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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 30 (Monday) 7 pm

Detour

Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
US 1945, 35mm, b/w, 68 min.
With Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake

While hitchhiking cross-country, a piano player meets a scheming femme fatale and is innocently involved in sudden death. Long the beneficiary of an ardent cult following, Detour was made in a mere six days, almost entirely in a Poverty Row studio: its extensive road scenes were shot with rear projection, and the closest thing to a real setting in the film is a Los Angeles car lot. "No matter what you do, no matter where you turn, Fate sticks out its foot to trip you," bemoans Detour's Al Roberts (Tom Neal) in a film whose strangely compelling appeal involves an uncanny yet somehow very American admixture of passion and folly.

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July 30 (Monday) 8:30 pm

Billy Budd

Directed by Peter Ustinov
UK 1962, 35mm, b/w, 125 min.
With Peter Ustinov, Robert Ryan, Terence Stamp 

Actor Peter Ustinov directed, produced, starred in, and adapted from a Broadway play this version of Herman Melville's classic allegorical tale of treachery in the eighteenth-century British navy. Under Ustinov's direction there is a decided shift in emphasis from Melville's portrayal of absolute good and evil to a poignant examination of the blindness of justice and the law. Featuring an array of sterling performances, the angelic Billy is played by a blond Terence Stamp in his film debut. Ustinov himself is Man-o-War Captain Vere, forced to try the naïve Billy for the accidental murder of evil master-at-arms Claggart, played with staggering authority by Robert Ryan, who had long coveted the role.

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July 31 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Live Piano Accompaniment Composed and Performed by Yakov Gubanov

The Big Parade

Directed by King Vidor
US 1925, 35mm, b/w, silent, 115 min.
With John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Hobart Bosworth

King Vidor's stunning antiwar film is one of the classics of silent cinema. Containing realistic, remarkably staged battle sequences and moments of rare powerful drama, The Big Parade follows the enlistment and service of an American soldier (silent-screen great John Gilbert) who fights in France in the First World War. Though made in the early years of American filmmaking, Vidor has a superior command of the medium, creating scenes that are not only brilliantly constructed but achingly intimate and disturbing. Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory is said to have been influenced by Vidor's masterpiece.


August 1 (Wednesday) 7 pm

L'Atalante

Directed by Jean Vigo
France 1934, 35mm, b/w, 89 min.
With Jean Dasté, Dita Parlo, Michel Simon
French with English subtitles

One of the most cherished films among cinephiles, L'Atalante-the simple and engaging story of a young woman's stormy initiation into married life on a river barge-was the sole feature film made by director Jean Vigo, who died at age 29 from tuberculosis just as the work premiered. Under Vigo's sensitive direction, naturalism and surrealist fantasy blend beautifully as everyday life is infused with magical moments: in the ship mate's (Michel Simon) fantastic travel stories; in the strange, plein-air bridal procession; in the young barge captain searching for his sweetheart under water. Poorly received on first showing, the film was badly cut and a popular song imposed on it. Happily, it has since been restored to its original form, and its romantic charms remain fresh and startling.

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August 1 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm

Senso

Directed by Luchino Visconti
Italy 1954, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Alida Valli, Farley Granger, Massimo Girotti

Considered by French critic Georges Sadoul "one of the most beautiful Italian films ever made," Senso chronicles the relationship between an earthy, materialistic Austrian officer (Granger) and his artistocratic Italian mistress amidst the Risorgimento battle for independence and the unification of Italy in Austrian-occupied Venice in 1866. Sumptuously shot (in part by the great G. R. Ado, who died in a car crash during the filming), the film is an intriguing amalgam of the neorealism of Visconti's earlier work and the lush romanticism of his later films. Because of the obvious parallels the film draws to contemporary Italian history, Senso suffered at the hands of producers and censors. While the HFA print is an English-dubbed version, there is compensation in the richness of the dialogue, written by Tennessee Williams and Paul  Bowles.

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August 2 (Thursday) 7 pm

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Directed by Peter Weir
Australia 1975, 35mm, color, 107 min.
With Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse

This moody and atmospheric film set in 1901 tells the story of three school-girls and their teacher from an exclusive Australian academy who mysteriously disappear during an outing one sunny day. The first great success of the Australian New Wave, Picnic at Hanging Rock is based on a novel by Joan Lindsay and given richly textured direction by Peter Weir. Evoking the Indian summer of the Victorian era, the film is dominated in turns by vague feelings of unease, barely controlled sexual hysteria, and a swooning lyricism. Rooted in the tradition of sci-fi and horror cinema, Weir depicts the school as a privileged elite gradually contaminated and destroyed from within by its inability to understand the mystery that confronts it.

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August 2 (Thursday) 9 pm

Swept Away... By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'Agosto)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller
Italy 1975, 35mm, color, 116 min.
With Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Italian with English subtitles

Raffaella, a rich, beautiful, and acid-tongued Milanese who has charted a yacht, and Gennarino, a swarthy Sicilian deckhand of the working class, are marooned on an isolated island in the Mediterranean. She is a capitalist for whom the system has paid off, he is a dedicated Communist. Cut off from society, Gennarino quickly reverses their roles, stripping Raffaella of pride and vanity. A provocative film that became an enormous art-house success in the U.S., Swept Away put writer-director Lina Wertmüller on the map.

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August 3 (Friday) 7 pm

Roman Holiday

Directed by William Wyler
US 1953, 35mm, b/w, 119 min.
With Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert

This delightful fairy-tale romance, shot entirely on location in Rome, was made by one of Hollywood's most skillful directors, William Wyler (Wuthering Heights, The Best Years of our Lives). The film's bittersweet story is a Cinderella tale in reverse. A runaway princess (Hepburn) rebels against her obligations and escapes the insulated confines of her royal prison to find a "Prince Charming" commoner-an American reporter (Peck) covering the royal tour in Rome. The story was reportedly based on the real-life Italian adventures of Britain's Princess Margaret. The film received a phenomenal ten Academy Award nominations, winning Oscars for Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn in her American film debut), Best Costume Design (Edith Head), and Best Original Story (Ian McLellan Hunter). In 1993, a posthumous Oscar was properly given to blacklisted Hollywood Ten author Dalton Trumbo.

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August 3 (Friday) 9:15 pm

Some Like it Hot

Directed by Billy Wilder
US 1959, 35 mm, b/w, 122 min. 
With Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe

In the best of the screwball tradition, Some Like It Hot is a fast, racy, and funny piece of nonsense that borrows from every period of movie comedy: most notably, primitive slapstick and Marx Brothers zaniness. Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, it is the story of two musicians who witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and try to elude their pursuers by joining an all-girl band heading for Miami. Sensational from start to finish, the film features dazzling performances by Lemmon and Curtis and a memorable comic turn by Marilyn Monroe as "Sugar Cane," the band's beautiful blonde singer who captivates the boys.

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August 4 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

Directed by Robert Young
US 1982, 35mm, color, 99 min.
With Edward James Olmos, James Gammon, Tom Bower 

Set at the turn of the century, this is the story of one of the most notorious manhunts in Texas history. Edward James Olmos stars as a young Mexican farmhand who, because of a linguistic miscommunication, kills a U.S. sheriff in self-defense and lights out for the border with the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit. The longer he evades capture, the more inflated the myth of his deed becomes and the more ironic the backlash that finally descends on the hapless, determinedly nonheroic Cortez. Beautifully shot and directed with great understatement, this is a film of considerable poignancy and compassion.

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August 4 (Saturday) 9 pm

Bullitt

Directed by Peter Yates
US 1968, 35mm, color, 113 min.
With Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall

Peter Yates's exciting police thriller contains one of the fastest and best produced car-chase sequences in the cinema; it redefined such scenes for years to come. Steve McQueen is the tough San Francisco detective who senses something awry behind an assignment to guard a criminal witness and soon becomes involved in the middle of Mafia dealings and political intervention. Robert L. Pike's novel Mute Witness was translated into almost purely cinematic terms: what the script lacks in originality is transcended by the direction, cinematography, and editing, which capture in gritty detail this cynical story of politics and policing in the City by the Bay.

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August 5 (Sunday) 7 pm

Camouflage (Barwy ochronne)

Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi
Poland 1977, 35mm, color, 106 min.
With Piotr Garlicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Mariusz Dmochowski
Polish with English subtitles

In Zanussi's sixth film, an arrogant professor challenges the independence of an idealistic teaching assistant. The story of machinations surrounding the awarding of a prize in linguistics, Camouflage revealed much about the corruption of scholarly life in Poland-despite the assertion of the Communist Party that there was no such school and no such professors. But the film's setting, a summer institute, also functioned as a microcosm of Polish society as a whole-surely the reason why Camouflage, although neither advertised nor reviewed when it opened in Poland in 1977, attracted more than a million viewers and became the director's first commercial success. Polish filmmakers today consider it the beginning of the "cinema of moral restlessness," which in the late 1970s included the best films of Kieslowski, Kijowski, Falk, and others.

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August 5 (Sunday) 9 pm

Possession

Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
France/West Germany 1981, 35mm, color, 127 min.
With Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent

After an extended business trip behind the Iron Curtain, a man returns home to suspect his wife of having an affair and soon realizes he has created a monster. From the first frame, Polish director Zulawski transmogrifies this domestic crisis into an unrelenting, over-the-top cinematic spectacle. A deeply unnerving tour-de-force, Possession benefits from an awe-inspiring performance by Isabelle Adjani that garnered the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the French César Award. Reduced to 82 minutes against the director's wishes upon its American release, we are pleased to present the original 127-minute version in all of its tumultuous glory.

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