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September 12 - 29, 2003

Remembering Romy

The Austrian-born actress Romy Schneider (1938–1982) began her career as the teen-aged star of a series of popular films about the young Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth (“Sissi”). But the “German Shirley Temple” soon transformed herself into a sensual, intelligent young actress who garnered international attention when Italian director Luchino Visconti featured her in his segment of the 1962 omnibus film Boccaccio ’70. She rose to further prominence through a wide range of often challenging collaborations with some of the world’s most renowned film directors, including work with Orson Welles in The Trial, Otto Preminger in The Cardinal, Claude Sautet in Les Choses de la vie, Joseph Losey in The Assassination of Trotsky, and Bertrand Tavernier in Death Watch. Twenty years after her tragic and untimely passing, these films serve as a testament not only to her stunning screen presence but her great versatility as an actress.

The program is co-presented with the Goethe Institut, Boston; the German Consulate General, Boston; French Cultural Services, Boston; the Boston Public Library; the French Library and Cultural Center of Boston; and the National Center for Jewish Film.

For more information on the "The Faces of Romy Schneider" Program, check the Goethe Institut website.


September 12 (Friday) 7 pm
September 29 (Monday) 9 pm

The Trial (Le Procès)

Directed by Orson Welles
France/Italy/West Germany, 1962, b/w, 120 min.
With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider

Hailed upon its release as a masterpiece by European critics but dismissed as a failure by the British and American press, The Trial is arguably Welles's finest film after Citizen Kane (and with Kane, the only other film over which he exercised complete creative control). Welles's rendition of Franz Kafka's nightmarish story of a man arrested for a crime that is never explained to him features Anthony Perkins as Josef K., a "twitchy" individual pursued by a repressive bureaucracy, obsessed by an undefined guilt, and bewildered by the burden of living. Schneider takes on the role of Leni, K's sometime-lover. With its jazz sound track, its shadowy black-and-white cinematography, its angled close-ups, and its labyrinthine spaces, Welles's The Trial gives cinematic expression to Kafka's complex parable of contemporary existence.

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September 14 (Sunday) 7 pm
September 19 (Friday) 9 pm

The Passerby (La Passante du Sans-Souci)

Directed by Jacques Rouffio
France/West Germany, 1982, color, 110 min.
With Romy Schneider, Michel Piccoli, Helmut Griem
French with English subtitles

When noted human rights activist Max Baumstein (Piccoli) is tried for the murder of a South American politician, he is forced to confront the horrors of his past life in Nazi-occupied France—including the death of his parents in a concentration camp. In Schneider’s final film before her tragic death, she stars in dual roles as both Lina, Baumstein’s wife, and Elsa, the German refugee recalled in the activist’s flashback who helped save him from the Germans. Director Rouffio delicately explores the emotional scars of life in postwar Europe.

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September 12 (Friday) 7 pm
September 15 (Monday) 9 pm

The Things of Life (Les Choses de la vie)

Directed by Claude Sautet
France/Italy/Switzerland, 1969, color, 89 min.
With Romy Schneider, Michel Piccoli, Léa Massari
French with English subtitles

A high-speed automobile crash provides the impetus for a prominent architect (Piccoli) to reevaluate his relationship with both his estranged wife (Massari) and his mistress (Schneider). As the architect drifts into and out of consciousness, Sautet reveals his character’s obsessions with the mundane aspects of life and his inability to completely break from his marriage or make a firm commitment to his new lover. Sautet demonstrates his mastery of the exploration of romantic entanglements by focusing on the more intimate, less eventful moments shared by his characters.

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September 13 (Saturday) 9 pm
September 22 (Monday) 9 pm

The Swimming Pool (La Piscine)

Directed by Jacques Deray
France/Italy, 1969, color, 120 min.
With Romy Schneider, Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet
French with English subtitles

 

Former off-screen lovers Delon and Schneider were reunited on screen for this psychological thriller set against the Mediterranean splendor of Saint-Tropez. The two lovers find their languorous summer respite upset by the arrival of an old boyfriend (Ronet) with his daughter (Jane Birkin) in tow, an encounter that ignites old hostilities between the male rivals. Schneider proves to be the most compelling piece of the unlikely romantic entanglement and provides a cool, understated performance opposite the brooding Delon. The film also served as reunion of sorts for Delon and Ronet, who previously co-starred together in René Clément’s Purple Noon.

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September 14 (Sunday) 7 pm
September 19 (Friday) 9 pm

Ludwig

Directed by Luchino Visconti
France/Italy/West Germany, 1972, color, 137 min.
With Romy Schneider, Helmut Berger, Trevor Howard
English language version

Visconti’s lush biopic of Ludwig II of Bavaria centers on the tormented and reluctant reign of the “mad king” (Berger), whose artistic tastes and excesses nearly bankrupted his country. The film features Romy Schneider (in a reprisal of her ingenue role as Princess Elisabeth of Austria) as Ludwig’s cousin, with whom he engaged in a passionate, platonic relationship despite his equal passion for men, and Trevor Howard as famed composer Richard Wagner, who took advantage of the king’s patronage to advance his own career. Originally released in a three-hour version and later expanded to four hours for television broadcast, this condensed version offers a more concise portrayal of the king’s notorious exploits.

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September 19 (Friday) 7 pm
September 21 (Sunday) 9 pm

Sissi

Directed by Ernst Marischka
Austria, 1955, color, 102 min.
With Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm, Magda Schneider
German with English subtitles

Perhaps the quintessential Heimatfilm, Sissi resembles a kind of mass, popular dream: a Bavarian princess meets, falls in love with, and eventually marries the Austrian emperor Franz Josef. It was the sort of perfect idyll that allowed audiences to forget the strains they faced in reconstructing a country destroyed in World War II. The landscape of the Alps, where the couple meets, is indispensable to the romantic aspects of the story; the sets and costumes at the Vienna court are extravagant; and the marriage scene—the film’s high point—gives way to a marvelous operetta. A large part of the film’s success was due to the luminous beauty of then seventeen-year-old Schneider. Sissi and its two sequels made Schneider the darling of the film-going public.

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September 20 (Saturday) 7 pm
September 26 (Friday) 7 pm

The Cardinal

Directed by Otto Preminger
US, 1963, color, 175 min.
With Romy Schneider, Tom Tryon, Carol Lynley

The limits of Catholic guilt are explored in Otto Preminger’s epic tale of a young priest from Boston (Tryon) and his journey from the seminary to the heights of the religious establishment. Preminger’s flair for narrative is on full display in this transcontinental saga that presciently, and frankly, examines concerns about issues both within the Church (abortion, adultery) and beyond (racism, anti-Semitism). Romy Schneider stars as the young Austrian student who tests the virtue of the ambitious priest.

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