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 29 (Thursday) 6:30 pm
June 30 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Mexico 1965, b/w, 45 min.
With Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Hortensia Santovana
Spanish with English subtitles
Buñuel’s final Mexican production, Simon of the Desert is a darkly humorous parable about the life of an obscure saint who achieves new heights in his asceticism by perching in the desert atop a tall pillar. Simon’s faith prevails in the face of assaults and temptations, and he begins to perform miracles for his dubious new disciples. A final miracle of sorts is performed by the Devil, who liberates the ascetic to that hell on earth known as New York City.
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Spain/Mexico 1961, b/w, 91 min.
With Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey
Spanish with English subtitles
After years of exile Luis Buñuel returned to his native Spain to make this dark account of corruption. Viridiana was produced with the blessings of the Spanish government and under the scrutiny of its censors, but only after its release did Franco’s regime realize the film’s meaning, and promptly banned it. Sylvia Pinal gives a superb performance as Viridiana, an idealistic young novitiate who visits her uncle (a closet transvestite) and tries to help some local peasants and beggars, but Viridiana’s virtues lead to terrible misfortunes. The final beggars’ orgy, a black parody of the Last Supper performed to the ethereal strains of Handel’s "Messiah,” is one of the director’s most memorably disturbing, wickedly humorous scenes. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, Viridiana welcomed Buñuel back to the center stage of world cinema.
June 29 (Thursday) 9 pm
June 30 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Satyajit Ray
India 1971, b/w, 112 min.
With Barun Chanda, Paramita Chowdhury, Sharmila Tagore
Bengali with English subtitles
The second film in Ray’s Calcutta Trilogy, Company Limited reflects the social and political mood of the times. While political violence is kept largely in the background, the film’s protagonist, a rising young executive in an electric fan factory, struggles with his ambitions and the corrupt choices that make him company director. Accusations that Ray’s films were politically insensitive seem misplaced when considering this shrewd satire of the American-styled business world of Calcutta. Its realist depiction of the new urban culture recognizes the prices that culture extracts, while maintaining the humanism which Ray demonstrated in his renowned Apu trilogy. Print courtesy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
July 6 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 7 (Friday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo
UK 1966, b/w, 93 min.
With Pauline Murray, Sebastian Shaw, Bart Allison
English and German with English subtitles
It is the Second World War. The Nazis have invaded Britain. There is a split between the resistance and those who would prefer to collaborate with the occupying German army. It Happened Here was the first of several films that Kevin Bronwlow would direct that dealt with various aspects of the history, (both real and imagined) of the British Isles. Brownlow began this project when he was eighteen, andwith the help of Stanley Kubrick and Tony Richardson, completed the film eight years later. Shot on weekends with nonactors and borrowed equipment, the film was madein collaboration with Andrew Mollo, Bronlow’s Nazi regalia-collecting school friend (who eventually went on to design Imperial costumes for Star Wars.) KevinBrownlow's 1968 book about the making of the film, How It Happened Here, has recently been republished.
July 6 (Thursday) 8:45 pm
July 7 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Milos Forman
US/West Germany 1979, color, 121 min.
With John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo
A band of hippies in Central Park led by the dynamic Berger (played with great zeal by Treat Williams) encounters a young draftee from Oklahoma (Savage) and seeks to open his mind to the counterculture. Based on the seemingly unfilmable Broadway smash, Milos Forman’s rousing work was one of the few successes in the musical genre during the 1970s. Made four years after the fall of Saigon, the film serves as more of a tribute to the ideals of the protest movement than a reassertion of its ideology.
July 13 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 14 (Friday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Jacques Demy
France/US 1969, color, 95 min.
With Anouk Aimee, Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay
After his successful forays into the musical (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Ladies of Rochefort), Jacques Demy traveled to Los Angeles to produce his first American film. Continuing the story of his title character from Lola, once again played by Anouk Aimée, Demy puts his heroine at the center of a whirlwind relationship with a disaffected architect. The film’s soundtrack was produced by the rock group Spirit, and features Fred Willard in a bit part as a gas station attendant.
July 13 (Thursday) 9 pm
July 14 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
France/Italy/US/Spain 1975, color, 119 min.
With Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre
One of the international co-productions that marked the 1970s, The Passenger teams Jack Nicholson with Maria Schneider, who at the time was famous for her role in Last Tango in Paris. As Antonioni focuses his camera on the infinite desert, Nicholson portrays David Locke, a television reporter assigned to cover guerilla activity in North Africa who instead fakes his own death, switching identities with a dead English acquaintance. The ending of the film features an incredible, justifiably famous seven-minute long shot.
July 20 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 21 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade
Brazil 1969, color, 110 min.
With Grande Otelo, Paulo Jose, Jardel Filho
Portuguese with English subtitles
Macunaima’s foreword tells us the film “is the story of a Brazilian devoured by Brazil.” And so this landmark of Latin American cinema—and one of the most significant works of Cinema Nôvo's Tropicalist movement—begins. Based on the 1928 modernist novel of the same name, the film follows its hero from the jungle to São Paulo; his fantastic adventures include his transformation to a white man (and back again) and encounters with urban guerillas, cannibalistic industrialists, and, finally, a water spirit who eats him.
Unmistakably political, Macunaima is an exhilarating mixture of zany comedy, flamboyant experimentation, and Brazilian folklore—presented here in a beautiful restoration showcasing its brilliant color.
July 20 (Thursday) 9 pm
July 21 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Italy 1972, color, 109 min.
With Tom Baker, Hugh Griffith, and Jenny Runacre
Italian with English subtitles
Susan Sontag called Pasolini "the most remarkable figure to have emerged in Italian arts and letters since the Second World War." The second entry in his erotic Trilogy of Life, Canterbury Tales re-interprets Chaucer’s classic tales (The Cook’s Tale is expanded into an homage to Chaplin and American silent comedy), continuing The Decameron’s epic—and outrageous—celebration of life and the naked human body. While some sensed a "loss of confidence in the liberating powers of human sexuality" (Peter Bondanella), the Canterbury Tales did not fail to provoke, or find critical success; it had the Italian censors infuriated by its obscenity and "vilification of religion,” and won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 1972.
July 27 (Thursday) 7 pm
July 28 (Friday) 9:15 pm
Directed By Sergei Paradjanov
USSR 1964, color, 97 min.
With Ivan Nikolaichuk, Larisa Kadochnikova
Ukranian with English subtitles
When Shadows first appeared in the West, critics proclaimed its director the heir to Eisenstein and Dovzhenko. Now certified as a classic of world cinema, the film won more than a dozen prizes at international festivals, but was condemned by Soviet authorities as a work of "formalism" and "Ukranian nationalism." Paradjanov transformed an ancient Carpathian folk legend about two lovers whose families are embroiled in a blood-feud into a dizzying, rhapsodic pageant of sex, death, madness, myth, and ritual. Filming amongst the Gutsul tribe in the Carpathian mountains, Paradjanov and cinematographer Yuri Ilyenko conceived Shadows as a "dramaturgy of color," to summon up a world of pagan myth, blood, lust, and spiritual devastation.
July 27 (Thursday) 9 pm
July 28 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Robert Altman
US 1978, color, 125 min.
With Carol Burnett, Paul Dooley, Geraldine Chaplin
Similar in structure to his hugely successful Nashville, Altman’s multi-character follow-up focuses on a high society wedding in Chicago attended by a coterie of oddball characters. Altman ups the ante from his previous large cast productions with approximately forty-eight characters intermingling (and overlapping) at the event (Nashville, by comparison, featured about twenty-five characters). The film was coolly received on its initial release for failing to live up to the standards of Altman’s previous work but it has since been reconsidered, most notably by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, who adapted the film for a stage production.
August 3 (Thursday) 7 pm
August 4 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Robert Bresson
France 1967, b/w, 80 min.
With Nadine Nortier, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Maria Cardinal
French with English subtitles
A spiritual meditation on isolation and suffering, Mouchette is a visual study whose tragic eponymous heroine achieves a Bressonian grace. A major filmmaker whose idiosyncratic style has been described as creating a cinematic language unto itself, Bresson treats the incidents of fourteen year old Mouchette’s everyday existence with his customary precision and restraint. Loved by both Ingmar Bergman and Jim Jarmusch (who placed it in his top ten films of all time), the film is a moving portrait containing a fairground sequence of pure, exuberant joy unlike anything else in Bresson’s oeuvre.
August 3 (Thursday) 8:30 pm
August 4 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
UK 1973, color, 110 min.
With Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland
A young British couple devastated by their daughter’s accidental death travels to Venice, where they are haunted by recurring visions of the child. One of Britain’s pre-eminent cinematographers of the early 70s, Roeg adapted Daphne Du Maurier’s short story into an elliptical, sensuous, and chilling exploration of grief and the supernatural, full of hypnotic, ominous imagery. British icon Julie Christie followed up her Oscar-nominated performance in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller with this gripping performance opposite Donald Sutherland.
August 10 (Thursday) 7 pm
August 11 (Friday) 9:15 pm
Directed by John Schlesinger
UK 1963, b/w, 98 min.
With Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Wilfred Pickles
With powerful performances in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Billy Liar, Tom Courtenay stood at the forefront of the British New Wave. His portrayal of the title character in this film is certainly the lighter of the two but no less complex in its construct. Billy is a young man who dreams of leaving behind his dreary life in Northern England for an idealized existence in Ambrosia, a fantasyland where he rules supreme. His penchant for escapism gets him entangled in a web of lies and engagements to three women, including Julie Christie in a free-spirited debut performance. Schlesinger successfully balances the fantastic elements of the stage play on which the film is based with a fitting measure of Kitchen Sink realism.
August 10 (Thursday) 9 pm
August 11 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by John Cassavetes
US 1970, color, 131 min.
With John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara
Cassavetes directed himself for the first time in this portrait of three husbands (played by Cassavetes, Falk, and Gazzara) shaken by the death of a mutual friend. The men go on a drunken bender that takes them to London, where they gamble and pick up women before returning to New York and their families. What’s at stake in this mid-career work from the father of American independent cinema is the raw power of the characters’ desperation. The men are funny, flawed, and searching, their quest indicative of Cassavetes’ desire to show the “tough and crazy” truth of human behavior—and his faith that “if the feelings are true and the relationship is pure, the story will come out of that.”
August 17 (Thursday) 7 pm
August 18 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Jiri Menzel
Czechoslovakia 1966, b/w and color, 92 min.
With Vaclav Neckar, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodsky
Czech and German with English subtitles
Released at the height of the excitement surrounding the Czech New Wave, Menzel’s debut film sticks closely to the experiences of its protagonist, providing a concentrated and empathetic look at an individual’s experience in the context of vast historical change. Milos (Neckar) comes of age as a trainee at a rail station through which Nazi supply trains pass; his sexual initiation enables him to commit a previously unthinkable act of bravery. The film’s delicate balance of humanism, sensuality, and satire underscores its powerful political message.
August 17 (Thursday) 8:45 pm
August 18 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi
Poland 1977, color, 106 min.
With Piotr Garlicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Mariusz Dmochowski
Polish with English subtitles
Zanussi's sixth film is the story of machinations surrounding the awarding of a prize in linguistics, Camouflage revealed much about the corruption of scholarly life in Poland—despite the assertion of the Communist Party that there was no such school and no such professors. But the film's setting, a summer institute, also functioned as a microcosm of Polish society as a whole—surely the reason why Camouflage, although neither advertised nor reviewed when it opened in Poland in 1977, attracted more than a million viewers and became Zanussi’s first commercial success. Polish filmmakers today consider it the beginning of the "cinema of moral restlessness," which in the late 1970s included the best films of Kieslowski, Kijowski, Falk, and others.