House of Sand and Fog Marienbad Madrigal

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FALL 2008
Friday evenings, 7:30 p.m. (Unless otherwise noted)
Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., UAlbany’s Downtown Campus

House of Sand and Fog

September 12 (Friday)

(United States, 2003, 126 minutes, color, 35 mm) Directed by Vadim Perelman
Starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Frances Fisher
In English and Persian with English subtitles

Based on the national bestseller by Andre Dubus III, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG  tells the explosive story of two people battling for ownership of a California home:  an Iranian immigrant who purchases it at auction, and a recovering drug addict who loses her title for nonpayment of back taxes. Roger Ebert said, “It’s so rare to find a movie that doesn’t take sides.... Here is a film that seizes us with its first scene and never lets go, and we feel sympathy all the way through for everyone in it.”
NOTE: Andre Dubus III will visit the Writers Institute on Tuesday, September 16th (see visiting writers series listing for details).


Man with a Movie Camera

September 19 (Friday)

(Soviet Union, 1929, 68 minutes, b/w, DVD) Directed by Dziga Vertov
SILENT with live accompaniment by pianist Mike Schiffer

This inventive late silent from Soviet Russia exerted a profound impact on the development of film as a storytelling medium. In the manner of Godfrey Reggio’s KOYAANISQATSI (1982), the film abandons plot and language to create a “symphony” of footage that captures the manic rhythms of urban life in Moscow and Odessa. Vertov pioneers a variety of shots and techniques that have since become standard elements of cinematic language. The main feature will be preceded by Vsevolod Pudovkin’s short silent film, CHESS FEVER [SHAKHMATNAYA GORYACHKA] (Soviet Union, 1925, 28 minutes, b/w, DVD).


September 26 (Friday)

(Cuba, 2006, 112 minutes, color, DVD) Directed by Fernando Pérez
Starring Carlos Enrique Almirante, Liety Chaviano, Ana Celia de Armas
In Spanish with English subtitles|

A love story about a struggling screenwriter who seduces an “ugly duckling” on a dare, MADRIGAL is an intellectually demanding fable by Cuba’s leading director. Fantasy and reality blur continually and unexpectedly in this homage to French director René Clair’s 1955 film SUMMER MANEUVERS [LES GRANDES MANOEUVRES]. Pérez’s film supplies an ending that Clair preferred, but which his producers would not allow.

Night and the City

October 3 (Friday)

(United Kingdom, 1950, 101 minutes, b/w, 35 mm) Directed by Jules Dassin
Starring Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe

Exiled American director Jules Dassin, on the run from the House Un-American Activities Committee, made this film about a luckless American expatriate who attempts to establish himself as a wrestling promoter in London, but who quickly finds himself trapped in a nightmare world of crime and murder. The British Film Institute called it, “a baroque masterpiece of corruption, paranoia and doom that ranks among the true works of art in the film noir genre.” A new restored print will be shown.


Last Year at Marienbad

October 17 (Friday)

(France, 1961, 94 minutes, b/w, 35 mm) Directed by Alain Resnais
Starring Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoëff, Françoise Bertin
In French with English subtitles

In this celebrated work of surrealism, a man pursues a woman through a palatial hotel — “a universe of marble and stucco, columns, moldings, gilded ceilings, statues, motionless servants” — insisting despite her denials that they had been lovers the previous year. J. Hoberman of the Village Voice said, “Hopelessly retro, eternally avant-garde, and one of the most influential movies ever made . . ., MARIENBAD is both utterly lucid and provocatively opaque. . ..” The screenplay was written by Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922–2008), the foremost proponent of the French “New Novel” (Nouveau Roman) movement. A new restored print will be shown.


A Day in the Country

David Thompson

Steven Bach


Film scholars David Thomson and Steven Bach and A DAY IN THE COUNTRY [PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE]
October 24 (Friday)

(France, 1936, 40 minutes, b/w, DVD) Directed by Jean Renoir
Starring Sylvia Bataille, Georges D’Arnoux, Jane Marken, André Gabriello
In French with English subtitles

A young middle class woman, engaged to be married, goes for an excursion with her mother in the countryside outside Paris where both are wooed by a charming pair of local laborers. Based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant, this short film is widely regarded as a cinematic gem, despite the fact that Renoir never officially finished it (filming was called off due to bad weather).

NOTE: Bestselling film writers David Thomson and Stephen Bach, two of America’s most knowledgeable and wittiest film scholars will offer commentary and a broader discussion of cinema immediately following the screening.

David Thomson, major film critic and Hollywood biographer, has been called “probably the greatest living film critic and historian” (Atlantic Monthly). Thomson is best-known among film enthusiasts for his delightfully original reference work, A Biographical Dictionary of Film. First published in 1975, the book has since undergone three major revisions (the fourth edition appeared as the New Biographical Dictionary of Film in 2002). Thomson’s most recent book is “Have You Seen...?”:  A Personal Introduction to 1000 Films (2008). A companion guide to his famous dictionary, the new book addresses the question,  “After 100 years of films, which ones are the best, and why?”

Steven Bach is both a leading film industry insider and film historian. As head of production for United Artists, he was centrally involved in the making of Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and dozens of other films. He is the author of four New York Times Notable Books, including Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl (2007), Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart (2001), Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend (1992), and Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists (1985). The Los Angeles Times Book Review called Leni, “Brilliant. … A compulsively readable and scrupulously crafted work . …”


October 31 (Friday)

(Germany, 1931, 117 minutes, b/w, DVD) Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Otto Wernicke
In German with English subtitles

A psychotic killer of children is hunted by the Berlin criminal underworld in cooperation with the German police in this universally-acclaimed work of psychological suspense. Critic Leonard Maltin called it, “Riveting and frighteningly contemporary; cinematically dazzling, especially for an early talkie.”



November 7 (Friday)

(Japan, 1964, 183 minutes, color, 35 mm) Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Starring Rentaro Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Tatsuya Nakadai
In Japanese with English subtitles

This intriguing horror classic, which the New York Times called “a horror picture with an extraordinarily delicate and sensuous quality,” is based on four traditional Japanese folktales as they were recorded and retold by Lafcadio Hearn, an American newspaperman and travel writer who lived in Japan from 1890 until his death in 1904. The film earned director Kobayashi a Special Jury Prize at Cannes and an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. A new restored print will be shown.


Frozen River

Courtney Hunt

FROZEN RIVER with commentary by director Courtney Hunt
November 14 (Friday)
NOTE 7:00 p.m. Start Time

(United States, 2008, 97 minutes, color, 35 mm) Directed by Courtney Hunt
Starring Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Michael O'Keefe, Gargi Shinde

A pair of single mothers— one white, one Mohawk— are drawn into the lucrative and dangerous world of cross-border smuggling in this indie feature by local filmmaker Courtney Hunt. Set in and around an Indian reservation in New York’s North Country, FROZEN RIVER took the top honor, the Grand Jury Prize, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In awarding the prize, Sundance juror Quentin Tarantino said that the film, “put my heart in a vise and proceeded to twist that vise until the last frame.”

NOTE:  Director Courtney Hunt will provide film commentary and answer questions immediately following the screening. 

Courtney Hunt wrote and directed FROZEN RIVER (2008), a first feature film that was adapted from her 2004 short film of the same name. Hunt’s script was selected as one of six finalists in IFP New York’s emerging Narrative Feature Script Section in 2005, and was included in the Los Angeles Film Festival’s “Fast Track” Program in 2006. Hunt received First Prize in Directing from New Line Cinema for her first short film, ALTHEA FAUGHT (1994), a tale of the Civil War that served as her MFA thesis at Columbia University’s Film School. The film aired subsequently on the PBS series, “American Playhouse.” A Tennessee native, Hunt makes her home in the Hudson Valley. Another feature script, ELFIE NEARY, will soon go into production.


My Man Godfrey

November 21 (Friday)

(United States, 1936, 94 minutes, b/w, DVD) Directed by Gregory La Cava
Starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Mischa Auer, Eugene Pallette

Carole Lombard is a wealthy young socialite who is a few cards short of a full deck. William Powell is a vagrant she meets at the city dump during a “high society” scavenger hunt. Sparks fly when the heiress hires the bum as her personal butler, then proceeds to fall in love with him. A screwball comedy classic that balances gags and romance with Depression-era social commentary, MY MAN GODFREY was the first film to receive Oscar nominations in all four acting categories.



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