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July 9 - 16, 2002

Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive (Actors E - J)

The Harvard Film Archive pays homage to the art-house programs of a bygone era by assembling a summer season of double-feature screenings drawn from its extensive collection of 7,000 prints. This year, our alphabetical arrangement shifts from film directors to film actors: incomparable legends of the silent cinema and contemporary screen icons, the actresses and leading men of Hollywood and their international counterparts, mainstream stars and independent talents. Included are such electrifying performers as the legendary German actor Emil Jannings; British legends John Gielgud, Alec Guiness, and Lawrence Olivier; and a host of leading ladies from Jean Arthur to Barbara Stanwyck, Julie Christie to Elizabeth Taylor. Some of the film pairings allow us to bring together performers from distinct traditions; others contrast films from the same year or trace the evolution of acting styles. As usual, we have included celebrated art films (Wild Strawberries, Red Desert), masterpieces of silent cinema (The Last Laugh and The Passion of Joan of Arc), and classic comedies (Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Philadelphia Story). 

We again encourage your active participation by offering a single admission fee that provides entry to all the features for a given evening.

Actors A to Z: Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive is supported in part by the Harvard Extension School and the Summer School. Students 18 and under pay only $3.

July 9 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Anita Ekberg: La Dolce vita (The Sweet Life)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1960, 35mm, b/w, 176 min.
With Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée
Italian with English subtitles

Anita Ekberg plays the archetypical screen sex godess in this brilliant cinematic anatomy of the decrepit values of modern society. A society reporter for a Roman newspaper (Mastroianni) seeks meaning as he makes his way through the decadent world of the rich and famous, where emotions have been destroyed by surface realities, moral conventions, and unresolved guilt. Banned by the Catholic Church in many countries, La Dolce vita became an international sensation, perhaps more for its hedonist vision than for the critical acumen it conveys through its epic scale and episodic structure.

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July 10 (Wednesday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment

Marie Falconetti: The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc)

Directed by Carl-Theodor Dreyer
France 1928, 35 mm, b/w, silent, 100 min.
With Antonin Artaud, Michel Simon

The close-up of the tear-stained face of Marie Falconetti in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the most famous images in all of cinema. Based on authentic records of the eighteen-month-long trial of the fifteenth-century warrior-saint in Orléans, the film brings a rigorous formal style, exquisite cinematography, and striking architectural sets to bear on the moral questions that surround Joan, her judges, and her ultimate fate. Falconetti had never appeared in films before and would never act again, but her performance here is ranked among the greatest creations of cinema.

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July 10 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Frances Farmer: Come and Get It

Directed by Howard Hawks and William Wyler
US 1936, 35mm, b/w, 99 min.
With Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan 

The gifted but troubled Frances Farmer stars in this overlooked film, begun by Howard Hawks and completed by William Wyler. Based on the Edna Ferber novel of the same title, Come and Get It is a social melodrama that touches on issues of both class and generational conflict. Barney Glasgow abandons Lotta, the saloon singer he truly loves, to marry the boss’s daugther and become a forest-stripping timber baron in late nineteenth-century Wisconsin. Years later, he encounters Lotta’s daughter and battles his own son for her attentions. Farmer excels in the most challenging role of her career, giving a double performance as both mother and daughter.

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July 11 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 13 (Saturday) 7 pm 

Alec Guiness: Kind Hearts and Coronets

Directed by Robert Hamer
UK 1949, 35mm, b/w, 105 min.
With Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood

The blackest, and perhaps funniest, of all the comedies to have emerged from Britain’s Ealing Studios, Kind Hearts and Coronets was placed by French critic Georges Sadoul within the great satirical tradition of Swift, Thackeray, and Oscar Wilde. Louis Mazzini (Price) is the spurned member of a titled family who decides the only way to claim the dukedom is to kill off his more favored relatives. Alec Guiness’s masterful portrayals of the eight family members who fall victim to Mazzini’s murderous aspirations made him an international star.

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July 11 (Thursday) 9pm
July 13 (Saturday) 9 pm

John Gielgud: Prospero’s Books

Directed by Peter Greenaway
Netherlands/France/Italy/Japan/UK 1991, 35mm, color, 120 min.
With Michael Clark, Michel Blanc

Veteran stage and screen actor John Gielgud, considered one of the finest verse speakers in the English language, plays the lead role in Peter Greenaway’s dense and visually ravishing take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, lending his remarkable voice to nearly all the characters. (Gielgud was eighty-seven at the time.) The film structures its motifs around the twenty-four books Prospero took into exile—brought to life as remarkable videographic tomes on water, cosmology, pornography, ruins, music, and other subjects. It is this panoply of arcane knowledge that the Duke employs, along with his magical powers, to exact his revenge.

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July 12 (Friday) 7 pm
July 14 (Sunday) 7 pm

Gene Hackman: The Conversation

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
US 1974, 35mm, color, 113 min.
With Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation hit a deep social nerve in the proto-technological Watergate era, when political intrigue, taped conversations, and concern with surveillance loomed large in the public consciousness. Gene Hackman delivers a brilliant performance as Harry Caul, a pathologically private wiretapper who is haunted by a previous assignment that ended in murder. On a new case, he becomes convinced that those he is spying on are in grave danger and feels compelled to intervene.

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July 12 (Friday) 9:15 pm
July 14 (Sunday) 9:15 pm

Dustin Hoffman: Straw Dogs

Directed by Sam Peckinpah
UK 1971, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Susan George, Peter Vaughan

In director Sam Peckinpah’s first non-Western film, Dustin Hoffman plays a mild-mannered American mathematician who settles with his wife in her native Cornish village. Encountering hostility and then violence from the local community, he is ultimately forced to react. A relentless and unflinching examination of violence and machismo, Peckinpah’s film is shocking not only for its explicit gore but for the degree to which it manipulates audiences’ “civilized” expectations. In this disturbing (and, for many, questionable) parable on the path to “manhood,” Hoffman delivers one of his most layered film performances.

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July 15 (Monday) 7 pm
July 17 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Eric Idle: The Life of Brian

Directed by Terry Jones
UK 1979, 35mm, color, 93 min.
With Graham Chapman, John Cleese

The Monty Python troupe is at the top of its form in this hilarious assault on religious attidtudes. When the Three Wise Men arrive at the wrong manger on the night of Jesus’ birth, Brian Cohen is unwittingly launched into the role of Messiah. A satirical look at formulaic thinking and blind faith, The Life of Brian has become a classic of screwball satire for such singularly unorthodox scenarios as the music-hall rendition of “Look on the Bright Side of Life” that erupts at a crucifixion and such eminently fractured gospel as “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” The brilliant ensemble cast is enhanced by cameos from the likes of Spike Milligan and George Harrison.

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July 15 (Monday) 8:45 pm
July 17 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm

Jeremy Irons: Dead Ringers

Directed by David Cronenberg
Canada 1988, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Genevieve Bujold, Heidi von Palleske

This bizarre psychological thriller from horror director David Cronenberg chronicles the perverse relationship that develops between identical-twin gynecologists with very different personalities. The twins share everything, including an apartment and a fertility clinic, but a hedonistic actress enters their lives and drives a wedge between them for the first time. Cronenberg’s study of identity, sadomasochism, narcissism, and misogyny features a deliciously virtuoso double performance by Jeremy Irons, who dispenses precise doses of black humor and camp creepiness.

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July 16 (Tuesday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment

Emil Jannings: The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann)

Directed by F. W. Murnau
Germany 1924, 35mm, b/w, silent, 85 min.
With Maly Delschaft, Max Hiller

This tragic tale of an aging hotel doorman who is demoted to lavatory duty features a landmark expressionistic performance by the great character actor Emil Jannings, who imbues the character’s wounded pride with near-mythic resonance. The first film to bring German director Murnau to international acclaim, this silent film classic transforms the doorman’s humiliation in losing his cherished coat into a parable of the German obsession with the trappings of rank. The story is told without recourse to intertitles, relying instead on innovative visual exposition and the groundbreaking camerawork of Karl Freund.

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July 16 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm

Raul Julia: Kiss of the Spider Woman

Directed by Hector Babenco
Brazil/US 1985, 35mm, b/w and color, 119 min.
With William Hurt, Sonia Braga

A prison cell in a Latin American country under dictatorship unites two seemingly incompatible cellmates: Valentin, a left-wing political prisoner (Julia), and Luis, a gay window dresser (Hurt) whose entertaining recountings of Hollyood B-movie plots eventually softens his cellmate’s hostility. Based on Manuel Puig’s widely acclaimed novel of the same name, the film mixes flashback and fantasy with the compelling prison drama, ultimately relying on the electrifying chemistry between the principal actors for its considerable dramatic impact.

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