We are pleased to provide our annual respite from the summer heat with a season of double feature screenings. Our popular program culls selections from the HFA’s 10,000 plus film collection, rare prints from international archives, and notable rediscoveries and reissues from the past year, including Antonioni’s The Passenger and Bresson’s Mouchette. This year, we present a whirlwind tour of film history which is by no means comprehensive but designed to give an overview of some of the more compelling international cinemas, including rarely screened work from France, Russia, Poland, Brazil, and Australia. The films are organized chronologically allowing a fascinating, if somewhat arbitrary, weekly journey from the origins of cinema to the present day.
Special thanks to Yale University, The Academy Film Archive, the George Eastman House, the National Film and Sound Archive (Australia), the Museum of Modern Art, The Library of Congress, Milestone Films, Strand Releasing, Gaumont, Janus Films, Kino International, Rialto Pictures, Swank Motion Pictures, Corinth Films, New Yorker Films, Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers Classics and Zeitgeist Films.
June 26 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Peter Freisinger
Directed by Germaine Dulac
France 1922, b/w, silent, 27 min.
With Alexandre Arquilliëre, Germaine Dermoz, Madeleine Guitty
Employing techniques of early French impressionistic style, Germaine Dulac’s The Smiling Madame Beudet is often viewed as an early feminist film. Romantic Madame Beudet is married to a dull, insensitive oaf. She dreams of taking lovers and killing off her husband, but her plans to do him in are ironically twisted in the end.
Directed by Leopold Jessner and Paul Leni
Germany 1921, b/w, silent, 65 min.
With Henny Porten, William Dieterle, Fritz Kortner
This expressionistic example of Kammerspielfilm is a three person drama that involves a housemaid (Porten), her lover (Dieterle), and a partly paralyzed postman (Kortner) who obsessively desires the girl. Behind the scenes were some of Germany’s shining stars: scenarist Carl Mayer, who wrote the script for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Murnau's Last Laugh, Sunrise, etc.; Leopold Jessner, one of the most progressive stage directors of the period; and Paul Leni, who later made Waxworks (1924) in Germany and The Cat and the Canary (1927) in Hollywood. Print courtesy of George Eastman House.
June 26 (Monday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Jean Renoir
France 1931, b/w, 90 min.
With Michel Simon, Janie Marese, Georges Flamant
French with English subtitles
In Renoir’s first major sound film, an unhappily married middle-aged bank clerk (Simon) rescues a prostitute from a beating by her pimp. The tragicomic love triangle that ensues—replete with obsession, exploitation, and physical and psychological violence portrayed in an amoral world—was so controversial that La Chienne wasn’t shown in the United States until 1975. Extensive camera movement, a perversely upbeat ending, and rich characterization demonstrate the sensibility of a director who would be embraced decades later as an auteur celebrated for his unique visual style, humor, and unconventional depiction of humanity.
July 3 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Peter Freisinger
Directed by D.W. Griffith
US 1913, b/w, silent, 17 min.
With Lillian Gish, Lionel Barrymore, Charles Hill Mailes
Griffith's role in establishing the feature as the dominant mode of American film production is widely celebrated. It was in the short form—Griffith made 450 shorts at Biograph between 1908 and 1913—that Griffith and cinematographer Billy Bitzer developed the cinematic language of Classical Hollywood. In this one-reel drama, Griffith addresses the social problem of mental illness, and music's healing power. With its use of movement within the frame and off-screen space, The House of Darkness demonstrates "the increased sophistication of Griffith and Bitzer's camerawork at the end of the Biograph period" (Tom Gunning).
Directed by Oscar Micheaux
US 1920, b/w, silent, 80 min.
With Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin
Thought lost until a single surviving print was rediscovered in Spain, Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates may be the legendary director’s most provocative film. Made in response to the racism portrayed in D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, Within Our Gates contains sequences deemed so incendiary that the film was repeatedly cut by censors. In 1992 the Library of Congress restored the film as close to the original as possible. Micheaux’s melodrama follows Sylvia, a young Southern teacher who travels to Boston to seek funding for her school. An extended flashback near the end of the film “refute[s] the claims of white popular culture with regard to ‘black’ Reconstruction” (Michele Wallace),” showing us how Sylvia’s life was shaped by racial prejudice, lynching, and miscegenation. Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
July 3 (Monday) 9 pm
Directed by James Whale
US 1936, color, 113 min.
With Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan
Kern-Hammerstein’s much-loved musical is given memorable treatment in the last major production completed under the Laemmle regime at Universal Studios. James Whale (better known for his horror classic Frankenstein) contributed to Hollywood’s musical boom with the second of three screen adaptations of this sentimental favorite. Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan reprise their Broadway roles in the melodramatic tale of river boat life and miscegenation in the deep South.
July 10 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
US 1915, b/w, silent, 28 min.
With Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance
Chaplin’s principal character, and one of the screen’s most famous icons, is the Tramp. In this Essanay short, the Tramp’s character is developed to encompass the pathos—as well as the comedy—for which Chaplin is celebrated. When a farmer’s pretty daughter (Purviance) is set upon by thieves, Charlie comes to her rescue, is given work on the farm, and dreams of making it his home.
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
US 1918, b/w, silent, 48 min.
With Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Ernest Van Pelt
Chaplin’s initial film for First National, A Dog’s Life pairs Charlie with Scraps—a dog he rescues from attack by other strays. Introducing an element of social satire that would henceforth be ever-present, the story follows the two outcasts as they search for food and befriend a down-on-her-luck dance hall girl (Purviance). Chaplin later commented that the film, his first three-reeler, was made when he “was beginning to think of comedy in a structural sense, [becoming] conscious of its architectural form.”
Directed by Yevgeni Bauer
Russia 1914, b/w, silent, 45 min.
With Elena Smirnova, Nina Koxlianinova, Mikhail Salarov
Of the eighty-six films produced in the five years before Evgenii Bauer’s untimely death in 1917, twenty-six are known; these are considered the major discovery of pre-Soviet cinema, notable for their distinctive eroticism and artistry, expressed in a variety of genres. Inverting the familiar schema of the male aggressor and female victim, Child of the Big City is a social melodrama whose protagonist, an orphaned seamstress, escapes the world of poverty only to become a monster of depravity and egotism, provoking the suicide of her idealistic suitor.
July 10 (Monday) 9:10 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Peter Freisinger
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan 1933, b/w, silent, 47 min.
With Yoshiko Okada, Ureo Egawa, Kinuyo Tanaka
Often considered the “most Japanese” of all Japanese directors, Ozu was proclaimed “one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century in any medium and in any country” by the British Film Institute. Woman of Tokyo, one of his most powerful films, tells the story of a young woman who supports her student brother by working as a translator by day and a prostitute by night. Rediscovered in the early 1980s, Woman of Tokyo was acclaimed for its “subtle riot of discordant formal devices. . . and breathtaking wrench of perspective, from individual tragedy to matter-of-fact social breakdown.”
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan 1935, b/w, silent, 80 min.
With Takeshi Sakamoto, Yoshiko Okada, Choko Iida
Often compared to the later neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief, An Inn in Tokyo chronicles three days in the life of an unemployed factory worker who wanders through Tokyo’s industrial hinterland with his two sons, looking for work. In the film’s most famous sequence, the starving family has an imaginary picnic in the midst of a bleak landscape of smokestacks. David Bordwell suggests that in its rigorous visual patterning and plaintive themes, “An Inn in Tokyo constitutes a summary of Ozu’s silent work.”
July 17 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Edmund Goulding
US 1927, b/w, silent, 82 min.
With Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Brandon Hurst
One of several adaptations of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, this early Garbo silent features a classic performance by the reluctant star. A married woman falls in love with a military officer and is banished from home by her powerful husband, who tells her son that she has died. Although Garbo would gain greater critical acclaim for her role in the 1935 version of Tolstoy’s text, this version was one of her biggest commercial successes thanks in part to its memorable tagline: “John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in Love!”
This rare print features both the film’s happy ending, which was released in the United States, and its tragic ending released internationally.
Print courtesy of George Eastman House.
July 17 (Monday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Gustav Machatý
Czech/Austria 1933, b/w, 87 min.
With Hedy Lamarr, Aribert Mog, Zvonimir Rogoz
French and German with English Subtitles
Before coming to Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler) made her film debut in this romantic drama about a young woman who marries an older man who is unable (or unwilling) to consummate their marriage. Frustrated by her loveless marriage, she has an affair with a handsome farm worker. Tame by today’s standards, Ecstasy was scandalous at the time of its release, and the film was condemned by the Vatican because of its sex scenes and its images of a nude Lamarr frolicking in the natural environment.
Screening on July 24 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Peter Freisinger
Directed by Sergei M. Eisentein
USSR 1923, b/w, silent, 5 min.
A parody of newsreels, Glumov’s Diary was made for Eisenstein’s production of Alexander Ostrovsky’s The Sage. At the time, Eisenstein was collaborating with avant-garde theater groups, innovating with form and structure in ways prescient of his later film work. Inserted within the play (like René Clair’s Entr’acte), Glumov’s Diary—Eisenstein’s first film—indicates Eisenstein’s interest in the intersection of theatre and cinema.
Directed by Dziga Vertov
USSR 1926, b/w, silent, 61 min.
One of the leading figures of Soviet cinema, Dziga Vertov is best known for his stunning experiment Man with a Movie Camera. A Sixth Part of the World, made two years earlier, was commissioned by the State to promote Soviet products, a means to the modernization of the USSR. While the film drew criticism for its ample use of poetic intertitles, others praised not only its inventive approach to rhythm between the lyrical text and image, but Vertov’s creation of a cinema symphony whose extraordinarily daring and complex montage connects documentary footage from across the territories in a paean to its peoples and landscapes. For Vertov, it was “more than a film… already the next stage after the concept of ‘cinema’ itself.” Revolutionary in its form and ideological content, A Sixth Part of the World was also, for the Kinocs, “the complete victory of facts” over Hollywood’s factory of dreams.
July 24 (Monday) 8:30 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Peter Freisinger
Directed by Buster Keaton
US 1924, b/w, silent, 45 min.
With Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton
The silent era’s most cinematic comedian, Keaton brilliantly merged slapstick humor (at once sophisticated and absurd), athleticism, a deadpan demeanor, and an understanding of the simultaneously mechanical and dream-like nature of the film medium. Andrew Sarris called Sherlock Jr. Keaton’s 8 ½, and the Surrealists also admired this unforgettable tale of a lovesick movie projectionist who dreams himself into the movie he is playing. Keaton’s ingenious visual effects play with cinema’s essential magic: its ability to (artificially) construct realistic temporal and spatial relationships—not to mention its influence on behavioral ideas, a power so enchanting that when the young projectionist awakes, his amorous interaction with his girlfriend is visibly inspired by the couples on the silver screen.
Directed by Buster Keaton
US 1923, b/w, silent, 23 min.
With Buster Keaton, Phyllis Haver
Keaton finds himself atop a balloon, lands in the wilderness, and encounters a young woman (Haver) camping nearby. Adventures ensue (and plenty of gags) as the two fend for themselves, Keaton all the while trying to win the girl’s affections.
July 31 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
Directed by Erich von Stroheim
US 1928, b/w, silent, 97 min.
With Gloria Swanson, Walter Bryon, Seena Owen
Kelly (Swanson), an innocent convent girl, falls in love with a playboy prince (Bryon) who is engaged to a mad and powerful queen (Owen). When her love goes unfulfilled, Kelly departs for Africa and ends up the mistress of a brothel. Although von Stroheim planned the film on an epic scale, with a running time of five hours, it was shut down by producer Joseph P. Kennedy when Swanson became unhappy with the director’s notorious excesses, essentially ending von Stroheim’s directorial career in Hollywood. Long available in an incoherent truncated form, this restored version fills in some of the missing pieces of the director’s bold, unique vision.
July 31 (Monday) 9 pm
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
US 1934, b/w, 104 min.
With Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe
Marlene Dietrich stars as Catherine the Great in this visually extravagant, expressionistic chronicle of her rise from innocent German princess to Empress of Russia. With the The Scarlet Empress, Von Sternberg perfected his trademark elaborate mise-en-scene and use of the close-up, and Dietrich tested the boundaries of the newly enacted Hayes Code with her depiction of Catherine the Great’s barely contained, subversive sexuality.
August 7 (Monday) 7 pm
Directed by Robert Flaherty and F.W. Murnau
US 1931, 35mm, b/w, 80 min.
August 7 (Monday) 8:45 pm
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel
US 1932, b/w, 63 min.
With Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks
Before their colossal success with King Kong, filmmakers Schoedsack and Pichel directed this chilling adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story. A luxury cruiser is shipwrecked on a remote tropical island inhabited by a mad Russian exile (Banks) who amuses himself by hunting human beings, whom he refers to as “the most dangerous game.” Fay Wray’s wide-eyed horror brings intensity to the film, which was shot on many of the same locations as the more crowd-pleasing King Kong.
August 14 (Monday) 7 pm - Live Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov
During the 1920s many filmmakers explored the idea of the city as the central force in modern life. Referred to as “city symphonies,” these works explored the compelling intersection between nonfiction and avant-grade modes of expression, using real locations to construct poetic visions.
Directed by Mannus Franken and Joris Ivens
Netherlands 1929, b/w, silent, 12 min.
A rainy day in Amsterdam provides the inspiration for Joris Ivens’ striking film poem. Although seamless in its presentation of a day in the life of the Dutch people, the film actually took two years to prepare.
Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti
France 1925, b/w, silent, 45 min.
French Language Version
Alberto Cavalcanti presents all walks of life as he chronicles a day in Paris from dawn to dusk. While faithful to its real life subjects, the film uses a modernist form which complicates its common classification as nonfiction. Cavalcanti’s film reputedly inspired Dziga Vertov to create his own city symphony, Man with a Movie Camera.
Directed by Walther Ruttman
Germany, 1927, b/w, silent, 65 min.
Walther Ruttman’s impressionistic vision of Berlin stands as one of the great “city symphonies” of the silent era. A day-to-night portrait of the city that deploys kinetic editing and a graphic mode of cinematography to capture the dynamism of the modern urban environment, the film set a lasting precedent for the representation of city life in cinema. Although the events appear to take place during a single spring day, Ruttman spent eighteen months assembling footage to produce the final film. Whether classified as a work of nonfiction or the avant-garde, Ruttman’s poetic work remains a classic of cinema.
August 14 (Monday) 9:15 pm
Trained as a photographer, Cleveland-native Ralph Steiner crafted an impressive body of work in the 1930s in both experimental and nonfiction modes. His first major work, H2O is an abstract film which focuses on the rhythmic flow of water and its interplay with light and shadow, and was recently selected for the National Film Registry. Steiner continued in this mode with poetic works such as Mechanical Principles and Surf and Seaweed before turning to more ideologically motivated pieces. Pie in the Sky is a political satire made with members of the Group Theater (including Elia Kazan and Nykino), a group dedicated to producing agit-prop films. Along with Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz Steiner formed Frontier Films, which sought to expand the possibilities of documentary film, most notably seen in The City, his collaboration with Willard van Dyke. In his later career Steiner worked as a writer in Hollywood studios and eventually returned to commercial photography.
Directed by Ralph Steiner
US 1929, b/w, silent, 14 min.
Directed by Ralph Steiner
US 1930, b/w, silent, 10 min.
Surf and Seaweed
Directed by Ralph Steiner
US 1931, b/w, silent, 11 min.
Pie in the Sky
Directed by Ralph Steiner
US 1935, b/w, silent, 22 min.
Directed by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke
US 1939, b/w, 43 min.