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Classic Film Series Fall 2005
FRIDAYS at 7:30 p.m.
(Unless otherwise noted)
Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue
UAlbany's Downtown Campus
September / October / November / December
Jazz on a Summer's Day, The Mystic Masseur, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, Five Easy Pieces,
Mountains of the Moon, The Leopard, On the Waterfront, Faust, The Handmaid's Tale,
Yellow Earth, Design for Living, The Battle of Algiers, The Man Who Came to Dinner

   September 16
Jazz on a Summer's DayJAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY

Directed by Bert Stern & Aram Avakian
(United States, 1960, 90 minutes, color, 35mm)
Starring Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Mahalia Jackson

JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY, which chronicles the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and highlights the 1958 America's Cup Race, was directed by noted fashion and personality photographer Bert Stern. Best known for his portraits of Marilyn Monroe, this is the only film Stern made in his career. The film highlights performances by jazz greats Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, and Louis Armstrong, among others. It also captures the essence of the Festival with behind-the-scene footage of the performers, candid shots of the audience, and cutaways to the surrounding landscape. The only sound in the film is the music itself and an occasional off-camera remark.

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   September 23

Directed by Ismail Merchant
(Indian/United States, 2001, 117 minutes, color, mm)
Starring Om Puri, Aasif Mandvi, Ayesha Dharker

THE MYSTIC MASSEUR is a wry comedy about the Indian community in Trinidad. It is based on the 1957 novel by 2001 Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul, the first of Naipaul's works to be adopted for film. A young educated Indian man, who yearns to become a writer, is tricked into a marriage. Through his writing he eventually transforms himself into a spiritual and physical healer and finally into a populist politician. Director Merchant's attention to Trinidadian culture, locales and general atmosphere is alluring and engaging. The Writers Institute presents this film to honor Ismail Merchant, who died early this year. Rated PG.

Note: Caryl Phillips, who wrote the film script, will visit the Writers Institute on Wednesday, September 28.
Ismail Merchant 1936-2005

The Writers Institute presents THE MYSTIC MASSEUR to honor the film's director, Ismail Merchant, who died earlier this year. Born in Bombay, India, Merchant was the founder of and producer for Merchant Ivory Productions, a 44-year filmmaking partnership with director James Ivory--the longest collaboration in film history. The two made over 40 films, earned 31 Academy Award nominations and won six Oscars. They are best known for making lush period-piece adaptations of literary classics including the films THE EUROPEANS, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, HOWARDS END, and THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. In addition to producing, Merchant also directed a number of films including IN CUSTODY, based on a novel by Anita Desai, THE PROPRIETOR, COTTON MARY, and THE MYSTIC MASSEUR. Merchant passed away in London in May 2005 while working on his latest film THE WHITE COUNTESS.

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   September 29 (NOTE: Thursday Screening)

Directed by Spike Lee
(United States, 1989, 120 minutes, color, 35mm)
Starring Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis,
Ruby Dee, John Turturro

The film takes place on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and focuses on Sal's Famous Pizzeria, one of only two non-black businesses in an all black neighborhood. Director Lee, who also wrote the script, provides surprising twists for some of his characters as tensions build and eventually explode in racial violence. DO THE RIGHT THING powerfully reflected the state of race relations in the America of its time and the Rodney King riots.

Spike LeeNote: Spike Lee will speak at the Writers Institute on October 11, 2005.

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   September 30

Directed by Spike Lee
(United States, 1998, 136 minutes, color, 16mm)
Starring Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson

Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) is in prison serving time for killing his wife in a violent family feud. His son Jesus (Ray Allen, professional basketball player) is the nation's top high school basketball player. The state's governor offers Jake a week of freedom and a reduced sentence if he will convince his son to sign a letter of intent to attend and play basketball at the governor's alma mater, Big State University. Director Lee, an avid Knicks fan, uses this transparent scenario to explore the power behind professional sports as well as the relationship between a father and son.

Spike LeeNote: Spike Lee will speak at the Writers Institute on October 11, 2005.

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   October 6 (NOTE: Thursday Screening)

Directed by Bob Rafelson
(United States, 1970, 96 minutes, color, 35mm)
Starring Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Billy Green Bush, Sally Struthers, Susan Anspach, Fannie Flagg

Considered one of the best American films ever made FIVE EASY PIECES is a masterpiece of heartbreaking intensity. Jack Nicholson plays Robert Eroica Dupea, a grimy oil-field rigger who returns home to comfort his dying father. The trip home also forces him to confront a past he ran away from--a promising career as a concert pianist. The film features characteristically gorgeous cinematography from Laszlo Kovaks and a soundtrack that skillfully offsets Tammy Wynette with Chopin. FIVE EASY PIECES received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay.

Note: Director Bob Rafelson will speak at the Writers Institute on October 7, 2005.
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   October 7
Mountains of the MoonMOUNTAINS OF THE MOON
Followed by commentary and Q&A by Director Bob Rafelson

Directed by Bob Rafelson
(United States, 1990, 136 minutes, color, 35mm)
Starring Patrick Bergin, Iain Glen, Richard E. Grant, Fiona Show

MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON is the absorbing story of expeditions led by 19th century British explorers Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke as they travel through East Africa searching for the source of the Nile. Director Rafelson fills the movie with period detail as he explores the personalities of the men, their curiosity, egos, and greed, and the hardships they enduring on their quest.

Bob Rafelson, maverick filmmaker and screenwriter, is best-known for his critically-acclaimed collaborations with actor Jack Nicholson, including Five Easy Pieces (1970), one of the most influential films of its era. Other collaborations with Nicholson include The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), and Blood and Wine (1996). The pair also co-scripted (and Rafelson directed) Head (1968), the feature debut of the ersatz pop group, the Monkees. As a producer, Rafelson co-founded the independent production company BBS, responsible for many of his own films as well as such epoch-making hits as Easy Rider (1969), The Last Picture Show (1971), and the Oscar-winning Vietnam War documentary, Hearts and Minds (1974). Other notable films directed by Rafelson include the African adventure tale, Mountains of the Moon (1990); and the hard-boiled crime movie, No Good Deed (2002), based on a story by Dashiell Hammett.

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   October 14

Directed by Luchino Visconti
(Italy/France, 1963, 205 minutes, color, 35mm, in Italian w/English subtitles)
Starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Paolo Stoppa

Based on a 1958 book by Giuseppe Lampedusa, THE LEOPARD is the story of an Old World aristocrat--the Sicilian Prince Don Fabrizio Salina--played by Burt Lancaster. The Prince is forced to accept changes to his way of life brought on by the revolutionary social movement in the 1860s that united Italian feudal monarchies into states to form the country of Italy. Lancaster was originally cast in the lead role as a way to secure funding from 20th Century-Fox, but he fit the role of the patriarch brilliantly, embodying the aging prince. Though performing in English that was later dubbed into Italian, Lancaster considered the role to be his best work. Visconti's film is both sprawling and intimate and he succeeds in making a great film out of a great book. Available only in badly truncated versions for decades, the film will be shown in a newly-released and restored print of the original, full-length Italian version.

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   October 21 (NOTE: 7:00 p.m. START TIME)
On the WaterfrontON THE WATERFRONT
Followed by commentary with film historian David Thomson

Directed by Elia Kazan
(United States, 1954, 108 minutes, b&w, 35mm)
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger

"If there is a better performance by a man in the history of film in America, I don't know what it is," said director Elia Kazan about Marlon Brando's work in ON THE WATERFRONT. Brando plays Terry Malloy, an ex-boxer, now longshoreman, who betrays his brother and boss by testifying against the corrupt dockers' union. The film was made shortly after Kazan had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and had named colleagues who were associated with the Communist Party. ON THE WATERFRONT was nominated for eleven Oscars and won eight including best picture, best director, and best actor honors for Brando. This is a newly restored print made for the 50th anniversary of the film's original release.

David Thomson

David Thomson, British-born film historian, is author of renowned biographies of Hollywood personalities and histories of the American film industry. He is the editor of Fan-Tan (2005), a posthumous novel co-authored by screen legend Marlon Brando and filmmaker Donald Cammell. Set in China and the South Seas during the 1920s, Fan-Tan followed the adventures of Anatole "Annie" Doultry, a modern day pirate. Thomson is best-known for his highly original reference work, A Biographical Dictionary of Film. First published in 1975, the work has undergone three major revisions (the fourth edition was revised and expanded as the New Biographical Dictionary of Film in 2004). Thomson's other books include The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood (2004), In Nevada; The Land, the People, God and Chance (1999), Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles (1996), Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick (1992), and Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes: A Life and a Story (1987).

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   October 28

Directed by F. W. Murnau
(German, 1926, 116 minutes, b&w, 35mm, silent with live piano accompaniment)
Starring Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard

Director F.W. Murnau, considered the greatest master of horror in the silent era, recreates the legend of Faust, a man who sells his soul to the devil. Murnau's bold imagination and distinctive style are vividly displayed in the film's grand opening scene and its horrifying ending. The film was recently listed as the fourth best horror film of all time on the Internet Movie Database. FAUST will be shown in a restored print prepared from archived materials by leading film preservationist David Shepard in 1996.

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   November 4

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff
(United States/Germany, 1990, 109 minutes, color, 35mm)
Starring Natasha Richardson, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunnaway, Elizabeth McGovern

Based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, THE HANDMAID'S TALE presents a harrowing vision of a very near future America ruled by a repressive Bible-based government. In the Republic Gilead, formerly the United States, a series of ecological disasters renders most women infertile. Women are assigned to one of several castes: the childless, morally pure Wives; the housekeepers known as Marthas, and the fertile Handmaids, whose job is to bear children for socially superior families. Celebrated playwright Harold Pinter supplies a stark, affecting screenplay for director Volker Schlöndorff (THE TIN DRUM), who retains all the sting of Atwood's feminist classic by sculpting a frighteningly plausible futuristic parable.

Note: Margaret Atwood, on whose novel the film is based, will visit the Writers Institute on Wednesday, November 9, 2005.

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   November 11
Directed by Chen Kaige
(China, 1984, 89 minutes, color, VHS)
Starring Liu Quiang, Tan Tuo, Wang Xueyin, Xue Bai

YELLOW EARTH [Huang Tu Di] is widely regarded as the first great film of China's golden era of cinema, known as "Chinese New Wave" and "The Fifth Generation." The period was dominated by such directors as Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang, who emerged during the 1980s and 1990s following the period of political repression known as the Cultural Revolution. Directed by Chen Kaige and featuring cinematography by Zhang Yimou, YELLOW EARTH tells the story of a young Red Army soldier who goes to a small village in Western China in 1937 to learn the local folksongs. His tales of women fighters entice a young peasant girl to liberate herself by leaving home to join the army.

"A haunting and provocative film" - London Observer

"Remarkable. . .A breakthrough in contemporary Chinese cinema" - Village Voice

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   November 18

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
(United States, 1933, 95 minutes, b&w, 35mm)
Starring Frederick March, Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins, Edward Everett Horton

In the romantic comedy, a young woman falls in love with two men. Unable to decide which one she likes the most she talks them into an arrangement where she can maintain relationships with both of them. While there are no on screen sexual situations, the film is full of suggestive behavior and innuendo, which challenged acceptable social standards at the time. Although the film was released just prior to the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code--a set of guidelines adopted by the Motion Picture Association of America that outlined morally acceptable standards--director Ernst Lubitsch still had to rely on his famous "Lubitsch touch" to convey provocative ideas with sophistication and good taste. The film will be shown in a recently restored prnt made available by the Library of Congress.

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   December 2
The Battle of AlgiersTHE BATTLE OF ALGIERS

Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
(Algeria/Italy, 1965, 117 minutes, b&w, 35mm, in French, English, & Arabic w/English subtitles)
Starring Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi

While THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS is a passionate account of the bloody struggle for Algerian independence, young Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo has given the film a universal frame of reference. Pontecorvo viewed newsreel film stock in order to reconstruct the events in Algiers, but he did not use any documentary or newsreel footage in the film itself. The film won awards at the Venice Film Festival and nine other festivals and became the premiere political film of its time. The Pentagon screened the film for its employees in 2003 in an effort to provide insights into urban terrorist insurgency. The film will be shown in a print that has, in the words of a January 2004 New York Times review, "been restored to the newsreel-like immediacy that first startled viewers in 1966."

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   December 9
The Man Who Came to DinnerTHE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER

Directed by William Keighley
(United States, 1942, 112 minutes, b&w, 16mm)
Starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley, Jimmy Durante

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER is one of Hollywood's best screwball comedies. It was based on the play by Moss Hart and George Kaufman, and adapted into film by the screenwriting duo of Julius and Philip Epstein, who also wrote the script for CASABLANCA. While on a lecture tour, a popular author and radio personality slips on the ice outside the home of his tour hosts and breaks a hip. Forced to remain at the home while he recovers, he disrupts the entire household, delivering insults and meddling in the family's lives while entertaining a steady stream of eccentric visitors.

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