Truffaut offers a view of children from the adult perspective: unaware of the care, love, and devotion their parents and teachers bestow.

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July 29 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Story of Adele H. (L'Histoire d'Adèle H.)

Directed by François Truffaut
France 1975, 35mm, color, 98 min.
With Isabelle Adjani, Bruce Robinson, Sylvia Marriott
French with English subtitles

In 1863, the beautiful young daughter of the world-famous writer Victor Hugo crosses the Atlantic in desperate pursuit of a British lieutenant she believes is her fiancé, her lover, her destiny-despite the fact that he has rejected her. Based on Adèle Hugo's diary, written in code and deciphered in 1955, the film was described by director Truffaut as the autopsy of a passion. Truffaut additionally described the film as "a musical composition for one instrument": the exquisite 19-year-old Isabelle Adjani. Oscar-nominated Adjani is unforgettable as the unhinged woman whose burning desire becomes her 
raison d'être and dooms her to madness.

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July 29 (Sunday) 8:45 pm

A Flame in My Heart (Une flamme dans mon coeur)

Directed by Alain Tanner
France/Switzerland 1987, 35mm, b/w, 110 min.
With Myriam Mézières, Aziz Kabouche, Benoît Régent

A collaboration between director Tanner (Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000) and actress Mézières (who has appeared in many of his films), A Flame in My Heart is an intense portrait of obsessive love. Written by Mézières on the basis of conversational notes and shot quickly in 16mm on a relatively minuscule budget with an intimate crew of four people, the film follows Mercedes, an actress who breaks away from her exceptionally persistent Arab lover only to become obsessed herself with a journalist she meets on the Métro. Sensuously photographed in black and white, the film drew attention for its surprisingly graphic sex scenes and the intensity of Mézières's performance, at times so searing that it threatens the safety of fictional distance.

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