September 27 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Fritz Lang
Germany, 1926, B&W, silent, 105 min.
With Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich
Live piano accompaniment by Martin Marks
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, 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.
October 4 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
Directed by Marcel L’Herbier
France, 1924, B&W, silent, 135 min.
With Jaque Catelain, Georgette Leblanc, Philippe Hériat
A self-absorbed songstress (LeBlanc) is poisoned by one of her many spurned lovers (Hériat) but then resuscitated by a doting scientist (Catelain). LeBlanc, a famed stage actress, financed a large part of the film and played a central role in scripting her proto-feminist character, who refuses to mourn her dead lover. A visual feast, the film features elaborate Cubist set pieces designed by Fernand Léger, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Claude Autant-Lara and Alberto Cavalcanti.
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
US, 1903, B&W, silent, 4 min.
"Actualities"–early shorts depicting real-life scenes–reached a new level of aestheticization with this film. Porter's camera sweeps across Coney Island's nighttime light displays, "capturing" the scene as it was, but also imbuing it with a dreamy quality that is distinctly cinematic.
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
US, 1904, B&W, silent, 17 min.
With Joseph Hart
In this early parody of the popular travelogue, things go horribly wrong for an American tourist in Europe. Porter's resourcefulness is in full evidence here; the film incorporates original material shot on location and in the studio (with pasteboard sets depicting European locales), intercut with travel footage excerpted from various actualities.
October 11 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Maurice Elvey
UK, 1928, B&W, silent, 75 min.
With Jameson Thomas, Humberston Wright, Benita Hume
It's 1940–the future–and 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.
October 18 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang
Taiwan 2003, Color, 82 min.
With Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Miao Tien
Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles
Tsai's film 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.
October 25 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
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, the film 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 1 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Thom Andersen
US, 2003, Color, 169 min.
One of the most acclaimed films of recent years, Los Angeles Plays Itself compiles footage from a wide range of sources to present a modern portrait of the oft-maligned mecca of the movie industry. Drawing from 1950s B-movies, science fiction classics, and urban films noir, Andersen deconstructs both filmmaking and viewing in a work which posits the artifice of Hollywood imagery as factual documents. In the tradition of great film essayists such as Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnes Varda, Andersen creates an entertaining, epic film essay in which setting becomes a character in its own right.
November 8 (Tuesday) 7 pm
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. 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.
November 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm
November 30 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Jacques Tati
France 1967, Color, 126 min.
With Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Jacqueline Lecomte
In this brilliant sendup 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.
November 29 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Yakov Protazanov
USSR 1924, B&W, silent, 82 min.
With Julia Sointseva, Nikolai Batalov, Igor Ilinsky
Russian language version
Live piano accompaniment by Martin Marks
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.
December 6 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Peter Greenaway
France/Netherlands/UK 1989, color, 120 min.
With Michel Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard
Greenaway's grisly, color-coded fugue, built on themes of gluttony, adultery, fashion, art, and retaliation, makes this his most deliciously nefarious venture. The film's blend of violence, eroticism, melancholia, and satire recalls a classic Jacobean revenge play, but the look is pure Rembrandt meets Gaultier. The film may be read as political commentary on Thatcher's Britain, visual commentary on the intersection of artistic practices in painting, architecture, and design, or as social commentary on the very status of the human soul in barbarous times.
December 13 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Wim Wenders
West Germany/France 1987, b/w and color, 127 min.
With Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander
English, German and French with English subtitles
Inspired by a poem from Rilke and co-written by acclaimed Austrian playwright Peter Handke, Wings of Desire follows a pair of angels who descend to earth to eavesdrop on the lonely, melancholy inhabitants of the streets and buildings of pre-unification Berlin. Aided by the haunting, mostly monochromatic images of veteran cinematographer Henri Alekan, Wenders creates a spiritual documentary of the city and a haunting portrait of what it means to be human. He earned a Best Director award at Cannes for this meditative work, aptly dedicated to three of his own cinematic "angels": Ozu, Truffaut, and Tarkovsky.