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January 11 - 12, 2004  

Conservator’s Choice: Directors in Short

The short format has been the entry point for many important directors, yet short films—unlike short stories in literature—are rarely given public exposure, lucky to be consigned to the end of a DVD or screened as part of a directorial retrospective. During the 1950s and ‘60s, short films by well known directors were often released as anthologies, or “omnibus films.” Fellini's Toby Dammit comes from a film based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Godard's Anticipation comes from a film about prostitution throughout the ages. Drawing on the many short films held in the Harvard Film Archive collection, these programs primarily feature early works of diverse directors such as Jack Clayton, Luis Bunuel and Ousmane Sembene, and provide interesting hints of the styles and subjects these directors would later embrace in long form.

January 11 (Tuesday) 7 pm
January 12 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Blood of the Beasts (Le sang des betes)

Directed by Georges Franju
France, 1949, b/w, 20 min.
French with English subtitles

One of France’s most important documentary filmmakers, Georges Franju established an international reputation with this poetic portrait of the slaughterhouse of La Vilette in Paris. The work of the abattoir is depicted with painful directness and in stark contrast to the calm domesticity of the surrounding Parisian suburb. In attempting “to restore to documentary reality its appearance of artifice,” he created a classic postwar document with forcefulness and poetry that remain undiminished today.

New Domestic Animal

Directed by Dusan Makevejev
Yugoslavia, 1964, b/w, 8 min.

In Makavejev's eight minute ironic masterpiece, he compares the utilitarian domestic horse and its successor, the automobile.

Bespoke Overcoat

Directed by Jack Clayton
UK, 1956, color, 33 min.
With Alfie Bass, David Kossoff, Alan Tilvern

Based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story, The Overcoat, Jack Clayton’s charming interpretation stars Alfie Bass as a store clerk who goes to great lengths to acquire the eponymous outerwear.


Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
France, 1966, color, 15 min.
With Anna Karina
English language version

In this futuristic tale selected from The Oldest Profession, an anthology film about prostitution, Godard presents a man who rejects a prostitute who only provides sexual gratification in favor of one who speaks but does not touch.

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January 11 (Tuesday) 8:30 pm
January 12 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Land Without Bread

Directed by Luis Buñuel
Spain, 1932, b/w, 27 min.

Banned in Spain because of its "negativism," this portrait of the mountainous region of Las Hurdes captures a thoroughly inhospitable landscape and a people who long ago abandoned all hope. Reworking the traditional documentary to make this "essay in human geography," Buñuel deploys a highly objective, matter-of-fact commentary that serves only to heighten the devastating imagery of human misery and futility.

Borom Sarret

Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal, 1964, b/w, 19 min.
With Abdoulaye Ly
French with English subtitles

Sembene’s first film (aside from an unreleased documentary on the Songhay Empire, made for the government of Mali), Borom Sarret (“cart owner”) chronicles a day in the life of a beleaguered horse-cart driver in Dakar. In spite of the material limitations of the production—if not because of the challenges they posed—Borom Sarret manages to create a powerful social statement as it combines simple means with complex observations on bureaucracy, religion, and the anonymity of the modern city. Compressing his narrative into a mere nineteen minutes, Sembene conveys the condition of Senegal’s urban poor as he situates their experience in the larger social panorama of post-independence Africa.

Toby Dammit

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy, 1968, color, 40 min.
With Terence Stamp

The final episode in a compendium of Edgar Allan Poe stories entitled Histoires Extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead), Fellini’s Toby Dammit loosely adapts Poe’s macabre tale and transforms it into the story of a burnt-out British actor who arrives in Rome to star in the first Catholic western.

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