The Harvard Film Archive once again 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. This year, we take a largely thematic approach to our alphabetical arrangement, making our selections on the basis of such rubrics as E is for Exploitation!, featuring Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Possession; W is for Women’s Pictures, pairing George Cukor’s The Women with Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; and Z is for Zombies, resurrecting Night of the Living Dead and I Walked with a Zombie. These thematic offerings are supplemented by the occasional selection of a program based on a particular author (P is for Polanski) or actor (S is for Simply Sellers). As usual, we have included celebrated art films (Zero for Conduct and Jour de fête), masterpieces of silent cinema (The Crowd and The Last Laugh), and more recent international hits (Camila and Betty Blue).
Cinema A to Z: Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive is supported in part by the Harvard Extension School and the Summer School, whose students are offered the special admission fee of $3 per double feature. For all others, a single regular admission fee provides entrance to both features on a given night.
July 1 (Tuesday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by King Vidor
US 1928, 16mm, b/w, silent, 104 min.
With James Murray, Eleanor Boardman, Bert Roach
Born on July 4, 1900, John Sims seems destined for a charmed life until a series of unfortunate events quickly changes his fate. As he struggles to make a life for himself and his family amidst the harsh realities of corporate America, he is forced to succumb to the mundane routine of office life. Released on the eve of the Great Depression, Vidor’s sharp social commentary raises questions about both the dominance of industrialization and the rise of the modern metropolis. Although strongly influenced by the German Expressionist works of Murnau and Lang, The Crowd is notable for its extensive location shooting in New York City (including hidden camera shots) and its naturalistic visual style, both of which produce a vivid portrait of the city and its social stratification.
July 1 (Tuesday) 9 pm
Directed by Robert Altman
US 1971, 35mm, color, 121 min.
With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, René Auberjonois
Warren Beatty stars as McCabe, a mumbling braggart and gambler who partners with a cynical Cockney with a penchant for opium (Christie) on a venture to open a whorehouse and saloon. Altman’s foray into the Western is notable not simply as a revisionist take on the genre but as a blatant rejection of its heroic archetypes. Although the film is set in the nineteenth century, the pervasive tone of bitterness, whether in the moody Leonard Cohen sound track or the opportunistic nature of many of the central characters, is very much a product of Nixon-era languor.
July 2 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
US 1986, 35mm, b/w, 107 min.
With John Lurie, Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni
When a small-time hustler (Lurie) and an out-of-work deejay (Waits) are respectively framed for crimes they did not commit, the jaded pair is assigned to a prison cell inhabited by an energetic Italian tourist (Benigni). With a fondness for Walt Whitman, "Bob" Frost, and American catchphrases, the Benigni character provides the perfect foil to the deadpan of both Lurie and Waits. Employing the musical talents of his two lead actors and endless tracking shots through the streets of New Orleans, Jarmusch crafts an offbeat homage to the vintage prison film.
July 2 (Wednesday) 9 pm
Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1959, 16mm, b/w, 130 min.
With Vittorio De Sica, Sandra Milo, Hannes Messemer
Italian with English subtitles
In one of Rossellini’s overlooked masterpieces, Vittorio De Sica stars as Emanuele Bartone, a petty con artist coerced by the Germans into posing as a Resistance fighter in order to infiltrate and expose the leaders of the underground. As the morally corrupt Bartone assumes his new persona and enacts the leader’s more principled characteristics, he eventually becomes inspired to join his fellow countrymen in the fight against the Nazis. Considered to be Rossellini’s strongest post-Bergman work, the film resonated with audiences for its explorations of war and resistance as well as its theme of redemption.
July 3 (Thursday) 7 pm
Directed by René Clément
France 1952, 16mm, b/w, 102 min.
With Brigitte Fossey, Georges Poujoly, Amédée
French with English subtitles
After witnessing the death of her parents and beloved dog during an air attack as her family flees the Nazi invasion of France, a young girl is taken in by a peasant family. She develops a strong kinship with the family’s youngest son, who joins her in constructing a cemetery to memorialize her pet and other animals—a crude memorial to the victims of war. In this poignant tale of loss and remembrance, Clément captures the hardships of war through the perspective of his compelling child actors. Controversial in its own time, the film was excluded from the Cannes festival but nevertheless found broad critical acclaim.
July 3 (Thursday) 9 pm
Directed by Louis Malle
France 1973, 35mm, color, 133 min.
With Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clément, Holger Löwenadler
French with English subtitles
Based loosely on the experiences of a Nazi collaborator who lived in the director’s family home during the German occupation, Lacombe Lucien was one of the first of Louis Malle’s many explorations of the darker side of the human psyche. Malle took a tremendous risk by casting a seventeen-year-old non-actor (Blaise) to play the role of Lucien, a teenager prevented from joining the Resistance because of his age who is then easily recruited by the other side. Malle’s early experience working with Bresson on A Man Escaped can be seen here in the claustrophobic details of Lucien’s daily rounds as he informs on his compatriots and collaborates with the German Gestapo. Yet the director creates moral complexity in the character, whose naive embrace of the power of fascism is tempered by his discovery of feelings for the daughter of the Jewish tailor he is persecuting.
July 4 (Friday) 7 pm
July 5 (Saturday) 9 pm
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
UK 1946, 35mm, b/w and color, 104 min.
With David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey
Beginning with an advisory title warning viewers that "any resemblance to any other worlds, known or unknown, is purely coincidental," this Powell-Pressburger fantasy is that rarest of cinematic achievements—a sophisticated romance with an extraordinary visual design. The story concerns an RAF squadron leader (Niven) who establishes radio contact with an American WAC (Hunter) shortly before abandoning his burning plane over the English Channel. By rights he should have perished, but in this otherworldly tale he receives a reprieve from a heavenly tribunal and begins to pursue the woman whose voice had guided him home.
July 4 (Friday) 9 pm
July 5 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by Robert Bresson
France 1962, 16mm, b/w, 57 min.
With Florence Delay, Jean-Claude Fourneau, Roger Honorat
French with English subtitles
Robert Bresson chronicles the final days in the life of Joan of Arc in a matter-of-fact, ritualistic interpretation of this legendary tale. Like DreyerÕs The Passion of Joan of Arc, the film is based on the actual transcripts from the trial. Lacking the emotional intensity of the great Falconetti, Florence Delay provides a far more sober reading of Joan, quietly struggling with both the demands of her church and her spiritual calling. In his direct, repetitious machinations, Bresson captures the cold voyeuristic spectacle of his heroine which continues to fascinate viewers.
July 6 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Russ Meyer
US 1970, 35mm, color, 109 min.
With Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom
Three girls come to the big city with dreams of rock stardom. Under the tutelage of a mysterious yet hedonistic business manager they become the Carrie Nations and experience all of the excesses of Hollywood. With a screenplay penned by film critic Roger Ebert, soft-core auteur Meyer’s first major studio production provides an outrageous satire on the obsession with celebrity in mainstream society and the freewheeling indulgences of the hippie counterculture. Designed as a sequel of sorts to Jacqueline Susann’s best-selling novel and its film adaptation, Meyer’s movie turns the soapy conventions of its predecessor inside out. Rather than simply exploiting provocative material such as drug addiction, alternative sexualities, and suicide for entertainment value, the film raises serious questions about society’s lurid fascination with these topics.
July 6 (Sunday) 9 pm
Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
France/West Germany 1981, 35mm, color, 127 min.
With Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent
After an extended business trip behind the Iron Curtain, a man returns home to suspect his wife of having an affair and soon realizes he has created a monster. From the first frame, Polish director Zulawski transmogrifies this domestic crisis into an unrelenting, over-the-top cinematic spectacle. A deeply unnerving tour-de-force, Possession benefits from an awe-inspiring performance by Isabelle Adjani that garnered the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival and a French César Award. Reduced to 82 minutes against the director’s wishes upon its American release, we are pleased to present the original 127-minute version in all its tumultuous glory.
July 7 (Monday) 7 pm
Directed by Erich von Stroheim
US 1927, 16mm, b/w, silent, 109 min.
With Erich von Stroheim, Fay Wray, ZaSu Pitts
An impoverished Viennese aristocrat with a playboy past (von Stroheim himself) falls for a poor girl (Wray), much to the dismay of his family, who have arranged for him to marry the crippled daughter of a business tycoon (Pitts). Like many of the director’s masterworks, the complete version of The Wedding March no longer exists: a nervous studio executive destroyed the second half of the film. Even as it stands, this abbreviated version provides great resonance, thanks to von Stroheim’s trademark flourishes evoking the decadence of pre–World War I imperial Austria.
July 7 (Monday) 9 pm
Directed by María Luisa Bemberg
Argentina 1984, 35mm, color, 107 min.
With Susú Pecoraro, Imanol Arias, Héctor Alterio
Spanish with English subtitles
Set in 1840s Buenos Aires, Camila chronicles the ill-fated romance between a Jesuit priest and the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Fearing reprisal from both their families and the leaders of the Church, the young lovers flee the city and decide to run a children’s school in a small village. Based on actual events, the film strikes a curious balance between wildly melodramatic moments and darkly comic realism. Bemberg’s passionate narrative reflects the oppression both of the Rosas-era government of the mid-nineteenth century, which tyrannically upheld the order of Church and State, and of Argentina’s contemporary reigning military dictatorship in the 1980s.
July 8 (Tuesday) 7 pm
July 9 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer
UK 1945, 35mm, b/w, 104 min.
With Mervyn Johns, Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers
In one of the greatest horror anthologies ever produced, Mervyn Johns stars as an architect summoned to work on a Victorian country house inhabited by a cast of characters who have been infiltrating his own recurring nightmares. Among the most chilling of the film’s five sequences is Michael Redgrave’s turn as a ventriloquist tormented by his evil dummy. Produced by Ealing Studios, a company better known for its sardonic comedies, and based on a collection of stories by acclaimed British writers such as H. G. Wells and E. F. Benson, the film remains surprisingly frightful thanks to some ingenious plot turns by the talented cadre of filmmakers.
July 8 (Tuesday) 9 pm
July 9 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Sweden 1967, 35mm, b/w, 89 min.
With Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin
Swedish with English subtitles
In Bergman’s only true horror film, an artist living in seclusion on an island is haunted by visions of his past misdeeds, as recounted in flashback by his wife. Tormented by insomnia, he compels her to stay awake with him until "the hour of the wolf"—the time just before sunrise in which people die and children are born. For the artist, this time proves to be one in which his most troubled visions can be produced and his most soulful confessions can be made. Bergman set the film on Fårö, where the director has long resided. The island’s barren landscapes provide a striking backdrop for the genuinely frightening imagery that marks the painter’s descent into madness.
July 10 (Thursday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Alexander Dovzhenko
USSR 1929, 35mm, b/w, silent, 99 min.
With Semyon Svashenko, A. Buchma, Mikola Nademsky
Based on an actual historical incident, Arsenal focuses on the failed January 1918 Bolshevik uprising and the struggles of a group of pro-Bolshevik workers to defend a munitions plant in Kiev against Ukrainian national forces. Dovzhenko uses the historical context to construct a parable about the assimilation of Ukraine into modern Soviet society. Although the film’s overt focus is on the struggle between the warring groups, Dovzhenko artfully employs an array of visuals from Ukrainian folklore to chronicle the transition from the traditional to the modern. Despite the film’s oblique narrative structure, it stands as one of the finest and most lyrical works of the Soviet silent cinema.
This screening is co-presented by the Harvard Ukranian Research Institute.
July 10 (Thursday) 9 pm
Directed by Michael Verhoeven
West Germany 1989, 35mm, b/w and color, 94 min.
With Lena Stoltze, Hans-Reinhard Müller, Monika Baumgartner
German with English subtitles
After a Bavarian schoolgirl writes an award-winning essay that earns her a trip to Paris she decides to follow up her efforts with a piece on the history of her town. In the process, she discovers some nasty secrets about her forefathers and their complicity with the Nazis. Despite the hostility and ostracism she and her family experience, she remains undeterred in her pursuit of the village’s darkest secrets. Verhoeven’s clever use of visual techniques such as rear-screen projection provides an ironic commentary on the false facade of normalcy projected by Germany at the end of the Cold War. The film was based on the writings of Anja Rosmus, a young writer who discovered direct links to Hitler and Eichmann in her hometown of Passau.
July 11 (Friday) 7 pm
July 12 (Saturday) 7 pm - Introduced by David Kessler, Director of the Centre National de la Cinématographie
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
France 1965, 35m, color, 110 min.
With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Dirk Sanders
French with English subtitles
In this stunning exploration of personal and global violence, Godard depicts the picaresque journey across France of a disaffected Everyman and his girlfriend, who become involved in criminal activities along the way. The film includes direct references to Angola, Vietnam, and South Africa as it employs a dramatic and symbolic use of color. The film’s abstracted directorial style is perhaps best explained by the director’s response to the question of why it contains so much blood: "It is not blood but red." The film also features brief appearances by director Sam Fuller and actor Jean-Pierre Léaud.
July 11 (Friday) 9 pm
July 12 (Saturday) 9 pm
Directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix
France 1986, color, 35mm, 130 min.
With Béatrice Dalle, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Gérard Darmon
French with English subtitles
Beineix’s torrid tale of passion focuses on the reckless relationship between a Riviera handyman who dreams of becoming a writer and a disgruntled waitress careening toward madness. While she takes him on a journey that opens new possibilities for his staid, provincial life, their path ultimately leads to her own undoing. Explosively erotic, this is a flamboyant hymn to youthful abandon, emotional excess, and romanticized self-destruction. Although the film gained most of its notoriety for its graphic depiction of sexuality, Beineix’s work can now be seen, along with the films of his contemporary Léos Carax, as a hyper-realist view of the darker side of romance.
This program is co-presented by French Cultural Services, Boston.
July 13 (Sunday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by F. W. Murnau
Germany 1924, 35mm, b/w, silent, 85 min.
With Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft
This tragic tale of an aging hotel doorman who is demoted to lavatory duty features a landmark Expressionist 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 at 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.
July 13 (Sunday) 9 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
US 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 88 min.
With Emil Jannings, Evelyn Brent
The first of von Sternberg’s American masterpieces, The Last Command relates the story of a Czarist general defeated in the Russian Revolution who finds himself down and out in Hollywood, where he works as an extra in a film about the very political upheaval that stripped him of power. Perfectly cast, the film features a gripping, Oscar-winning performance by Emil Jannings (two years prior to his work with von Sternberg in The Blue Angel). Like all of von Sternberg’s films, this glittering, sophisticated work, as critic Tony Rayns has noted, is "expertly poised between satire and ‘absurd’ melodrama." American director Preston Sturges once referred to it as about the only perfect film he had ever seen.
This program is co-presented by the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes, Boston.
July 14 (Monday) 7 pm
July 15 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Jack Clayton
UK 1959, 35mm, b/w, 117 min.
With Laurence Harvey, Simone Signoret, Heather Sears
Laurence Harvey stars as a lowly accountant determined to transcend his modest background and achieve success. He begins dating his boss’s daughter as a means to climb the corporate ladder, all the while carrying on a secret affair with a married woman. Despite warnings from family and friends who urge him to stick to his working-class roots, he continues his opportunistic pursuits to their fateful resolutions. Set amidst the dreary blight of Northern England, the film’s acclaimed sexual candor seems relatively tame by today’s standards. Nevertheless, Room at the Top remains a powerful document of British social realism and an exemplar of the genre known as "kitchen sink" for its portrayal of working-class realities. Simone Signoret’s moving performance as Lampton’s doomed paramour won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
July 14 (Monday) 9:15 pm
July 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Karel Reisz
UK 1960, 35mm, b/w, 89 min.
With Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field, Rachel Roberts
"Don’t let the bastards grind you down" became the clarion call for a generation of angry young men who embraced this seminal work of the British New Wave. Based on a novel by Alan Sillitoe, the film stars Albert Finney as a defiant factory worker rallying against an oppressive class structure in 1950s Nottingham. When his reckless romantic pursuits get him into trouble, he must choose between his boisterous carousing and a more conventional life. Director Karel Reisz (who passed away last year) uses documentary-style realism to chronicle everyday life in industrial Britain and intimate close-ups to offer privileged access to the human sentiment beneath these harsh exteriors.
July 16 (Wednesday) 7 pm
July 17 (Thursday) 9 pm
Directed by François Truffaut
France 1971, 35mm, color, 108 min.
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Kika Markham, Stacey Tendeter
French with English subtitles
In this story of a turn-of-the-century ménage à trois, a Parisian belle époque writer romances two English sisters on the Welsh coastline over the course of several years. Reversing the relationship structure in Truffaut’s earlier film Jules and Jim, Two English Girls provides an insightful look at the growing yet tenuous bond between each of the lovers and the impossibility of a satisfactory resolution. Produced shortly after his brief affair with Catherine Deneuve ended, Truffaut’s work reflects his own skeptical view of romantic love and was considered to be his most personal work since The 400 Blows. The film’s warm hues were captured by acclaimed cinematographer Nestor Almendros.
July 16 (Wednesday) 9 pm
July 17 (Thursday) 7 pm
Directed by Claude Sautet
France 1991, 35mm, color, 104 min.
With Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Béart, André Dussollier
French with English subtitles
The bond between two old friends—Stephane, a violin craftsman (Auteuil), and Maxime, his boss (Dussollier)—is tested by the arrival of Camille, a young concert violinist (Béart). Maxime falls madly in love with Camille and decides to leave his wife for her. Meanwhile, Camille develops strong feelings for Stephane, who appears to be unable to return her affections. While the scenario for unfulfilled love may be familiar to moviegoers, Sautet handles it masterfully by encouraging understated performances from his three leads. Like the Ravel pieces over which Camille obsesses, the film becomes a series of musical exchanges, whether as duets or trios, through which complex shadings of character are revealed.
July 18 (Friday) 7 pm
July 19 (Saturday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Jacques Tati
France 1948, 35mm, color, 76 min.
With Jacques Tati, Guy Decomble, Paul Frankeur
French with English subtitles
The debut feature by Jacques Tati, France’s answer to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, Jour de fête follows the bungling adventures of a small-town mailman who, after hearing about the efficiency of the American postal service, decides that it is time to emulate it in France. His manic new delivery system sets out to modernize but brings about the opposite result. Tati provides brilliant performance as well as direction as he mixes physical comedy with keen observational humor. This is the reissued "splash color" version, an early experimental color-film process Tati shot along with the original 35mm black-and-white version.
July 18 (Friday) 8:30 pm
July 19 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by John Huston
US 1969, 35mm, color, 121 min.
With Patrick O’Neal, Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow
An unlikely assemblage of American spies is sent to Moscow to recover a highly sensitive document sent by an American official that could lead to war with China. This Cold War–era thriller was made during one of Huston’s darker periods and reflects a cynical view of American heroism. In addition to Bergman stalwarts Andersson and von Sydow, the all-star cast features Dean Jagger, Richard Boone, Orson Welles as the head of the Soviet politburo, and George Sanders as a drag queen with expertise in espionage.
July 20 (Sunday) 7 pm
July 21 (Monday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Herbert Ross
US 1972, 35mm, color, 86 min.
With Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
After a neurotic film critic with a passion for Bogart (Allen) is dumped by his wife, he finds himself unable to maintain stable relationships with women and enters into a series of dates that fail miserably. Aided by the apparition of the "real" Bogart (played by Jerry Lacy) and seeking true love à la Casablanca, he eventually falls for his best friend’s wife (Keaton). Based on Allen’s stage play, the film serves as a comic homage to the screen icon and to a mode of masculinity that is decidedly out of place in early 1970s California, an atypical setting for an Allen vehicle. Allen as actor is at his funniest here, particularly in the anxious mannerisms he adopts while preparing for a date from hell.
July 20 (Sunday) 8:45 pm
July 21 (Monday) 7 pm
Directed by Federico Fellini
France/Italy 1974, 35mm, color, 127 min.
With Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Magali Noël
Italian with English subtitles
A series of impressionistic vignettes depicting Fellini’s seaside hometown of Rimini during the Fascist era, Amarcord centers on a family with a sex-obsessed teenage son, an irascible anti-fascist father, and an insane uncle. Employing a gentle mixture of dreamlike fantasy and bittersweet cynicism, Amarcord ("I remember" in the local dialect) breathlessly shifts between the melodramatic, the intimate, and the burlesque. One of Fellini’s most accessible and compelling films, the work is replete with unforgettable images—a peacock flying through the snow, a child on his way to school who encounters cows that the early-morning fog has transformed into monsters.
July 22 (Tuesday) 7 pm
July 23 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan
UK 1940, 35mm, color, 106 min.
With John Justin, Conrad Veidt, Sabu
Based on the fables of The Arabian Nights, this Korda-produced epic remains a cult favorite of American directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, who adapted many of the film’s themes in their own respective spectacles. After Abu, a street urchin, is imprisoned for stealing, he meets Prince Ahmad, the recently deposed ruler who has been sent to the dungeon by his former right-hand man, Jaffar. The unlikely duo manages to escape and embark on a wild adventure that involves a genie (winningly portrayed by Rex Ingram), an "all-seeing eye," and a magic carpet. The scale of the production proved too great to complete in World War II–era Great Britain and passed through the hands of six directors before its spectacular completion.
July 22 (Tuesday) 9 pm
July 23 (Wednesday) 9 pm
Directed by Peter Weir
Australia 1977, 35mm, color, 106 min.
With Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil
A corporate lawyer defending a group of Aborigine men accused of murder embarks on a search for the answer to a cryptic prophecy. Meanwhile, the rains that are pouring in Sydney are attributed to an Antarctic cold front but eventually lead to an apocalyptic resolution. In a curious response to the disaster-film genre of the 1970s, director Weir uses a minimum of special effects, choosing instead to present a world caught between reality and fantasy. Echoing the lawyer’s uncertainty in his pursuit, Weir’s focus on the inexplicable reflects what is perhaps an unbridgeable gap between modern society and ancestral myths.
July 24 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 25 (Friday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Roman Polanski
Poland 1962, 35mm, b/w, 94 min.
With Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz
Polish with English subtitles
Based on jerzy kawalerowicz’s script, Polanski’s first feature film is considered one of the most significant cinematic achievements of Eastern European cinema during the Communist era. It is a simple, intimate story involving a couple on a yachting weekend who participate in an intricate—and dangerous—emotional game with a young, attractive hitchhiker. With just three characters, a boat, and a huge expanse of sea, the film descends into dramatic convolutions that build an ambiguous tension while revealing the deep psychological complexities of the characters.
July 24 (Thursday) 9 pm
July 25 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Roman Polanski
US/France 1976, 35mm, color, 125 min.
With Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Shelley Winters
Polanski casts himself in the role of a Polish office clerk working in Paris who sets up residence in a new apartment only to find the elderly tenants of the building inexplicably hostile toward him. After discovering that the previous renter, a woman, had hurled herself out a window, he becomes obsessed with unearthing her story and increasingly convinced his neighbors are trying to kill him. At once terrifying and funny, the film asks us to ponder whether the tenant is experiencing a mysterious, Kafkaesque persecution or is simply stark raving mad. Sven Nykvist’s cinematography gives this psychological thriller its stunning visual realization.
July 26 (Saturday) 7 pm
July 27 (Sunday) 9 pm
Directed by John Boskovich
US 1990, 35mm, color, 89 min.
In the tradition of such performance-to-film translations as Jonathan Demme’s celebrated collaboration with Spalding Gray on Swimming to Cambodia, John Boskovich’s film adaptation of Sandra Bernhard’s acclaimed one-woman stage show brings new perspective to the original work. Paying homage to such diverse talents as Nina Simone, Burt Bachrach, and Prince, Bernhard sings, snipes, and poses her way through this soul-searching exposé of her own celebrity and those she loves and despises. Set in a dreamlike Los Angeles nightclub, Bernhard is both bitingly funny and painfully honest as she challenges widely-held conceptions of racial and sexual identity. The limitations of the stage frame are overcome by Boskovich’s inventive camera movements and outrageous costume design.
July 26 (Saturday) 8:45 pm
July 27 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Derek Jarman
UK 1986, 35mm, color, 93 min.
With Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton
The late British filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman was drawn to the early-seventeenth-century figure of Caravaggio not only because of the Renaissance master’s skill with the highly cinematic technique of chiaroscuro but, more so, for the outsider status the artist achieved through his indulgences in the Roman demimonde, whose murderers and prostitutes became models for his paintings of saints and madonnas. The film is a highly episodic portrait of the painter rendered through a series of tableaux that probe his complex relationship with the violent young gambler Ranuccio and his female lover. Eschewing exteriors and location shots and using dialogue sparingly, Jarman created one of his most visually arresting and personal works—one that allowed him to "recreate many details of my own life and, bridging the gap of centuries and cultures, to exchange the camera with a brush."
July 28 (Monday) 7 pm
July 29 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
UK 1976, 35mm, color, 138 min.
With David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark
Having studied the planet by monitoring television stations, an alien lands on Earth seeking water for his dying planet and becomes the successful head of a high-tech conglomerate. All is well in his new world until he must face the challenges of human emotion. A meld of surreal science fiction and classic Hollywood romance, the film’s budding love story between David Bowie’s detached space traveler and Candy Clark’s unsophisticated hotel worker is set to the strains of middle-of-the-road 1970s pop music. Roeg’s brilliant use of cross-cutting creates a complex non-linear narrative structure and provides striking thematic juxtapositions.
July 28 (Monday) 9:30 pm
July 29 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Roger Corman
US 1964, 35mm, color, 86 min.
With Vincent Price, Jane Asher, Hazel Court
Nicolas Roeg served as Roger Corman’s director of photography on this celebrated adaptation of the classic Edgar Allan Poe tale. Vincent Price stars as Prince Prospero, a sleek Satanist with a penchant for burning down feudal villages, capturing fair maidens, and debasing his servants. To protect against the oncoming plague of the Red Death, Prospero arranges for the local noblemen to hide out in his castle, where they attend a masked ball filled with debauchery. But soon a mysterious figure arrives to disrupt the decadent affair. Corman’s first attempt at an "art film" exhibits influences as diverse as Bergman and Buñuel, and he succeeds in large part thanks to Roeg’s crisp cinematography.
July 30 (Wednesday) 7 pm
July 31 (Thursday) 9 pm
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
UK 1955, 35mm, color, 97 min.
With Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom
In this classic ealing comedy, Alec Guinness (with ample help from his prominent teeth) leads a terrific ensemble cast, including a young Peter Sellers in one of his earliest roles.
Set amid the dilapidation of postwar London, the story centers on five criminals masquerading as a string ensemble intent on using their aged landlady as an unwitting accomplice in their robbery. The gentle yet stubborn innocence of Mrs. Wilberforce confounds the plot of the criminal gang, and one by one, the robbers fail to do away with her and instead knock each other off. The film crystallizes the standard of charm and humor for which Ealing Studios was known but is perhaps the darkest of the studio’s many comedies. Sellers, as the young rogue of the gang, plays opposite Herbert Lom, whom he would later torment throughout the Pink Panther series.
July 30 (Wednesday) 9 pm
July 31 (Thursday) 7 pm
Directed by John Boulting
UK 1959, 35mm, b/w, 104 min.
With Peter Sellers, Dennis Price, Richard Attenborough
The Boulting brothers created a series of satirical portraits of British society, focusing on the National Service in Private’s Progress and provincial university life in Lucky Jim. Their I’m All Right Jack is a farce about a most unlikely subject: trade unions and management in an English arms factory. The conniving head of a missile plant (Price) arranges a sale with an Arab country and then plans a workers’ strike so that the project can be completed at an inflated price at the neighboring factory of a fellow industrialist (Attenborough). When the laborers’ tea breaks are eliminated, the shop steward, played by Sellers with a combination of arrogance and ineptitude, takes the bait and calls a strike, but the conspiracy is upset when the neighboring plant goes on strike out of sympathy. Sellers is sensational in his first major role, and won a BAFTA award for his work.
August 1 (Friday) 7 pm - Introduced by HFA Conservator Julie Buck
With the boom of DVD and the Internet over the last five years, movie trailers are more popular than ever. A two-minute advertisement that usually sums up a film’s plot and cast, the trailer attempts to seduce the audience and often barely relates to the actual quality of the film production. In fact, the best trailers could be considered examplars of an art form in their own right. Hollywood has even gotten in on the act with an awards show called "The Golden Trailer," dedicated to recognizing the work of advertising firms that create the previews. While the original trailers of classic Hollywood films often show up as extras on a DVD, forgotten gems such as the trailer for Kentucky Fried Movie or the "classic" Don Johnson film A Boy and His Dog are often overlooked. Trailers, Trailers, Trailers is an A to Z overview of the 1,000 plus trailers held by the Harvard Film Archive and an attempt to bring back to life forgotten trailers of the past.
August 2 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by Mike Leigh
UK 1988, 35mm, color, 112 min.
With Philip Davis, Ruth Sheen, Edna Dore
One of the key works in the reemergent New British Cinema of the late 1980s, High Hopes effectively relaunched the filmmaking career of English independent filmmaker Mike Leigh, who had spent the better part of the previous decade working in television. With an improvisational air and a decidedly episodic structure, High Hopes presents a ground-level romp through Thatcher’s Britain as witnessed by the residents of a King’s Cross neighborhood in the throes of gentrification. Central to the shifting stories are Cyril, a motorcycle messenger, and his longtime companion, Shirley—leftists in their mid-thirties whose qualms about the world around them have kept them from starting a family.
August 2 (Saturday) 9 pm
Directed by Ken Loach
UK 1993, 35mm, color, 90 min.
With Bruce Jones, Julie Brown, Ricky Tomlinson
Ken Loach reinvigorates the tradition of the great neorealist directors to create this moving, humanist tale of an unemployed Brit who goes to great lengths to procure a dress for his daughter’s first communion. When the protagonist is unable to raise enough money from a series of humorous odd jobs, he declines the assistance of his priest and resorts to the services of the vicious town loan shark, putting what little he has in grave danger. With the emergence of the New British Cinema in the late 1980s, Loach emerged as one of the movement’s most politically committed filmmakers. This is one of his least didactic works and remains a warm tribute to the indomitable spirit of the working-class hero.
August 3 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Luis Buñuel
France 1974, 35mm, color, 104 min.
With Adrianne Asti, Monica Vitti, Pierre Maguelon
French with English subtitles
Another of Buñuel’s attempts to "épater les bourgeois," The Phantom of Liberty is an episodic work that radiates out from a brutal historical prologue set in nineteenth-century Toledo, where drunken French troops randomly murder the citizenry as they desecrate the church. In the first of a series of abrupt shifts, Buñuel segues to a modern-day Parisian park, where two au pairs chat on about the horrors of Napoleonic times as their young charges are accosted by a man. In this knight’s tour of the modern condition, the film shifts to the bourgeois father and mother (Vitti) and their doctors and nurses, and then further outward to embrace a seemingly random, yet systematic, critique of contemporary European psychopathology.
August 3 (Sunday) 9 pm
Directed by Franco Rossi, Elio Petri, Luciano Salce, Mario Monicelli
Italy 1965, 35mm, b/w, 120 min.
With Monica Vitti, Charles Aznavour, Ugo Tognazzi
Italian with English subtitles
In this omnibus film, four modernist Italian directors offer amusing takes on marriage and betrayal. In the first segment, Nino Manfredi stars as a jealous husband who suspects a fellow vacationer at a tropical resort is trying to steal his wife. In the Petri segment, "Sin in the Afternoon," Charles Aznavour plays a wealthy entrepreneur who goes to fantastic lengths to seduce a mysterious woman (Claire Bloom).The collection is rounded out with a pair of no less stylish tales of adultery featuring Monica Vitti as a ranting housewife who suspects her husband has been unfaithful and Ugo Tognazzi as a gambler who offers his wife as collateral for his excessive debts. Although the narratives are fairly simplistic, the anthology serves as a charming time capsule of mid-1960s Italy.
August 4 (Monday) 7 pm
August 5 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
Directed by George Cukor
US 1939, 35mm, b/w and color, 131 min.
With Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell
Unique for its women-only cast—a gathering of some of the finest studio talent of the 1930s—George Cukor’s acid comedy about love and infidelity created a rare female view of the war between the sexes. A group of friends spirits society wife Mary Haines (Shearer) off to a dude ranch near Reno for divorce when they convince her
that her husband’s affair with a shop girl (Crawford) must be avenged. Rosalind Russell delivers a wickedly comic performance as the confidante who gains sadistic pleasure from her friend’s misfortune.
August 4 (Monday) 9:30 pm
August 5 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Spain 1988, 35mm, color, 89 min.
With Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano
Spanish with English subtitles
Mix one part Doris Day–Technicolor frivolity with the melodrama of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar, shake with an ample portion of screwball comedy, and update the film’s location to Madrid circa 1988—the result is this farcical hit comedy by Pedro Almodóvar. Soap star Pepa (Almodóvar favorite Carmen Maura) is losing her mind because her lover, Iván, is leaving her. Iván’s wife goes on a gun-toting rampage when she finds out. Meanwhile, Pepa’s friend Candela needs a place to hide because she has unwittingly fallen for a Shiite terrorist. At Pepa’s, she meets Iván’s son Carlos (Banderas), whose fiancée has been drugged by Pepa’s Valium-laced gazpacho. Confusing? Absolutely. But how can you resist a film where kindly grandmothers make the nightly news and the mother of a notorious killer endorses detergent?
August 6 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Dusan Makavejev
Yugoslavia/West Germany 1971, 35mm, color, 86 min.
With Milena Dravic, Jagoda Kaloper, Zoran Radmilovic
Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles
One of the most controversial films of its era, Makavejev’s provocative meditation on the relationship between sexual energy and political force revolves around a portrait of the iconoclastic psychologist Wilhelm Reich and his disciples, potently intercut with imagery of Soviet leader Josef Stalin (culled mainly from social-realist fiction films) and juxtaposed with the purely fictional tale of a young Yugoslavian woman’s fatal passion for a frigid Soviet skating star. Attacked by feminists, banned by bureaucrats, and beloved by art film audiences, W.R. remains a valuable summation of the formal inventiveness and anarchic social vision that emerged from the new waves of the 1960s.
No one under 18 will be admitted to this screening.
August 6 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm - Introduced by HFA Conservator Julie Buck
Directed by John Sayles
US, 1987, color, 132 min.
With Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell
Until recently, so-called "blue movies"—the stuff of private collections, late night theaters, and adult video stores—were shunned by archives and dismissed by academia. Yet because erotic cinema has a rich and long history that dates back to the earliest days of film, scholars of "the gaze" have begun to embark on serious study of how such films affect audiences, and film archives, once wary of collecting such material, have finally begun to catalogue the work and grant research access to it. In the mid-1980s, the HFA acquired a small commercial collection from the film distribution arm of Grove Press that included everything from animated shorts and silent-era stag films to provocative works made in the "swinging sixties." Rarely screened, these "blue" shorts offer a fascinating view of a part of film history that is often overlooked.
No one under 18 will be admitted to this screening.
August 7 (Thursday) 7 pm
August 8 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Jean Vigo
France 1933, 35mm, b/w, 44 min.
With Louis Lefebvre, Gilbert Pruchon, Gérard de Bedarieux
French with English subtitles
Banned by state censors until 1946 for its purportedly malicious attack on the French educational system, Zero for Conduct is certainly one of the masterpieces of the French cinema. Drawn from Vigo’s own childhood experiences, the film is situated at a dreadful boarding school in a Paris suburb where petty restrictions imposed on the students cause four schoolboys to organize a revolt. With its blend of poetry and realism, its psychological depth, and its profound sense of anarchy, Zero for Conduct has exerted an influence on many directors, from François Truffaut and Lindsay Anderson to Philippe Garrel and Leos Carax.
One of only four films made during Vigo’s brief career (he died at age 29), Zero for Conduct remains one of the great subversive works of the cinema, an eloquent parable of freedom versus authority.
August 7 (Thursday) 8 pm
August 8 (Friday) 8 pm
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
UK 1968, b/w and color, 35mm, 111 min.
With Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick
The tale of boys’-school rebellion perfected by Vigo in Zero for Conduct is here transposed to the revolutionary climate of May 1968. Taking Vigo’s cue, Anderson mixes fantasy and reality in the story of Mick Travis, a young anarchist who attempts to overthrow a British public school. McDowell reprised the role of Travis in two more films with Anderson, O, Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital, but neither performance matched the raw intensity of this character’s debut. Although it serves the film’s surreal tone, Anderson’s choice to film with both black-and-white and color film stock was actually prompted when the director went over his budget and could only afford to purchase black-and-white stock.
August 9 (Saturday) 7 pm
August 10 (Sunday) 8:30 pm
Directed by George Romero
US 1968, 35mm, b/w, 90 min.
With Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Karl Hardman
Pittsburgh-based Romero implants significant political commentary within the usual gruesome fare of the zombie subgenre in this hugely popular horror film. Made with a local cast and crew for less than $200,000, much of its appeal emanates from its no-stone-left-unturned grossness and its tongue-in-cheek story line concerning recently dead bodies that return to life to kill the living in order to eat their flesh. The first horror film to feature an African-American actor (Duane Jones) in a leading role, Romero’s film shattered the conventions of the genre while raising prescient questions about race in America.
August 9 (Saturday) 9 pm
August 10 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
US 1943, 35mm, silent, b/w, 68 min.
With Frances Dee, Tom Conway, James Ellison
After Universal’s success with Frankenstein and Dracula in the late 1930s and early 1940s, RKO decided to make a series of low-budget horror films. I Walked with a Zombie, often referred to as "a West Indian version of Jane Eyre," employs an elliptical narrative to transpose the action of the original story to the Caribbean, where Rochester’s first wife is the victim of a voodoo spell. Director Tourneur’s caressingly evocative direction, superbly backed by Roy Hunt’s chiaroscuro images, makes sheer magic of the film’s brooding journey into fear by way of voodoo drums, gleaming moonlight, somnambulistic ladies in fluttering white, and dark, silent, "undead" sentries.