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December 5 - December 7

Recent and Remembered Films by Nathaniel Dorsky

Nathaniel Dorsky is recognized today as one of the most gifted and influential filmmakers to emerge from the San Francisco experimental film scene. Dorsky's supreme artistry of 16mm cinematography and rhythmic montage has given way to a distinct mode of meditative cinema largely filmed in the streets, always without sound and grounded in a penetrating understanding of film form. In Dorsky's two newest films from 2008, Sarabande and Winter, he continues to discover moments of rare beauty in the quotidian, wordless dramas of light, shadow and color that we, out of habit, would otherwise be blind to.

A professional and much sought after film editor, Dorsky is also a passionate and dedicated cinephile whose unique understanding of cinematic poiesis is wonderfully captured in his published essay Devotional Cinema (2003). For Dorsky's return visit to the HFA, we will complement his newest films with an important earlier work, Alaya (1976-87) and we have assembled a two programs of little known French films of the 1930s, chosen by Dorsky as examples of the narrative cinema that is most important to him. We are pleased and honored that Nathaniel Dorsky will join us for a presentation of his own films and a discussion of rare films by Marcel Carné and Jean Grémillon.

Special thanks to Edith Kramer; Christine Houard, Ministère des affaires étrangères; Eric Jausseran, Consulate General of France, Boston; Delphine Selles-Alvarez, Cultural Services of the French Embassy (New York).  Special support provided by the Academy Foundation of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Provostial Funds Committee.

Special Event Tickets $10
Friday December 5 at 7pm


Directed by Nathaniel Dorsky, Appearing in Person
US 2008, 16mm, color, silent, 15 min.
Print from Nathaniel Dorsky

Dark and stately is the warm, graceful tenderness of the Sarabande. – N.D.


Directed by Nathaniel Dorsky, Appearing in Person
US 1976-1987, 16mm, color, silent, 28 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Sand, wind, and light intermingle with the emulsions. The viewer is the star. - N.D.


Directed by Nathaniel Dorsky, Appearing in Person
US 2008, 16mm, color, silent, 22 min.
Print from Nathaniel Dorsky

San Francisco's winter is a season unto itself. Fleeting, rain-soaked, verdant, a brief period of shadows and renewal. - N.D.

 Listen to this evening's discussion and Q&A.

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Nathaniel Dorsky in Person
Special Event Tickets $10

Saturday December 6 at 7pm

“[HFA Director] Haden Guest and I were talking at dinner about how when a film is fully manifest its content and form are in a union of sublime narrative. When this magic occurs, cinema itself goes beyond a vehicle for textual communication and becomes a sculptural rightness which can mirror and transform the psyche. I can say enthusiastically that the three rarely screened films we have selected meet these criteria. The Marcel Carné is a story film whose very elements, moment to moment, are expressed by the visual possibilities of cinema and montage. The two most excellent films by Jean Grémillon, a filmmaker who began making his own personal experimental films with his own camera, demonstrate his passage into narrative form and his sense of the poignancy that occurs at the tableau-like moment of the cut. This program is meant for those of you with a hunger for the unbeatable pleasure of seeing three Academy-ratio, black and white films created with an exquisite craftsmanship that has lingered in my memory since I first saw them ten years ago.” – N.D.

The Strange M. Victor

Directed by Jean Grémillon.
With Raimu, Pierre Blanchar, Viviane Romance
France 1938, 35mm, b/w, 97 min. French with English subtitles
Print courtesy of the French Ministry

Family man Victor tries to leave behind his secret life of crime, only to become a murderer. When another man goes to prison for his crime, Victor’s guilt threatens to overwhelm him.

La Marie du port

Directed by Marcel Carné.
With Jean Gabin, Blanchette Brunoy, Nicole Courcel
France 1950, 35mm, b/w, 85 min. French with English subtitles
Print from the Douris Corporation

Based on a novel by Georges Simenon, Marie marks Carne’s return to cinema after a three year absence. Written by frequent collaborator Jacques Prevert, it starts French everyman Jean Gabin as a man who falls in love with his mistress’s younger sister.

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Sunday December 7 at 3pm

still from the headless womanWhite Paws (Pattes blanches)

Directed by Jean Grémillon.
With Suzy Delair, Arlette Thomas, Fernand Ledoux
France 1949, 16mm, b/w, 92 min. French with English subtitles
Print courtesty of the French Ministry

Gremillon’s intriguing mix of fairy tale and film noir focuses on a destitute aristocrat who falls in love with the local innkeeper’s mistress.

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