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November 4 - December 16, 2003

Topics in Film
Classics of World Cinema



November 4 (Monday) 7 pm

Zero for Conduct (Zéro de conduite)

Directed by Jean Vigo
France 1933, 35mm, b/w, 45 min.
With Jean Dasté, Louis Lefébvre
French with English subtitles

Jean Vigo’s first fiction film—an anarchic, disorienting vision of life in a French boarding school—was banned for anti-French sentiment and reissued in 1945 after the liberation. Drawn from Vigo’s own childhood experiences, the film focuses on four schoolboys who, fed up by the petty restrictions imposed on them, organize a revolt. One of the great subversive works of the cinema, it is an eloquent parable of freedom versus authority.

L’Âge d’or (The Golden Age)

Directed by Luis Buñuel
France 1930, 35mm, b/w, 80 min.
With Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Max Ernst
French with English subtitles

The final collaboration between Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali, this remarkable work was banned for years after fascist and anti-Semitic groups staged a stink-bomb and ink-throwing riot in the Paris theater where it was shown. A Surrealist exposé of the social institutions that stifle human passion, the film features Gaston Modot as a sort of Surrealist "everyman" who attempts to liberate himself from every morality: he kicks a dog, strikes a blind man, slaps the mother of his beloved, and flings a burning Christmas tree out a window. The film concludes with its most scandalous sequence, in which a group of depraved men—all of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to Jesus—emerge from the debauchery of "120 Days of Sodom."

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November 11 (Monday) 7 pm

Trouble in Paradise

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
US 1932, 35mm, b/w, 83 min.
With Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall

Lubitsch’s personal favorite among his works, Trouble in Paradise is the ultimate sophisticated adult comedy. Working from a Samson Raphaelson script peppered with spicy verbal badinage, the great emigré director adds his patented "Lubitsch Touch" with vibrant performances, precision-timed editing, and artful visual innuendo—in which the seen cleverly suggests that which censors of the time required to be unseen. In Venice two jewel thieves (Marshall and Hopkins) meet and fall in love, then join the household of a rich widow (Francis) in order to rob her. Amorous complications follow. Lubitsch manages to make this ensemble of sexually active, morally questionable characters undeniably endearing.

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November 25 (Monday) 7 pm

The Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu)

Directed by Jean Renoir
France 1939, 35mm, b/w, 113 min.
With Marcel Dalio, Nora Grégor, Jean Renoir
French with English subtitles

 

In his stinging appraisal of the erotic charades of the French leisure class before World War II, Jean Renoir satirizes the manners and mores of a society near collapse. Banned on its initial release as "too demoralizing" and made available again in its original form only in 1956, The Rules of the Game has come to be regarded as one of the great masterworks of the cinema. Alternating between farce and melodrama, realism and tragedy, the film centers on a lavish country-house party given by a marquis and his wife. The complicated intrigues of the upper-class guests are mirrored by the activities of the servants, a brilliant narrative device that has served as the template for generations of films that examine class structure.

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December 2 (Monday) 7 pm

Day of Wrath (Vredens dag)

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Denmark 1943, 35mm, b/w, 110 min.
With Thorkild Roose, Lisbeth Movin
Danish with English subtitles

Made during the darkest days of the Nazi occupation of Denmark, Day of Wrath portrays a society terrorized by ideology and by a ruthless police force and judicial system. Set in a seventeenth-century town whose citizens harbor hyperbolic fears of witchcraft, and where both young lovers and an older generation struggle with questions of morality and justice, the film speaks unmistakably to the contemporary situation in Europe.

Poetic use of landscape and architecture lend an atmospheric intensity and visual beauty to the film that draws on elements of an older Scandinavian cinema. Like such other Dreyer masterpieces as The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr, Days of Wrath creates intense moral drama from the most economic but powerful cinematic means.

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December 9 (Monday) 7 pm

Rome, Open City (Roma, citta aperta)

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1945, 35mm, b/w, 105 min.
With Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi
Italian with English subtitles

Made in the last days and immediate aftermath of World War II, Rossellini’s masterpiece initiated the movement known as Italian neorealism. Shooting on location and using a mix of nonprofessional actors and professionals playing against type (Magnani, Fabrizi), Rossellini presents a picture of Rome and its ordinary people struggling to survive under German occupation. Day-to-day life alternates with heroics, and we see a rare period of cooperation between Catholic clergy and Communist Party resitance in the face of the common enemy. The group predominates over individuals as Rossellini’s improvisational, documentary-like style gives unforgettable presence to the city of Rome at a particular moment in history.

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December 16 (Monday) 7 pm

The Lady from Shanghai

Directed by Orson Welles
US 1948, 35mm, b/w, 84 min.
With Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles

Welles brings his metaphysical and psychological preoccupations, as well as his heated camera and editing style, to the genre of film noir in this story of a Spanish Civil War veteran and adventurer (played by the director himself) who falls for a charismatic but dangerous woman (Hayworth, Welles’s wife at the time). She leads him into an abyss of personal intrigue and moral bankruptcy that famously climaxes in a chase through a Chinese theater and a gun battle in a funhouse with large, distorting mirrors.With spectacular location shooting in San Francisco and Acapulco, the film nevertheless becomes a largely mental or spiritual space, a landscape of pure romantic ecstasy and existential uncertainty.

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