Wristcutters: A Love Story Street Angel Enron

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Friday evenings, 7:30 p.m. (Unless otherwise noted), Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., UAlbany’s Downtown Campus






Edgar G. Ulmer Double Feature: DETOUR and BLUEBEARD
January 30 (Friday)
Working with very small budgets, Edgar G. Ulmer developed a reputation for “spinning straw into gold” during his career as a director on “Poverty Row,” the Hollywood name for the short-lived, independent studios of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. We present two of his best short features, each of them shot in only six days.

(United States, 1945, 67 minutes, b/w) Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake
Hailed by some as the best “B movie” ever made, DETOUR follows the bad luck of a musician who hitchhikes from New York to L.A., only to find himself trapped in a web of murder and intrigue. Critic David Thomson has called the film, “beyond remarkable…. a portrait of hell, and brilliantly done.”

(United States, 1944, 70 minutes, b/w) Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring John Carradine, Jean Parker, Nils Asther
This enduring cult classic features a Parisian painter and puppeteer who murders his models after he paints them. A recent review in Time Out London called the film, “a triumph of mind, eye, and talent over the matter handed him by a [tight studio] budget.




La Chienne

The Early Films of Jean Renoir
March 6, May 1, May 8
During the course of the season we will present three notable early films by Jean Renoir, universally regarded as one of the screen’s greatest directors. Working in many genres while breaking their conventions, Renoir combined profound insight into human behavior with sympathy for the common people.

“My dream is of a craftsman’s cinema in which the author can express himself as directly as the painter in his paintings or the writer in his books.” — Jean Renoir

May 8 (Friday)
(France, 1931, 91 minutes, b/w) Directed by Jean Renoir
Starring Michel Simon, Janie Marèse, Georges Flamant
In French with English subtitles
A classic of “social realism,” Renoir’s talkie debut examines the fate of a mild-mannered store clerk who falls in love with a ruthless prostitute. In a latter-day reappraisal, Vincent Canby of the New York Times said, “All of the performances are close to flawless, but it’s Renoir’s unseen presence one remembers most vividly.”

Love Me Tonight

May 8 (Friday)
United States, 1932, 89 minutes, b/w) Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Starring Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Charles Ruggles
In this delightful romantic comedy—acclaimed as the very best musical of the 1930s—a tailor poses as a nobleman in order to collect an overdue bill, and ends up falling in love with a princess. Scholar James Harvey calls Rouben Mamoulian’s brilliantly edited movie, “the Lubitsch film that Lubitsch was always trying to pull off but never quite did.”

Proud Valley

February 27 (Friday)
(United Kingdom, 1940, 76 minutes, b/w) Directed by Pen Tennyson
Starring Paul Robeson, Edward Chapman, Simon Lack
The matter of race is merely incidental in this little-known drama about an out-of-work African American merchant sailor who finds employment and friendship in a Welsh coal mining village beset by hard times. The film showcases the acting and singing talents of 20th century icon Paul Robeson, who regarded it as his best work on film. After making only three films, director Tennyson was considered as important a young filmmaker as Michael Powell and Carol Reed. His career was tragically cut short when he was killed during World War II.

Boudu Sauve Des Eaux

The Early Films of Jean Renoir (continued)
March 6 (Friday)
(France, 1932, 85 minutes, b/w) Directed by Jean Renoir
Starring Michel Simon, Marcelle Hainia, Sévérine Lerczinska
In French with English subtitles
A kind-hearted bookseller, Mr. Lestingois, rescues a homeless man from the waters of the Seine and brings him home to live with his middle class wife and family. The rude, half-mad, sexually insatiable Boudu, however, turns out to be more than Lestingois bargained for. Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said, “Jean Renoir’s effortless 1932 masterpiece is as informal, beguiling, and subversive as its eponymous hero.”

Wristcutters: A Love Story

March 13 (Friday)
(United States/United Kingdom, 2006, 88 minutes, color) Directed by Goran Dukic
Starring Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits
Based on the short story “Kneller’s Happy Campers” by cutting-edge Israeli fiction writer Etgar Keret, WRISTCUTTERS is set in a peculiar afterlife populated exclusively by characters who have committed suicide. Gravelly-voiced bluesman Tom Waits plays the proprietor of a magical camp inhabited by these lost souls. The Boston Globe called the film, “a sweetly grim lark: a road film through Limbo.”
NOTE: Israeli fiction writer and graphic novelist Etgar Keret will visit the Writers Institute on Monday, March 16th (see listing). Sponsored by UAlbany’s Judaic Studies Department

Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo




March 20 (Friday)
(Italy, 1964, 137 minutes, b/w) Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring Enrique Irazoqui, Margherita Caruso, Susanna Pasolini
In Italian with English subtitles
A Marxist reinterpretation of the story of Jesus, enriched by stunning black and white cinematography and a classical soundtrack, Pasolini’s unusual film is shot in documentary style on a small budget with non-actors. Time Out London said, “The film’s beauty derives from its simplicity…. And Pasolini’s use of music, from Bach to Billie Holiday, is astounding.”
NOTE: The film is being screened in association with Albany Pro Musica’s performance of Bach’s St. John Passion on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 8 p.m. in Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. For ticket information and details on the performance, related events, and discussion go to: www.albanypromusica.org

Street Angel

March 27 (Friday)
(China, 1937, 87 minutes, b/w) Directed by Mu-jih Yuan
Starring Zhao Dan, Zhou Xuan, Wei Heling, Zhao Huishen
In Mandarin with English subtitles
Two young sisters — a prostitute and a tea house singer — struggle to survive in pre-revolutionary China. Malu Tianshi combines comedy, romance, and tragedy to offer a picture of life in the slums of Shanghai. In 2005, the film was ranked number eleven of the 100 best Chinese films of all time by the Hong Kong Film Awards Association.

Love Letters

April 3 (Friday)
(United States, 1999, 100 minutes, color) Directed by Stanley Donen
Starring Steven Weber, Laura Linney, Kirsten Storms
A. R. Gurney’s much-loved, Pulitzer-nominated play follows the letter correspondence between a man and woman through four stages of life, from age seven to decrepit old age. Hollywood veteran Stanley Donen, who directed Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in CHARADE (1963), “manages a fine job opening up the action” for the TV screen, “expanding Gurney’s play with a multitude of outdoor shots, unusual angles and sharp edits” (Variety).
NOTE: A. R. Gurney, major American playwright, author of both the play and teleplay of "Love Letters", will visit the Writers Institute on Wednesday, April 15th (see listing).



April 17 (Friday)

(Czechoslovakia, 1966, 74 minutes, color) Directed by Vera Chytilová
Starring Ivana Karbanová, Jitka Cerhová, Marie Cesková
In Czech with English subtitles
This comic feminist farce, originally banned by the Communist authorities, established Vera Chytilová as a leading figure of the Czech New Wave. Two young women embark upon a series of crazy pranks in order to protest their boredom with Czech society. Chytilová pioneers a subversive, narrative-free structure employed by later generations of experimental and indie filmmakers.

Alex Gibney

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Taxi to the Dark Side

Gonzo: the Life and Work  of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Alex Gibney Film Festival
April 22, 23, 24 (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)
The Writers Institute will screen three films by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney in conjunction with his appearance on Friday, April 24. In addition to the films that will be shown (see schedule below), Gibney also directed THE TRIALS OG HENRY KISSINGER (2002), and is currently at work on FREAKONOMICS (2009), based on the bestseller by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Gibney served as executive producer for the Iraqi war documentary NO END IN SIGHT (2007), an Academy Award contender.
Alex Gibney will provide commentary and answer questions immediately following the screening of GONZO on Friday, April 24.

April 22 (Wednesday)
(United States, 2005, 110 minutes, color) Directed and co-written by Alex Gibney, Narrated by Peter Coyote
Based on the book by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, this Oscar-nominated film presents the rapid rise and fall of the fraudulent energy trading company that became America’s seventh largest corporation. Kenneth Turan of the L. A. Times called it, “a chilling, completely fascinating documentary that reveals the face of unregulated greed in a way that’s every bit as terrifying as Lon Chaney’s unmasking in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Maybe more so, because everything here is true.”

April 23 (Thursday)
(United States, 2007, 106 minutes, color) Directed, written, and narrated by Alex Gibney
A stunning exposé of American torture practices during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the film follows the plight of Dilawar, a young Afghani cab driver who is tortured and killed after being wrongly identified as a terror operative. The film received the Academy Award for Best Documentary. A. O. Scott, writing in the New York Times said, “If recent American history is ever going to be discussed with the necessary clarity and ethical rigor, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE will be essential.”

April 24 (Friday)
Seminar on documentary filmmaking with Alex Gibney — 4:15 p.m., Science Library 340

(United States, 2008, 120 minutes, color) Directed and written by Alex Gibney, Narrated by Johnny Depp
Gibney provides a wildly entertaining, warts-and-all portrait of the hard-drinking, substance-abusing, larger-than-life Kentucky journalist who invented a whole new genre of American letters. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reviewer said, “The rare documentary that puts you in a headlock to pin you to your seat, GONZO is a bracing masterpiece.” The film was a finalist for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
NOTE: Alex Gibney will answer questions and offer commentary immediately following the screening of GONZO.


The Early Films of Jean Renoir (continued)
MAY 1 (Friday)
(France, 1926, 150 minutes, b/w) Directed by Jean Renoir
Starring Catherine Hessling, Jean Angelo, Werner Krauss
Silent with live keyboard accompaniment by Mike Schiffer
A Parisian streetwalker uses her charms to acquire power and influence among the aristocracy of the French Second Empire in this magnificent silent epic based on Émile Zola’s landmark 1880 novel. In conducting historical research for NANA, his second feature film, Renoir studied the paintings of his father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, paying attention to nuances of posture and gesture.


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