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September 28 - December 14, 2005

Imagining the City


September 28 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (L'Arrivée d'un train à la Ciotat)

Directed by The Lumière Brothers
France, 1895, B&W, silent, 1 min.
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

Shown at the Lumière brothers' first public film screening, the film has become the dominant symbol of early cinema.  Beyond its iconic power, it still has the ability to delight, from the striking angularity of its composition to its record of the shy, curious glances of the passengers as they notice something new–a movie camera–in their midst.

A Romance of the Rails

Directed by Edwin S. Porter
US, 1903, B&W, silent, 3 min.
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

Depiction of the dynamic motion of trains was a central draw of the early cinema.  In this short, an engaged couple boards a train, then enjoys a pleasant sightseeing ride.  The plot, though, is secondary to the attraction of a train (and a camera) in motion.

Marseille vieux port

Directed by László Moholy-Nagy
Germany, 1929, B&W, silent, 9 min.
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

A concentrated form of the "city film," focusing on Marseilles's old port area. With limited film available to him, Moholy-Nagy, while he did not want to make an impressionist film, decided to make a "draft of the situation," and the result is indeed impressionistic; we are left with a feeling of the rhythms of the place and the vitality and desperation of the people who live there.

Paris qui dort (aka The Crazy Ray)

Directed by René Clair
France, 1925, B&W, silent, 62 min.
With Henri Rollan
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

An inventor activates a device that puts the entire city of Paris to sleep, except for those who are high in the air.  Albert (Rollan), who has been living atop the Eiffel Tour, descends to find the city in a state of suspended animation. Clair's film combines a surrealist sensibility with humanist insight and a lightly comic tone.

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October 5 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Sunrise

Directed by F. W. Murnau
US, 1927, B&W, silent, 100 min.
With George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

Renowned for his use of moving camera shots to explore three-dimensional space, Murnau arrived in Hollywood as sound films were coming into vogue.  His first American film, shot silent but released with a musical track, was based on a melodramatic German novel.  Murnau, along with acclaimed cameramen Karl Struss and Charles Rosher, transformed the material by merging the psychological realism of the domestic drama with a lyrical depiction of both the quiet country village and the bustling city— connected by the protagonists' celebrated streetcar journey through the different visual landscapes.

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October 12 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Coney Island at Night

Directed by Edwin S. Porter
US, 1905, B&W, silent, 4 min.
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

See Description in Film Architectures.

Metropolis (Das Schicksal einer Menscheit im Jahre 200)

Directed by Fritz Lang
Germany, 1926, B&W, silent, 105 min.
With Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

See Description in Film Architectures

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October 19 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Man With a Movie Camera (Chelovek s kinoapparatom)

Directed by Dziga Vertov
USSR, 1928, B&W, silent, 80 min.
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

Truly an experimental documentary, Vertov's masterpiece vividly exemplifies the montage aesthetic of the Soviet avant-garde of the 1920s, with its quick juxtaposition of shots and sped-up and slowed-down cinematography. Using his own concept of the "Kino Eye"––the cinema's eye, which illuminates the real world as not ordinarily seen––Vertov creates a vivid city symphony depicting an exuberant day in the life of his Moscow metropolis.

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October 26 (Wednesday) 7 pm

October (aka Ten Days that Shook the World) (Oktyabr)

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov
USSR, 1928, B&W, silent, 104 min.
With Vladimir Popov, Vasili Nikandrov, Layaschenko
Live piano accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov

Based on a book by John Reed, October recounts the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and features some of Eisenstein's most creative displays of montage, as well as magnificent set pieces and rare footage of historic sites. Though the film was commissioned by the Soviet government to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the revolution, the strict preservation of the party line eventually over-ruled historical accuracy.  Because Leon Trotsky was considered an enemy of the state by the late 1920s, Eisenstein was forced to re-edit the film in order to remove the segments that positively portrayed Trotsky's role in the revolution.

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November 2 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Voyage in Italy (aka Strangers) (Viaggio in Italia)

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy, 1953, B&W, 85 min.
With Ingrid Bergman, George Sanders

Tensions are high in Rossellini's deeply moving and beautifully nuanced story of a frustrated and bored British couple (Bergman and Sanders) who struggle to keep their marriage alive. The film resembles a diary as it meditates on the problems of the jaded communication between the spouses on their visit to Naples. As Rossellini has stated, "it was very important for me to show Italy, Naples, and that strange atmosphere in which is found a very real, very immediate feeling: the feeling of eternal life, something that has entirely disappeared from the world."

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November 9 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Belly of an Architect

Directed by Peter Greenaway
UK, 1987, Color, 118 min.
With Brian Dennehy, Chloe Webb, Lambert Wilson

This visually stunning work chronicles the self-destructive decline of an American architect, in Rome to mount an exhibition on the eighteenth- century architect Etienne-Louis Boulèe. An obsession with his stomach causes him to lose his wife, his creativity, and perhaps even his sanity.  Extravagant in detail and color, the film—in true Greenaway form—is packed with art and architectural references, obsessions and omens, and exquisite traces of life and death.

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November 16 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Eclipse (L'Eclisse)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Italy, 1962, B&W, 124 min.
With Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Lilla Brignone
Italian with English subtitles

In this final installment of the trilogy that began with L'Avventura and La Notte, Antonioni once again presents a middle-class couple in crisis, here against the closely observed background of the urban environment.  After an initial breakup with her lover, Vittoria (Vitti) drifts into the classic Antonioni condition, wandering aimlessly through an alienating milieu.  In what is perhaps his most compelling deployment of the architectural setting, Antonioni displays an unparalleled visual style, using spatial perspective and graphic delineation to create his vision of the modern world.  In the film's famous final sequence, the narrative space of the story is revisited in the absence of its characters, suggesting perhaps, as Georges Sadoul has noted, the nature of solitude as man's accustomed state.

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November 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm
November 30 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Playtime

Directed by Jacques Tati
France, 1967, Color, 126 min.
With Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Jacqueline Lecomte

See Description in Film Architectures

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December 7 (Wednesday) 7 pm

D'Est (aka From the East)

Directed by Chantal Akerman
France/Belgium 1993, color, 107 min.
With Julia Sointseva, Nikolai Batalov, Igor Ilinsky
Russian language version

D'Est is a moving documentary shot over a summer and a winter in Germany, Poland, and Russia on the eve of the unification of Western Europe. Envisioned as a "grand journey" across Eastern Europe, Akerman's film was to include "everything that moves me: faces, streets, cars going by and buses, train stations and plains, rivers and oceans, streams and brooks, trees and forests. Fields and factories and yet more faces. Food, interiors, doors, windows, meals being prepared. Women and men, young and old, people passing by or at rest, seated or standing, even lying down. Days and nights, wind and rain, snow and springtime." She was particularly interested in capturing the disintegration of the former Soviet bloc and became deeply engrossed in the pervasiveness of despair and immobility. While the arc of her journey is visible in the completed work, much of D'Est focuses on haunting images of a snowclad Moscow, frozen in history but poised for precipitous change.

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December 14 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Wings of Desire

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.

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