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Classic Film Series - Spring 2007
FRIDAYS at 7:30 p.m.
(Unless otherwise noted)
Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue
UAlbany's Downtown Campus

January / February / March / April / May
Smallest Show on Earth, Hero, Grand Illusion, Divine Intervention,
Phantom of the Operator, Nalini By Day/Nancy By Night, Designated Mourner,
Lucia, The Lady Eve, Heaven's Gate, Triumph of the Will, Mantrap,
Their Eyes Were Watching God

January 26
The Smallest Show on Earth
The Smallest Show on Earth
(United Kingdom, 1957, 80 minutes, b&w, DVD)
Directed by Basil Dearden
Starring Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers

A valentine to the old-time movie theater experience, The Smallest Show on Earth follows the misadventures of a young couple who inherit a rundown cinema, the Bijou, better-known to locals as "the Flea Pit." Sandwiched between two noisy railroad lines, the theater is managed by an incompetent staff of elderly eccentrics, including Peter Sellers in a breakthrough performance as the alcoholic projectionist.

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February 2
The HeroThe HeroThe Hero [O Herói]
(Angola, 2004, 97 minutes, color, 35mm)
Directed by Zézé Gamboa
Starring Makena Diop, Milton "Santo" Coelho, Maria Ceiça
In Portuguese with English subtitles

Winner of the World Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, O Herói follows the struggles of Vitório, a disabled veteran of Angola's 30-year civil war, to acquire and keep a prosthetic leg. The film puts a human face on Angola's vast amputee population, the consequence of an estimated 10 million land mines still left unexploded in that country.

      "sad without being depressing because of the generosity and warmth the filmmaker brings to the story." - The New York Times
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February 9
La Grande Illusion
The Grand Illusion [La Grande Illusion]
(France, 1937, 114 minutes, b&w, 35mm)
Directed by Jean Renoir
Starring Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim
In French with English subtitles

Restored for theatrical re-release in 1999, Renoir's antiwar masterpiece about French soldiers planning their escape from a German prison camp during World War I is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. Grand Illusion is a war film without any depiction of battle. Because of its anti-war message, the film was declared "Cinematic Public Enemy Number One" by the Nazi party, which ordered all prints and negatives of the film confiscated and destroyed.

"Even as late as 1970, almost every credible list of the top ten best films in cinematic history included the film." - according to Wikipedia
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March 2 (Note: 7:00 p.m. Start)
Divine InterventionDivine Intervention [Yadon Ilaheyya]
(Palestine/France, 2002, 92 minutes, color, 35mm)
Directed by Elia Suleiman
Starring Elia Suleiman, Manal Khader, George Ibrahim
In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles

This highly original, absurdist take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earned Palestinian director Elia Suleiman the Grand Jury and FIPRESCI Prizes at Cannes. Set in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and at a military checkpoint, it stars the director himself in a series of satirical, dreamlike vignettes. The Washington Post said, "The film offers up simultaneous critiques of Palestinian and Israeli extremism, but the most radical thing about it is that it's often disquietingly funny."

NOTE: Hamid Dabashi, editor of The Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema (2006), will speak and answer questions immediately following the screening.

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The Phantom of the Operator The Phantom of the Operator
(Canada, 2004, 65 minutes, b&w, DVD)
Directed by Caroline Martel
In French with English subtitles

This humorous "found footage" film reveals a little-studied chapter in labor history: the story of the female telephone operator, and her starring role in the advance of global communications. Caroline Martel assembles a dazzling array of clips from rarely seen industrial films produced in North America between 1903 and 1989 by Bell and Western Electric - and transforms them into a dreamlike montage documentary.

Nalini by Day/Nancy by NightNalini by Day/Nancy by Night
(India/United States, 2005, 27 minutes, color and b&w, DVD)
Directed by Sonali Gulati

Indian-American Sonali Gulati's award-winning short documentary represents an eye-opening journey into the world of India's call centers. A fresh, funny take on the complex issue of global outsourcing, the film features a juxtaposition of animation, archival footage, live action shots and narrative work.

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March 16 [Cancelled due to weather]
Designated Mourner The Designated Mourner
(United Kingdom, 1997, 94 minutes, color, 35mm)
Directed by David Hare
Starring Mike Nichols, Miranda Richardson, David de Keyser

Wallace Shawn's powerful, monologue-driven play about three characters trapped in a war-torn future dystopia is translated to the screen by David Hare, who also directed the original London stage production. Jack, an English professor, has become increasingly sympathetic to the fascist regime. Howard, Jack's father-in-law, is a famous poet suspected of supporting the guerilla insurgents. Jack's wife, Judy, is also under suspicion. The New York Times called the work an "exquisitely written dramatic lament for the decline of high culture."

NOTE: Wallace Shawn, major contemporary playwright and character actor, will speak about his work on Tuesday, March 20, 2007.

Kevin's Film Notes
David Finkle Review
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March 23
Lucia lucia.JPG - 84335 BytesLucía
(Cuba, 1968, 161 minutes, b&w, 16mm)
Directed by Humberto Solás
Starring Raquel Revuelta, Eslinda Núñez, Adela Legrá
In Spanish with English subtitles

A landmark of Cuban cinema, Lucía consists of three episodes in the lives of three women--each named Lucía--engaged in personal struggles during different periods of Cuba's history, including the 1895 War of Independence from Spain, the glamorous 1930s, and the revolutionary 1960s. The film immediately established Solás as one of Latin America's most influential directors.

NY Times Review 3/74
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March 30
lady-eve.jpg - 49611 Bytes The Lady Eve
(United States, 1941, 97 minutes, b&w, 35mm)
Directed by Preston Sturges
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn

A "screwball comedy" classic, The Lady Eve pairs Barbara Stanwyck as a con artist who preys on men, and Henry Fonda as a naïve millionaire who has recently emerged from a year-long research expedition in the Amazon jungle. The film was named Best Picture by the New York Film Critics Circle, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. A new print will be screened.

    "crackles with a level of wit and sexual innuendo that makes you wish they still made
     sex comedies for adults."
- culturevulture.net
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April 13 (Note: 7:00 p.m. Start)
Heaven's Gate Heaven's Gate
(United States, 1980, 225 minutes, color, 35mm)
Directed by Michael Cimino
Starring Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, Sam Waterston

This is the rarely-screened director's cut of the often brilliant and beautiful anti-Western that bankrupted United Artists and shifted the focus of big studio movie-making from brash and talented directors to bottom-line-oriented executives. Based on a true incident in Wyoming in the 1890s, the film chronicles the efforts of wealthy cattle barons to exterminate the German, Russian and Ukrainian settlers who encroached upon their territory.

NOTE: Steven Bach, director of worldwide distribution at United Artists during the making of Heaven's Gate, and author of the memoir, Final Cut: Art, Money and Ego in the Making of "Heaven's Gate," the Film That Sank United Artists (1985), will speak about his work on April 20, 2007.

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April 20 (Note: 7:00 p.m. Start)
Triumph of the Will
Triumph of the Will [Triumph des Willens]
(Germany, 1935, 114 minutes, b&w, DVD)
Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
In German with English subtitles

The most insidious propaganda film ever made, Triumph of the Will documents the 1934 Nazi party congress in Nuremberg, Germany. Riefenstahl, a talented young actress and director, was selected by Hitler himself to direct a film that would help the party capture the popular imagination. With an eye for classical geometry and youthful faces, Riefenstahl crafted a forceful and visually beautiful film that, more than anything, offers evidence of the power of evil to seduce and manipulate.

NOTE: Steven Bach, author of the new biography, Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl (2007), will speak and answer questions immediately following the screening.

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April 27
Mantrap Mantrap
(United States, 1926, 86 minutes, b&w, 35mm)
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Clara Bow, Ernest Torrence, Percy Marmont
Silent with live accompaniment by Mike Schiffer

The 1927 film, It, turned Clara Bow--the daughter of a schizophrenic mother and a sexually abusive father--into the number one sex symbol of the silent era, and the living definition of the Hollywood "It girl." Mantrap, which was released one year earlier, was Bow's breakout film. Set in the Canadian wilderness, and based on a novel by Sinclair Lewis, Mantrap is the story of Alverna, a backwoods "Emma Bovary." Bow's charms combine with lovely outdoor photography and fine performances from Torrence and Marmont to create a witty and enduring romantic comedy. A pristine, restored print from the Library of Congress will be shown.

"She could flirt with a grizzly bear." - New York Times
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May 4 (Note: 7:00 p.m. Start)
Their Eyes Were Watching God Their Eyes Were Watching God
(United States, 2005, 98 minutes, color, DVD)
Directed by Darnell Martin
Starring Halle Berry, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Michael Ealy

Based on Zora Neale Hurston's classic novel, and adapted by Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Their Eyes Were Watching God was produced for ABC television by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films. Halle Berry plays the free-spirited Janie, a woman whose quest for love and a meaningful life challenges the morals of a small American town in the 1920s.

Note: Lucy Anne Hurston, literature scholar, Zora Neale Hurston's niece, and author of Speak So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, will discuss the film and answer questions immediately following the screening.

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