Writing Through Film/Media

Wednesday, August 25 at 7pm

PLAYTIME

Jacques Tati (France 1967) 116 min. DCP. With Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Rita Maiden. French and German with English subtitles.

Tati’s gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in an age of high technology reached their apotheosis with Playtime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the lovably old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a baffling modern world, this time Paris. With every inch of its super-wide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting record of a modern era tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.

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Wednesday, September 1 at 7pm

BURNING

Lee Chang-dong (South Korea 2018) 148 min. DCP. With Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun. Korean with English subtitles.

An adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s 1992 short story, itself inspired by William Faulkner’s similarly titled 1939 story “Barn Burning,” the latest from Korean master Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine, Poetry) traces an unusual romantic triangle. It is also an tense “character study that morphs, with masterly patience, subtlety and nary a single wasted minute, into a teasing mystery and eventually a full-blown thriller. To reveal more would ruin the story’s slow-building pleasures, which are less about the haunting final destination than the subtle, razor-sharp microcurrents of class rage, family-inherited pain, everyday ennui and youthful despair that build in scene after scene, even when nothing more seems to be happening than a simple or not-so-simple conversation” (Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times). Named the best film of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival by two critics’ groups (the International Federation of Film Critics and the International Cinephile Society).

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Wednesday, September 8 at 7pm


ATLANTICS

Mati Diop (France, Senegal, Belgium, 2019) 105 min. DCP. With Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Traore, Nicole Sougou. Wolof with English subtitles.

In Senegal’s bustling capital, two young lovers sneak private moments with the urgency of youthful desire, knowing their time is limited, as Ada (newcomer Sané) is soon to be wed to a wealthy but frivolous man. Meanwhile, Souleiman (first-time actor Traoré) hasn’t been paid for weeks and is forced to leave land for the sea in hopes of finding a better life. When he sets off, Ada is haunted by his memory and, then, perhaps more.

Like the works of Denis and Matías Piñeiro, Diop’s film rejects a simple narrative framework, instead focusing on the poetic and thoughtful, with politics that simmer beneath the surface. And like her uncle, the iconic filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty — whose work also explored migration — she refuses a reductive portrait of those dreaming of a better life. Leaving comparisons aside, Diop stands very much on her own two feet with an evocative and stunning study of how love and loss haunts us all. Known for her work in front of the camera (starting with Claire Denis’ 35 Rhums) and her body of short films, Mati Diop made her highly anticipated leap to feature filmmaking. The jump was an assured one, as Atlantics picked up the Jury Grand Prize in Cannes Competition, making Diop the first Black woman to win an award in the French festival’s 72-year history. (Toronto International Film Festival program notes).

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Wednesday, September 15 at 7pm

REAR WINDOW

Alfred Hitchcock (US 1954) 114 min. 35MM. With James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey.

Hitchcock’s brilliant meditation on cinema and voyeur- ism binds the viewer to the perspective of photojournalist Stewart, bound to a wheelchair with a broken leg and obsessively spying on his West Village neighbors. One of the Master of Suspense’s greatest successes.

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FILM/MEDIA HISTORY

Wednesday, January 29 at 7pm

WOMAN IN THE MOON

Fritz Lang (Germany 1929) 169 min. DCP. With Willy Fritsch, Gerda Maurus, Gustav von Wangenheim. German with English subtitles.

A director in the pantheon of greats alongside Hitchcock and Ford, Fritz Lang’s body of work encompasses classics made long before he came to Hollywood. After, for example, Metropolis (1927), he made Woman in the Moon; Lang’s last silent film, it presents the tale of the first rocket to the moon with a sincere realism and a woman essentially at the helm. Retrospectively, a few details were prescient, if not actually pioneering, as in the case of Lang’s apparent invention of the backward countdown. Although there is a plot involving a romantic triangle and a cabal of sinister capitalists, it is clearly the machinery that attracts Lang’s attention, as well as the science and morality behind it. Called Lang’s most abstract film, it retains some fatalistic and fantastic detours, yet with an atmosphere much cooler, and at times, chilling; the celebrated rocket launch sequence predicts the mass-as-machine imagery of Triumph of the Will (adapted from Harvard Film Archive program notes).

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Wednesday, February 26 at 7pm

LOS OLVIDADOS

Luis Buñuel (Mexico 1950) 80 min. DCP. With Alfonso Mejía, Roberto Cobo, Estela Inda. Spanish with English subtitles.

“An iconoclast, moralist, and revolutionary who was a leader of avant-garde surrealism in his youth ” (New York Times), Luis Buñuel burst back onto the international scene with this stunningly raw portrait of disaffected Mexican youths running wild. This early masterpiece follows a gang of boys, led by a sadistic ringleader, who prey on the weak and helpless, and marries Buñuel’s trademark surrealism—most famously in a haunting, slow-motion dream sequence—with hard-edged social realism, all building up to the heart-stopping final shot (BAMcinématek program notes).

“Once seen, this movie can never be forgotten” (J. Hoberman).

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Wednesday, March 25 at 7pm

FRUIT OF PARADISE

Věra Chytilová (Czechoslovakia 1970) 99 min. DCP. With Jitka Nováková, Karel Novák, Jan Schmid. Czech with English subtitles.

Věra Chytilová’s follow-up to her avant-garde landmark Daisies is less heralded but may be even more audaciously abstract. Chytilová and Krumbachová’s script resets the story of Adam and Eve in a crumbling health spa where a married woman is menaced and fascinated by a mysterious stranger: a devilish charmer in a red velvet suit who may be a serial killer. Unfolding in a kaleidoscopic swirl of hallucinatory, highly processed imagery — including a stunning, primordial opening sequence of luscious, floral double exposures — and set to a thunderous, wall-to-wall symphonic score by Zdeněk Liška, Fruit of Paradise is a senses-scrambling odyssey rich in feminist and political symbolism (Film at Lincoln Center program notes). Playing with two shorts by leading figures of African cinema: Ousmane Sembène’s The Wagoner (1963, 18 min.) and Djibril Diop Mambéty’s City of Contrasts (1969, 22 min.)

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