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September 28-November 30, 2004

Film Architectures

Live Piano Accompaniment by Peter Freisinger
September 28 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
September 29 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

Metropolis (Das Schicksal einer Menscheit im Jahre 2000)

Directed by Fritz Lang
Germany, 1926, b/w, silent, 130 min.
With Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich

The greatest science-fiction film of the silent cinema, Metropolis was made by Lang at Berlin’s UFA studio with an unprecedented budget for its huge sets, inspired by the New York skyline. Set in the twenty-first century, the story is derived partly from medieval legends and partly from the dystopic vision of a future of intensified conflict between capital and labor. Photographed in Expressionist style and designed to display powerful geometric symmetries, many of the film’s sequences are unforgettable, especially the dramatic laboratory creation of the robot-woman.

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October 12 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm

High Treason

Directed by Maurice Elvey
UK, 1928, b/w, silent, 75 min.

It’s 1940…the future...war threatens between the newly United Europe and the Atlantic States. Following a nasty border dispute, both sides prepare for an inevitable confrontation until a group of female workers organizes as the Peace League to prevent the outbreak of the Second World War. An odd instance of pacifist propaganda, Elvey’s film was originally filmed as a sound film but released in a silent version to accommodate theaters not yet ready for the new technology.

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Director Tsai Ming-liang In Person October 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Goodbye Dragon Inn (Bu San)

Directed by
Taiwan, 2003, color, 82 min.
With Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Miao Tien
Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles

Tsai's newest feature expands the definition of cinéphilia to encompass the act of cinema-going itself: Goodbye Dragon Inn is an act of tribute to the film medium, to cinematic exhibition spaces, and to the many activities of the theatergoer, of which film spectatorship is just one. As King Hu's Dragon Gate Inn (1966) plays on the night of a Taipei theater's closing, a series of nearly dialogue-free encounters plays out among the audience and the staff of the theater. Tsai's film and Dragon Gate Inn are subtly intertwined: Tsai takes some editing cues from the action and soundtrack of the film onscreen, and dialogue from the screen occasionally seems to be commenting on the action in the theater. Actors from Dragon Gate Inn, now nearly 40 years older, appear among the audience, the meaning of their presence uncertain. What emerges is an affectionate, nuanced look at the act of cinema-going, the culmination of Tsai's recent investigations into the presence that popular media has in our lives.

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October 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm

La Notte

Directed by
Italy/France, 1961, b/w, 122 min.
With Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti
Italian with English subtitles

The second film of Antonioni’s celebrated trilogy (initiated by L’Avventura and concluding with L’Eclisse) is a key work of modernist cinema. Exploring the alienation of the Milanese bourgeoisie within the landscape of the city and the lavish villas of its periphery, La Notte follows a couple—an exhausted novelist coasting on his reputation (Mastroianni) and his disenchanted wife (Moreau)—from an afternoon visit to a dying friend in a hospital, through a book-launching party at the home of an industrialist, to the couple’s separate nocturnal forays.

November 2 (Tuesday) 7 pm

The Naked City

Directed by Jules Dassin
US, 1948, b/w, 96 min.
With Barry Fitzgerald, Don Taylor, Howard Duff

 

This highly influential neorealist thriller, shot on location in New York’s teeming streets, tells an ordinary murder tale through the accumulation of procedural police details. Despite the obvious genre conventions, the film’s real mission was to impart an authentic impression of the city and its everyday life through the use of hidden cameras and gritty, quasi-documentary photography, which earned an Oscar for cinematographer William Daniels. The narrator’s final words have become a widely quoted urban cliché: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

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November 9 (Tuesday) 7 pm
November 10 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Toute une nuit (All Night Long)

Directed by Chantal Akerman
France/Belgium, 1982, color, 90 min.
With Aurore Clément, Tcheky Karyo, Jan Decorte
French with English subtitles

On a sultry summer night in Brussels, various bodies in search of love collide: some succeed, others do not. Fashioned from the shards of two dozen pulverized melodramas, Akerman’s urban nocturne foregrounds small gestures as it captures the shape of solitude itself. Locations criss-cross as characters meet and embrace, dance and split up, yank one another into cabs, or merely watch the action from doorways and stairwells. The choreography of indoors and out, upstairs and down, attraction and rejection distills the complex machinations of urban romance into a sweetly rhythmic dance.

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September 14 (Wednesday) 9 pm
September 15 (Thursday) 7 pm

Place de la République

Directed by Louis Malle
France, 1974, Color, 94 min.
French with English subtitles

Louis Malle was always something of an outsider, never quite in synch with cinematic trends.  Place de la République, made with Fernand Mozskowicz, seems a response to the great French cinéma vérité works such as Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin's Chronicle of a Summer and Chris Marker's Le joli mai.  In each, the filmmakers established a method of approaching strangers on the street and asking them a provocative question.  The interaction between the filmmaker and filmed subject is of utmost importance; Malle picks up this style for Place de la République, alternating on-camera interviews with sequences involving hidden camera and microphones.  The result is a fascinating portrait of then- contemporary France, a film that clearly draws from the experience of his Indian films while looking ahead to Malle's American documentaries of the mid-1980s.

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November 16 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
November 17 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

Playtime

Directed by Jacques Tati
France, 1967, color, 152 min.
With Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Jacqueline Lecomte
French with English subtitles

In this brilliant send-up of the absurdities of modernist architecture, actor-director Tati reprises the beloved character of Monsieur Hulot, who does battle with urban space as he observes a group of American tourists on their peregrinations around a Paris of modern office blocks and skyscrapers. The extraordinary metropolis of glass and concrete, designed by Eugene Roman, combines with Tati's incomparable articulation of sound, image, and performance in this hilarious yet poignant analysis of the modern condition.

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November 23 (Tuesday) at 7 pm

Madam Satan

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
US, 1930, b/w, 80 min.
With Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Lillian Roth

At the birth of film sound, noted director of the epic spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille made his first and only foray into the musical genre. In order to win the fading attention of her husband, a socialite decides to transform herself into Madam Satan, an alluring vamp who will win back her husband’s affections. At an elaborate masquerade ball aboard a zeppelin, the seductress puts her husband to the test. Featuring racy pre-Code dance routines with girls dressed in cat suits, this oddity from DeMille ran well over-budget despite the round-the-clock production schedule imposed by the despotic director.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks
November 30 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Aelita: Queen of Mars

Directed by Yakov Protazanov
USSR, 1924, b/w, silent, 82 min.
With Julia Sointseva, Nikolai Batalov, Igor Ilinsky
Russian language version

An example of early Soviet science fiction, this film is an eccentric comedy based on Alexei Tolstoy's story about an inventor who shoots his wife and flees to Mars. The futurist design gracing this film decisively influenced many subsequent designers and illustrators of science fiction stories, especially the design of Mongo in Flash Gordon (1936).

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700