May 13 (Monday) 7 pm
May 15 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Pedro Costa
France/Portugal 2001, 35mm, color, 109 min.
French with English subtitles
This film portrait presents an extraordinary look into the creative process of filmmaking through a case study of longtime collaborators Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, who are carefully observed at work reediting their recent feature Sicilia! as they teach a group of students at the National Studio of Contemporary Arts in Tourcoing. Costa meticulously records the dialectic, argumentative mode the filmmakers use to reach decisions about each cut. In a remarkable sequence, the two filmmakers have a standoff in virtual darkness (Huillet having switched off the Moviola that provides much of the illumination for Costa’s shooting). Equally compelling is the documentation of Straub’s close commentary on techniques from such diverse influences as Chaplin and Eisenstein. This remarkable documentary, an episode from the landmark series “Cinema of our Time,” is a brilliant examination of the art of editing and a meditation on the aesthetic and political implications of film technique.
Directed by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet
France 1999, 35mm, b/w, 66 min.
With Gianni Buscarino, Angela Nugara
Italian with English subtitles
Hailed by French film critic Serge Daney as “the last great filmmakers of the history of modern cinema,” Straub and Huillet have spent the past four decades creating a unique form of film that has assiduously dispensed with the “dull and boring naturalism” of the commercial medium. Sicilia! finds them in their favorite role as interpreters of a literary work that would never otherwise have reached the screen. In their adaptation of Elio Vittorini’s Conversazione in Sicilia, a politically charged novel banned by the Fascists in 1942, Straub and Huillet focus on a series of dialogues between Vittorini’s protagonist, an intellectual returning to his native Sicily after an extended absence, and the strangers, fellow train passengers, and former friends and family members he encounters.
June 4 (Tuesday) 7 pm
June 10 (Monday) 7 pm
Directed by Paul Cronin
UK 2001, video, color, 60 min.
Combining interviews with the principle figures involved in the production of Haskell Wexler’s groundbreaking hybrid of fact and fiction, Medium Cool, with background material from the tumultuous era, British film scholar Paul Cronin offers up a fascinating look at a complex film and the complex times in which it was made. Utilizing never-before-seen footage, Cronin brings us glimpses of actor Warren Beatty inside the 1968 convention hall in Chicago, the oratory of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, an interview with Chicago legend Studs Terkel, and Wexler’s own footage from the infamous convention riots—where a tear-gas canister lobbed in the direction of his camera accounts for the boundary-blurring quotation of the documentary’s title.
Directed by Haskell Wexler
US 1969, 35mm, color, 111 min.
With Robert Forster, Verna Bloom
The directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler, Medium Cool is a landmark independent production that makes canny use of documentary techniques in constructing a fiction feature. Set in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the narrative focuses on a television cameraman (Forster) who becomes personally involved with the people and stories he covers, including a black cabbie, a single mother from Appalachia (Bloom), and a group of protesters who clash with the police outside the convention hall. Designed as a “wedding between features and cinéma vérité,” Wexler’s attempt to smuggle political reality into a theatrical tale faced significant challenges from distributors, critics, and censors but has survived as an important witness to its times.
June 9 (Sunday) 7:30 pm
June 12 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by William Wyler
US 1939, 35mm, b/w, 104 min.
With Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, David Niven
This screening of Wyler’s celebrated adaptation of Emily Brontë’s classic romance is part of an ongoing national celebration of the centennial anniversary of the director’s birth, organized by his granddaughter. Made as a “prestige” picture for producer Samuel Goldwyn, the production sported an all-star cast and a screen adaptation by celebrated scenarists Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Wyler creates a supercharged atmosphere of suspense and foreboding in this Hollywood version of the tale of eternal love on the Yorkshire moors (recreated in the studio backlots of California). Olivier delivers a masterful performance as Heathcliff while Oberon captures the restless spirit of Cathy. The superb supporting cast, including Geraldine Fitzgerald, David Niven, Flora Robson, and Donald Crisp rounds out this classic studio version of a literary classic.