This page lays out the Melbourne Cinémathèque calendar in one complete list, with film synopses.
To view the list without film synopses, check out the summary list.
To view screenings using drop-down lists according to special seasons, titles or dates, check out the Melbourne Cinémathèque website.
FEBRUARY 11 OPENING NIGHT
7:00 BIGGER THAN LIFE Nicholas Ray (1956) 95 mins PG
A terminally ill schoolteacher (James Mason) is prescribed a wonder drug, becomes hooked & descends into a paranoid nightmare. Based on then-current scientific research, Ray’s expose of middle-class American values (the family, education, religion, individual freedom) is one of the great 1950s melodramas, a profoundly disturbing portrayal of the madness & zealotry lurking just beneath the surface of ordinary suburban life. With Barbara Rush & Walter Matthau. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
8:45 SOME CAME RUNNING Vincente Minnelli (1958) 136 mins PG
Sensitive & visually dynamic ’scope adaptation of James Jones’ (The Thin Red Line, From Here to Eternity) novel about small Midwestern town life after WWII. The characters (the disillusioned writer & the floozy with a heart of gold) are archetypal “soap” figures but Minnelli’s stylistic flamboyance, inspired by the inside of a jukebox, fashions this material into his best romantic film, marked by an intensely anguished tour de force climax. Stars Rat Pack-ers Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine & Dean Martin. Dynamic music by Elmer Bernstein. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
FEBRUARY 18 BELMONDO!
7:00 LÉON MORIN, PRÊTRE Jean-Pierre Melville (1961) 130 mins
One of Melville’s most underrated & intimate films features a disillusioned war widow (an intense Emmanuelle Riva) who is helped by a priest (a wonderfully restrained Jean-Paul Belmondo) during WWII. Melville’s quietly polemical film explores the psychology & humanity of the priest & woman through a series of discussions about theology, faith & human connection set against a fascinatingly detailed portrait of France under German occupation. A compelling companion piece to Le silence de la mer & L’armée des ombres. Shot by Henri Decaë. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
9:20 BREATHLESS Jean-Luc Godard (1960) 90 mins PG
Godard’s debut feature is a love-on-the-run tribute to Hollywood film noir & B-grade studio pictures, starring Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) as a Bogart-esque thief, who kills a cop & plans to escape south with his girlfriend Patricia (Jean Seberg). Believing that “filmmaking itself should accord with the theme of a film”, Godard shuns studio-bound tradition in favour of the streets (partly out of necessity) to utilise natural light, the freedom of the hand-held camera, & the discontinuous editing rhythm (“jump cut”) of the New Wave style.
FEBRUARY 25 IMAGINING INDIA
7:00 THE RIVER Jean Renoir (1951) 99 mins
Superbly observed, immensely moving, lyrical adaptation by director Renoir & author Rumer Godden of her novel concerning an episode in the life of a small British community living on the banks of the Ganges as seen through the eyes of an awkward 14-year-old girl. Both fantastical & realist, an exploration of colonialism & a humanist documentation of local custom, tradition & daily life, this is one of the great colour films. Exquisitely shot by Claude Renoir who makes India blaze with vivid & contrasting colours. Restored 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
8:50 BLACK NARCISSUS Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (1947) 100 mins PG
Rumer Godden’s novel of an order of nuns trying to establish a remote Himalayan mission is transformed by Powell & Pressburger’s fevered imagination into a technicolor masterpiece of heightened operatic intensity, repressed sexuality & cinematic audaciousness. Almost totally shot in the studio, this is one of cinema’s great synthetic achievements, featuring atmospheric production design by Alfred Junge & wonderfully expressive cinematography by Jack Cardiff. With Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Sabu & the indelible Kathleen Byron. Restored 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
Preceded by Calcutta Paul Cox (1970) 22 mins. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
MARCH 4–18 BETWEEN SHADOW & LIGHT: THE WORLD OF INGMAR BERGMAN
Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007) is, simply put, one of the cinema’s greatest directors. Incredibly prolific, directing 63 films & TV dramas & over 170 plays & many operas, his influence on modern cinema is inestimable, let alone his impact on the image of Sweden internationally. He turned many great Swedish actors into household names, including Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow & Bibi Andersson, & his bleak & despairing view of the human condition – of death, illness, betrayal & insanity – are widely appreciated. Yet it is his skill as a consummate artist, his eye for the profound image & ear for pithy dialogue, as well as his masterful handling of his performers that makes the experience of watching one of his films an unforgettable one. This brief but incisive season will include several of his greatest films including his first international success (Smiles of a Summer Night), his personal favourite (Winter Light), a couple of his most influential works (The Seventh Seal & The Silence), & a new restoration of what many consider his crowning achievement (Fanny & Alexander).
7:00 THE SEVENTH SEAL Ingmar Bergman (1957) 96 mins PG
Apocalyptic morality tale of a knight (Max von Sydow) engaged in a chess game with death. Set in plague ravaged medieval Sweden, Bergman’s most iconic & quoted film is marked by its extraordinarily powerful imagery, its pictorially evocative feeling for the grim reality of the Middle Ages, & an engaging lyricism that has rarely been matched. This film largely introduced Bergman’s work to wider international audiences & remains one of the endearing landmarks of world cinema. Co-Starring Bergman regulars Bibi Andersson & Gunnar Björnstrand. 35mm print courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute.
8:50 THE SILENCE Ingmar Bergman (1963) 95 mins
Ingrid Thulin, a lesbian intellectual, is sexually attracted to her sister, Gunnel Lindblom, a mother with a strong heterosexual appetite. The final film of Bergman’s loose trilogy on faith is one of his most perfectly realised & unadorned films, oppressive in its atmosphere & disquieting in its human implications. Its focus on shifting identity, female sexuality & psychology mark it as an important precursor to his later landmark work Persona.
Preceded by The Dove George Coe & Anthony Lover (1968) 14 mins. A parody of Bergman’s best-known films. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 FANNY & ALEXANDER Ingmar Bergman (1982) 188 mins M
Widely considered the crowning achievement of Bergman’s career, this intimate, quietly expansive & profoundly autobiographical work dealing with the early lives of siblings Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) & Alexander (Bertil Guve) was widely publicised as the great director’s farewell to the cinema & acts as an extraordinary summary of his key themes & preoccupations (the formative influence of childhood, theatre, faith, & human relationships). This often haunting & exquisitely shot (by Sven Nykvist) family saga won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, & rightly stands as one of the great autumnal works of the cinema, a moving exploration of the bittersweet - & often brutal – world of childhood. Restored 35mm print courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute.
7:00 SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT Ingmar Bergman (1955) 108 mins PG
After directing 15 features over the previous decade, Bergman finally achieved international recognition with this deft, carnal, flirtatious & witty romantic comedy focusing on an array of characters (Gunnar Björnstrand, Eva Dahlbeck, Harriet Andersson, Ulla Jacobsson) gathered for a weekend at a country estate. Amongst the director’s richest & most pleasurable films, this icon of 1950s cinema inspired Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music & Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy. 35mm print courtesy of the NFSA.
9:00 WINTER LIGHT Ingmar Bergman (1963) 81 mins PG
A disillusioned pastor (Gunnar Björnstrand) watches his congregation crumble along with his faith. Bergman’s chilly & austere exploration of spiritual debasement, the poverty of humanity & the relation of love to God is a lean, powerful & truly devastating film. The second of Bergman’s trilogy of films on faith is amongst his most unforgiving & refined works. With Ingrid Thulin, Max von Sydow & Gunnel Lindblom.
Preceded by Foto: Sven Nykvist (Bayley Silleck) 28 mins. A study of the director’s great collaborator, cinematographer Nykvist, featuring interviews with Bergman & Liv Ullmann. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
MARCH 25 ARTISTS ON FILM CONNER & CORNELL
(1936–78) 71 mins
This program of 8 films celebrating the seminal found footage work of Joseph Cornell & the recently deceased Bruce Conner explores their shared fascination with the practice of assemblage, Hollywood cinema, celebrity, everyday life & the blurred boundaries between industrial, commercial & home movie practices. Featuring both artists’ obsessive examinations of film stardom: Cornell’s groundbreaking, fetishistic Rose Hobart (1936) 19 mins; & Conner’s eerie & exhausting Marilyn Times Five (1973) 13 mins. Also includes Conner’s devastating take on JFK’s assassination, Report (1965) 9 mins, & proto-music videos for Toni Basil’s Breakaway (1966) 4 mins & Devo’s Mongoloid (1978) 4 mins. All titles courtesy of the NFSA.
8:25 ARTISTS’ FILM (1945–98) 51 mins
A varied collection of documentary & experimental films that explore the relationship between cinema & other artistic practices. This program includes 2 films that document Jean Tinguely’s self-destroying sculpture: D. A. Pennebaker & Richard Leacock’s wonderfully energetic Breaking it Up at the Museum (1960) 8 mins & Robert Breer’s more abstract Hommage to Jean Tinguely’s “Hommage to New York” (1960) 10 mins; Breer’s record of a Claes Oldenburg pop art happening, Pat’s Birthday (1962) 13 mins; Marie Menken’s Visual Variations on Noguchi (1945) 4 mins; Larry Jordan’s Cornell 1965 (1978) 7 mins; & 2 works by Corinne & Arthur Cantrill that explore, respectively, the art of Robert Klippel & their son, Ivor. All titles courtesy of the NFSA.
9:30 8 X 8 Hans Richter (1957) 70 mins
German abstract filmmaker Richter, by this time director of the Film Institute of the City College of New York, made this playful “sonata in 8 movements” in collaboration with a stellar array of key 20th century American & European artists including Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Paul Bowles, Jean Cocteau, Yves Tanguy & Jean Arp. This episodic, revealing, home movie-like film is based on the structural problems of chess & provides a fascinating insight into each artist’s work. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
APRIL 1 LOVE CLASSICS
7:00 SHOP AROUND THE CORNER Ernst Lubitsch (1940) 97 mins PG
In a small Budapest gift shop the new floorwalker (James Stewart) & the shop girl (Margaret Sullavan) who dislikes him gradually discover that they are lonely-hearts pen pals. Stylish, bittersweet & beautifully paced romantic comedy of mistaken identity is amongst Lubitsch’s gentlest, most vulnerable & chaste comedies. One of the most graceful & emotionally affecting Classical Hollywood films, it is marked by a remarkable subtlety, an extraordinary mix of tones, & a depth of both character & dialogue (by Samson Raphaelson). With Frank Morgan.
Preceded by Wrong Again Leo McCarey (1929) 21 mins. Timeless surrealist slapstick comedy starring Laurel & Hardy. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
9:10 EROTIKON Mauritz Stiller (1920) 97 mins
The climax of Stiller’s stellar run of elegant & graceful sex comedies. Elaborately staged & full of sexual byplay (the wife of an entomologist has 2 lovers in hot pursuit), this sophisticated comedy ranks alongside the best of Lubitsch from this period. Stiller’s lightness of touch & sense of irony broke new ground, contributing to the creation of a new sub-genre of comedy &, in turn, influencing filmmakers as diverse as Jean Renoir, Charles Chaplin & Ingmar Bergman. 35mm print courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute.
APRIL 8 JOHN HEYER
7:00 JOHN HEYER: JOURNEY TO THE BACK OF BEYOND
Heyer (1916-2001) is widely considered to be the most influential figure in Australian documentary history & a pioneer within film culture, Australian national cinema & the film society movement. This program includes 1 of Heyer’s first films, New Pastures (1940) 12 mins, made for the Milk Board after serving an apprenticeship with Charles Chauvel, & 2 of the director’s most celebrated & emblematic films: the ANFB-produced plea for the standardisation of railway gauges, Journey of a Nation (1947) 12 mins; & one of the defining & most influential works of Australian landscape cinema, the Venice Film Festival prize-winning The Back of Beyond (1954) 66 mins. Prints courtesy of the NFSA.
Introduced by Monash University’s Dr Deane Williams, author of Australian Post-War Documentary Film: An Arc of Mirrors (2008).
9:10 JOHN HEYER: BUILDING NATIONAL UNITY
Program of key short works directed by Heyer illustrating the development of his explicitly nationalistic, film literate & lyrical approach to documentary form, including 3 films made for the Australian National Film Board: the PNG set Native Earth (1946) 14 mins; Knowledge Unlimited (1948) 10 mins; & his most celebrated & sustained early work, The Valley is Ours (1948) 36 mins. This program also highlights the seminal work he completed as head of the Shell Film Unit: the multi-award winning & extraordinarily adventurous The Forerunner (1957) 37 mins; Let’s Go (1956) 10 mins; & the impressionistic ode to dam construction, Tumut Pond (1962) 7 mins. Prints courtesy of the NFSA.
APRIL 15–29 ELECTIVE AFFINITIES: THE CINEMA OF LOUIS MALLE
Jacques-Yves Cousteau called him “the best underwater cameraman he had ever worked with”. The US Supreme Court called his Les amants (The Lovers) “obscene”. Wonderfully difficult to classify, the career of French-born director Louis Malle (1932–1995) spans several decades & continents & is littered with awards, contradictions & controversy. A strong sense of “ennui” in his early work coupled with his launch to auteur stardom that coincided with his countrymen of the post-war period has led many film historians to unproblematically associate Malle with the French New Wave. Towards the end of the 1960s, however, Malle began to consciously distance himself from the nouvelle vague crowd via a public ambivalence towards the theoretical concerns of the group as well as a fierce ambition to stand out as the leading director of his day. Opening with his Prix Louis Delluc-winning fiction feature debut, Lift to the Scaffold, & ending with the shrewdly zany Zazie dans le métro, this specially-imported season of 35mm prints showcases a director contentedly teetering on the divide between mainstream success & subversive mayhem.
7:00 LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD Louis Malle (1957) 88 mins PG
Malle’s suspenseful debut fiction feature traps its players in a Hitchcockian labyrinth of modern technology & old-fashioned bad luck. Jeanne Moreau & Maurice Ronet play murderous lovers undone by an elevator & an even less attractive couple of kids. This “insolently proficient” adaptation of a Série noire thriller remains Malle’s only true genre film & is also a precursor of the New Wave films that followed soon after. Miles Davis’ mournful jazz score perfectly underlines Malle’s bleak modernist vision. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
8:40 LACOMBE, LUCIEN Louis Malle (1974) 137 mins M
Brilliant, perceptive & moodily shot (by Tonino Delli Colli) account of an opportunistic French peasant who joins the Gestapo during the German occupation. Malle’s seminal film was the first French dramatic feature to air, without compromise, the thorny & deeply divisive issue of collaboration. Lucien (Pierre Blaise) is treated with cool objectivity, revealing the ultimate banality of his repellent actions, in this subtle, complex tale of guilt, innocence & the amorality of power. With Aurore Clément. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
7:00 THE LOVERS Louis Malle (1958) 90 mins
Malle’s international breakthrough came with this, his sexually frank, often satirical, 2nd fiction feature, establishing his thematic interest in conflicted passions, the confrontation of desires & containment. A tale of ennui & infidelity amongst the affluent middle class, it features a smouldering Jeanne Moreau as the bored wife of a provincial newspaper publisher who embarks on an affair with a young student. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival & described by Truffaut as “the first night of love in the cinema”. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
Preceded by Station 307 Louis Malle (1955) 18mins. Malle pursues underwater maverick Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s endeavours in the Persian Gulf. Print courtesy of ACMI.
9:00 LE FEU FOLLET Louis Malle (1963) 108 mins
A bleak tale of an alcoholic determined to end his life based on a 1931 novella by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, who killed himself in 1945 after collaborating with the Nazis. Discharged from a sanatorium, Alain Leroy (Maurice Ronet) visits his bourgeois friends in Paris (including Jeanne Moreau) to see if anything can dissuade him from his course. The stark, high-contrast black-&-white cinematography, along with Erik Satie’s plaintive score, effectively evokes the protagonist’s emotional alienation. Special Jury Prize, 1963 Venice Film Festival. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
7:00 AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS Louis Malle (1987) 104 mins PG
An emotional project very close to Malle’s heart, & based on an incident from his childhood, this film reflects on the Holocaust through the experience of two young boys, one Catholic & the other Jewish. Subtle, minutely detailed & emotionally devastating, this is widely considered to be the crowning achievement of Malle’s career. Featuring stunning performances by Gaspard Manesse & Raphael Fejtö. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
Preceded by Vive le tour Louis Malle (1962) 19 mins. Malle pays affectionate homage to one of France’s most treasured institutions, drawing the viewer into the buoyant world of competitive cycling. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
9:15 ZAZIE DANS LE MÉTRO Louis Malle (1960) 88 mins PG
Demonstrating his stylistic breadth, Malle’s adaptation of Raymond Queneau’s “unfilmable” novel is brimming with a manic spirit absent from his first 2 fiction features. A precocious foul-mouthed gamine (Catherine Demongeot), staying with her female-impersonator uncle (Philippe Noiret) in Paris, is caught up in a comic adventure around its boulevards as its Métro system is halted. A film delighting in its exploration of colloquial language & puns (as often rendered visually as verbally) & its late ‘50s urban beatnik locales. Print courtesy of ACMI.
MAY 6 DANISH MASTERS
7:00 HÄXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES Benjamin Christensen (1922) 104 mins
Beginning with a dryly educational critique of the misdiagnosis of witchcraft in the (predominantly) 15th century, Christensen’s film, often lauded as the strangest silent film ever made, gathers the momentum of its reputation & offers up a pre-Indian Summer head-trip of magnificent proportions. With the deft sensibility of the carnivalesque, this film slips anarchically between sensationalism, eclecticism & genuine darkness. The Devil is played by Christensen himself. 35mm print courtesy of the NFSA.
Preceded by The Danish Village Church Carl Dreyer (1947) 14 mins. A history of Danish village churches, their architecture & function in community life. Print courtesy of ACMI.
9:10 THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE Carl Dreyer (1925) 107 mins PG
Dreyer’s exquisite & deceptively simple film pares away all the theatricality of Svend Rindom’s popular original play to reveal the underlying essence of this tale of a husband’s overbearing egoism & the consequences of his wife’s (the superb & enchanting Astrid Holm) decision to leave him. An early feminist treatise modulated by a rich vein of humour that centres on a devoted old nanny’s undermining of the husband’s ordered existence. 35mm print courtesy of the Danish Film Institute.
Preceded by The Seventh Age Torben Anton Svendsen (1947) 16 mins. A Dreyer-scripted examination of Danish welfare services for the aged. Print courtesy of ACMI.
MAY 13 VISIONARY TRAVELLERS
7:00 ZABRISKIE POINT Michelangelo Antonioni (1970) 112 mins
Antonioni’s most visionary work is a massively expensive, impressionistic view of late ‘60s American materialism culminating in one of the most extraordinary explosions ever captured on film. Featuring several audacious set pieces including a rhapsodic lovemaking sequence shot in Death Valley, Antonioni’s characteristically abstract anti-establishment reflection on tumultuous times was co-written by Sam Shepard, Tonino Guerra & Clare Peploe & is memorably scored by such acts as Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones & John Fahey. With Rod Taylor.
9:00 THE STATE OF THINGS Wim Wenders (1982) 121 mins M
Described by Wenders as a dark investigation into his profession, this noirish art-imitates-life work came about when he discovered a Portugal-based film production (Raúl Ruiz’s troubled The Territory) stalled for lack of funds & film stock. Offering to fix things if he could use the crew to make his own film – immediately – Wenders created this brilliant film-within-a-film about a remake of a Roger Corman (cameo alert!) apocalyptic sci-fi B-movie (The Day The World Ended) that has, unsurprisingly, stalled due to lack of funds & film stock. Samuel Fuller also cameos. Co-written by Robert Kramer. 35mm print courtesy of the NFSA.
MAY 20 LATE SILENTS
7:00 CHICAGO Frank Urson (1927) 118 mins
Cecil B. DeMille produced original screen version of playwright Maurine Watkins’ true crime story, based on the salacious exploits of “wild jazz-loving & boozing wife” Roxie Hart who killed her boyfriend in cold blood after he left her. Most famously remade as a Broadway musical & subsequent Oscar-winning film, this hugely successful opus was directed by the very talented Frank Urson who tragically died shortly after the film’s release. Features Eugene Pallette with art direction by Mitchell Leisen. 35mm print of the restored roadshow version courtesy of the UCLA Film & TV Archive.
9:10 THUNDERBOLT Josef von Sternberg (1929) 95 mins
“Less a gangster film than a gangster fantasy” (Andrew Sarris). Sternberg’s wildly underrated proto-noir is one of the most brilliant & dynamic explorations of the potential of early sound cinema. Made just prior to The Blue Angel, Sternberg’s first talkie is a highly expressive & typically psychological tale of a brutal gangster (George Bancroft) awaiting execution who plots to kill the inmate in the next cell who has fallen in love with his girlfriend (Fay Wray). 35mm print courtesy of the UCLA Film & TV Archive.
Preceded by The Town Josef von Sternberg (1943) 12 mins. Sternberg’s intimate documentary study of a small town during WWII.
MAY 27 – JUNE 10 JAPANESE NOIR: VIOLENT COPS & PISTOL OPERAS
Though widely celebrated & discussed in their American & French incarnations, film noir & the broader crime genre are also a key form of post-WWII Japanese studio production. Often focusing on the brutal honour code of the Yakuza, the post-war emergence of youth gangs, the subterranean development of modern cities, the influence of American culture & military occupation, narrative & stylistic abstraction, the crime film is one of the most dynamic, raw & socially investigative forms of Japanese genre filmmaking. This season of films produced by the Shochiku studio features works by many of the key & most innovative directors of Japanese cinema, including: Takeshi Kitano (his incendiary debut feature, Violent Cop), Masaki Kobayashi (the dark but characteristically humanist Black River), Masahiro Shinoda (Pale Flower) & Nagisa Oshima (the seminal Sun’s Burial). It concludes with two of the most striking examples of the form: Tai Kato’s I, the Executioner, a legendary exploitation film characteristically blurring the boundary between crime & a broader sedition; Seijun Suzuki’s extraordinary comeback film, Pistol Opera, a hyper-stylised reworking of his controversial classic Branded to Kill.
7:00 VIOLENT COP Takeshi Kitano (1989) 103 mins R
In his directorial debut, Kitano places himself in the lead role of a Dirty Harry-style cop out to avenge his friend’s murder. On replacing the film’s original director Kitano took the opportunity to rewrite what had been a comedy with the aim of showcasing himself as a serious, & seriously dark, actor. The resultant film’s long takes & periods of stillness, contrasting with hyper-violent action scenes, announced the arrival of Kitano’s uniquely recognisable style. 35mm print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.
8:55 PALE FLOWER Masahiro Shinoda (1964) 96 mins
Shinoda’s brilliant Yakuza drama focuses on the nihilistic world of rebellious youth governed by instinct, infatuation & careless living. Drawing on the traditions of ’50s studio production & the more dynamic & stylistically adventurous approaches of ’60s New Wave cinema, Shinoda fashions both a classical & abstracted portrait of the Tokyo crime milieu. This starkly composed, black-&-white ’scope mood piece evokes the refined minimalism of Jean-Pierre Melville, a key influence on Japanese noir. Score by Tôru Takemitsu Print courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 BLACK RIVER Masaki Kobayashi (1957) 114 mins
Combining existential & humanistic themes garnered from his own personal & reluctant wartime experience as a private, Kobayashi surveys the immediate post-WWII social problems in a community adjacent to an American military base. Within a sordid & pitiless world seemingly devoid of optimism, Kobayashi explores innocence, purity & the loss of dignity as a young woman is tempted into prostitution by a local Yakuza (played by Tatsuya Nakadai). Rarely seen 35mm print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.
9:05 THE SUN’S BURIAL Nagisa Oshima (1960) 87 mins
Appearing at first to fulfil the requirements & preoccupations of the familiar studio (Shochiku) “youth pic”, Oshima’s semi-documentary essay on sex, violence, petty crime & morbid slum life is an incendiary & highly stylised portrait of Osaka gang life. Made with an underlying tone of social & political dissatisfaction towards the Japan-US Security Treaty, the sun of the film’s title casts an unnaturally symbolic glow over both the squalid proceedings & the rapidly modernising Japan that provides the film’s striking setting. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 PISTOL OPERA Seijun Suzuki (2001) 112 mins
Suzuki’s wildly stylish remake of his own 1967 masterpiece Branded to Kill keeps the basic plot but places a female assassin behind the trigger. Stray Cat (Makiko Esumi) is Killer No. 3 in the assassin’s guild when she accepts the contract on the mysterious first-ranked Hundred Eyes. Goro Hanada, the protagonist from Branded To Kill, reappears as Stray Cat’s now frail & cranky mentor. The film’s dazzling colour, formal compositions & heightened artificiality – in a plot pitting its heroine against ever-more exotic foes – presage Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
9:05 I, THE EXECUTIONER Tai Kato (1968) 90 mins
Kato’s highly stylised & often-seedy tale of revenge is definitely not for the faint hearted! Five women sexually molest a 16-year-old delivery boy & drive him to suicide. Like Oshima’s Violence at Noon & Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine, this legendary exploitation film portrays the disturbing anatomy of a serial killer. Stars Makoto Satô as the revenge-driven killer who sets out to avenge his friend’s suicide by appointing himself judge, jury & executioner. 35mm print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.
JUNE 17–24 SEARCHING FOR PARADISE LOST: THE FILMS OF JOSÉ LUIS GUERÍN
Over the past 20 years, Catalan filmmaker & cinephile José Luis Guerín (b. 1960) has created a body of work that is intensely personal & highly film literate while also conveying universal truths & desires. Like the work of Chris Marker & Pedro Costa, his films are classifiably non-fiction, & yet they transcend the conventional definitions of the documentary form, exploring the spatial, temporal, geographic & mercurially quotidian qualities of the cinema. His latest & most celebrated opus, In the City of Sylvia, appearing in numerous 2007 “best of” lists, is a lingering, romantic work that characteristically explores the themes of longing, unfulfilled desire, voyeuristic pleasure & the peculiarities & specificities of place. This season of specially imported prints presents all of the key works of Guerín’s fascinating & explicitly cinematic career including: Some Photos in the City of Sylvia, his extraordinary Markeresque documentary that “revisits” many of the situations, emotions & places of its fictionalised counterpart; & several fascinating films that explore time past, film history, & environments forever gone (Tren de Sombras, Work in Progress, & his homage to the world of John Ford, Innisfree).
7:00 IN THE CITY OF SYLVIA José Luis Guerín (2007) 84 mins
Guerín’s intrinsically cinematic & quietly symphonic city film is one of the great films of the decade, providing an extraordinarily nimble, philosophical & experiential portrait of Strasbourg, as well as an exploration of cinema’s ability to poetically capture the essence of a particular place, space & time. Both leisurely & intense, particularly in its mesmerising café & tram sequences, it is amongst the cinema’s most spellbinding representations of urban living, the art of looking, & the airy pleasures & attractions of wandering through the city. Imported 35mm print.
8:35 SOME PHOTOS IN THE CITY OF SYLVIA José Luis Guerín (2007) 67 mins
Guerín’s completely silent companion piece to his celebrated feature sheds light on the fiction film but stands alone as a fascinating document of remembering. The filmmaker reminisces about a young nurse he met 22 years earlier in Strasbourg through a montage of black-&-white photos, some haunting, others mundane. Though personal in tone & unmistakably imbued with Guerín’s style, this minimalist photo-essay speaks of universal themes of recollection & unlost desire.
9:50 TREN DE SOMBRAS José Luis Guerín (1997) 88 mins
A 67-year-old “found” film made by an amateur filmmaker – who died later the same day in 1930 under mysterious circumstances – becomes the point of departure for a dense, sensuous meditation on cinema, decay, memory & the ambiguity of the distinction between fact & fiction. Layering the decayed original film with re-enactments & still-life compositions, Guerín undertakes a metaphysical forensic investigation into a man, the past & cinema’s alchemical ability to alternately suspend & reanimate images of life & loss. Imported 35mm print.
7:00 WORK IN PROGRESS José Luis Guerín (2001) 125 mins
Anthropological but not ethnographic, poetic but not sentimental – Guerín’s film is a blistering commitment to the disenfranchised community made up of the residents of a run-down corner of the director’s native Barcelona. After shooting over 100 hours of footage (some staged for the camera), Guerín carefully assembled this semi-documentary work chronicling the societal effects of the birth of a new apartment block. An understated yet compelling filmic essay on the pitfalls of gentrification. Imported 35mm print.
9:15 INNISFREE José Luis Guerín (1990) 110 mins
Guerín’s second feature is a fascinating, cinephilic journey to the Irish locations where John Ford shot The Quiet Man in 1952. Including the restaging & recasting (featuring a stand-in for Maureen O’Hara) of various shots from Ford’s iconic film, it skirts the boundaries between documentary & fiction, memory & historical actuality, filmic & real locations. Guerín’s documentary explores the transformative qualities of the cinema as well as the cinephilic desire to recapture & more directly experience the filmic objects of our affection. Imported 35mm print.
JULY 1–15 POETRY, PARADOX, POLITICS: THE FILMS OF JERZY SKOLIMOWSKI
Long & tangled threads of irony, absurdity, poetry & fantasy link the deeply political work of Jerzy Skolimowski (b. 1938), a director & actor whose life began in the belly of war-torn Poland. Skolimowski entered college only as a means of avoiding military service. His encounters with the world of literature, however, sparked his love affair with the written word & by his early 20s he was already an accomplished poet & writer. His love of jazz added another dimension to his restless filmmaking style, particularly his penchant for improvisation, & also brought him into contact with composer Krzysztof Komeda & subsequently filmmakers of the “Polish School” including Andrzej Wajda & Roman Polanski, connections & interests that would provide fruitful collaborations at various points in his career.
This carefully selected season of imported 35mm prints provides a provocative sample of Skolimowski’s politically explosive filmmaking trajectory & includes his “Andrzej Leszczyc trilogy” (Identification Marks: None, Walkover & Hands Up!), key works of his non-Polish career (Deep End, Moonlighting), as well as the Melbourne premiere of Four Nights with Anna, his return to filmmaking after a 16-year hiatus.
7:00 FOUR NIGHTS WITH ANNA Jerzy Skolimowski (2008) 87 mins
Skolimowski’s first film in 16 years is a fascinating return to the theme of obsessive love he explored in his tour de force, Deep End. This highly stylised work focuses on Leon, a tortured employee of a provincial crematorium & the object of his desire: Anna (Kinga Preis). Initially a voyeur, the pathologically introverted Leon ultimately prowls Anna’s apartment by night until he is caught. Skolimowski crafts a darkly romantic tale through surreal imagery, unique wide landscape shots & highly precise lighting. Imported 35mm print.
8:40 DEEP END Jerzy Skolimowski (1971) 88 mins M
Skolimowski’s brilliantly drawn black comedy explores the (un)fortunate coincidence of a young boy’s (John Moulder-Brown) first job in a seedy London bathhouse overlap with the crescendo of his adolescence. His “colleague” is the narcissistically flirtatious older woman Susan (marvellously performed by Jane Asher) who quickly becomes the object of his intense & befuddled infatuation. Adolescent fantasy & sexual politics seep into each other to make up a steamy soup of a film that is as voluptuous as it is disturbing. With Diana Dors. Print courtesy of the BFI Archive.
7:00 IDENTIFICATION MARKS: NONE Jerzy Skolimowski (1964) 76 mins
Skolimowski’s highly personal first feature, made while he was a student at the National Film Academy in Lodz, delves into the theme of “existential profundity”. Featuring Skolimowski as a university student (Andrzej Leszczyc), who, for the previous 3 years had been studying ichthyology to avoid being drafted. Reluctantly letting go of his youthful dreams he moves into the unsympathetic world of military service. What unfolds in the hours from enlisting until his train departs is a picaresque stripping away of identity. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
8:25 WALKOVER Jerzy Skolimowski (1965) 77 mins
Skolimowski took up boxing at university & had completed a documentary on the subject before making this film, the second in the semi-autobiographical “Andrzej Leszczyc trilogy”. Skolimowski plays a weary & cynical itinerant boxer preparing for a fight who, in taking stock of his life, finds a kind of victory in defeat. Daringly fluid for a film of only 29 shots, its alternation of sequence shots with direct-to-camera soliloquies results in one of the director’s most original films. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
9:55 BARRIER Jerzy Skolimowski (1966) 83 mins
Widely considered to be Skolimowki’s stylistic breakthrough, this companion piece to Identification Marks: None & Walkover (often called the “generation trilogy”) is an evocative study of a restless youth in personal crisis after leaving medical school in Warsaw. Often branded as Godardian, & plainly influenced by the Czech New Wave films of Forman & Passer, Skolimowski’s third feature is “a strikingly original integration of theatrical and cinematic effect” that provides “metaphorical treatment of the barriers between the generations” (Bruce Hodsdon). Music by Krzysztof Komeda. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
7:00 MOONLIGHTING Jerzy Skolimowski (1982) 97 mins PG
Demonstrating resourcefulness & stylistic versatility, Skolimowski conceived, shot & produced this introspective story of exile within a single month. Jeremy Irons plays a young educated Pole temporarily in London on a job as a foreman recruited to remodel a house with a team of compatriot labourers. Exile becomes both an alienating & exploitative game of survival with tension boiling over after martial law is declared in Poland (on 13 December 1981), leaving the men stranded abroad. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI Archive.
8:50 HANDS UP! Jerzy Skolimowski (1967/1981) 90 mins
Banned in 1967, this astringent anti-Stalinist psycho-drama eventually saw release in 1981 when the Solidarity movement invited Skolimowski to return from abroad to complete an updated version. Originally concerning Stalinism’s spiritual evisceration of a generation, as discussed during a student reunion by a middle-aged group of doctors, the film was given an extended apocalyptic sci-fi prologue in its revised version; the 3rd of the semi-autobiographical “Andrzej Leszczyc trilogy”, the 4th of Skolimowski’s Polish sextet & the director’s favourite of his own work. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
AUG 19 – SEPT 2 A VISIONARY JOURNEY WITH ROBERTO ROSSELLINI
Celebrated as the father of Italian neo-realism, Roberto Rossellini (1906–1977) was in fact much, much more than this & to label him simply as a neo-realist director is to greatly undervalue his influence on & importance to world cinema. He constantly reinvented his filmmaking through experiment with new technical challenges & styles throughout his career. Beginning as a filmmaker in fascist Italy, his early films were naive commercial products of their time. These were followed by his pioneering neo-realist works, his pared back, spiritual & contemplative films with Ingrid Bergman, & his final didactic works for television. This season concentrates on two of these important phases in Rossellini’s career & includes screenings of the innovative & widely influential neo-realist war trilogy (Rome, Open City, Paisà & Germany Year Zero), as well as several of the films that were denounced & largely ignored during the time of his controversial relationship with Bergman including Voyage in Italy & Stromboli, works championed by Cahiers du cinéma on their initial release (but by almost no one else) & now regarded as 2 of his finest & richest films. This season also features several of the transitional & rarely seen works made between these 2 phases in the great director’s career: The Machine that Kills Bad People & L’amore.
7:00 ROME, OPEN CITY Roberto Rossellini (1945) 103 mins M
Produced in hostile conditions toward the end of WWII, this nerve-wracking melodrama largely kick-started neo-realism & is widely considered the most significant work in Italian film history. Rossellini (with writers Federico Fellini & Sergio Amidei) was brought to international attention & hailed for his innovative use of real locations & non-professional actors, while Anna Magnani became an overnight sensation for her central role in this classic treatment of the underground movement in Nazi occupied Rome. Restored 35mm print courtesy of Cineteca Nazionale.
8:55 STROMBOLI Roberto Rossellini (1949) 107 mins
A refugee (Ingrid Bergman) marries a fisherman to escape an internment camp only to find herself trapped in an emotional (& geographic) prison. This remarkably modern, physically stark & realistic filmic portrait of the harsh life on the barren island of Stromboli was unjustly shunned & morally attacked at the time of its release due to the scandal revolving around Bergman & Rossellini’s relationship. 35mm print of Rossellini’s full-length version courtesy of the BFI.
Preceded by Envy Roberto Rossellini (1952) 17 mins. Adaptation of a Colette story about a man who loves his cat more than his wife. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 VOYAGE IN ITALY Roberto Rossellini (1953) 97 mins PG
The marriage of an English couple (George Sanders & Ingrid Bergman) unravels as they journey by car through rural Italy (including an extraordinary ending in Pompeii). Rossellini’s proto-road movie was ahead of its time & proved a significant influence on the French New Wave. Jacques Rivette stated that it opened “a breach that the entire cinema must pass through”, while Godard pointedly used it as the film his troubled couple see in Contempt. Suffused with a deep sense of emotional disillusionment & a melancholy reflection of the troubled relationship between the director & his leading lady. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
8:50 PAISÀ Roberto Rossellini (1946) 115 mins
Rossellini’s charts the Allied invasion of Italy, from the early landings in Sicily to the capture of partisans & their Allied advisors, in 6 episodes. Exploiting all the conventions of the wartime documentary – authoritative voiceover, illustrated pincer movements on maps & actual newsreel footage – this great film shows the confrontation of 2 alien cultures, marked by errors, misunderstandings, ambiguity & tragedy, while ultimately emerging as a starkly moving testament to the human spirit. Co-scripted by Federico Fellini. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
7:00 THE MACHINE THAT KILLS BAD PEOPLE Roberto Rossellini (1948/1952) 80 mins
A key film in Rossellini’s movement away from neo-realism, this curious, rarely screened & extremely unusual fantasy is amongst the director’s most underrated works. Utilising the broad characterisations of the Commedia dell’arte & exploring society’s irredeemably fallen state, this often witty meditation on the nature of cinema concerns a village photographer whose camera is turned into a device that can kill “bad people” by the mere act of freezing their image & taking their picture. Print courtesy of the BFI.
8:30 GERMANY YEAR ZERO Roberto Rossellini (1947) 78 mins
Rossellini’s unsentimental & disturbing portrait of a totally devastated post-war Berlin, & its displaced inhabitants who can’t shake the past, is one of the highpoints of Italian neo-realism. Rossellini’s emphasis on the psychological dimensions of his desperate characters – making deals with the black market, doing odd jobs & stealing – also marks the beginning of the director’s shift away from the movement. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
10:00 L’AMORE Roberto Rossellini (1948) 78 mins
Two-part film showcasing the extraordinarily earthy, emotional & sensual acting of Anna Magnani. In this transitional work between Rossellini’s neo-realist films & his often lacerating collaborations with Ingrid Bergman, Magnani dominates proceedings as a desperate woman pleading over the phone to hold onto her lover in an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s claustrophobic one-act play “The Human Voice”, & as a disturbed goatherder who becomes pregnant to a wanderer she believes is Saint Joseph (Federico Fellini) in “The Miracle”. Print courtesy of the BFI.
SEPT 9–16 THE WRITTEN IMAGE: THE CINEMA OF MARGUERITE DURAS
Marguerite Duras (1914–1996), one of the key figures of post-war French literature, is best known in the cinema world for having written the screenplay for Alain Resnais’ first feature, Hiroshima mon amour. However her own films, which she made relatively late in her career, well after the start of her literary success, constitute one of the most curious, formally adventurous & misunderstood bodies of work in modernist cinema. As in her written work, Duras’ films are concerned with themes of longing, haunted memories & isolation. However her film work is also singular & remains wholly cinematic. Together with her cinematographer collaborator Bruno Nuytten (& her regular cast of actors Delphine Seyrig, Michel Lonsdale & Bulle Ogier), she created images that were mysterious, romantic & female-centric. This season of specially imported 35mm prints includes several of her best known & most discussed works (India Song & Destroy, She Said), as well as some of her most formally adventurous explorations of the relation between image & sound (Agatha et les lectures illimitées, Aurélia Steiner [Melbourne]).
7:00 INDIA SONG Marguerite Duras (1975) 120 mins
Constructed, in Duras’ own words, “like a poem”, this is her most haunting film. In 1930s Calcutta, the elegant wife of the French Ambassador yearns for love, but is bored with all the men around her & her oppressive bourgeois surroundings. Representing 1970s postmodern cinema at its finest, Duras has produced a film in which the languorous visuals & multi-layered voiceover are seemingly dissociated but make for an unforgettable & intense experience. Stars Delphine Seyrig & Michel Lonsdale. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
9:10 LES ENFANTS Marguerite Duras, Jean Mascolo & Jean-Marc Turine (1985) 94 mins
True to form, Duras’ final feature is more of a philosophical commentary on life as seen by the writer-director than a movie on a family’s relationships. Ernesto, a seven-year-old boy, is played by the adult Alexander Bougosslavsky. Convinced that there is nothing more to learn in a spiritually corrupt world, Ernesto leaves school to take his own melancholic little journey. Befitting of a writer of such stature, the dialogue is the glittering star in this unique cinematic musing on the meaning of life. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
7:00 AGATHA ET LES LECTURES ILLIMITÉES Marguerite Duras (1981) 85 mins
One of Duras’ most fascinating treatments of the dialectical relationship between sound & image, what is spoken & what is left unsaid, is an evocative “adaptation” of her then unperformed play, Agatha. Featuring Bulle Ogier & Yann Andréa as the wandering protagonists, & Duras & Andréa’s disembodied voices on the soundtrack, it is equally a haunting meditation on the relation between humanity & its geographic surroundings. Shot in Duras’ beloved Trouville, whose remarkable array of beachside villas the writer-director considered “the most beautiful tracking” shot in “the history of cinema”. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
8:35 DESTROY, SHE SAID Marguerite Duras (1969) 100 mins
Five people isolated in a hotel become enmeshed in a ritualistic game. Duras’ second film as a director (having a decade earlier written Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour) is a psychodrama based on her own play written in the wake of the events in Paris in 1968. Many of the elements typical of Duras’ elliptical & often cinematic literature, such as a preoccupation with disjunctive experiences of space, place & time, are fascinatingly translated to the screen. With Catherine Sellers & Michel Lonsdale.
Preceded by Aurélia Steiner (Melbourne) Marguerite Duras 1979 28 mins. A young Jewish woman’s search for identity juxtaposes images of the Seine with a voice emanating from Melbourne. Prints courtesy of the NFSA.
SEPT 23 – OCT 7 RUN FOR COVER: SAMUEL FULLER, TABLOID POET
Samuel Fuller (1912–1997) had an unerring instinct for storytelling matched only by his white-hot sense of moral indignation. Working in tabloid journalism from the age of 12 before becoming a writer of pulp fiction & then an infantryman in WWII conditioned not only his tabloid storylines but also his social philosophy & cinematic aesthetic. Fuller tells sordid morality tales in a brutally efficient style Godard famously described as “cinema fist”. It was Godard & his colleagues at Cahiers du cinéma who overcame initial American dismissals of Fuller as a sensationalist hack & paved the way for his eventual canonisation & the recognition of his unique voice.
This long-hoped-for season surveys the length of Fuller’s career, from his breakthrough third feature – the controversial war film The Steel Helmet – to his last Hollywood film, White Dog, a searing indictment of racism buried by its studio for nearly a decade. Career highs from the 1950s & early 1960s complete the season, including Fuller’s best-known film, Pickup on South Street, the companion noirs House of Bamboo & Underworld U.S.A. & the lurid Shock Corridor, a tabloid tale of the risks to self & soul involved in exposing the truth that could be read as Fuller’s epitaph.
7:00 WHITE DOG Samuel Fuller (1982) 89 mins M
Hollywood starlet (Kristy McNichol) discovers that the dog she has taken-in has been trained to attack black people & in order to save the dog from being put down she arranges to have it retrained. Accused of racism on its release, Paramount shelved the film despite its critical success in France. But, as one would expect from Fuller, his last great film is an unimpeachable liberal tract told with naked simplicity & a subtle imagination. With Burl Ives. Co-scripted by Fuller & Curtis Hanson, based on Romain Gary’s novel. 35mm print courtesy of the Paramount Archive.
8:40 FALKENAU, THE IMPOSSIBLE Emil Weiss (1988) 52 mins
Documentary incorporating significant footage shot by Fuller while in the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) at the liberation of the Nazis’ Falkenau Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Czech officials, who denied knowledge of the genocide, were marched from town to view the horrors of the death camp. Features commentary & testimonial reflections by Fuller of the events that unfolded. Print courtesy of MW Productions.
9:45 THE STEEL HELMET Samuel Fuller (1951) 84 mins
Shot very quickly on a low budget, Fuller’s claustrophobic & intense Korean War film (the first American feature to deal with the topic) is one of the most striking & immediate films of its genre. Steeped in the ethos & perspective of a former reporter & infantryman, & exploring such characteristic Fuller themes as racism & authority, this dramatic tale of a ragtag band of misfits driven to death or madness features a characteristically hard-bitten performance by the talismanic Gene Evans. This dark, violent & disturbing film explores Fuller’s belief in the cinema as a medium ruled by emotion. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 SHOCK CORRIDOR Samuel Fuller (1963) 101 mins M
Fuller’s most searing piece of reportage from the home front is an extraordinary melange of raw melodrama, comedy, unhinged social commentary & formal experimentation. When a journalist has himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital in order to investigate a murder, reality starts to become a little too intense for the faint-hearted or weak-willed. This inventive low budget film, exquisitely shot by Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter), achieves a truly histrionic climax well-suited to its tabloid sensibility. With Constance Towers. 35mm print with colour sequences restored courtesy of the UCLA Film & TV Archive. Preservation funded by the Film Foundation & the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
8:50 HOUSE OF BAMBOO Samuel Fuller (1955) 102 mins
Robert Stack stoically plays an undercover cop who infiltrates a Japanese para-military organisation responsible for a munitions train robbery. Fuller’s big budget, offbeat, picturesque ’scope colour noir, largely shot in Japan, begins by suggesting the moral separation of police & gangsters, but ultimately illustrates their insistent intertwining. Co-stars Robert Ryan, Cameron Mitchell & Sessue Hayakawa.
Preceded by Beyond Fuller Barrett & Bruce Hodsdon (1972) 23 mins. A cinephilic essay on film violence featuring Fuller’s Underworld U.S.A. Prints courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 UNDERWORLD U.S.A. Samuel Fuller (1961) 99 mins
Typically terse, brutal & visually eye-popping crime melodrama featuring Cliff Robertson as a virtual psychopath out for revenge against the mobsters who killed his father when he was a young boy. Robertson both infiltrates his way into the Syndicate & cooperates with the FBI in Fuller’s searing, morally ambiguous & highly critical & pessimistic portrait of the gutless decline of modern American society & the faceless criminal & corporate organisations that dominate it. Rare screening of 35mm print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.
8:50 PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET Samuel Fuller (1953) 80 mins PG
Tough, often brutal anti-communist film noir features pickpocket Richard Widmark unwittingly lifting microfilm destined for an enemy spy ring. Fuller’s vivid, in-your-face cinematic style critically explores the concepts of democracy, freedom & personal commitment in a bleak but cohesive world where the boundaries between criminality & respectability are precarious. Strikingly shot (by Joe MacDonald) crime film was a significant influence on the French New Wave & features standout performances by Jean Peters & Thelma Ritter (as an information peddler). Print courtesy of the NFSA.
10:20 VERBOTEN! Samuel Fuller (1959) 93 mins
Fuller expertly combines newsreel footage of German death camps with scenes of a forbidden, post-war love affair between a G.I. (James Best) stationed in Germany & Helga (Susan Cummings), a young German woman. Their romance, whilst not condoned by either culture, is further hampered by the involvement of Helga’s younger brother with the Nazi guerilla movement, the Werewolves. Fuller’s angry attack on the complacent mentality of fascism is intense from its suspenseful start to its explosive finish. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
OCTOBER 14 MIGRANT EXPERIENCES
Curated by Christos Tsiolkas & Spiro Economopoulos
7:00 AUSTRALIA HAS NO WINTER
Two documentaries bear witness to both what is promised and what is lost in the migrant’s odyssey to this strange new world. Australia Has No Winter Sherine Salama & Amos Cohen (1999) 55mins. A mixed serbian and croatian family arrive in australia as refugees from the balkan wars. Salama and cohen’s intimate, compelling documentary traces the journey from preparation for departure in belgrade to arrival and settlement in the “sunburnt country”. Followed by Winter’s Harvest Brian McKenzie (1979) 38mins. A migrant italian family participate in the traditional slaughter of a pig, creating from the one animal a store of food that is to last them all of winter.
9:10 FLOATING LIFE Clara Law (1996) 95 mins MA 15+
A Hong Kong family migrates to Sydney and as we witness Australian suburbia through their eyes we too find ourselves, by turn, curious and entranced by the sights and sounds, the light and the colours, of their new world. This visually assured and moving drama is both a corrective and a challenge to cinematic myths of what constitutes the Australian landscape.
OCT 21 – NOV 4 “FROM A FAR-OFF COUNTRY”: THE ECCENTRIC VOYAGES OF CHRIS MARKER
Celebrated for his sophisticated, expansive, playful & highly intelligent essay films, Chris Marker (b. 1921) is one of the key figures of post-WWII European culture. His most celebrated & discussed films (La Jetée, Sunless) point as much to the future as the past, exploring the boundaries between documentary & fiction, photography & cinema, art & political activism, while his widely influential travelogues & meditations on a vast array of countries, cities & regions are as interested in moving through time, & evocatively illustrating the processes of history & memory, as they are particular cultures & places. Both extraordinarily consistent across a large body of work created over 50 years, & endlessly receptive to the challenges of new forms, technologies & ways of thinking, the often reclusive but always creating Marker is also one of the most politically, philosophically & socially engaged of filmmakers. This season features many of Marker’s most important films (including such seminal collaborations as Statues Also Die & A Valparaiso), as well as works that have been rarely screened in Australia such as his examination of the then recently formed state of Israel, Description of a Struggle, & his monumental report on the French Left, A Grin Without a Cat.
7:00 BORDER CROSSINGS Chris Marker (1953-63) 106 mins
A collection of seminal early Marker shorts that demonstrate the extraordinary intellectual & thematic range & consistency of his profoundly philosophical work. This program features imported 35mm prints of two of Marker’s greatest collaborations: the infamous & widely banned critique of the Western appropriation of African art co-directed by Alain Resnais, Statues Also Die (1953) 27 mins; & Joris Ivens’ wonderfully evocative, geographically atmospheric & Marker scripted, A Valparaiso (1963) 29 mins. 35mm prints courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères. Also included are Sunday in Peking (1956) 22 mins & Marker’s most famous work, the sci-fi classic La jetée (1962) 28 mins, a profound mediation on memory & existence.
9:00 SUNLESS Chris Marker (1982) 100 mins
Marker’s immensely influential & playful deconstructionist postcard to the melancholy processes of remembering & forgetting, the difficulties of exile & travel, & the endless possibilities of interpretation. Moving from Japan & Iceland to the Cape Verde Islands & the Ile de France, Marker’s signature work emerges as a dialectical & philosophical tour de force skirting the boundaries between the synthetic & the real, fiction & documentary, cinema & other art forms, the Occident & its oriental counterpart.
Preceded by Les Astronauts Walerian Borowczyk & Chris Marker (1959) 14 mins. An animated sci-fi collage featuring many of Marker’s favourite animals.
7:00 DESCRIPTION OF A STRUGGLE Chris Marker (1960) 60 mins
Marker examines the complex identity of the then-still recently formed state of Israel. Departing from the whimsical travelogue style of his previous films, Marker here introduces a more politically curious tone. Winner of the Golden Bear at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival. 35mm print courtesy of the Jerusalem Film Archive.
Preceded by The Train Rolls On Chris Marker (1971) 32 mins. Made during Marker’s SLON period, this film examines the legacy of Alexander Medvedkin’s Cine-Train (subject of Marker’s later The Last Bolshevik). Filmed in a suburban Parisian train depot, Medvedkin discusses the film-trains that he constructed to take films to the Soviet masses.
8:45 IF I HAD FOUR CAMELS Chris Marker (1966) 49 mins
One of numerous Marker films that meditate on the function & nature of photography while also exploring a significant & often under-discussed aspect of his artistic practice. An amateur photographer & 2 friends comment on 800 images taken from 26 countries, including Israel, Cuba, Iceland, Japan & China, in an often profound essay on photography’s capacity to capture & evoke place, time & memory. An important precursor to such works as Sunless, Level Five & Remembrance of Things to Come.
9:45 LETTER FROM SIBERIA Chris Marker (1958) 62 mins
“I write to you from a far-off country”. One of Marker’s earliest & most celebrated films evokes the poignancy of absence, the tyranny of distance & the melancholic impermanence of things. A brilliantly playful & often humorous essay on the dialectics of sound & image, fiction & documentary, writing & voice, that breathtakingly combines travelogue, animation, formalist experimentation, &, characteristically, a fixation on several of Marker’s favourite animals. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
7:00 À BIENTÔT, J’ESPÈRE Chris Marker & Mario Marret (1968) 43 mins
In this documentary Marker & his collaborators in the Marxist SLON collective (the Company for the Launching of New Works) put self-representation in the hands of the striking workers of a textile factory in 1967. The results are a fascinating series of interviews & monologues about the strike, class-consciousness & organised rebellion in France in the year before May ’68. The title is taken from a stirring speech & translates as “(we’ll) be seeing you”, a statement addressed to the forces of capitalism.
7:55 A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT Chris Marker (1977/88) 180 mins
Opening “with one of the most remarkable montage sequences of the second half of the twentieth century” (Nora M. Alter), Marker’s potent analysis & philosophical report tells the story of the Left from 1967, through May ’68 & into the late ’70s. By using much footage rejected in militant films & official news coverage, Marker stresses the image’s ability to crystallise emotions & channel energy, providing something close to a counter-history of the era. Amongst its key strengths is an ability to question both documentary objectivity & the legends of the past. 35mm print courtesy of the Ministère des affaires étrangères.
NOVEMBER 11–25 THE ROMANTIC WORLD OF FRANK BORZAGE
Frank Borzage (1894-1962) was amongst the most prolific, expressive, subtle & long-lasting directors of Classical Hollywood Cinema. Completing over 100 films, his work maintained a striking consistency in terms of its poetic & lyrical preoccupation with romantic, often impossible love, featuring characters (played by many of the Hollywood greats including James Stewart, Charles Boyer & Jean Arthur) whose spiritually refined desire transcends their mundane spatial, temporal & material existence. His best films create a feminine sense of privacy & intimacy that is pointedly removed from the masculine world of such contemporaries as Howard Hawks & John Ford. This program highlights the various key eras of Borzage’s career including: rare examples of his early work as a director-actor in Western melodramas; his seminal work as a romantic poet of the everyday (Lazybones) & the destitute (the indelible Street Angel, featuring Oscar winner Janet Gaynor) in the late silent period; his refined & socially engaged work of the late 1930s (the wonderfully titled & deeply romantic History is Made at Night & the controversial anti-Nazi drama, The Mortal Storm); & his singular late noir masterpiece, Moonrise.
7:00 THE MORTAL STORM Frank Borzage (1940) 100 mins
Professor Viktor Roth (Frank Morgan) has his 60th birthday celebrations, once joyous with the news of his daughter’s engagement, soured by the radio announcement of Hitler’s ascension to Germany’s Chancellorship. Enlisting an all-star cast (James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Robert Young & Robert Stack), this is one of Borzage’s most emblematic & iconic films, delivering a remarkably detailed, often subtle & passionate condemnation of Nazism. This daring film resulted in MGM’s substantial exports to Germany being banned. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
8:50 STREET ANGEL Frank Borzage (1928) 102 mins
Borzage’s lavishly produced landmark remains a late silent classic for its stark set design, wonderful chiaroscuro cinematography (Ernest Palmer) & characteristically romantic portrait of doomed love. In Naples a destitute woman (Janet Gaynor in an Oscar-winning performance) poses as a prostitute & steals money to buy medicine for her ailing mother. Caught & arrested, she escapes & ends up in a travelling carnival, where she falls for a dashing portrait painter. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
Preceded by The Pitch o’ Chance Frank Borzage (1915) 25 mins. All that remains of what is possibly Borzage’s first feature film, a western melodrama stretching the black & white morality characteristic of the period. 35mm print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
7:00 LAZYBONES Frank Borzage (1925) 80 mins
One of Borzage’s most delicately devastating & intimately observed films, this beautifully acted & exquisitely detailed small town tale of adversity focuses on an aimless wanderer (Charles “Buck” Jones) & the various paths his life takes over a 20-year period. This often understated & emotionally honest work is one of the director’s key silent films. Written by Frances Marion & co-starring ZaSu Pitts. 35mm print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.
Preceded by The Pilgrim Frank Borzage (1916) 28 mins. Borzage himself stars as the quiet loner, content in his life until a woman enters it, in this beautifully melodramatic & imaginative western. 35mm print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
9:00 HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT Frank Borzage (1937) 97 mins
Andrew Sarris called it “not only the most romantic title in the history of the cinema but also a profound expression of Borzage’s commitment to love over probability”. This intensely romantic, glistening, dramatic & often spectacular concoction concerning the love triangle between a divorcee (Jean Arthur), her homicidally jealous husband (Colin Clive) & sophisticated Parisian lover (Charles Boyer, of course!) is remarkable for its effortless & graceful mix of tones & styles. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
Preceded by Nugget Jim’s Pardner Frank Borzage (1916) 20 mins. A western featuring Borzage both in front of & behind the camera. 35mm print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
7:00 MOONRISE Frank Borzage (1948) 90 mins PG
A murderer’s son is pushed to violence by fearful memories of his childhood. Borzage’s visually dynamic film noir, shot by John L. Russell, constantly uses foreground-background oppositions, rack focus, tight close-ups of parts of bodies, shadows & off-axis framing to weigh oppressively on the film’s characters & mood. Features an amazingly expressive & frightening opening sequence & a strong cast including Dane Clark, Gail Russell, Rex Ingram, Harry Carey, Jr., Lloyd Bridges & Ethel Barrymore. Print courtesy of the NFSA.
8:40 UNTIL THEY GET ME Frank Borzage (1917) 58 mins
A brawny Northwoodsman is pursued by a Northwest Mountie after he kills a man in self-defence. Borzage merges the Western with the melodrama, displaying an unconventional attention to his female characters, strong character development & moral conflict. In Borzage’s world, women are in charge & the radiant & sexy Pauline Stark, who dominates this film, emerges as the first stirring representation of his “ideal female”: feisty, small-framed, & endlessly tender. 35mm print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
9:50 THE GUN WOMAN Frank Borzage (1918) 50 mins
Texas Guinan’s powerhouse performance as a gold-rush gambling hall proprietor completely overturns genre expectations. Her ruthless & sometimes cynical determination to exact retribution from the man who betrayed her is genuinely surprising, making her a truly modern heroine whose heirs are Vienna (Joan Crawford in Ray’s Johnny Guitar) & Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck in Fuller’s Forty Guns). 35mm print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
DECEMBER 2–16 DISSENT IN THE REVOLUTION: SOVIET CINEMA OF THE 1960s
Few Soviet filmmakers, even a decade after Stalin’s death in 1953, dared to challenge the mandated orthodoxy of Socialist Realism. Fewer still made films that implicitly or directly criticised the political policies of the Soviet state. Those that did risked having their films censored or suppressed, their careers blacklisted & themselves imprisoned. This season celebrates the films of those who did dare to express individual artistic visions & political integrity – & who all too often paid the price of repression. Many of these films were banned for years; others won major international awards & acclaim yet were rarely screened in the USSR.
The earliest film in the season, 1961’s The Steamroller & the Violin – in which a young violinist resists the metronomic will of the academy – serves as a metaphor for the impending clash with authority that awaited its director Andrei Tarkovsky with his breathtaking artistic allegory Andrei Roublev & that befell many others too. For example, Sergei Paradjanov’s highly personal & poetic style, breathtakingly demonstrated by The Colour of Pomegranates, was inspired by Tarkovsky & led directly to its director being sentenced to four years’ hard labour in Siberia. This season also features 2 key works by the most significant Soviet female director of the era, Larissa Shepitko (Wings & Heat). The films & directors in this season all tell similar stories of integrity, dissent, repression & eventual redemption.
7:00 ASYA’S HAPPINESS Andrei Konchalovsky (1966) 99 mins
Konchalovsky’s second feature was suppressed by Soviet authorities & wasn’t released until 1988, when it received widespread acclaim. Predominantly cast with non-professional actors it centres on Asya (Iya Savvina), a pregnant woman who is a member of an impoverished farm collective who battle poverty, disorder & each other. Konchalovsky’s bleak, exquisitely shot portrait of rural life provides a subtle yet highly critical vision of the distant & indifferent governmental bureaucracy that controls the collective’s existence.
8:50PM THE COMMISSAR Aleksandr Askoldov (1967) 110 mins
Awarded a Silver Bear at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival, this long-banned pacifistic film set during the Russian Revolution tells the story of a female Red Army fighter who falls pregnant to a Jewish tinsmith & chooses motherhood over revolutionary responsibilities. Filmed during the Six-Day War (1967) whilst the USSR was openly hostile towards Israel, Askoldov depicts pogroms & exploitation in an open examination of Soviet anti-Semitism during the Revolution 50 years earlier.
7:00 HEAT Larissa Shepitko (1963) 85 mins
Influenced by her mentor, the Russian master Alexander Dovzhenko, Shepitko’s first film is a curious mix of Soviet political drama & inter-class conflict (culminating in an almost western-like showdown climax). Despite it being the young director’s diploma film & the punishing nature of its production (she had to direct from a stretcher after falling immensely ill due to the extreme climate), it received numerous awards at international festivals. 35mm print courtesy of Seagull Films.
8:35 THE STEAMROLLER & THE VIOLIN Andrei Tarkovsky (1961) 46 mins
A few hours in the short, fragile friendship between a young musician & a steamroller driver. From this simple premise Tarkovsky, in his first extended work, fashions a film that provides a blueprint for the elemental, poetic & deeply textured work to come. A fascinating insight into the development of a visionary director.
9:25 WINGS Larissa Shepitko (1966) 85 mins
Shepitko’s intriguing second feature is an assured, engrossing & starkly composed character study of a middle-aged former female fighter pilot (Maya Bulgakova) settling down to life as a school principal. Exploring the generational conflict between those who fought in WWII & those who came after, this often subtle & humanist work announced the emergence of Shepitko as one of the most original voices of ‘60s Soviet cinema. 35mm print courtesy of Seagull Films.
7:00 THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES Sergei Paradjanov (1969) 79 mins
Paradjanov’s most remarkable work is a mystical & historical mosaic of episodes in the life of the 18th century Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova. Steeped in the images & symbols of Armenian culture, this film is without precedent & its vision is still truly radical & unique. Actress Sofiko Chiaureli plays 6 roles, both male & female, & Paradjanov wrote, directed, edited, choreographed, worked on costumes, design & decor & virtually every aspect of this revolutionary work devoid of dialogue & camera movement. Imported 35mm print.
8:30 ANDREI ROUBLEV Andrei Tarkovsky (1966) 165 mins
Deemed “dangerous” by the Soviet authorities of the time, & banned from release for several years, this magnificent & epic film is often regarded as Tarkovsky’s masterpiece & one of the great films about an artist. Based on the life of the medieval monk & pioneering painter of Russian icons (played by Anatoly Solonitsin), this historical fresco combines weighty moral & national concerns with an audacious display of formal control & experimentation to achieve a truly monumental effect.