* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Take One: Great Directors & Their First Films
Some cinematic careers begin quietly; others start with a bang. This series presents the first feature film (and in one case, a first short film) of fourteen great directors whose artistry was clear from the start. Benjamin L. Alpers, the museum's film series curator and Reach for Excellence associate professor in the OU Honors College, selected the films. A written introduction by Alpers will be provided at each screening.
August 23 | Surrealist Double-Feature: Un Chien Andalou (France/1929/dir. by Luis Bunuel) 16 minutes, and The Blood of a Poet (Le Sang d'un poète) (France/1930/dir. by Jean Cocteau) 55 minutes
This double bill features two of the best-known avant-garde films of all time, both of which were part of the surrealist movement that swept the art world in the 1920s and 1930s. Each also represents the beginning of an illustrious cinematic career. Working with Salvador Dali, the Spanish director Luis Buñuel created one of cinema's most enduring images in the short Un Chien Andalou . He would go on to a prolific career largely making more conventional narrative films, many of which would still retain a hint of the surrealism with which his career began. Jean Cocteau would only direct six movies, but cinema was just one of many media in which he worked. Most famous for his poetry, Cocteau was also an accomplished playwright, novelist, and designer. His short, but celebrated, cinematic career began with The Blood of a Poet , which he described as "a disturbing series of voyeuristic tableaux, a descent into oneself, a way of using the mechanism of the dream without sleeping, a crooked candle, often mysteriously blown out, carried about in the night of the human body."
August 30 | Citizen Kane (USA/1941/dir. by Orson Welles) 119 minutes
Certainly the most famous first film of all time, and arguably the most famous film of all time, Citizen Kane is a movie that probably needs no introduction. Having established a reputation as an artistic genius on stage and in radio, the twenty-six-year-old Orson Welles was given extraordinary artistic freedom by RKO to make his first film. Surrounding himself with an extraordinarily talented cast (including Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, and Everett Sloan), a great co-screenwriter (Herman Mankiewicz) and arguably Hollywood's greatest cinematographer (Gregg Tolland) and composer (Bernard Herrmann), but putting himself front and center in the title role, Welles' tale of the rise and fall of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane was a critical success but a box office failure. As a result, never again would he enjoy the kind of creative freedom he had on Kane. To this day, Citizen Kane frequently tops critics' lists of the greatest films of all time, most recently earning top honors among the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Films."
September 6 | The Great McGinty (USA / 1940 / dir. by Preston Sturges) 82 mins.
Tired of seeing his screenplays mangled in the film-making process, comedic screenwriter Preston Sturges is said to have sold the screenplay of The Great McGinty to Paramount for one dollar in exchange for the right to direct it. Sturges proved to be the best interpreter of his own excellent material. McGinty would go on to win the first Oscar for best original screenplay. The humorous and ironic cynicism of Sturges's comedies is on full display in this tale of a tramp (Brian Donlevy) who becomes governor on the basis of political corruption, but comes to see value in public service.
September 13 | The Night of the Hunter (USA/1955/dir. by Charles Laughton) 93 minutes
The only movie directed by the great British actor Charles Laughton, The Night of the Hunter is one of the most beautiful and menacing American films. Robert Mitchum stars as an an ex-con who masquerades as a preacher in order to marry a widow (Shelley Winters) whose children know the hiding place of his former cellmate's loot. The influence of this expressionistic film noir can be seen in the work of a number of the other directors in this series including Terrence Malick, David Lynch, and the Coen Brothers. The critic Michael Atkinson has called Night of the Hunter "the movie freak's definitive love machine: maligned when first released in 1955, hopelessly out of synch with American postwar sensibilities, so aberrant and singular it may properly be called the first Hollywood cult movie."
September 20 | Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) (India/1955/dir. by Satyajit Ray) 126 minutes
The first film by the great Bengali director Satyajit Ray, Pather Panchali tells the story of a boy, Apu (Subir Bannerjee), and his poor, Brahmin family as they struggle to make ends meet in a village in Bengal around the turn of the twentieth century. The film won eleven international awards, including Best Human Document at Cannes. Reviewing the film for Newsweek, Jack Kroll declared that Pather Panchali was "one of the most stunning first films in movie history. Ray is a welcome jolt of flesh, blood and spirit."
September 27 | Knife in Water (Nóz w wodzie) (Poland/1962/dir. by Roman Polanski) 94 minutes
Having attended the famous Polish State Film School at Lódz, Roman Polanski established his international reputation with this, his first feature film. Andrzej (Leon Niemczyk) and his wife Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka) pick up a young hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanawicz) and invite him to join them on a boating trip. The spare tale of betrayal that follows received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film (the first ever for a Polish movie). One critic at the time praised Polanski as "a holy terror of intelligent restraint--detached, ironic, playful as a cat with a mouse, encompassing with ease his alternations of the deathly serious and the dead-pan comic."
October 4 | No Fred Film (see Exhibitions for Opening Reception information)
October 11 | Ivan's Childhood (Ivanova detstvo) (USSR/1962/dir. by Andrei Tarkovsky) 95 minutes
Ivan (Kolya Burlayev) is a twelve-year old orphan fighting in World War II to avenge his parents deaths at the hands of the German army. In many ways Tarkovsky's most conventional movie, Ivan's Childhood contrasts the title character's experience in war with his earlier life in his now-destroyed village. Greatly admired by critics and other filmmakers, Ivan's Childhood won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and established Tarkovsky's reputation as the most significant of a group of young Russian filmmakers who emerged during the Krushchev thaw. Originally released in this country under the name "My Name is Ivan."
October 18 | Night of the Living Dead (USA/1968/dir. by George Romero) 96 minutes
Working in a debased genre with a tiny budget and a no-name cast, George Romero launched his career with Night of the Living Dead . Although ridiculed at the time of its release by Vincent Canby in the New York Times as "a grainy little movie acted by what appear to be nonprofessional actors, who are besieged in a farm house by some other nonprofessional actors who stagger around, stiff-legged, pretending to be flesh-eating ghouls," Night of the Living Dead is now understood by audiences and critics alike to be one of the most significant American horror films. Night of the Living Dead established the zombie film as a major horror subgenre. It also presented a powerful critique of American life in 1968. But most of all it scared its viewers. In 1999, the National Film Preservation Board placed Night of the Living Dead on the American Film Registry, a select group of "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" movies chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress.
October 25 | Badlands (USA/1973/dir. by Terence Malick) 95 minutes
After short stints as a journalist and an academic philosopher, Terrence Malick enrolled at the American Film Institute's new Center for Advanced Studies in 1969 at the age of twenty-six. Four years later, he had completed Badlands. Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen) and Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek) are an outlaw couple on the run, loosely based on Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who went on a killing spree in 1959. The film was immediately hailed as a triumph. "Rarely has a first film given such an impression of perfect mastery," wrote the critic Michel Sineux at the time of Badlands ' release. Although Malick continues to direct, he has made only three films since Badlands -- Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), and The New World (2005).
November 1 | Eraserhead (USA/1977/dir. by David Lynch) 89 minutes
David Lynch enrolled at the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Studies in 1970, shortly after Terrence Malick had begun studying there. A year later, Lynch had started work on his first feature film, which he would not only directed but also write, edit, and design. It would not be completed for half a decade. Eraserhead quickly became a cult film. Over the years, this surreal story of a man (Jack Nance) and a mutant baby has provoked, in the words of one critic "every degree of shock, delight, nausea, and angry incomprehension." But its reputation has grown as its themes and images have echoed in Lynch's later work.
November 8 | No Fred Film
November 15 | Blood Simple (USA/1984/dir. by Joel Coen) 99 minutes
Blood Simple marked the debut of the Coen Brothers (although Joel received directing credit while Ethan got producing credit, both brothers in fact co-wrote, directed, and produced the film). This auspicious first film established the Coen's interest in reinvigorating old Hollywood genres. One of the cleverest of the 1980s neo-noirs, Blood Simple 's twisty plot concerns lovers Ray (John Getz) and Abby (Frances McDormand), Abby's husband and Ray's employer Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) and a private detective hired by Marty to spy on Abby (M. Emmett Walsh). "If there ever was a movie-brat debut," writes J. Hoberman, "it's the Coens' aggressively stylish mixture of showboat formalism and insouciant nose-thumbing."
November 29 | As Tears Go By (Wong gok kar moon) (Hong Kong/1988/dir. by Wong Kar-wai) 102 minutes
Often compared to Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets , Wong's debut added a new sophistication to the Hong Kong gangster film. Wah (Andy Lau) is a low-level gangster who has to watch out for the hot-headed, younger Fly (Jacky Cheung). Wah's life changes when he falls for a distant cousin Ngor (Maggie Cheung). Although quite different in style from his later, and better-known, films such as Chungking Express (1994) and In the Mood for Love (2004), As Tears Go By established Wong as one of Hong Kong cinema's major talents.
December 6 | Sweetie (Australia/1989/dir. by Jane Campion) 97 minutes
New Zealand-born Jane Campion began her career directing visually eccentric short films in Australia, where she had trained at the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School. Sweetie , her first feature film, stars Geneviève Lemon as an unstable young woman who complicates the life of her sister Kay (Karen Colston). The film's quirky style, which resembled her earlier shorts, drew mixed reactions from audiences at Cannes. But Sweetie 's reputation has grown over the years, in part because its interest in the psychosexual lives of unusual female characters set the stage for Campion's later films such as Angel at My Table (1990), Holy Smoke! (1999), and the Oscar-winning The Piano (1993).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *