In-person appearances, special series, and premieres:
Scattered Clouds: The Films of Mikio Naruse -Thursday, January 12 through Saturday, February 18.
Pacific Film Archive is proud to present a 31-film retrospective of films by Mikio Naruse (1905-1969). Described by J. Hoberman in the Village Voice as "Ozu and Mizoguchi's brilliant peer," Naruse is far less known in this country than those two of his contemporaries. But the wonderful films in this series-some of which have been favorites at Pacific Film Archive, others that have never been shown here-will allow viewers a splendid opportunity to savor the talents of this superb director. Film historian Audie Bock, who has championed Naruse for decades, wrote recently in Artforum that Naruse's "films celebrate, without extravagance, the lives of ordinary people struggling for something better than the hand fate has dealt them. Performed with quiet certainty by superb actors, shot and edited with a sure and relentless hand, they raise the ordinary and even the sordid to a quality near sublime." Scattered Clouds: The Films of Mikio Naruse is a touring series organized by James Quandt of Cinematheque Ontario. It includes twenty-two new 35mm prints struck by The Japan Foundation, and is presented at PFA with support from Owsley Brown III and the Packard Humanities Institute. Naruse was born to impoverished parents, both of whom died when he was young. He began his film career in 1920 as a props assistant at Shochiku and, through the intercession of director Heinosuke Gosho, began directing films in 1930, creating 22 silent films over the next four years. In 1934, he moved to the new PCL studio (which three years later became Toho), and won commercial and critical success as a master of shomin-geki, or films about lower middle-class life. His eminence within this genre lay, according to author Donald Richie, in his ability to create "richly detailed, meticulously honest home dramas" that reflect "a profound respect for life and a transparent honesty in picturing it." In 37 years of directing, he made an astonishing 87 films, often centered on characters constrained by finances, families, failing marriages, impossible or ill-timed romances, and aging. Naruse was known for his sympathetic portrayals of women's sacrifices and struggles. He based six of his films (Repast, Lightning, Wife, Late Chrysanthemums, Floating Clouds, and Her Lonely Lane) on works by author Fumiko Hayashi. The brilliant Japanese stars Hideko Takamine, Kinoyu Tanaka, and Setsuko Hara deliver moving performances that validate Naruse's reputation as a great director of actresses. Takamine stars in nine films in this retrospective, beginning with Hideko the Bus Conductress, from 1941, and continuing through such classics as Wife; Flowing; Floating Clouds; A Wife's Heart; Her Lonely Lane; Yearning; Daughters, Wives, and a Mother; and the magnificent When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. Tanaka, who starred in a number of films directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, can be seen in Ginza Cosmetics, A Tale of Archers at the Sanjusangendo, Mother, Flowing, and Her Lonely Lane; and Hara, known to many for her roles in Yasujiro Ozu films, appears in Repast, Sound of the Mountain, Sudden Rain, and Daughters, Wives, and a Mother. Chris Fujiwara, writing in the Boston Phoenix, points to the revelations and rediscoveries to be found in this series: "Seen today," Naruse's films are "as fresh and modern as if they had just been made. . . . Naruse is not a contemporary, he's still ahead."
A Theater Near You-Friday and Saturday, January 13, 14, and Friday, January 20.
PFA continues to offer East Bay audiences screenings of theatrical releases that haven't opened in Berkeley. The Best of Youth, a six-hour Italian family saga, was recently a great hit with audiences in San Francisco. We will show the film, which the L.A. Times called "a kind of filmmaking we've almost forgotten exists: serious, adult storytelling on a grand scale," in two parts on January 13 and 14, and in its entirety (with a dinner break) on January 20.
Weird America-Wednesdays, January 18, 25, February 1, 8, 15, 22.
Our third Weird America documentary showcase offers portraits of people with uncommon occupations, strange pastimes, and curious obsessions. La Lucha: The Struggle offers no-holds-barred contests, including a match at downtown L.A.'s Mayan Theater, of lucha libre-Mexican wrestling-as practiced by the semi-pro World Power Wrestling league of Anaheim, California. Its cinematographer was John Gulager, who recently won the director contest on the Bravo reality show "Project Greenlight;"
he will be our guest, along with La Lucha director Duncan Macleod. Born in a Barn gives free rein to the fantasies of fetishists who role-play as ponies controlled by human trainers, while Okie Noodling depicts the odd sport of catching catfish with bare hands. Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, narrated by John Waters, presents the eccentric desert rats living in an ecological wreck once touted by developers as "the Riviera of the West." Filmmaker Chris Metzler will appear in person. The haunted life of Wild Man Fischer, a mad musician who lived on the streets in '60s L.A. is told in Derailroaded, and an old woman whose fascination with nuts grew until it became an entire Nut Museum is profiled in In a Nutshell: A Portrait of Elizabeth Tashjian.
African Film Festival-January 27, February 2, 3, 4, 10, 17.
We're delighted to again present the touring program of the annual New York African Film Festival, along with selected favorites from other international festivals. These fiction films and documentaries display the vibrant voices and visions of contemporary African filmmakers, and offer Bay Area audiences fresh insights into Africa's changing cultural landscape. Among many highlights in this year's festival are The Hero, a prizewinner at last winter's Sundance Festival; the Senegalese film Niwam, based on a novel by the influential author and director Ousmane Sembene; and Sisters in Law, a new film about justice for women and children in a small town courtroom in Cameroon. It was made by Kim Longinotto (The Day I will Never Forget, Divorce Iranian Style) and Florence Ayisi, and was the only documentary selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The Golden Ball is a joyful tale-suitable for families-about a young Guinean boy's passion for soccer. Dôlé incorporates Franco-African hip-hop into a vivid portrait of a young man interactions with gangs in Libreville, Gabon, and Delwende, from Burkina Faso, is a fictional film about one of that country's actual problems: women being accused of practicing witchcraft.
Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2006-February 19, 23 – 26.
This annual festival presented by the renowned advocacy organization Human Rights Watch showcases committed cinema created by courageous filmmakers around the world. The 2006 edition has a timely focus on the consequences of conflict, and begins with an extraordinary film by Marcel Ophuls, previously unreleased in this country. The Troubles We've Seen: A History of Journalism in Wartime was made in Sarajevo in 1993, and includes conversations with reporters including Christiane Amanpour, Walter Cronkite, and Martha Gellhorn. Winter Soldier is an essential record of a 1972 gathering of Vietnam vets (including young John Kerry) investigating U.S. war atrocities, and Occupation: Dreamland, by Garrett Scott and Ian Olds, directors of Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story, follows eight members of the 82nd Airborne trying to survive their assignment in Fallujah. A film about the aftermath of terror in Peru (State of Fear) studies strategies for reconciliation, and two programs of Videoletters made in the former Yugoslavia show Balkan citizens trying to re-establish contact with former friends and neighbors. Mardi Gras: Made in China exposes unexpected effects of economic globalization; Justice surveys a criminal courtroom in Brazil; and Living Rights presents poignant portraits of adolescents in Japan, Kenya, and Ukraine.
Alternative Visions-Tuesdays, January 17, 31, February 14, 28.
Our ongoing avant-garde showcase takes a literary turn this season with booksignings by UC Berkeley professors Jeffrey Skoller and Trinh T. Minh-ha, as well as a program of films from Pittsburgh, the "third capital" of experimental cinema, curated by author Robert Haller. Plus, Austrian filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky in person, with five stunning films that have been described (by Rhys Graham in Senses of Cinema) as "a meeting point of cogent theoretical preoccupations and . . . anarchic punk energy".
The Women's Film Preservation Fund-Tuesdays, January 24, February 7, 21.
The world's premier organization devoted to preserving the cultural legacy of women in film presents three evenings of works by women who blazed trails in every genre and era, from Alice Guy-Blaché, one of cinema's first film directors, to Mary Ellen Bute, Maya Deren, Meredith Monk, and Gunvor Nelson.
Film 50: History of Cinema-Wednesday Matinees, January 18 – May 3.
If you want to explore the history and aesthetics of film, this popular film-lecture series is the place to start. Film 50 is an undergraduate UC Berkeley course open to the public as space permits, with screenings preceded by lectures by Professor Russell Merritt.