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February 5 (Tuesday) 7 pm

The Earrings of Madame De... (Madame de...)

Directed by Max Ophüls
France/Italy 1953, 35mm, b/w, 102 min.
With Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, Vittorio de Sica
French with English subtitles

With his characteristic use of long tracking shots that transcend space and his ability to coax sensitive performances from his actors, Max Ophüls created in The Earrings of Madame de... what film critic Andrew Sarris has described as “the most perfect film ever made.” The story follows the movement of a pair of diamond earrings that a debt-laden socialite (Darrieux) pawns back to their maker. Originally commissioned by her husband (Boyer) and given to her the day after her wedding, the earrings pass through a series of hands only to wind up back in the woman’s possession.

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February 6 (Wednesday) 7 pm

A Trick of the Light (Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky)

Directed by Wim Wenders
Germany 1995, 16mm, b/w and color, 80 min.
With Udo Kier, Nadine Büttner
German with English subtitles 

Six weeks before the Lumière brothers’ legendary screening in Paris of the “first” motion picture, three German brothers in Berlin screened eight film loops. In between the acrobatics and juggling that also occupied their life, Max, Eugen, and Emil Skladanowsky had invented the bioskop. A century later, internationally renowned filmmaker Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, The Buena Vista Social Club) resurrects these little-known pioneers in this whimsical and touching film. With the help of his students from the Munich Film Academy, Wenders captures their story with a mix of documentary and recreated footage--much of it shot silent at eighteen frames per second with a vintage, hand-cranked camera.

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February 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Notebook on Cities and Clothes

Directed by Wim Wenders
Germany 1989, 35mm on video, color, 79 min.

As its title suggests, Notebook on Cities and Clothes is more a gathering of ruminations than a documentary. Commissioned by the Centre Pompidou to document Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, director Wenders created a film essay that goes far beyond fashion as it explores the analogies between designing clothes and assembling a movie. The work is a poetic kaleidoscope of two artists, the designer and the director, and of two metropolises, Tokyo and Paris, whose architecture of light and astonishing perspectives mediate their respective crafts. Notebook was among Wenders’s first experiments in video, and the diaristic immediacy of the digital form became an important tool in the filmmaker’s subsequent feature work.


February 13 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Germany, Year Zero (Germania, Anno Zero)

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy/Germany 1947, 35mm, b/w, 78 min.
With Edmund Meschke, Ernst Pittau, Franz Grüger
German with English subtitles

The third installment of Rossellini’s war trilogy (following Rome, Open City and Paisan) was, according to its director, “an attempt to discover the real reasons which had driven the Germans to act as they had done.” Using nonprofessional actors and a neorealist style, the film is cast in the likeness of its young protagonist, Edmund, and the devastated city in which he lives. Rossellini conceived the film around the final scenes of Edmund wandering in the ruins of Berlin. This long final sequence marks the end of a narrative trajectory that begins as documentary reportage but becomes ever more hallucinatory, charting a journey through a strange and devastated landscape.

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Live Piano Accompaniment
February 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm

L'Invitation au Voyage

Directed by Germaine Dulac
France 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 36 min.
With Emma Gynt, Raymond Dubreuil, Robert Mirfeuil

One of the major figures of the French film avant-garde of the 1920s and an early feminist, Germaine Dulac combined narratives of psychological realism with the visual techniques of the French Surrealist movement. In the rarely screened L’Invitation au Voyage, she employs a minimum of plot and maximum of atmosphere to convey her tale of the intense desire generated between a bored young wife and a handsome naval officer who meet in a Paris cabaret.

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Live Piano Accompaniment
Screens with L'Invitation au Voyage (see above)

The Fall of the House of Usher (La Chute de la maison Usher)

Directed by Jean Epstein
France 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 63 min.
With Marguerite Denis-Gance, Jean Debucourt, Charles Lamy

Working from several of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories (including The Oval Portrait), French avant-garde visionary Jean Epstein crafted what is still considered to be one of the most accomplished film adaptations of the writer’s phantasmagoric work. As Roderick Usher paints his wife’s portrait, she steadily succumbs to an unknown malady. It is a Pygmalion story in reverse, in which the painting draws away the life of the model. Crafting the story more from striking visual elements--slow motion, superimposition, mobile compositions--than such conventional dramatic elements as acting and narrative exposition, Epstein created what French archivist and historian Henri Langlois once called “the cinematic equivalent of Debussy.”

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Live Piano Accompaniment
February 20 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin)

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein
USSR 1925, 35mm, b/w, silent, 75 min.
With Grigori Alexandrov, Vladimir Barsky, Alexander Antonov

The soviet silent cinema of the 1920s represented a great creative moment in the history of cinema, and Battleship Potemkin is often regarded as its supreme achievement. In rendering his account of the 1905 Black Sea mutiny and the sympathetic response it received from the people of Odessa, Eisenstein makes brilliant use of montage--the juxtaposition of individual shots--both to provide drama through subtle alterations of space and time and to create striking metaphoric relationships that bolster his political arguments. The film’s formal beauty is balanced by the stark power and humanity of its realist depiction of the suppression of an outraged populace.

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February 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Stromboli (Stromboli, Terra di Dio)

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1949, 35mm, b/w, 107 min.
With Ingrid Bergman, Mario Vitale, Renzo Cesana
Italian with English subtitles

The first of five Rossellini films to star Ingrid Bergman, Stromboli was created, according to its director, to illustrate that “one of the toughest lessons from [World War II] is the danger of aggressive egotism.” The film paints a desolate portrait of a spoiled wartime Baltic refugee named Karin (Bergman) who marries a poor fisherman as a means of escape, only to discover that he makes his home on the slope of an active volcano. Smoke and steam transform the film and--ultimately--Karin as she travels across the unstable island alone. Rossellini’s lush ending, with its subtly choreographed movements and sunlit compositions, reveals Karin’s final epiphany about herself and her future.

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February 27 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Eclipse (L'Eclisse)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Italy/France 1962, 35mm, b/w, 125 min.
With Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal
Italian with English subtitles

In this final installment of the trilogy that began with L’Avventura and La Notte, Antonioni again presents a middle-class couple in crisis, here against the closely observed background of the urban environment. After an initial breakup with her lover, Vittoria (Vitti) drifts into the classic Antonioni condition, wandering aimlessly through an alienating milieu. In what is perhaps his most compelling deployment of the architectural setting, Antonioni displays an unparalleled visual style, using spatial perspective and graphic delineation to create his vision of the modern world. In the film’s famous final sequence, the narrative space of the story is revisited in the absence of its characters, suggesting perhaps, as George Sadoul has noted, the nature of solitude as man’s accustomed state.

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