Race and Film & Writing Through Film/Media

Wednesday, August 24 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, August 31 at 7pm

CITY OF GOD

Directed by Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund (Brazil/France 2002) 129 min. With Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen. Portuguese with English subtitles.

Rio de Janeiro, the world’s most notorious slum, is a place where combat photographers fear to tread, police rarely go and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20. Within this world a young boy grows up to discover he has the ability to view the harsh realities of his surroundings with an artistic eye. In the face of impossible odds, his ambition to become a professional photographer may be his only way out.

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Wednesday, September 7 at 7pm

Chungking

CHUNGKING EXPRESS

Directed by Wong Kar Wai (Hong Kong 1994) 102 min. DCP. With Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung. Cantonese with English subtitles.

The whiplash, double-pronged Chungking Express is one of the defining works of nineties cinema and the film that made Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai an instant icon. Two heartsick Hong Kong cops (Kaneshiro and Leung), both jilted by ex-lovers, cross paths at the Midnight Express take-out restaurant stand, where an ethereal pixie waitress works. Anything goes in Wong’s gloriously shot and utterly unexpected charmer, which cemented the sex appeal of its gorgeous stars and forever turned canned pineapple and the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” into tokens of romantic longing.

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Wednesday, September 28 at 7pm

HOORAY FOR LOVE

Directed by Walter Lang (U.S. 1935) 72 min. 35MM. With Ann Sothern, Gene Raymond, Bill Robinson. 

A show-biz musical romance from the director of 1956’s sweeping 1956 hit The King and I, Hooray for Love uses the beloved show-within-a-show structure and features “one of the treasures of African-American performance in Hollywood, nestled in a movie where you wouldn’t think to look for it” (Stephanie Zacharek). The familiar “show must go on” story may be most notable for its most spectacular and stylish musical number, featuring three great African-American performers of the day: Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Fats Waller, and a very young tap dancer known as Jeni Le Gon (in Le Gon’s New York Times obituary, she was remembered as “the rare female tapper who distinguished herself as a solo performer in the first half of the 20th century”).

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Wednesday, October 5 at 7pm

IN THIS OUR LIFE

Directed by John Huston (U.S. 1942) 97 min. 35MM. With Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan.

Refusing to be typecast after helming an archetypal noir, Huston chose for his sophomore feature this drama of two sisters—kindhearted Roy (de Havilland) and spiteful Stanley (Davis, firing on all cylinders). Adapted by Casablanca co-writer Howard Koch from Ellen Glasgow’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel set in Richmond, Virginia, In This Our Life offers some idea of how Gone with the Wind might have played with Davis cast as Scarlett. Human-rights advocate Huston includes a stinging indictment of racist attitudes, and includes parts for Gone with the Wind’s Hattie McDaniel and young Ernest Anderson in a non-stereotyped role (Film at Lincoln Center notes).

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Wednesday, October 19 at 7pm

JUKE JOINT

Spencer Williams (U.S. 1947) 68 min. 35mm. With Spencer Williams, July Jones, Inez Newell.

Writer-director Spencer Williams made films that have been “vastly underappreciated despite his unique ability to capture Black religious and cultural practices while experimenting with film style” (Jacqueline Stewart, Director and President of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures). Williams’ last film as a director is a con-artist tale; he disappeared from the industry for four years before taking the role of Andy on CBS’s short-lived Amos n’ Andy series. Preserved by the Library of Congress.

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Wednesday, November 2 at 7pm

HALLELUJAH

King Vidor (U.S. 1929) 109 min. 35mm. With Nina Mae McKinney, Victoria Spivey.

“One of Hollywood’s most important all-Black films—and also one of the first to be made within the established film community…Shot partly on location in the swamps and forests of Tennessee and Arkansas, the film has long stretches of beauty and power: the lines of white-robed black supplicants awaiting baptism form an image that never leaves you… McKinney is energy incarnate and delirious fun to watch: a footloose fancy-free kewpie doll of a star whose fearlessly kinetic Swanee Shuffle is a predecessor to the break dance maneuvers of the 1980s… In due time, Hallelujah set the tone for the treatment of Negro casts and themes in films by presenting them in idealized, isolated worlds—and the film also became an authentic American classic” (Donald Bogle, Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers). Restored by the Library of Congress and The Film Foundation. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.

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Wednesday, November 30 at 7pm

IMITATION OF LIFE

Douglas Sirk (U.S. 1959) 125 min. 35mm. With Lana Turner, Sandra Dee, Susan Kohner, Juanita Moore.

Sirk’s deeply moving and deeply American melodrama revisits Fannie Hurst’s popular 1933 novel (first adapted for film by John Stahl in 1934). The story follows an aspiring actress (Turner), her domestic servant and a respected leader of her black community (Moore) and their daughters, as they struggle to survive and find their place in New York City. Sirk’s pessimistic yet profoundly sympathetic look at American class and race relations laments the causes and repercussions of a young woman’s desperate attempts to pass for white.

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