July and August, 2004
In-person appearances, special series, and premieres:
Luchino Visconti - August 5–8, 12–15, 19–22, 26–29. All fourteen features-plus three segments from omnibus films and a rare documentary-directed by Luchino Visconti (1906-1976) will be shown at Pacific Film Archive during the month of August in this series, which includes five new prints. A Marxist aristocrat, Visconti is probably best known in the U.S. for his Death in Venice and The Leopard, though at various times he dominated Italian opera (directing Maria Callas) and theater (where he introduced works by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller). During his career, he was hailed for films of dispassionate social and historical commentary and for works of florid, operatic sensuality. Visconti's film career began when he worked (thanks to an introduction from his then-lover Coco Chanel) as a third assistant director to Jean Renoir on A Day in the Country. Renoir passed along to Visconti a script based on The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, and in 1942, Visconti filmed this story of a woman, a drifter, and a murder as his first feature, Ossessione. Its powerful noir sensibilities and sympathy for ordinary people stood in sharp contrast to the "White Telephone" movies of Fascist Italy. Critics have variously hailed it as the first neorealist film or as a crucial precursor to the neorealist movement. His second film, La Terra Trema, is a lyrical, austere masterwork about impoverished Sicilian fishermen, and his third feature, Bellissima, features a searing performance by Anna Magnani as the stage mother to end all. The passionate, operatic tale of romantic and political betrayal Senso is set (as is The Leopard) in the 1860s, an era of patriotic Italian resistance to Austrian rule. The dreamy, beautiful White Nights stars Marcello Mastroianni (in his first major screen role), Maria Schell, and Jean Marais in an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1848 story. Alain Delon stars in the magnificent family saga Rocco and His Brothers, a fatalistic tale of a widow and her five sons who move to Milan from the impoverished south of Italy. One of Visconti's finest films is The Leopard, a sumptuous, panoramic history of a family during the Risorgimento, drawn from Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel. Burt Lancaster plays a Sicilian nobleman who sees power slipping away from his class; Alain Delon enacts the role of his radical nephew, who fights with Garibaldi. Vaghe stelle dell'orsa, aka Sandra, depicts a family haunted by the Holocaust and by recent secrets. The Stranger, listed as tentative in our printed Film Notes, is now confirmed. This is a very rare opportunity to see Visconti's adaptation of the existential novel by Albert Camus. "Marcello Mastroianni plays Meursault, the Camus hero, very simply, with scrupulous intelligence and concentration" (-Pauline Kael). The Damned is a sensational vision of German decadence during the rise of Nazism; it was Rainer Werner Fassbinder's favorite film and, according to Volker Schlöndorff, it captured the mood of the era better than any other film. Ludwig II, which director Olivier Assayas called "a flood of inspiration," is a romantic tragedy and a luxuriant, Wagnerian portrait of the life of the mad king of Bavaria. Visconti's most famous film, Death in Venice, depicts the final days of a composer (played by Dirk Bogarde, dressed to resemble Gustav Mahler). Based on a novella by Thomas Mann, the film is suffused with the beauty of the city, of the young boy who fascinates the composer, and of the expressive strains of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Conversation Piece revisits some of the themes of Death in Venice in a contemporary setting, with Burt Lancaster as a solitary professor whose ordered life is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of new neighbors. The Innocent, Visconti's final film, is based on a novel by Gabriele D'Annunzio, and depicts an arrogant aristocrat whose passion for his wife is re-ignited when he learns she's been unfaithful. Our series also includes three wonderful Visconti contributions to omnibus films. Anna Magnani, part of the 1953 film "We, the Women," recreates a vignette from the life of the great actress. The Witch Burned Alive, starring Silvano Mangano as a pregnant movie star, is from "The Witches," And we will screen, from "Boccaccio '70," The Job, in which Romy Schneider plays a countess who decides to charge her philandering husband for sex. This film, screening on Sunday, August 15 at 4:15 pm, was added to the series after we published our film notes, as was the rare 1945 documentary Days of Glory, about the Italian Resistance during the German Occupation of Rome. It will be shown at 5:30 pm on Saturday, August 7 and at 4 pm on Sunday, August 9. This series is a presentation of Cinecittà Holding and Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Rome. We thank the Consulate General of Italy and Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco, for their generous support.
Exploit-O-Scope: Promotions and Commotions in the Theater - July 7, 14, 21, 28, August 4, 11, 18, 25. A chance for viewers to re-visit-or discover-a delightful array of cheesy gimmickry from an era of shameless showmanship. We'll present the 1961 The Mask in 3-D, and Rollercoaster with Subsonic sound. Homicidal (1961), which offers viewers a chance to wimp out in the "Coward's Corner" and
Mr. Sardonicus, with its audience-participation "Punishment Poll" are by the ingenious promoter William Castle. Francis Ford Coppola's 1963 horror movie, Dementia 13, arrives with a psychiatric test for potential viewers. ("IF YOU FAIL THE TEST...you will be asked to leave the theater!") Also in the series is John Waters' 1981 Polyester, with Odorama cards for the audience to scratch and sniff, and Nightmare in Wax (1966), with special surprise gimmicks cooked up by the BAM/PFA student committee.
The Invention of the Western Film - July 1, 2, 9, 16, 18, 23, 25, 30, August 1. PFA is delighted to welcome Scott Simmon to introduce nine programs in a series of seventeen screenings suggested by his book The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half-Century. Simmon, who is professor of English and codirector of the Film Studies Program at University of California, Davis, and curated the DVD "Treasures from American Film Archives," will sign copies of his Western book at the program on Friday, July 2. He has also written books on film preservation and on King Vidor and D.W. Griffith. Simmon notes that "If Westerns are inevitably false nineteenth-century history, they are true to America's self-image at the times the films were made." "The Invention of the Western Film" includes a number of archival restorations and newly struck studio prints. The earliest films in the series are from 1899 (A Bluff from a Tenderfoot) and 1903 (The Pioneers: A Story of the Early Settlers), both of which pre-date The Great Train Robbery (December 2003), which is usually recognized as the first Western. The screening of The Pioneers will be its first public showing in over 100 years. We also present a two-strip Technicolor film, Redskins, and The Big Trail, a 1930 epic first released in a widescreen 70mm format called "Grandeur;" it stars a very young John Wayne. Among other rare gems are Trail of the Vigilantes, a surreal comic western, and The Last Outlaw, the droll tale of a bank robber (Harry Carey) who is released into a transformed West after decades in prison. Also included in the series are wonderful noir Westerns, including 3:10 to Yuma (directed by Delmer Daves and based on an Elmore Leonard story); Samuel Fuller's 40 Guns, starring Barbara Stanwyck as "The Woman with the Whip;" and Raoul Walsh's Pursued, starring Robert Mitchum. The series includes John Ford's masterpieces My Darling Clementine, The Searchers, Stagecoach, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Randolph Scott will be seen in a widescreen color restoration of Budd Boetticher's Ride Lonesome, and the series includes the restored roadshow version of King Vidor's Duel in the Sun (whose passionate scenes led some to call it "Lust in the Dust.") The director's cut of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, and Lonely Are the Brave, offering one of Kirk Douglas's finest performances, will be seen on August 1 in a program entitled "The Reinvention of the Western."
Bergman on a Summer Night - July 3, 10, 11, 17, 24, 31. New prints, from Janus/Criterion Collection, of eight dramas by Ingmar Bergman, including his lovely opera film The Magic Flute, the graceful childhood chronicle Fanny and Alexander, and the charming romantic roundelay Smiles of a Summer Night. The series underscores Bergman's talents as a director of actors, offering wonderful performances-by Max von Sydow in The Magician and The Virgin Spring; Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann in Autumn Sonata; Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin and Harriet Andersson in Cries and Whispers; and Swedish director and actor Victor Sjöstrom in Wild Strawberries.
Time's Shadow: Film Among the Ruins - July 1, 6, 13, 15, 22, 27, 29, August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31. In conjunction with the BAM gallery exhibition of early photographs, "Time's Shadow," on view through August 8, we will screen eleven feature films and fifteen short films. The series ranges from F. W. Murnau's vampire classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror to Lithuanian director Sarunas Bartas's Corridor. Included are Roberto Rossellini's Voyage in Italy, which stars George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman in a touching tale of a failing marriage; Fellini Satyricon, an ebullient vision of ancient Rome which the director called "a science fiction picture, but projected into the past, not the future;" Andrei Tarkovski's Nostalghia, set in beautiful Italian ruins. The Murderers Are Among Us (1946) is a taut psychological thriller filmed in the rubble of postwar Germany; And Life Goes On, directed by Abbas Kiarostami, is a moving drama set in Iran after an earthquake. Short films include works by influential anime artist Osamu Tezuka, Chris Marker's 1981 film of the Emeryville Mud Flats debris sculptures, the Quay Brothers' adaptation of a Bruno Schultz story, Street of Crocodiles, and Julie Murray's 2002 memorial to the World Trade Center towers, Untitled (Light). Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci's From the Pole to the Equator is an intriguing compilation of early travel films, with damaged footage providing visual texture to its saga of cultural imperialism, a theme also treated in Jesse Lerner's Ruins, a multi-layered study of art forgery and the de-contextualizing of Mayan and Aztec objects. Decasia, a 2002 film by Bill Morrison, is a lovely collage of snippets of decomposing archival film footage, and Lyrical Nitrate compiles beautiful fragments of tinted nitrate films made from 1905 to 1915.
Alternative Visions - July 8, 20. In conjunction with her BAM gallery exhibition Intention to Tell, on view from July 11 through September 6, Finnish filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila appears in person with Love is a Treasure and two short films. Takahiko Iimura presents his most recent video, Ma: The Stones Have Moved, as well as films and videos made in the years 1962-1978.