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June 26 - August 20, 2006 - SUMMER DOUBLE FEATURES

Eight Weeks of Film History: 1940-1959 (Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

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 27 (Tuesday) 7 pm
June 28 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Lifeboat

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
US 1944, b/w, 96 min.
With Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak
English and German w/English Subtitles

Based on a story by John Steinbeck, Lifeboat has Hitchcock skillfully blending elements of his trademark psychological thrillers with propaganda for the Allied cause during World War II. The film takes place on a lifeboat, where Allied survivors of a shipwreck caused by a German U-boat struggle to survive. When the group saves a Nazi from the water, tensions begin to mount in the confined space of the small boat. Tallulah Bankhead gives her definitive film performance as a materialistic reporter.

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June 27 (Tuesday) 9 pm
June 28 (Wednesday) 7 pm

À Double Tour

Directed by Claude Chabrol
France/Italy 1959, color, 110 min.
With Madeline Robinson, Antonella Lualdi, Jean-Paul Belmondo
French with English Subtitles

One of the first films of the French New Wave, Á Double Tour is a psychological thriller about a dysfunctional bourgeoisie family and its disruption by an ill-mannered visitor (Belmondo, shortly before becoming an international star with Godard’s Breathless) who instigates a series of events that eventually lead to murder. Though the influence of Hitchcock in the film’s stylization and use of suspense is undeniable, the film bears the unmistakable imprint of Chabrol.

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July 4 (Tuesday) 7 pm
July 5 (Wednesday) 9:15 pm

Chuck Jones Shorts

Shorts by the legendary Warner Bros. animation director. A vital figure in the Golden Age of American Animation, Jones’s drawings brought characters like Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig to life; his own iconic creations include Pepe le Pew, Wile E. Coyote, and the Road Runner.

Jour de Fête

Directed by Jacques Tati
France 1949, color & b/w, 70 min.
French with English subtitles
With Jacques Tati, Paul Frankeur, Guy Decomble

Shooting on experimental (and now extinct) Thomson-color film stock, Tati conceived his ambitious first feature in terms of color, comic timing, and an inventive use of sound. The black and white print circulating since the film’s release (Tati shot on B&W as well, rightly fearing a laboratory might not be able to make a color print) was replaced by this 1964 version, which Tati himself re-cut and hand-colored with stencils. A mime before he became a filmmaker, Tati brings his extraordinary genius for visual comedy to the starring role of a village postman determined to emulate the efficacy of the American Postal service he sees represented in a film at the traveling fair.

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July 4 (Tuesday) 8:30 pm
July 5 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Imitation of Life

Directed by Douglas Sirk
US 1959, color, 125 min.
With Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, Sandra Dee

Sirk’s last major film, Imitation of Life tells the story of two women and their daughters struggling to survive in New York City; Lora (Turner) pursues an acting career while Annie (Moore) is at once a domestic servant at home and a respected leader of her black community. Annie’s daughter, able to pass for white, leaves home—a decision that ultimately leads to an emotional climax symptomatic of Sirk’s melodramatic world. Throughout, Sirk’s expressive use of color heightens the emotional power of his pessimistic but ultimately sympathetic depiction of American race and class relations.

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

Les Mistons

Directed by François Truffaut
France 1957, b/w, 23 min.
With Bernadette Lafont, Gérard Blain
French with English subtitles

One of the most fertile periods in the history of film, the French New Wave saw the appearance of new and stylistically innovative films by young directors like Truffaut, who was 25 when he made Les Mistons. During their summer holidays in the French town of Nîmes, a group of mischievous schoolboys has fun at the expense of two lovers—a harmless tomfoolery that ends in tragedy.

Miracle in Milan

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Italy 1951, b/w, 95 min.
With Francesco Golisano, Emma Gramatica,  Paolo Stoppa
Italian with English subtitles

Between The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D, De Sica and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini continued their collaboration on this magical neorealist story, which begins "Once upon a time."  Winner of the Grand Prize in Cannes, Miracle in Milan’s backdrop is postwar Milan, where an orphan leads the homeless, living in a shantytown, to build a better life. Optimism and magical doves and broomsticks alternate with despair in a satirical treatment of the inequities existing in Italy after WWII. 

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July 11 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
July 12 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Letter That Was Never Sent (Neotpravlennoye pismo)

Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
USSR 1959, b/w, 97 min.
With Tatyana Samojlova, Innokenty Smoktunovsky, Yevgeny Urbansky
Russian with English subtitles

A year after his The Cranes are Flying won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Kalatozovre-teamed with cinematographer Sergei Urusevksy and leading lady Tatyana Samojlova to shoot this story about four geologists on an expedition to find diamond deposits in Eastern Siberia. As the team confronts the raging elements of nature—including a tremendous forest fire—that nearly wipe them out, the film questions the sacrifice of human lives to further scientific progress. An intriguing example of new Soviet cinema, The Letter’s striking visuals and bold camerawork recall Kalatozov’s poetic documentary Salt for Svanetia (1929), which brought him fame for its visual bravado and powerful Communist propaganda.

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July 18 (Tuesday) 7 pm
July 19 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Caught

Directed by Max Ophüls
US 1949, b/w, 90 min
With Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan, James Mason

British actor James Mason made his Hollywood debut in this film, playing a nice doctor drawn into the nightmare world of model Leonora (Bel Geddes), whose psychotic millionaire husband (Ryan in a portrayal patterned on Howard Hughes) keeps her a virtual prisoner in his gothic mansion. One of four films which the great German director Max Ophüls made in America, Caught examines the dark side of postwar American ambitions and domesticity. Ophüls’s moving camera and cinematographer Lee Garmes’s expressive lighting and unusual angles intensify the noirish melodrama’s quietly menacing atmosphere.

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July 18 (Tuesday) 9 pm
July 19 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Funny Face

Directed by Stanley Donen
US 1957, color, 103 min.
With Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson

A treasure of the American film musical, Funny Face is set in the world of high couture, where fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) discovers Jo (Hepburn), a meek intellectual bookstore clerk whom he transports to Paris, transforms into a glamorous model, and falls in love with. Richard Avedon (the inspiration for Avery’s character) worked as a “visual consultant” on the film, and the production was blessed with key talent from MGM’s famous Freed unit, including director Stanley Donen. The result, in glorious Technicolor: a stylish, witty and charmingly gay ride whose memorable numbers include cabaret star Kay Thompson’s (playing a magazine editor) “Think Pink” solo and Astaire and Hepburn’s comic dance duet to “Clap Yo’ Hands.”

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July 25 (Tuesday) 7 pm
July 26 (Wednesday) 9 pm

The Fallen Idol

Directed by Carol Reed
UK 1948, b/w, 95 min.
With Ralph Richardson, Bobby Henrey, Sonia Dresdel

Released about a year before The Third Man, The Fallen Idol marks the first collaboration between Graham Greene and Carol Reed. Graham Greene adapted his own short story “The Basement Room” for this thriller, which centers on young Phillipe, the son of the French ambassador to England. Phillipe idolizes the family butler, even as he is accused of murder. The story is told almost entirely from the point-of-view of Phillipe, who spends much of the film watching the adult world without being able to access it.  

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July 25 (Tuesday) 9 pm
July 26 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Street of Shame (Akasen chitai)

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan 1956, b/w, 87 min.
With Machiko Kyo, Aiko Mimasu, Ayako Wakao
Japanese with English subtitles

In his last film, Mizoguchi once again sympathetically presents the problems of women struggling under the constraints of a patriarchal society. In Dreamland, a contemporary Tokyo brothel, prostitutes use different approaches to try to survive their difficult lives inside and outside the brothel, while the people around them debate whether or not politicians should pass anti-prostitution legislation. Though ultimately quite pessimistic, with an unforgettably tragic final shot, the film is credited in part with prompting the passing of an anti-prostitution bill in Japan.

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August 1 (Tuesday) 7 pm
August 2 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm

Listen to Britain

Directed by Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister
UK 1942, b/w, 20 min.

Fires Were Started (aka I Was a Fireman)

Directed by Humphrey Jennings
UK 1943, b/w, 80 min.

The British GPO Film Unit was directly responsible for some of the most significant developments in documentary film thanks to the work produced by such visionaries as John Grierson. Renamed the Crown Film Unit in 1940, the office became a central locus for the production of propaganda during British involvement in World War II. Humphrey Jennings was among the filmmakers who produced films for this department. His short film Listen to Britain is generally regarded as his masterpiece, chronicling a day in the life of Britain during wartime. Although the content is drawn from everyday life, the film is romantic in tone, celebrating the spirit of the British people amidst hardship. In Fires Were Started, Jennings uses reenactments to capture the intensity of the individual struggles during this trying period, and pays tribute to the men and women of the Auxiliary Fire Service, who held London together amidst the devastation of the Luftwaffe bombing raids. Filmmaker Lindsay Anderson wrote in a 1954 Sight and Sound article that Jennings was the only true poet the British cinema had yet produced. Despite the challenges of war, Jennings presents an interconnected world of idealists determined to overcome oppression.

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August 1 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
August 2 (Wednesday) 7 pm

I Vitelloni (aka The Wastrels)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1953, b/w, 109 min.
With Franco Interlenghi, Alberto Sordi, Franco Fabrizi
Italian with English subtitles

Partly autobiographical, I Vitelloni is a study of five young men adrift in the wasteland of their provincial home town on the Adriatic coast. Middle-class layabouts who live aimlessly by cadging off their families as they nurse vague ambitions and spend their days in pursuit of amusement and girls, the characters are trapped as much by their own moral bankruptcy as by the futureless society in which they have never quite grown up. Beautifully shot and performed, and governed by an inextricable mixture of affectionate sympathy and acid satire, I Vitelloni clearly (and beneficially) trails the neorealist roots Fellini would later shake off.

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August 8 (Tuesday) 7 pm
August 9 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm

The Films of Sidney Peterson

Along with Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage and Bruce Baillie, Sidney Peterson was one of the most significant American experimental filmmakers in the Cold War era. Playing off of devices embraced by the Surrealists in the 1930s, he created psychodramas which reflect the uncertain psyche of postwar society.

The Potted Psalm

Directed by James Broughton and Sidney Peterson
US 1946, b/w, 24 min.

For his first film Peterson collaborated with fellow experimental filmmaker James Broughton. Inspired by the exhuming of a San Francisco cemetery the two men set out to “try every trick the camera knew.”  Chronicling a man’s exploration of a decrepit house populated by aging women, The Potted Psalm divides the protagonist into both a young man and a headless figure, revealing Peterson’s interest in the depersonalization of character, which would continue throughout his career. Using intense close-ups and a disjointed narrative, Peterson combines the erotic with the decaying in this depiction of Freudian desires.

The Cage

Directed by Sidney Peterson
US 1947, b/w, 25 min.

Shot in collaboration with a class at the California School of Fine Arts, The Cage strikes a delicate balance between comedic absurdity and horrific tactility. An examination of the artistic condition and disjointed perspectives, the film depicts a tortured artist removing his own eye. This artistic act quickly transforms into an urban adventure as the eye escapes and travels through San Francisco in the tradition of the City Symphony. Cutting between the perspectives of both the artist and the disembodied eye, The Cage asks provocative questions about artistic agency and identity.

The Lead Shoes

Directed by Sidney Peterson
US 1949, b/w, 18 min.

For his most famous and compelling film Sidney Peterson drew upon folklore and mythology. In this adaptation of both the Oedipus myth and the ballads “Edward” and “The Three Ravens,” Peterson replaced the blinded Oedipus of lore with a drowned deep-sea diver. As renditions of the ballads wail on the soundtrack, a modern-day version of the mythical Jocasta attempts to drag the diver’s weighted body through the city. Peterson combined these textual references with images of ritual and game playing in an exploration of over-arching cultural concepts and themes unbound by narrative specificity.

Mr. Frenhofer and the Minotaur

Directed by Sidney Peterson
US 1949, b/w, 21 min.

Peterson based this romantic piece on Balzac’s Le Chef d’oeuvre Inconnu and Picasso’s Minotauromachie. The film combines a story of the competition for the love of a woman with images of a young girl with a candle wandering through a corridor, a modern adaptation of the mythological Minoan labyrinths. Peterson’s experimentation with visual distortion and anamorphic lenses reaches its pinnacle in this seductive and romanticized film.

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August 8 (Tuesday) 9 pm
August 9 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Wild One

Directed by László Benedek
US 1953, b/w, 79 min.
With Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin, Mary Murphy

Banned in many countries upon its release, The Wild One is the first film about 1950s youth rebellion, preceding films like Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle by several years. It features Marlon Brando as the leader of a motorcycle gang – the Black Rebels – that disrupts a legitimate motorcycle race and then rides into a small town where they terrify the residents and fight with a rival gang. The Wild One crystallized Brando’s rebel image and helped establish the motorcycle as the ultimate symbol of freedom and non-conformity in popular culture.

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August 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm
August 16 (Wednesday) 8:45 pm

Out of the Past

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
US 1947, b/w, 97 min.
With Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas

If Cronenberg's A History of Violence is still on your mind, don’t miss this classic noir, which begins by catching up with Jeff Bailey (Mitchum), a “retired” private detective once mixed up with a gangster (Douglas) and his girl (Greer) and now playing a peaceable gas station owner in a small California town. Tourneur, still fresh off his early 1940s horror hat-trick (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man) wrings this tale of betrayal (based on Daniel Mainwaring’s novel Build My Gallows High) out of the most unlikely of noir settings: the white heat of the Mexican sun and the wooded streams and glorious homes of the High Sierra Mountains and Lake Tahoe. Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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August 15 (Tuesday) 9 pm
August 16 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Thing from Another World

Directed by Christian Nyby
US 1951, b/w, 87 min.
With Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite

The “Monster Movie” decade generated some well-made classics like this one, famously co-directed by an uncredited Howard Hawks (the film’s producer). A taut sci-fi thriller, The Thing—based on a story by John W. Campbell Jr., who published the first stories of Robert A. Heinlein, Alfred Elton van Vogt, and others—follows Captain Patrick Hendry (Tobey) to the North Pole, where his team discovers a flying saucer and its extraterrestrial vegetable-man pilot.  Like other sci-fi films of its time, The Thing demonstrates the creeping Cold War paranoia in post-WWII America; its closing line warns us to "Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking - keep watching the skies!"

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