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March 7 - April 25

Poetic Horror, Pop Existentialism and Cheap Sci-Fi:
Cold War Cinema 1948–1964

In the aftermath of World War II, filmmakers in the US, Europe, and Japan developed what Susan Sontag termed a “popular mythology” with which to imaginatively address post Auschwitz/post Hiroshima guilt and anxiety. A visiting lecturer at Harvard University this spring, renowned film critic J. Hoberman
(Village Voice) has curated a series of works which reflect on the tensions of the postwar period. His selections include commercial movies, documentaries, and avant-garde films which accompany a course that will analyze the films in relationship to literary analogues (Kafka, Camus), the political rhetoric of the period, and the popular mythology of today.

Special thanks to Bill Geerhart at the Cold War pop culture website for providing images and pre-screening Atomic Mood Music from Atomic Platters: Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security.

March 7 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The End

Directed by Christopher Maclaine
US 1953, 16mm, b/w and color, 34 min.

The End follows six different people whose individual ends will either be self-inflicted or brought about by the world's imminent nuclear annihilation. San Francisco beat poet Christopher Maclaine imparts their stories with dark humor and formal inventiveness. Print courtesy of Filmmakers Coop.

The Wages of Fear

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
France/Italy 1953, 35mm, b/w, 156 min.
Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck
French with English subtitles

Clouzot’s epic masterpiece perfectly summarizes his dark and
unrelenting world-view. Trapped in a miserable South American backwater, six restless men seize their only ticket to escape, an imperialist oil company’s contract to transport lethal explosives over a perilous highway. As their difficult journey stretches on, the group’s complexion is radically changed as nerves are frayed by the constant danger. Balancing its remarkably suspenseful action narrative with penetrating portraits of masculinity in peril, The Wages of Fear examines the bitter struggle of human dignity against greed and naked fear. Print courtesy of Janus Films.

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March 14 (Wednesday) 7 pm

I Live in Fear (Ikimono no kiroku)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Japan 1955, 35mm, b/w, 113 min.
With Toshiro Mifune, Eiko Miyoshi, Haruko Togo
Japanese with English subtitles

Toshiro Mifune delivers one of his most unusual performances as a prematurely old man paralyzed by an apocalyptic vision of nuclear holocaust. His fear compels him to move his family to a safe haven in Brazil, prompting his relatives to contest his decision in family court. Among Kurosawa’s most rarely screened films, I Live in Fear is a powerful study of post-atomic Japan and the heavy burden of an overly sensitive soul. Print courtesy of Janus Films.

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March 14 (Wednesday) 9:15 pm

Godzilla (Gojira)

Directed by Inoshiro Honda
Japan 1954, 35mm, b/w, 98 min.
Takashi Shimura, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata
Japanese with English subtitles

Long obscured in this country by its semi-comic sequels, the original Japanese-release version of Godzilla is a work of unexpected sensitivity and pathos. Using disarmingly simple special effects, Godzilla offers a mature and even devastating study of the deterioration of human civilization by unmitigated militarism. Kurosawa favorite Takashi Shimura stars as the scientist who tries to shield the beast from the uncaring world that spawned it. Print courtesy Rialto Pictures.

March 21 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Kiss Me Deadly

Directed by Robert Aldrich
US 1955, 35mm, b/w, 105 min.
With Ralph Meeker, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman

In this most unconventional mystery, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer is a private detective investigating the odd warning of a frantic hitchhiker: "Remember me." What follows is a virtual upending of the conventions of film noir, from the story’s unredeemable, often brutish anti-hero to its doomed femme fatale. The atomic anxiety of the period is expressed through Hammer’s pursuit of a mysterious, apocalyptic object—a "Pandora’s box" that is never specifically identified as nuclear but which has decidedly catastrophic results.

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April 11 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Eyes without a Face

Directed by Georges Franju
France 1959, 35mm, b/w, 88 min.
With Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob
French with English subtitles

Beauty and terror are revealed to be two sides of the same coin in
Franju’s haunting fairy tale. After his daughter Christiane is disfigured in an accident, a plastic surgeon attempts to reconstruct her face using the skin of women lured into his château by his devoted assistant. A film archivist who co-founded the Cinémathèque française with Henri Langlois, Franju was well-versed in expressionist imagery, as evidenced by the indelible image of Christiane’s blank face mask. Print courtesy of Rialto Pictures.

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PLEASE NOTE: Hiroshima Mon Amour will be presented on video
April 11 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard)

Directed by Alain Resnais
France 1955, 16mm, b/w, 31 min.
French with English subtitles

The horror of the Nazi death camps placed a chilling prohibition on imagery in postwar Europe. Resnais’s stirring documentary essay shattered that taboo with images of incomparable power, culled from the archives and from his own visit to the abandoned sites.

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Directed by Alain Resnais
France/Japan 1959, video, b/w, 91 min.
With Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Bernard Fresson
French with English subtitles

Resnais’s first feature is greatly indebted to Marguerite Duras’s screenplay and is considered one of the finest films of the early French New Wave. Using a radically novel approach to expressing temporality through associative cuts that bridge the past and the present, Resnais presents the subjective point of view of a French woman who, haunted by her past during the war and filming an historical recreation of the atomic blast in Hiroshima, falls in love with a Japanese man. Print courtesy of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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April 18 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Birds

Directed by Alfred Hitchock
US 1963, 35mm, b/w, 120 min.
With Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy

After the phenomenal success of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock followed
up with his adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier short story in which a whole community—or the world at large—is besieged by an uncontrollable force: masses of deadly birds appearing intermittently out of nowhere. The film features brilliant use of silhouette, superimpositions and electronic sound, for which composer Bernard Hermann received credit as sound consultant.

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April 18 (Wednesday) 9:15 pm

The Trial

Directed by Orson Welles
France/Italy/West Germany 1962, 35mm, b/w, 118 min.
With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider

Hailed upon its release as a masterpiece by European critics but dismissed as a failure by the British and American press, The Trial is arguably Welles's finest film after Citizen Kane (and with Kane, the only other film over which he exercised complete creative control). Welles's rendition of Franz Kafka's nightmarish story of a man arrested for a crime that is never explained to him features Anthony Perkins as Josef K., a twitchy individual pursued by a repressive bureaucracy, obsessed by an undefined guilt, and bewildered by the burden of living. With its jazz sound track, shadowy black-and-white cinematography, angled close-ups, and labyrinthine spaces, The Trial gives cinematic expression to Kafka's complex parable of contemporary existence. Print courtesy of Milestone Films.

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April 25 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The Silence

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Sweden 1963, 35mm, b/w, 95 min.
With Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom, Jörgen Lindstrùm
Swedish with English subtitles

Two women and a little boy—archetypical twentieth-century figures in transit or in exile—journey by train to the mysterious city of Timoka, where a heretofore unheard language is spoken and where signs of war or preparation for war keep cropping up. The women and boy stay in a large, spooky grand hotel and play out episodes of sexual experimentation, radical self-searching, and a struggle with disease and madness. As the film unwinds, Bergman creates a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere and invents perverse and liberating surprises for both his characters and his audience.

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April 25 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Shock Corridor

Directed by Samuel Fuller
US 1963, 35mm, b/w, 101 min.
With Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans

An ambitious newspaper reporter attempts to infiltrate a psychiatric
hospital and locate an elusive killer by convincing a psychiatrist to admit him as an inmate. Among the absurd characters populating the asylum is an African-American who thinks he is a member of the KKK. But, Fuller’s critique of American society is most eloquently voiced through the character of a disgraced Korean war veteran, brainwashed by Communists, who pleads for understanding.
Print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive.  Preservation funded by the Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

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