Introduction to Film/Media Studies

Monday, August 23 at 7pm

MIAMI VICE

Michael Mann (U.S. 2006) 134 min. DCP. With Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li.

Michael Mann is an auteur touted by BAM and others as “a master of the modern urban noir, with a unique brand of pulp poetry that is pure cinephiliac pleasure.” He’s also the director chosen in the past several years to begin the Monday night film series presented for Professor Ken Eisenstein’s “Introduction to Film Studies” course. This year the Mann selection is Miami Vice, a 21st century updating of the director’s hit 1980s television series. Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, as Tubbs and Crockett, go undercover to infiltrate a drug cartel, jetting between Haiti, Cuba and Paraguay, their exploits stylishly imagined in “day-glo, digital nightscapes… one of the purest distillations of Mann’s visionary aesthetic” (BAMcinématek).

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Monday, August 30 at 7pm

SCARLET STREET

Working with unusual creative control under the auspices of the independent production company, Diana Pictures, Lang reconvened the cast of The Woman in the Window (1944) for this remarkably harsh adaptation of Jean Renoir’s La Chienne. Stripped of his earlier character’s semblance of dignity, Edward G. Robinson’s browbeaten cashier and amateur painter is readily deceived by Joan Bennett’s femme fatale and Dan Duryea’s reptilian pimp. A masterpiece of formal construction in which “nothing takes place only once” (Tom Conley), Scarlet Street’s incisive mise-en-scene inscribes the pathological drama inside a maze of misleading appearances. The film’s barely concealed elements of masochism and voyeurism outraged the censors, and yet not even the Legion of Decency could have devised a more punitive denouement (Harvard Film Archive notes).

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Monday, September 6 at 7pm

UNDERWORLD

Oscar Micheaux (U.S. 1937) 70 min. With Bee Freeman, Sol Johnson, ‘Slick’ Chester, Ethel Moses.

A rarely seen feature by renowned filmmaker Oscar Micheaux is one example of “alternate versions,” a common theme and plot structure in the pioneering African-American director’s films. A young African-American man is persuaded by a gambler to move to Chicago after graduating from a Southern university. Once there, he gets involved in the criminal underworld of Chicago, falls for a dame, and is framed for murder.

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Monday, September 13 at 7pm

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Frederick Wiseman (U.S. 2006) 196 min. 

America’s greatest documentarian shows the Tampa, Florida police responding to domestic violence calls and the work of The Spring, the principal shelter in Tampa for women and children. Sequences include police response, intervention, and attempted resolution of domestic violence calls; shelter intake interviews, individual counseling sessions, anger management training, group therapy, staff meetings, conversations among clients and between clients and staff, and school activities, therapy and counseling for children at the shelter. Like any good Wiseman film, Domestic Violence is dense with unforgettable images, passages and vignettes: a meeting of counselors hacking their way through the thicket of hopelessly tangled emotions between a recently admitted family; a group of very proper old ladies led on a tour through the facility, gasping at every horrifying statistic and detail; and perhaps most unforgettable of all, an old woman, recently arrived at the shelter, who has retreated into a protective world of her own… one of Frederick Wiseman’s greatest films (Kent Jones, Film Comment).

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