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September 26 - October 24

Chinatown on Film

September 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Broken Blossoms

Directed by D. W. Griffith
US 1919, 35mm, b/w, silent, 80 min.
With Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess
Live Piano Accompaniment

In contrast to such vast and epic Griffith productions as Intolerance and The Birth of a Nation, this intimate melodrama was shot in a mere eighteen days in the studio on a modest budget. Still, at least one critic considered it his "most perfect, and perhaps his most engaging" film. Set in the Limehouse district of London, the story concerns the undying devotion of a Chinese merchant (Barthelmess) for a young working-class waif (Gish) who is abused by her brutish father, a local boxer. Although the typical Griffith stereotyping of race and class is not absent from this production, the exquisite performances and memorable portraiture lend the story a touching beauty and emotional resonance.

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October 3 (Tuesday) 7 pm

The Lady from Shanghai

Directed by Orson Welles
US 1948, 35mm, b/w, 87 min.
With Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane

A box-office and critical failure in 1948, The Lady from Shanghai is now considered one of Orson Welles’ masterpieces, despite its vexed production history. Welles’ film features a controversially blonde Rita Hayworth (in her last film under contract to Columbia Pictures) as an enigmatic temptress who lures an unsuspecting Welles into a complex murder plot.  Filmed in part on Errol Flynn’s yacht, the Zaca, the film has become famous for the climactic ending – a cornucopica shoot-out in a fun-house hall of mirrors that has become a classic moment of Hollywood Noir.

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October 10 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm

Chinatown

Directed by Roman Polanski
US 1974, 35mm, color, 131 min.
With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski’s reinterpretation of the film noir genre stars Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes, a private detective in 1930s Los Angeles.  Gittes is hired by femme fatale Evelyn Mulwray (Dunaway) to untangle mysteries tied up with the city’s corrupt water rights history.  Gittes’s investigation, filled with uncertainty and missteps, eventually leads to a shocking finale in Chinatown.  Chinatown won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and Polanski himself has an unforgettable cameo as a thug with a knife. 

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October 17 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Chan is Missing

Directed by Wayne Wang
US 1981, 16mm, b/w, 80 min.
With Wood Moy, Marc Hayashi, Laureen Chew, Peter Wang
English and Cantonese with English Subtitles

Shot on a small budget in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Chan is Missing has cabdriver Jo (Moy) and his nephew Steve (Hayashi) searching for the enigmatic Chan, who has disappeared with their $4,000 after promising to buy them a taxi license. As Jo and Steve pursue Chan, the film explores questions of Chinese-American identity, as well as the diversity and conflicts found within the Chinese-American community.  These important themes are interwoven with many moments of humor and elements of American popular culture such as John Wayne, rock’n’roll, television detective shows, and Charlie Chan.

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October 17 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Eat a Bowl of Tea

Directed by Wayne Wang
US 1989, 35mm, color, 102 min.
With Cora Miao, Russell Wong, Victor Wong
English and Mandarin with English subtitles

Quota restrictions limiting the immigration of Chinese women into the United States were lifted after World War II, and thus many Chinese men were finally able to reunite with their wives in America and bachelors began to bring women to the United States. In Eat a Bowl of Tea, Chinese-American Ben Loy (Wong) travels from New York City to China to find a bride (Miao). Once back in New York, tensions between tradition and modernity present challenges, and familial, monetary, and societal pressures strain the young couple’s marriage.

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