February 10: Opening Night
7:00 Lola Montès Max Ophuls (1955) 114 mins
Ophuls’ legendary virtuosic last work, his first in colour, is one of the greatest & most visionary of widescreen films. Montes (Martine Carol), a courtesan & great lover who is ultimately forced to sell kisses in a New Orleans circus, is the epitome of the director’s fatally & materially romantic oeuvre. A key influence on such directors as Baz Luhrmann, Jacques Demy (who dedicated Lola to Ophuls) & Martin Scorsese, & critic Andrew Sarris’ favourite film. With Anton Walbrook, Peter Ustinov & Oskar Werner. This film has been restored by La Cinémathèque française. In collaboration with Les Films du Jeudi, Les Films de la Pléiade, Marcel Ophuls, La Fondation Thomson pour le Patrimoine du Cinéma et de la Télévision and Le Fonds Culturel Franco Américain - DGA MPA SACEM WGA. Thanks to the sponsorship of L’Oréal, Agnès B. With the support of Filmmuseum Münchnen, La Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, La Cinémathèque de la ville de Luxembourg.
9:10 La ronde Max Ophuls (1950) 97 mins
Ophuls’ urbane, sophisticated & supremely witty chronicle of a circle of characters chained together by a series of dalliances & affairs is one of the defining works of post-war European cinema, & a triumphant return from exile for this most romantic, bittersweet & continental of directors. Overseen by Anton Walbrook’s master of ceremonies, who at one stage even cuts the film we are “watching”, this highly influential & frank dissection of sexual mores features a who’s who of European cinema including Simone Simon, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Danielle Darrieux & Gérard Philipe. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
7:00 Full Moon in Paris Eric Rohmer (1984) 100 mins PG
Lyrical & melancholy 4th instalment in the “Comedies & Proverbs” series. One of Rohmer’s most beautifully written & acted comedies of manners, featuring multi-dimensional performances by Fabrice Luchini & actor, costume & production designer Pascale Ogier (who tragically died shortly after the film’s release). Coming “as close as may be possible to” a cinematic equivalent of “the great 16th- & 17th-century miniatures” it “ranks with the very best of Rohmer” (Vincent Canby).
8:55 Boyfriends & Girlfriends Eric Rohmer (1987) 103 mins PG
Rohmer’s sixth & final entry in the “Comedies & Proverbs” series is a charming but deceptive film that chronicles the social & romantic worlds of two young women (Emmanuelle Chaulet, Sophie Renoir) who meet by chance in the institutionalised tranquility of Cergy-Pontoise. Blanche is a bureaucrat working in the cultural sector & Lea is a glamorous & carefree student searching for men & fun. The laissez-faire interactions between the two women & the men they pursue seem guided & lulled by the manicured buildings & lakes of the city, an environment as unattached as its heroines.
7:00 Who’s That Knocking at My Door? Martin Scorsese (1968) 90 mins M
Scorsese’s first feature is a propulsive, visceral & movie-mad exploration of the relationship between an Italian-American would-be hipster (Harvey Keitel), prejudiced by his cultural & religious upbringing, & an independent young woman (Zina Bethune). Shot over several years & in numerous locations – including Amsterdam for its astounding Doors-scored sex scene – this semi-autobiographical rites-of-passage tale provides a fascinating blueprint for such later works as Mean Streets. With Catherine Scorsese. 35mm print courtesy of Metropolis Archiv, Hamburg.
Preceded by What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? - Martin Scorsese (1963) 9 mins & It’s Not Just You, Murray - Martin Scorsese (1964) 15 mins. Both prints courtesy of NFSA.
9:10 After Hours Martin Scorsese (1985) 97 mins M
Absurdist, blackly comic Alice in Wonderland-like tale of a man (Griffin Dunne) who fails to realise that the subway fare rises at midnight & subsequently becomes stranded in a surreal, night-time SoHo. One of Scorsese’s most underrated & perfectly-realised films traverses a nightmarish & labyrinthine universe (brilliantly shot by Michael Ballhaus) in which everyone & everything seems to conspire against the protagonist. Featuring cameos by Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Dick Miller, Cheech & Chong, Linda Fiorentino & Scorsese himself.
March 3-17: The Sweet Life: The World of Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini (1920-93) is one of the most celebrated directors in the history of film, whose oeuvre spans the years from Italian neo-realism to his own maturity as one of the cinema’s most idiosyncratic & visually flamboyant directors. This season presents many of the director’s greatest achievements, from the international breakthrough La strada to the late masterpiece Amarcord by way of succès de scandale La dolce vita. Born in the provincial seaside town of Rimini, Fellini decamped to Rome in his late teens (followed shortly thereafter by a formative period travelling Italy with a vaudeville troupe). In Rome Fellini met Roberto Rossellini – co-scripting Rome, Open City before co-writing & working as assistant director on Paisà – as well as his future wife & muse Giulietta Masina. His subsequent work in the 1950s (La strada, Nights of Cabiria) represents a key break from the tenets of neo-realism & establishes the director’s chief thematic & stylistic preoccupations. Rome & his native Romagna are the two poles of Fellini’s cinema, with the Eternal City forming the object of an ever-intensifying love-hate relationship. La dolce vita – as well as being an ode to decadent Rome – marked the arrival of Fellini’s mature style. Henceforth, in films such as Roma & his Oscar-winning recollection of Rimini, Amarcord, he would draw on subjectivity, memory & Jungian psychology to create the intense images, characters & situations that are his unique gift to cinema.
7:00 Amarcord Federico Fellini (1973) 123 mins M
Described by critic Roger Ebert as Fellini’s “final great film”, & the winner of 1974’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story set in a particularly vivid seaside town during Italy’s fascist era of the 1930s. Bursting with indelible imagery (shot by Giuseppe Rotunno), characters & episodes, the film’s highly stylised world is modelled on Fellini’s hometown of Rimini – its title loosely translating as “I remember” in the local Romagnolo dialect. Features one of Nino Rota’s most memorable scores. 35mm print courtesy of the BFI.
9:15 La strada Federico Fellini (1954) 108 mins G
Awarded an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956, Fellini’s landmark work continues his concern with character & environment in a picaresque tale focusing on a partnership between brutish circus strongman, Zampano (Anthony Quinn), & his naïve companion, Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina). In the interplay between innocence & experience, Gelsomina searches for an individual identity under Zampano’s shadow, whilst they travel around Italy & perform in what becomes a basic struggle to exist. With Richard Baseheart.
7:00 La dolce vita Federico Fellini (1960) 174 mins M
Fellini’s seminal work sees writer Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) given the assignment of writing a gossip column about the rich & famous (of which he is neither). This highly influential & often caustic exploration of “the sweet life” of Rome was one of the most widely seen European films of the 1960s, & fully established the director’s reputation as an important commentator on contemporary life. Revolving around the passivity & vanity of its decadent central character, Fellini’s film also parades an array of beautiful supporting players (Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée & Nico).
10:05 Boccaccio ‘70: Le tentazione del dottor Antonio Federico Fellini (1962) 51 mins PG
Super-producer Carlo Ponti asked Fellini, Visconti, De Sica & Monicelli to create episodes for a compilation film that would explore issues of sexuality & censorship. This is Fellini’s lavishly ludicrous contribution. Dr Antonio (Peppino De Filippo) is a prudish moralist who is first outraged by the too-lusty image of a woman in a giant advertising poster, then pursued (& titillated) by said lusty woman, who comes to life as a 50ft Anita Ekberg. 35mm print courtesy of NFSA.
7:00 Roma Federico Fellini (1972) 128 mins M
Fellini’s bravura cinematic valentine to the “history” of Rome is a charming, personalised & visually breathtaking (shot by Giuseppe Rotunno) brew of documentary, surreal fantasy & autobiography (à la Amarcord). Contains many of Fellini’s greatest set-pieces including an extraordinarily staged traffic jam, the discovery of ancient underground murals & an ecumenical fashion show (featuring wonderful production design by Danilo Donati). Brilliant score by Nino Rota & touching cameos by Anna Magnani, Marcello Mastroianni, Alberto Sordi & Gore Vidal.
9:20 Nights of Cabiria Federico Fellini (1957) 110 mins M
In a role for which she won Best Actress at Cannes, esteemed actress, collaborator with & wife to Fellini, Giulietta Masina, plays a naïve streetwalker befallen by hardships that cannot extinguish her faith in redemption. Influenced by Chaplin’s renowned Depression-era classic City Lights, & co-written by Pier Paolo Pasolini, this is the last of the director’s neo-realist-inflected “pre-Felliniesque” works. In its most transformative moments, this Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film provides tantalising glimpses of the visual freedom & expressiveness that was to come. Print courtesy of NFSA.
7:00 Daguerréotypes Agnès Varda (1975) 80 mins G
Constructed with true passion & care, Varda’s deeply humanistic social documentary records the milieu of Parisians living & trading between 70 & 90 rue Daguerre where the filmmaker herself resides. Varda’s skill & tactfulness elicit the candid response of the butcher, the baker, the couple who run the perfumery & other dwellers who seek to continue their daily routines in the face of urban change. Preceded by L’opéra-mouffe - Agnès Varda (1958) 17 mins. Personal & affectionate portrait of the Parisian market & slum area known as “la mouffe”. Print courtesy of NFSA.
8:50 Bright Leaves Ross McElwee (2003) 107 mins
This typically quixotic & idiosyncratic personal documentary “about” North Carolina tobacco explores the relationship between this now demonised industry & the director’s somewhat fraught family history. In equal parts home movie, essay film & investigative documentary, this extremely entertaining but critically probing movie incorporates a wide array of materials including interviews with Patricia Neal, co-star of Bright Leaf, a 1950 Hollywood biopic reputedly based on the life of McElwee’s great-grandfather, unhinged film theorist Vlada Petric, & the director’s movie-mad cousin.
March 31-April 7: Figuring Landscapes
Landscape is a vital theme through which artists have tackled issues of representation, nation & identity in both Australia & the United Kingdom. Figuring Landscapes is a remarkable collection of moving image works that grew from the background of the political & cultural history that links the two countries, & the close relationship that continues between them. Presented internationally as a series of 5 screening programmes, the works in this season take on questions addressing ecological survival, post-industrialisation, gender, the touristic gaze, & uniquely in Australia, the social, political & cultural status of Indigenous people in a post-colonial modern society. Figuring Landscapes was devised & curated by Catherine Elwes & Steven Ball. Australian Curators: Pat Hoffie & Danni Zuvela. It is financially supported by the Arts Council of England, University of the Arts, London & Griffith University, Brisbane. http://www.figuringlandscapes.co.uk.
7:00 Figuring Landscapes: Engagement (1975-2007) 59 mins
The political, cultural & representational engagement with place & being on the land are simultaneously unpacked, celebrated & imaginatively reinvigorated in works by such filmmakers & artists as David Perry, Dominic Redfern & Eugenia Lim. This program explores sites of identity & anonymity that are scattered with markers of ownership & the history of humanity’s engagement with the environment.
8:10 Figuring Landscapes: Encounter (1983-2008) 67 mins
Landscape is experienced as a spatial encounter with specific places, as we journey across distance & memory, custom & industry, & on land, on water & through the air. Featuring key works by such filmmakers & visual artists as Andrew Kötting, Warwick Thornton, Catherine Elwes, William Raban, Tony Hill & Lyndal Jones.
9:30 Figuring Landscapes: Surroundings (2002-2008) 66 mins
The ambience of place resonates from the broad scope of the horizon to the intimacy of the closely observed. “Out there” the figure in the landscape is a rare sight, its image constructed from memory, materials to hand or construed from the abstract sensation of movement. Featuring work by Sofia Dahlgren, Steven Ball, Jo Millett & John Conomos.
7:00 Figuring Landscapes: Enactment (1952-2008) 67 mins
Figures in the landscape: polymorphous, animal, vegetable, mineral, visible or invisible. Human habitation writes & performs the landscape as much as the landscape inscribes & enacts human presence. These themes are explored by filmmakers & visual artists including Patricia Piccinini, Ben Rivers, Margaret Tait, George Barber & Tammy Honey.
8:20 Figuring Landscapes: Anti-Terrain (1983-2007) 66 mins
Landscape is shaped by our relationship to it. Custodian-ship of the land & its efficacy transcends a human lifetime; as a result the physical shape of the environment & its cultural & imaginative formation will always be political. Featuring work by filmmakers & artists John Hughes, Destiny Deacon, Semiconductor, Peter Callas, Susan Norrie & Daniel Crooks.
9:40 Stones in the Bush (1970-72) 74 mins
This program incorporates 2 early 1970s experimental documentaries that explore the relationship between Ned Kelly & the landscape tradition of Australian art & writing. A Stone in the Bush - Mick Glasheen, Martyn Sanderson & John Allen (1970) 26 mins. An impressionistic record of the location shooting of Tony Richardson’s Ned Kelly, featuring Mick Jagger & the music of The Rolling Stones. Kelly Country - Stuart Cooper (1972) 48 mins. Co-produced by Sidney Nolan & featuring a commentary by Orson Welles, Cooper’s essayistic documentary follows Nolan as he travels to various iconic locations. This session prints courtesy of NFSA.
7:00 Man with a Movie Camera Dziga Vertov (1929) 68 mins G
Vertov’s most famous & iconic film is a joyous & spectacular constructivist celluloid poem utilising all of the techniques of experimental silent film at the director’s disposal: split-screen, superimposition, slow motion, freeze-frames, vertiginous montage. Its materialist, agit-political & reflexive preoccupations were a major influence on Godard & others post-1968, but Vertov’s extraordinary achievement remains one of the most contemporary & humanistically modernist portraits of the city ever put on film. Preceded by Chess Fever - Vsevolod Pudovkin (1925) 20 mins & Kino-Pravda - Dziga Vertov (1922) 13 mins. Prints of shorts courtesy of NFSA.
8:55 Aelita Yakov Protazanov (1924) 100 mins
Based on a novel by Alexei Tolstoy & released in the same year as Lev Kuleshov’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks, this is a significant work of post-Civil War popular cinema born under Lenin’s New Economic Policy (1921-1928). Los, an engineer disillusioned with domestic life, flies to Mars with a Bolshevik solider & a private detective in order to aid a proletarian Martian revolt against the dictatorial King Tuskub. Los has a love affair with Aelita, Queen of Mars. Memorable for its striking constructivist sets & costumes designed by Alexandra Ekster & Issak Rabinovich.
April 21-May 5: Songs of Love & Despair: The Universe of Jacques Demy
Life-long film buff, husband of Agnès Varda & one of the first successful directors to emerge from the broadly defined milieu of the French New Wave, Jacques Demy’s (1931-1990) personalised reworking of prized Hollywood conventions made him a unique auteur amongst his peers. Demy’s films are mostly tender, capricious stories of love found, lost & then, fleetingly, regained, that are told with an exhilarating command of film rhythm matched with an outrageous decorative elegance & a strong sense of nostalgia. This season of specially imported 35mm prints features most of the director’s key works including his first film, the Max Ophuls-dedicated masterpiece, Lola, the conceptionally groundbreaking & hugely successful Les parapluies de Cherbourg (winner of the Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 1964), & its eye-popping follow-up, Les demoiselles de Rochefort. This season also includes Demy’s return to form in the early 1980s, the little seen Prix Méliès winner Une chambre en ville, Varda’s homage to the life & cinema of her husband, Jacquot de Nantes, started before & completed just after his death, and his first properly released short, Le sabotier du Val de Loire.
7:00 Les parapluies de Cherbourg Jacques Demy (1964) 91 mins PG
A perfect combination of setting (the chilly seaside town of Cherbourg), costume & hyper-real décor, Demy’s perennial, bittersweet, all-singing love story tells of a young shop assistant (Catherine Deneuve) who, on discovering she is pregnant after her boyfriend is drafted to fight in the Algerian War, marries another man. Jean Rabier’s sumptuous cinematography & Michel Legrand’s truly memorable score intensify the characters’ emotional states, helping create the ultimate European tribute to the Hollywood musical of the ’40s & ’50s. Palme d’Or, Cannes 1964. Preceded by Le sabotier du Val de Loire - Jacques Demy (1955) 26 mins. A key early documentary study of the life of a clog-maker. Both 35mm prints courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
9:10 La baie des anges Jacques Demy (1963) 90 mins
Jeanne Moreau stars as an aging, striking ash-blonde Parisian gambler with a blind spot for roulette in Demy’s spontaneous & dazzling second feature, “a magical, whirling little film, a triumph of style” (Pauline Kael). Upon her arrival at the casino town of Nice she strikes it lucky & simultaneously picks up a handsome young man (Claude Mann) who she comes to regard as her talisman despite her later heavy losses. Demy masterfully creates a contrastive world that combines a lyrical storyline of love, loss & addiction, with a harder-edged, sun-kissed, almost pulpy sensibility. Lush score by Michel Legrand. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
7:00 Les demoiselles de Rochefort Jacques Demy (1967) 125 mins G
Pink champagne is the beverage equivalent of this euphoric pastel-coloured musical. Demy’s bubbly, dreamy filmmaking results in a heady mix containing sweet (but not syrupy) song & dance numbers (scored by Michel Legrand), meticulous art direction, & effervescent performances. Real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve & Françoise Dorléac are the “young girls” of the title & are joined by Danielle Darrieux, George Chakiris, Michel Piccoli & Gene Kelly, all of whom light up the small town of Rochefort with their romantic musings & escapades. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
9:15 Une chambre en ville Jacques Demy (1982) 90 mins
Nantes, 1955. A striking worker rents a room from a rich widow (Danielle Darrieux). His relationship with his pregnant girlfriend already foundering, he falls in love with a callgirl (Dominique Sanda), setting the stage for a tragic last act. The dialogue, delivered entirely in song, matches the often unsettling visuals & haunting score by Michel Colombier. David Thomson praised the film’s “fascinating application of the operatic technique to an unusually dark story”. Demy’s film received 9 César nominations & won the Prix Méliès. With Michel Piccoli.
7:00 Lola Jacques Demy (1961) 90 mins
Anouk Aimée gives the performance of her career as a charismatic cabaret artist who dreams that her first love will return to claim her & their son. Musically interweaving a variety of characters, Demy’s enchanting, bittersweet first feature film magically transcends time & features stunning black-&-white Franscope photography by Raoul Coutard & a dreamy score by Michel Legrand. Dedicated to Max Ophuls, Demy’s opus was described by David Thomson as “among the greatest debuts in 100 years of cinema”. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
8:45 Jacquot de Nantes Agnès Varda (1991) 118 mins
The first of Varda’s moving tributes to her late husband is a wistful, emotional & eloquently joyous valediction for a much-loved filmmaker & soul mate, focusing on his boyhood & adolescence (1939-48) & featuring poignant reconstructions of his early film work. Shot just prior to Demy’s death but released after, this evocation of the director’s youth (based on his own recollections) is a Proustian memory-work that summons & situates his formative experiences. One of the most beautiful, eloquent & loving tributes by one filmmaker to another. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
May 12-26: Hidden Fortress: The Living Cinema of Akira Kurosawa
To mark the centenary of his birth, and a decade since the Melbourne Cinémathèque previously profiled the work of Akira Kurosawa (1910–1998) we are pleased to revisit, in greater depth, the work of Japan’s most famous director. Kurosawa’s renowned humanism – a fascination with social problems & human nature – was made possible only through a strict, geometric – but always highly inventive – formalism. A perfect example of this is the under-appreciated High & Low: sharply bifurcated into radically different acts, punctuated by an explosive chase sequence, the very structure of the film reveals Kurosawa’s vision of Japanese class inequality. A legendary perfectionist, Kurosawa was already insisting on scrupulous realism in the earliest film in the season, 1944’s The Most Beautiful, having his actresses live, in costume, in the factory dorms of the shoot in order to understand their roles. The post-war personal statements No Regrets for Our Youth & the rarely seen Scandal were followed by the international breakthrough of Rashomon – a radical film that has influenced countless others. The Hidden Fortress, the other jidai-geki (period drama) in this season – the genre with which Kurosawa is still most commonly associated – provided the key inspiration for George Lucas’ Star Wars.
7:00 Scandal Akira Kurosawa (1950) 104 mins
Sceptical & dismissive of the media after a negative personal experience with the popular press early in his career, this key early Kurosawa work is an expository critique of the rise of the Western-style tabloid press in post-war Japan. Ichiro Aoye (Toshiro Mifune), a celebrated painter, unexpectedly meets Miyako Saijo (Shirley Yamaguchi), a famous young singer, & engages her in a cordial conversation that attracts the unwanted attention of some paparazzi. Takashi Shimura’s deft performance is an important precursor to his lead role in Ikiru. 35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.
8:55 The Hidden Fortress Akira Kurosawa (1958) 139 mins PG
Fantastic, brutal & comic Kurosawa epic adventure starring Toshiro Mifune. This seminal film was the first Japanese film to fully utilise widescreen & is renowned for its influence on George Lucas’ Star Wars. Mifune plays a general, who with the help of his two comic sidekicks (think C3P0 & R2D2), smuggles a cache of gold & a princess (Misa Uehara) through enemy territory. An extraordinary palimpsest of Western & Eastern influences, Kurosawa’s film stands as “one of the greatest action-adventure films ever made” & amongst “the finest achievements of its creator” (Armond White).
7:00 Rashomon Akira Kurosawa (1950) 88 minutes M
Kurosawa’s first & arguably greatest international success. Unveiled at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, it re-introduced Japanese language cinema to the world, & went on to win the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Set in 12th-century Japan, the film is split into four subjective perspectives as a suspect, the surviving victim & two witnesses recount a horrible crime. The brilliance of its conception, the superlative acting (with Toshiro Mifune as the vermin-ridden bandit), & Kurosawa’s flawless, detailed composition produced a film of great dramatic intensity. A brand new 35mm restoration courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.
8:40 No Regrets for Our Youth Akira Kurosawa (1946) 110 mins
This is Kurosawa’s first post-WWII film. He cast Setsuko Hara (from Ozu’s later “Noriko trilogy”) as young Yukie, a strong female protagonist whose strength & determination unfold through her role as the wife in a marriage to both her husband (played by Susumu Fujita who starred in Kurosawa’s debut feature, Sugata Sanshiro) & the socialist cause. This is a tale of the silence of Old Japan & the unrest of a generation who survived the horrors of war to fight for the New Japan. Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.
7:00 High & Low Akira Kurosawa (1963) 142 mins PG
Brilliant investigation of Japanese class tensions, featuring Toshiro Mifune as an honest, wealthy industrialist held to ransom over the kidnapping of his chauffeur’s child. A stylish & truly elemental adaptation of Ed McBain’s American pulp thriller, King’s Ransom, Kurosawa’s wildly underrated film is actually one of his greatest & most demanding works, creating a charged, tense atmosphere through its unusually structured use of widescreen cinematography, dynamic pacing & expressive locations. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyoko Kagawa & Takashi Shimura.
9:35 The Most Beautiful Akira Kurosawa (1944) 85 mins
Kurosawa’s second film is a patriotic look at the work of a group of young women in a factory manufacturing lenses, “weapons of light”, for the war effort. Rarely seen, the film offers an interesting insight into Kurosawa’s artistic development as he finds ways to integrate the government’s propaganda themes of increased productivity & personal sacrifice with more personal insights into the innocence & youthful camaraderie of the workers. Takashi Shimura appears as the factory foreman. Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.
June 2-16: “The Chief Just Voted”: Milos Forman’s Democracy
Before Jack Nicholson’s R. P. McMurphy tore a hole in America’s psychiatric system in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Milos Forman (1932-) was a celebrated filmmaker in his homeland & a prominent member of the Czech New Wave; that is until The Firemen’s Ball was banned in 1968. His three Czech features, Black Peter, Loves of a Blonde & The Firemen’s Ball introduced a very particular brand of comic genius & became anthems for the youth of Eastern Europe. Black Peter was an instant hit on the film festival circuit & the other two were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Forman was born of dissident stock. His father was in the Underground movement & his mother was arrested by the Gestapo for subversive activities. Forman was orphaned at the age of 11 after both were killed at Auschwitz. The young director left Czechoslovakia in 1968 – the year that the troops of the Warsaw Pact entered the country, Firemen’s Ball was banned, & he was invited to make his first US feature (Taking Off). This season of specially imported 35mm prints is a carefully assembled album of Forman’s earlier career from the first glimmers of brilliance to his Oscar-studded entry onto the world stage.
7:00 Loves of a Blonde Milos Forman (1965) 88 mins
Forman deploys the semi-documentary style of the French New Wave to tell the poignant story of a principled worker in a small town shoe factory (Hana Brejchova) who spends the night with a visiting musician. Infused with an extraordinarily acute sense of humour & sympathy, Forman’s international breakthrough is “an amazing balancing act of subtle social satire & adolescent romantic longing, of blank despair & irrepressible hope” (Dave Kehr). This formative but adventurous work is probably the defining film of the director’s ’60s Czechoslovakian career. 35mm print courtesy of Narodni Filmovy Archiv.
8:45 Taking Off Milos Forman (1971) 93 mins M
Operating on the insight that satire often has more than a piecemeal relation to earnestness, Forman’s first American film is a generation gap comedy consisting of a loosely-edited thread of almost deadpan set-pieces based around the story of a runaway teenage girl (Linnea Heacock) who sneaks out of her middle-class New York home to attend a live audition for a record label. Her concerned parents, Larry (Buck Henry) & Lynn Tyne (Lynn Carlin), take measures to find their daughter, reliving the realities of adolescent irresponsibility. Features a performance by Ike & Tina Turner. 35mm print courtesy of the NBC Universal Film Archive.
7:00 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Milos Forman (1975) 133 mins M
Sentenced to a short term in jail, Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) decides to feign madness & take it easy in a psychiatric institution where he unexpectedly encounters his nemesis, nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Widely acclaimed as a masterpiece of American cinema, Forman’s breakthrough work is a fine adaptation of Ken Kesey’s acclaimed 1962 novel & was the first film in 41 years to win in all the major categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress & Screenplay at the 1975 Academy Awards. With Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito & Christopher Lloyd. 35mm print courtesy of The Academy Film Archive.
9:30 The Firemen’s Ball Milos Forman (1967) 71 mins PG
Forman’s last Czech film before leaving for the US is a widely acclaimed satire of a small town’s annual firemen’s ball – based on actual events witnessed by the director & his co-scriptwriters (Ivan Passer & Jaroslav Papousek) – that drifts inexorably into chaos. A perceived allegory of state corruption that features a combination of professional actors & actual firemen, it was banned during the crackdown that followed the Prague Spring. 40,000 firemen reportedly resigned in protest until the film’s meaning was explained to them! 35mm print courtesy of Narodni Filmovy Archiv.
7:00 Black Peter Milos Forman (1964) 85 mins
Forman’s full feature debut is a keenly observed coming-of-age comedy. Malcontent teen Petr, described by The New York Times as “a kind of inarticulate first cousin” to Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine Doinel, takes a job as a store detective & pursues shoplifters with the same ineptitude he applies to courting his girl. 35mm print courtesy of Narodni Filmovy Archiv.
8:35 Konkurs Milos Forman (1964) 78 mins
Heralding the beginning of his collaboration with co-screenwriter Ivan Passer, Audition is also a key early work of the Czech New Wave. Forman’s first major film is a delicately rendered mix of cinéma vérité & quiet drama with two distinct parts splits between an orchestral rehearsal and performance to highlight a clash of tradition and modernity. A playful & fascinating document of Czechoslovakia’s complex cultural history. 35mm print courtesy of Narodni Filmovy Archiv.
10:00 A Well-Paid Walk Milos Forman & Ján Rohác (1966) 73 mins
A bickering couple pretend to be happy in order to gain an inheritance. Forman filmed the subversive Semafor Theatre’s performance of this comic opera for TV in the mid-1960s & it remains one of his least seen films outside its country of origin. A collaboration with writer Jirí Suchy & composer Jirí Slitr, it highlights his preoccupation with music (in this case jazz), a defining feature of many of his American films.
7:00 Freaks Tod Browning (1932) 64 mins PG
Horror master Browning (Dracula) gathered an extraordinary cast of real-life “freaks” for this terrifying & surprisingly moral vision of life among the weird inhabitants of the sideshow world. Sumptuously produced but subsequently disowned by MGM after unsurprising accusations of tastelessness, this bizarre cult film of a trapeze artist who marries a dwarf, & then poisons him for his money, has many disturbing scenes of immense psychological & pictorial power. It also concludes with one of the most astounding final shots in Hollywood cinema.
8:15 West of Zanzibar Tod Browning (1928) 65 mins
One of Browning’s lesser known films, adapted from the Broadway play Kongo, features a British music-hall magician who is paralysed in a tussle with his wife’s lover & moves to Africa where he transforms himself into the disturbing “Dead-Legs”, a jungle emperor darkly realised by the inimitable Lon Chaney (The Phantom of the Opera). Sweating through the passing years in Conradian madness, repressed sexual rage, & incestuous desire, “Dead-Legs” drives the film to a climax of revenge. With Lionel Barrymore & Warner Baxter. 35mm print courtesy of George Eastman House.
9:30 The Unknown Tod Browning (1927) 49 mins
The best & most disturbingly surreal of the 10 often-bizarre films which Browning & Lon Chaney made together. Chaney plays a strangler masquerading as “Alonzo the Armless Wonder” who uses his feet in a knife-throwing act. He finds himself competing for the affections of a pretty equestrienne (Joan Crawford) who cannot bear to be touched by men. Unsurprisingly, macabre complications arise. The berserk finale is l’amour fou mixed with Grand Guignol. Print courtesy of NFSA.
June 30 – July 14: Bittersweet Symphony: The Cinema of Perestroika
Mikhail Gorbachev’s far-reaching political reforms of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s heralded the end of the Cold War & the beginning of a new kind of “openness” (glasnost) between the USSR & the rest of the world. While capitalist countries in the West celebrated the new age, it was a time of massive social, political & cultural upheaval for many citizens of the Soviet states; the effect on Soviet cinema was also profound. The era gave birth to a new genre of literature & cinema, “Chernukha” – in which the enforced optimism of official Soviet culture was replaced with a kind of pessimistic neo-realism, unwavering in its critique of Soviet society. Vasili Pichul’s Little Vera & Rashid Nugmanov’s The Needle are prime examples of this trend & were box-office smashes upon their release, facing head-on the previously taboo subjects of explicit sex (Little Vera) & drug-taking (The Needle). At the opposite end of the spectrum, other filmmakers were creating fantastical, otherworldly cinema which, whilst still containing political content, replaced the dismal housing estates of their contemporaries with hyper-stylised & mythic adventures in narrative & form. Andrei Tarkovsky’s phenomenal expatriate work The Sacrifice (made in exile) & Aleksandr Sokurov’s Days of the Eclipse sit on this side of the fence. Covering both the dazzling & distressing, this season is a historical collage of the fragmented societies under Perestroika’s gaze.
7:00 The Sacrifice Andrei Tarkovsky (1986) 149 mins PG
Tarkovsky’s final film, made when he knew he was dying of cancer, manages to say & do more in a single shot (most astonishingly so in its justly famous opening & closing extreme long takes) than most movies do over their entire length. Set on the Swedish island of Fårö, the iconic home of Ingmar Bergman, the film is overwhelming in its originality, spirituality, sense of composure, & hallucinatory power. An homage to the great Swedish director, it features Bergman favourite Erland Josephson. Photographed by Sven Nykvist.
9:40 The Needle Rashid Nugmanov (1988) 81 mins M
Taking first prize at the Nuremberg Film Festival & seen by over 30 million people upon its release, Nugmanov’s searing film was also one of the first to tackle the controversial issue of drug addiction in the Soviet Union. When Moro (Viktor Tsoy) visits an old girlfriend (Marina Smirnova) he discovers her descent into morphine addiction & decides to take on the criminals behind her exploitation. A grimy, rock-infused time-capsule of Soviet society amidst Perestroika. 35mm print courtesy of NFSA.
7:00 Freedom is Paradise Sergei Bodrov (1989) 76 mins
Interned in a strict reform school for young offenders in the remote northern Soviet Russian Arctic province of Archangelsk, 13-year-old Sasha escapes crippling institutionalisation to search for a father he does not remember. Set against the backdrop of stunning natural wilderness & the urban grime of the Russian underclass during the Soviet system’s definitive collapse, Sasha’s courage & determination to fulfill his dream of freedom illuminate this compelling story. Bodrov’s (Mongol, Prisoner of the Mountains) international breakthrough. 35mm print courtesy of NFSA.
8:25 Days of the Eclipse Alexandr Sokurov (1988) 133 mins
The first of Sokurov’s (Mother & Son, Russian Ark) features to be widely seen in the West, this strangely hallucinatory work is loosely based on a sci-fi novel by the Strugatsky brothers (one of their earlier novels was filmed by Tarkovsky as Stalker). Shot through a burnished golden haze, the film conveys a devastating sense of alienation & a strange sense of intimacy as it follows the life of a Russian doctor studying a hereditary disease in Soviet Central Asia. It potently illustrates why critics now widely claim Sokurov as Tarkovsky’s heir.
7:00 Little Vera Vasili Pichul (1988) 110 mins
Made during the key period of Gorbachev’s “glasnost” when filmmakers were given a new freedom to graphically describe the starkness of Soviet social realities. Pichul’s stunning film is set in the bleak industrial Ukrainian town of Zhdanov. It follows Vera, who struggles to define herself beyond the values of the Old Regime administered by the State & her family. This low-budget, highly successful film was written by Mariya Khmelik (Pichul’s wife) & captures the poverty of contemporary Soviet life while truthfully discussing censorship, violence, societal dysfunction & sexuality.
9:00 Cold Summer of 1953 Aleksandr Proshkin (1987) 101 mins
Described by many as a Soviet Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven, this tale of a small town’s solution to its victimisation by bandits ended up being a massive success at the Soviet box-office. Proshkin’s film contains all of the generic thrills of its filmic cousins whilst managing to provide a gutsy critique of the Soviet system at both the time it is set (just after Stalin’s death) & during its release in the wake of Gorbachev’s fateful reforms.
August 18-September 8: Dark Star: Alain Delon
One of the great icons of post-WWII European cinema, Alain Delon (1935-) is a mercurial & emblematic symbol of both the resilience of genre cinema & the cool, modernist abstraction applied to it by such directors as Jean-Pierre Melville & René Clément. Extraordinarily beautiful & immaculately presented, Delon projects an elegant but stark aura that is an almost perfect symbol of the detachment & ironic distance that, for many, characterises the essence of modern existence (a quality emphasised by such directors as Melville, Antonioni, Visconti, Losey & Deray). As David Thomson argues, “It was that saintly grace, allied to the unmistakable aura of a modern young man, that… made Delon’s best films so interesting.” But despite this sense of implacable distance, & the wonderfully minimalist nature of many of his performances, Delon is also a very modern celebrity who is as famous for his dalliances off-screen as on; including infamous brushes with the underworld & relationships with such stars as Romy Schneider & Nico. This season concentrates on the first 30 years of Delon’s career, taking in his breakthrough performance as the talismanic Ripley in Plein soleil, the crime genre peak of Melville’s extraordinary Le cercle rouge, the overt display of glassy beauty in Deray’s La piscine (where he appears with an equally gorgeous Schneider), his hardboiled, first directorial effort, Pour le peau d’un flic, & the late career highlight of Godard’s idiosyncratically revisionist Nouvelle vague.
7:00 Plein soleil René Clément (1960) 112 mins PG
The elegant psychopath & title character of Patricia Highsmith’s series of Ripley novels is skillfully rendered by Delon who works with Clément’s careful direction to create an intriguing & ambiguous exploration of villainy. For the uninitiated, Tom Ripley’s criminality is as fascinating as it is audacious; a man who literally gets away with murder. Add to the mix some striking colour cinematography (by Henri Decaë), stunning locations & a superb score by Nino Rota, & the result is something close to immaculate. With Maurice Ronet. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE
9:05 La piscine Jacques Deray (1969) 120 mins
Visually stunning & psychologically intense study of an unemployed writer (Alain Delon) who lives with his lover, Marianne (Romy Schneider), in a beautiful villa near St Tropez. Deadly consequences arise when Marianne’s former boyfriend (Maurice Ronet) arrives with his daughter (Jane Birkin). Deray’s uncharacteristically complex & existentially taut drama, centred mostly around the eponymous “swimming pool”, is a fascinating exploration of the relationships between these four characters that plays-off the tension & residual attraction between past lovers Schneider & Delon. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
7:00 Nouvelle vague Jean-Luc Godard (1990) 89 mins
An accident on the road after which a hitchhiker (Delon) is taken in by an Italian heiress (Domiziana Giordano) – provides the hinge for a dialectical analysis of the relationship between sound & image, Man & Woman, art & commerce, wealth & poverty. Fragmentary in its narrative, Godard’s film is ravishingly shot by William Lubtchansky, whose constantly tracking & craning camera only occasionally “intersects” with a soundtrack that consists of a dense tapestry of quotations (with every line purportedly taken from a literary source), music & ambient noise. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
8:40 Mr. Klein Joseph Losey (1976) 123 mins M
Losey’s first French-language film is an atmospheric & enigmatic mood piece set during WWII about an amoral & exploitative antiques dealer (played with immaculate reserve by Alain Delon) who is mistaken for a wanted Jewish man with the same name. Co-produced by Delon, this is one of the actor’s most intriguing & effective films of the 1970s, an exploration of the porous nature of identity & the complex moral & ethical questions that underline individual action. With Jeanne Moreau, Michel Lonsdale & Juliet Berto. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
7:00 Le cercle rouge Jean-Pierre Melville (1970) 140 mins M
A man is released from a 5-year prison term on the same day that a convicted murderer escapes from a train. Melville’s penultimate film was his largest commercial success in France & is perhaps his most perfectly-realised work, the summit of the distinctively crisp & aphoristic style that he refined in his crime films. The last of the director’s films to be shot by his great collaborator Henri Decaë, it is a flawlessly cast, autumnal work featuring a set of quintessentially Melvillian trench-coated anti-heroes played by Alain Delon, Yves Montand & Gian Maria Volonté.
9:30 Pour le peau d’un flic Alain Delon (1981) 105 mins
In his directorial debut, Delon plays insider turned outsider Choucas, a cop turned private detective who is unafraid to employ unconventional & sometimes questionable methods in his work. Choucas accepts a seemingly uncomplicated case but quickly finds himself entangled at the centre of a complex web of collusion that goes all the way to the top. As a director, Delon embraces & engages with the shadier side of police business in this sophisticated & brutal action thriller that demonstrates the lessons he learned from such masters as Melville & Clément. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
7:00 Partie de campagne Jean Renoir (1936) 40 mins
Renoir’s sensuous celebration of nature, based on a wonderfully bittersweet Guy de Maupassant story, perfectly captures the melancholic character of transience as a Parisian merchant takes his family on a Sunday trip to the country. Renoir’s unfinished, socially insightful & moving masterpiece, wholly capitalising on Joseph Kosma’s haunting score, has “all the revelation & freshness of touch of a sketch by a great painter” (Georges Sadoul) but also feels more fully-formed. Renoir was assisted by Luchino Visconti, Jacques Becker & Henri Cartier-Bresson. 35mm print courtesy of NFSA.
7:50 Rocco & His Brothers Luchino Visconti (1960) 177 mins M
Novelistically structured into four chapters, Visconti’s sordidly operatic tale of a young flyweight boxer Rocco’s (an indelible Alain Delon) journey with his family from the poverty of the Italian south to the bright, cold lights of Milan is an immense film inspired by such literary touchstones as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, & Thomas Mann’s Joseph & His Brothers. A significant influence on such Italian-American filmmakers as Martin Scorsese & Francis Ford Coppola. Lyrical score by Nino Rota & co-starring Annie Girardot & Claudia Cardinale. 35mm print courtesy of BFI.
September 15-29: As Tears Go By: The Films of Maggie Cheung
As her mantle heaves under the weight of Best Actress awards from festivals around the world, Maggie Cheung (1964-) goes quietly about her business of creating memorable, timeless characters infused with a subtle yet intoxicating sexuality & profound melancholy. Cheung was born in Hong Kong but moved to England with her family 8 years later. After high school she returned to her birthplace to successfully pursue a career in modeling, a pursuit that landed her a runner-up place in the 1983 Miss Hong Kong contest. She was noticed by local comedy directors & her acting career was set in motion. This retrospective covers the triumphant middle section of Cheung’s career, a peak that coincided with the full flowering of pre-handover Hong Kong cinema. It focuses on the period after she shrugged off the shackles of her comic & damsel-in-distress typecasting and began to make films which challenged both the actor & her audience. Wong Kar-wai was the first to recognise her potential as a “serious” actress when he cast her in As Tears Go By (1988), & this season includes two of the key titles from the pair’s triumphant collaborative history; the enigmatic love story In the Mood for Love, & the astonishing fantasy, Ashes of Time Redux. In addition it features two striking films about acting-as-craft & the facade of stardom – Stanley Kwan’s Centre Stage, for many the crowning achievement of her career, & Irma Vep, Olivier Assayas’ love letter to the cinemas of France & Hong Kong. This three-week season is designed to showcase the actor’s skill and versatility & illustrate her canny choices of significant collaborators.
7:00 Centre Stage Stanley Kwan (1992) 154 mins
Kwan’s magisterial & deeply moving account of the tragic life, loves & career of ’30s Chinese silent movie star Ruan Lingyu (“the Chinese Garbo”) is one of the most sophisticated & beautifully rendered films of ’90s Hong Kong cinema. Providing a fascinating portrait of pre-communist China, the film explores this time & place’s complex relationship to contemporary Hong Kong by also dramatising its own making (& featuring clips from Ruan’s New Woman & The Goddess). For many people, Maggie Cheung’s extraordinary performance as Ruan is the defining role of her career. One of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s top 10 films of the ’90s.
9:45 Irma Vep Olivier Assayas (1996) 99 mins M
An eccentric (genius?) French director (Jean-Pierre Léaud) wants to remake Louis Feuillade’s silent classic Les vampires & hires Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung (as herself) to play the slinky protagonist. Akin to Truffaut’s La nuit américaine in its tender rendition of the impossible process of filmmaking, Assayas adeptly employs a freewheeling-style of camerawork & improvisation to create a frenetic window onto the complex terrains of contemporary cinema, artistic genius & the nature of stardom. 35mm print courtesy of NFSA.
7.00 In the Mood for Love Wong Kar-wai (2000) 98 mins G
Exquisite, intimate, dance-like account of the never-quite-consummated relationship between two lonely married people who suspect their partners of having an affair. A rondo of glances, meticulously rendered gestures, & the extraordinary choreography of everyday life, Wong’s opus is one of the early 21st century’s greatest films, a totally engulfing but distanced portrait of a long vanished time & place (1960s Hong Kong). Wong’s extraordinary emphasis on the mood & feeling of a particular historical moment, & the choreography of music & image, provides the perfect platform for Tony Leung Chiu-wai & Maggie Cheung’s towering performances.
8:50 Farewell China Clara Law (1990) 114 mins
Made in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre & nominated for Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Law’s anxious tale of identity traces a woman’s diasporically induced descent into madness & her husband’s desperate search to find his lost wife, a figure who seems to have dissolved into the murky waters of the American Dream. Maggie Cheung & Hong Kong heavyweight Tony Leung Ka-fai are remarkable as the troubled lovers in this unflinching psychodrama/political allegory.
7:00 Ashes of Time Redux Wong Kar-wai (1994/2008) 93 mins M
Essentially a film of emotions, Wong’s highly impressionistic, wildly stylised & almost abstract reworking of a seminal martial arts novel departs substantially from the original story’s plot. In Wong’s swooning & hyper-kinetic vision characters form brief relationships, drift apart & stare melancholically into the distance. This seminal film features an extraordinary cast of key actors from the golden period of early ’90s Hong Kong cinema including Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Jacky Cheung & a glorious Maggie Cheung. This is Wong’s preferred 2008 recut.
8:45 Song of the Exile Ann Hui (1990) 100 mins
This panoramic account of a troubled mother-daughter relationship is inspired by director Hui’s own life story. Deeply rooted in the events that shaped East Asian history after the end of the Pacific War, this exquisite & deeply moving film examines the notions of exile & diaspora from a multitude of perspectives. Features one of Maggie Cheung’s most commanding turns in the lead role, a significant performance that opened the way for her demanding roles in Centre Stage & the films of Wong Kar-wai.
October 6-20: Everyday Cinema: The Chronicles of Raymond Depardon
Raymond Depardon (1942-) was born to a family of farmers in the Rhône region of France. Fascinated by images, he picked up a still camera at age 12 & has been associated with the apparatus ever since. Pursuing a career in photography, he formed the photographic agency Gamma in the mid ’60s & documented celebrities, major events (the Algerian War, Prague Spring, the Vietnam War) & everyday French life, & later went on to join the eminent Magnum agency (for whom he still shoots). In 1974 he made his first feature documentary on the presidential campaign of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, finally released 28 years later as 1974, Une partie de campagne. Not leaving still photography behind, Depardon also developed a unique style in documentary filmmaking & has gone on to make over 40 features, shorts and installations, including the ground-breaking The 10th District Court: Moments of Trials in which he was allowed special access inside the Parisian tribunal court. Greatly influenced by the cinéma vérité & direct cinema movements, he is considered one of the most important documentary filmmakers working in France today, & perhaps the only living heir to the cinematic style of Jean Rouch. His filmic approach, though seemingly at a distance from his subjects, imparts a melancholic respect, a compulsion to capture the humanity of the maltreated, the forgotten & the vanishing, & the grace & the simplicity of their existence.
7:00 1974, Une partie de campagne Raymond Depardon (1974) 90 mins
Influenced by Québécois cinéma direct documentary, Depardon undertook this project as a commission from 1974 presidential hopeful Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to document his campaign. Winning by a narrow margin & receiving 50.81% (the film’s original title) of the vote, Giscard d’Estaing considered the film inappropriate, banning its release for 28 years. Important as a historical document, Depardon’s film offers a unique snapshot of power & political process. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
8:40 Les années déclic Raymond Depardon (1984) 65 mins
A meditative autobiographical essay assembled from personal archives, commissioned photographs & film excerpts. Depardon’s charmingly self-effacing narration guides us from his gauche pastoral beginnings to his novel trajectory through international photo-journalism. Intimately revisited are key periods from his industrious 20-year career: the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Algerian War, May ’68, an odyssey across Chad’s desert in search of the ethnographer Françoise Claustre, & the birth of the newspaper Le matin de Paris, to name a few. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
9:55 Une femme en Afrique Raymond Depardon (1985) 85 mins
Depardon’s first fiction feature is a subtle, multi-layered & highly subjective account of a failed relationship between an enigmatic filmmaker & an aimless young woman (Françoise Prenant) who decide to travel across the desert from Djibouti to Alexandria. This fascinating & mysterious film provides an important link between the director’s work in fiction & documentary, exploring the “empty” spaces of the landscape & the melancholy efforts of the filmmaker to capture both the shimmering world that surrounds him & his elusive muse.
7:00 The 10th District Court: Moments of Trials Raymond Depardon (2004) 105 mins
Depardon’s most celebrated film is constructed entirely from testimonies given over the course of three months by people inside judge Michèle Bernard-Requin’s Paris courtroom. Depardon’s Frederick Wiseman-esque documentary edits together footage of illegal immigrants, knife carrying citizens in defence of their petty crimes, traffic offences & misdemeanors, & the efforts of the judge to reach a verdict in the name of the people. Depardon fascinatingly revisits the territory & themes of his earlier Délits flagrants. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
8:55 Délits flagrants Raymond Depardon (1994) 109 mins
This absorbing snapshot of contemporary French justice & criminality follows an assorted array of freshly-caught petty criminals as they are interviewed by police & lawyers. The fundamental clear-sightedness of Depardon’s work is summed-up by the director himself: “A courtyard, an office, two chairs.... A policeman, a pair of handcuffs, the accused. The district attorney, pink & green files. Words, more words, sometimes calm, sometimes tense, funny too, & in the end pathetic. A document of imminence. A universal problem. In short, a film.” 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
7:00 Profils paysans: l’approche Raymond Depardon (2001) 90 mins
To make his most personal series of films, the “profils paysans” (“rural profiles”), Depardon spent 10 years with his camera following the lives of several agricultural workers & their families in the Haute-Loire region of France. This first chapter introduces retired farmers, young couples & family-run farms, all in a striking, almost stark, always respectful visual language, proffering a cinema about the art of time, patience & the documentation of human traces (& humanity). Preceded by Quoi de neuf au Garet? - Raymond Depardon (2005) 10 mins. Depardon & his brother Jean chat about their memories of the family farmhouse as it is put up for sale. Both 35mm prints courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
8:50 Profils paysans: le quotidien Raymond Depardon (2005) 90 mins
Depardon revisits the farmers he introduced in the first chapter of his powerful trilogy (L’approche), this time to concentrate on the vicissitudes of everyday life as his characters’ livelihoods are affected by globalisation & the mounting pressure to sell family farms. Depardon – himself the son of farmers – resists political dogma & hackneyed sentimentalism to create a restrained elegy. Shot very simply, it differs from the earlier film by dispensing with the principles of direct cinema to achieve an explicit dialogue with its subjects. 35mm print courtesy of CULTURESFRANCE.
October 27-November 10: The Love Parade: The Cinema of Ernst Lubitsch
Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) is one of the defining & most enduring figures of pre-WWII cinema. Starting as an actor in Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theatre, he quickly became a key figure of German cinema, moving dexturously between comedies of manners, exotic fantasias, & epic historical romances & adventures such as Madame DuBarry. Renowned as a director of elegant & sophisticated sexual comedies, his wonderfully balanced work is a marvel of intricate production design & expressive mise-en-scène. Leaving for America in 1923, Lubitsch quickly established himself as a stylish director of bittersweet, almost continental comic romances & Ruritanian fantasies of a vanishing Europe. The truly musical quality of his cinema allowed him to move smoothly into the sound era. A multi-talented artist, Lubitsch was also a successful & expressive comic actor in the 1910s & became Production Manager at Paramount Studios in the mid-1930s, an appointment that recognised his extraordinary influence & mercurial “touch”. 13 years after the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s initial Lubitsch tribute, this season of specially imported 35mm prints travels from his early turns as the stereotypical Sally Pinkus (Schuhpalast Pinkus) to the heights of his gossamer-like sexual comedies (One Hour with You). This season also includes the peak of his late silent work (The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg), the rarely-screened anti-war treatise, Broken Lullaby, & a fascinating recent documentary covering his career in Germany (Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin).
7:00 Schuhpalast Pinkus Ernst Lubitsch (1916) 60 mins
Before Mordecai Richler’s Duddy Kravitz & Budd Schulberg’s Sammy Glick there was Sally Pinkus (played by Lubitsch himself), a venal & entrepreneurial young German-Jewish boy who takes a job as a shoe store clerk after being expelled from school. Soon fired for trying to court the owner’s daughter, Pinkus lands another job in a more upmarket shoe salon, only to be fired again, before charming a rich benefactress to fund his ultimate fetishistic dream: Pinkus’ Shoe Palace. This key early Lubitsch work is also notable for being an early collaboration with regular writer Hans Kräly. 35mm print courtesy of Transit Film.
8:10 One Hour with You Ernst Lubitsch (1932) 80 mins
This musical remake of the justly famous The Marriage Circle, the film that fully introduced Lubitsch to American cinema in 1924, was made at the peak of the director’s career & features a characteristically playful & risqué story of a happily married couple whose relationship is upset by the arrival a flirtatious other woman. Started by George Cukor & completed by Lubitsch, this is one of the director’s drollest & most airy explorations of the nature of romance, starring the incomparable Maurice Chevalier & Jeanette MacDonald. With Roland Young & Charlie Ruggles. 35mm print courtesy of UCLA Film & TV Archive.
9:40 Carmen Ernst Lubitsch (1918) 80 mins
Loosely based on Bizet’s opera & the story by Merimée, Lubitsch’s second film with the libidinous Pola Negri, released as Gypsy Blood in America, is a lavish vehicle for the great silent star that is often regarded as the director’s “first important film” (Georges Sadoul). Released at the time of Germany’s final defeat in WWI, this a formative work that points towards the director’s preoccupation with sexuality & historical subject matter in such important films as Madame Dubarry & Anna Boleyn. Scripted by Hans Kräly. 35mm print courtesy of Transit Film.
7:00 The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg Ernst Lubitsch (1928) 105 mins
The Crown Prince (Ramon Novarro) leaves his cloistered life at court to attend Heidelberg University & falls in love with a young barmaid (Norma Shearer). Lubitsch’s extraordinarily “musical” silent adaptation of Sigmund Romberg’s operetta is one of the director’s great American films & a peak of late silent cinema. An important precursor to Lubitsch’s subsequent Ruritanian musicals, this bittersweet tale of star-crossed lovers is a wonderfully boisterous, energetic, cinematic & emotionally poignant work that embodies the director’s famed “touch”. 35mm print courtesy of Photoplay Productions.
8:55 Madame Dubarry Ernst Lubitsch (1919) 119 mins
One of the milestones of silent cinema, Lubitsch’s epic – though often quite dark & explicit – historical pageant was one of the key films to introduce the sensibilities of European cinema to post-WWI American audiences. The romanticised private life of the mistress (the indelible Pola Negri) of Louis XV (Emil Jannings) is given a lush but probing treatment in this early Lubitsch spectacular. This is perhaps the most successful melding of an historical subject with the director’s characteristic light “touch”. Features brilliantly expressive sets by Max Reinhardt. 35mm print courtesy of Transit Film.
7:00 Broken Lullaby Ernst Lubitsch (1932) 76 mins
Wracked with guilt after killing an adversary on the battlefield of WWI, a French musician travels to Germany to find the dead man’s family. Taken in by the family – headed by Lionel Barrymore – he feels unable to reveal his secret. One of Lubitsch’s very few dramatic talkies, this rarely screened anti-war statement is “a nakedly sincere ode to the power of sympathy” (Time Out). Retitled The Man I Killed, this intermittently sentimental & compassionate ode to brotherhood is one of Lubitsch’s most curious & atypical works. With ZaSu Pitts. 35mm print courtesy of UCLA Film & TV Archive.
8:30 Kohlhiesels Töchter Ernst Lubitsch (1920) 58 mins
Amongst the most commercially successful films of Lubitsch’s German period, this is a comic adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew transposed to 19th century Bavaria. The film follows two sisters; Gretel is pretty & agreeable; Liesel is plain & obstinate (Henny Porten plays both). Tradition dictates that the younger sister cannot marry before the older & something must be done before both sisters are condemned to spinsterhood! Theodor Sparkuhl’s innovative camera techniques add extra punch to this underrated Lubitsch film. 35mm print courtesy of Transit Film.
9:40 Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin Robert Fischer (2006) 110 mins
This comprehensive feature documentary covering Lubitsch’s formative years in Berlin features copious clips of his early acting career & from across the full range of his work in escapist social comedy (Ein fidele Gefängnis), risqué sexual farce (I Don’t Want to be a Man), fantasy (Die Puppe), & large-scale historical epics (Madame Dubarry, Anna Boleyn). Includes informative interviews with Lubitsch’s only daughter, directors such as Tom Tykwer & Wolfgang Becker, & key critics, archivists & historians (Jan-Christopher Horak, Enno Patalas). A great insight into the director’s emerging style in this period. Print courtesy of Transit Film.
7:00 Guerillas in Australia: The Camera as Weapon (1968-71) c.130 mins
This compilation program chronicles one of the most vital moments in the history of Australian radical filmmaking – when students, artists, animators & cinephiles took their cameras to the streets to document the seething dissatisfaction with Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It includes the collective film Or Forever Hold Your Peace (1970) 58 mins, the first film to be funded by the Experimental Film Fund (to be introduced by Richard Brennan); an animation by celebrated Australian cartoonist Peter Nicholson, Your Country Needs You (1970) 5 mins; & the truly seminal Beginnings - Scott Murray, Andrew Pecze, Rod Bishop & Gordon Glenn (1970) 58 mins, filmed largely at La Trobe University during the 1970 anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. Prints courtesy of NFSA.
9:30 The 17th Parallel: The People’s War Joris Ivens & Marceline Loridan (1968) 113 mins
Shot over two months in the area that marked the divide between North & South Vietnam, this distressing and powerful film documents the lives of the people living under relentless US bombing raids. Ivens & Loridan lived amongst the community whilst filming & thus bring an urgency & frank intimacy to their film which, alongside the denouncement of American “bandits”, is saturated with the sounds of exploding arsenal & cries of terror. Print courtesy of NFSA.
7:00 The Phantom Carriage Victor Sjöström (1921) 103 mins
A drunk relives the life he led before drink ruined him. Sjöström constructs this simple folktale from a brilliant array of flashbacks & eerie special-effects. Shot mainly indoors, with a fine performance by the director himself, this is considered by many to be his best Swedish film. It is also one of the landmarks of the silent era’s golden period of Scandinavian cinema, & a key influence on Ingmar Bergman, who pays specific homage to it in Wild Strawberries, starring Sjöström. 35mm print courtesy of NFSA.
8:55 Sir Arne’s Treasure Mauritz Stiller (1919) 60 mins
Stiller’s primordial, ghostly & truly elemental tale of three 16th century Scottish mercenaries who are cursed after stealing the treasure of the local vicar is one of the crowning works of Scandinavian cinema’s greatest decade. Co-written by Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf. Followed by Thomas Graal’s Best Film - Mauritz Stiller (1917) 59 mins. A scriptwriter (Victor Sjöström) suffering from writer’s block invents a story about his secretary (Karen Molander) with whom he is infatuated. Stiller’s highly playful film features a structural complexity (fantasies, flashbacks, imagined events) rare in pre-’20s cinema. Prints courtesy of NFSA.
December 1-15: Krzysztof Zanussi: The Structure of Cinema
Studying physics & philosophy prior to completing a degree at the Lodz Film School, Krzysztof Zanussi’s (1939-) films combine complex philosophical & scientific debate with a humane realism. Along with his films’ gritty & involving imagery, these characteristics placed his work at the vanguard of Eastern European Cinema in the 1970s and ’80s. However, with the collapse of communism his films seemingly became less relevant & Zanussi’s reputation has declined in recent times, with his later films rarely achieving the profundity or greatness of his earlier works. This season, including a screening of his new film, Revisited, a resounding return to form featuring many of the superb actors from his early films, is an attempt to reintroduce viewers to the keen cinematic vision of one of Eastern Europe’s most profound filmmakers, from his first award-winning short Death of a Provincial to his complex essay on moral & ethical issues Illumination. Also screening in this season is his incisive picture of the academic world, Camouflage, & the eloquent, graceful & witty, Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease.
7:00 Death of a Provincial Krzysztof Zanussi (1966) 30 mins
Zanussi’s diploma film is a multi-award winning work that helped redefine international perceptions of Polish cinema. A subtle & erudite account of the tense relationship between the dying Provincial of a secluded monastery & a young student employed to restore its frescoes, this anxious, mostly silent drama introduces many of the key philosophical, ethical, spiritual & generational questions & conflicts that have preoccupied the director for the rest of his career. Print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
7:40 Revisited Krzysztof Zanussi (2009) 90 mins
Zanussi returns to form in this reflexive & playful summary work that features the young star of his previous film (And a Warm Heart) “revisiting” the actors & characters of key works in the director’s earlier career. Blurring the distinctions between fiction & documentary, character & actor, in a fashion akin to the work of Kiarostami & Makhmalbaf, Zanussi takes stock of his career & creates a fascinating palimpsest from the fictional worlds of Family Life, Camouflage, & The Constant Factor. With Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Jan Nowicki, Maja Komorowska, Tadeusz Bradecki.
9:20 Illumination Krzysztof Zanussi (1972) 91 mins
Mixing together a fictional story with statistics & documentary footage, Zanussi’s intellectually probing, mosaic-like film examines the dialectical relationships between thought & emotion, mind & body, science & art, the rational & the merely instinctive. A young physics graduate seeking clarification of the certainty of things is shaken by a turbulent romantic relationship & the sudden death of a friend. A deeply philosophical & melancholy account of the road to enlightenment. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
7:00 Camouflage Krzysztof Zanussi (1977) 106 mins
This characteristically intelligent, scholarly but pensive comic tale of a young, idealistic but impressionable teacher who comes under the sway of a cynical & abrasive older professor (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz) while attending a summer linguistics camp, is one of Zanussi’s most commercially successful, critically celebrated & revealing films. The film’s bold if circular examination of ethics & morality provides a lucid but cloaked critique of conformity & the corrupt communist regime. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
9:00 Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease Krzysztof Zanussi (2000) 100 mins M
Upon discovering he is terminally ill, a middle-aged doctor (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz) questions everything he has believed in & with a newfound freedom goes to Paris to transcend his last days with experimentation & abandon, affecting all around him in the process. Zanussi’s key themes of morality, death & inter-relationships coalesce in what is perhaps his most personal & boldest film. Upon its release this film was hugely popular in Poland, despite its downbeat subject, & won several awards around the globe. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
7:00 Behind the Wall Krzysztof Zanussi (1971) 56 mins
Zanussi’s minimalist, authentic made-for-TV drama tells the contrastive stories of a successful & somewhat smug young scientist (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz) & the frustrated, despairing & “unsuccessful” woman (Maja Komorowska) who lives in the next apartment literally “behind the wall”. An intimate examination of fate, everyday life, physical existence & the limits of humanist empathy & concern, this chamber work is “a small masterpiece” (Boleslaw Michalek) of Polish cinema. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
8:05 The Structure of Crystals Krzysztof Zanussi (1969) 74 mins
Two science professors, once close colleagues & friends but whose lives have taken separate paths, find their quotidian existence & attitudes upturned after a reunion in a frosty, remote weather-station. Zanussi’s striking debut feature, an unassuming & sensitive black-&-white portrayal of a dissolving bond, won him the Polish film critics’ Best Film award. The film also marks his first collaboration (still continuing today) with the composer Wojciech Kilar, whose melancholic, spare score accentuates the crisp solitude of the European winter. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.
9:30 Family Life Krzysztof Zanussi (1971) 88 mins
After 6 years away, an industrial designer (played by Daniel Olbrychski, Andrzej Wajda’s principal actor) is called back to his country family home, now a dilapidated mansion, to find his father is an alcoholic & his sister a suicidal nymphomaniac. Zanussi’s second feature deals with several moral dilemmas surrounding the individual’s responsibilities to one’s family & oneself, & ignited much philosophical & ethical debate in the Polish press upon its release. 35mm print courtesy of Filmoteka Narodowa.