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Release Date: January 16, 2009

National Gallery of Art's Film Offerings in Early 2009 Celebrate Robert Frank and Welcome Leading Filmmakers and Experts

Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art's ongoing film program of classic cinema, documentary, avant-garde, and area premieres begins 2009 with films offered in conjunction with the exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans" and a historic retrospective of the works of Japan's avant-garde director Nagisa Oshima. Additionally, filmmakers Petr Zelenka and José Luis Guerín discuss their work, while film historian and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum introduces Pere Portabella's Cuadecuc, Vampir, and the Black Maria Festival's director, John Columbus, presents a selection of experimental shorts and documentaries culled from the 2008 festival. 

All films are shown in the East Building Auditorium. Programs are free of charge but seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors open approximately 30 minutes before each show. Programs are subject to change. For current information, visit our Web site,, or call (202) 842-6799.

Film Events

An American Journey
Sunday, January 18, at 12:30 p.m.

Fifty years after The Americans, French filmmaker Philippe Séclier retraces Robert Frank's trip around the United States in 1955 and 1956. Using the same unplanned, intuitive approach Frank pioneered, and working with only a small digital camera, Séclier explores the spirit of the Beat Generation and the impact of The Americans on photography and culture in his 15,000-mile odyssey through present-day America. (Philippe Séclier, 2008, digital beta, 60 minutes)

Émile Cohl, Animator
Saturday, February 7, at 2:00 p.m.
Introduction by Bernard Génin

A rare assemblage of line drawing animations from the Gaumont Pathé Archives includes caricaturist Émile Cohl's earliest moving images—Fantasmagorie (1908) and Le Cauchemar du Fantoche (1908)—as well as others with the whimsical Fantoche, the prototype for many later cartoon characters. Bernard Génin, author of Émile Cohl, the Inventor of the Animated Film (2008), introduces the program. (approximately 85 minutes)

Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Master of American Sculpture
Thursday, February 12, at 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 15, at 12:00 noon

Augustus Saint-Gaudens' key position in the history of American art and culture is the subject of a new film biography revolving around six works, including Standing Lincoln in Chicago's Lincoln Park, the Shaw Memorial in Boston, the Sherman Monument in New York, and the Adams Memorial in Washington. (Paul Sanderson, digital video, 2007, 60 minutes.) Paul Sanderson introduces the takes questions from the audience following the screenings.

Les Lutins du Court-Métrage: New Shorts from France
Friday, February 13, at 1:00 p.m.

Five new examples from France illustrate the beauty and versatility of the short film form: 200,000 Fantômes (Jean-Gabriel Périot, 2007, 10 minutes); La dernière journée (Olivier Bourbeillon, 2007, 12 minutes); Mic Jean-Louis (Kathy Sebbah, 2007, 26 minutes); Pina Colada (Alice Winocour, 2008, 15 minutes); and L'Enfant borne (Pascal Mieszala, 2007, 15 minutes).

Ciné-Concert: Show Life
Saturday, February 14, at 4:30 p.m.
Stephen Horne on piano

Asian-American icon Anna May Wong flourished in Germany for a brief time in the 1920s. One of her triumphs was this obliquely romantic tale of unrequited love between a waif and a knife thrower, a Madame Butterfly scenario filled with dance and cabaret. Made at the renowned Babelsberg Studios, the film's original title was Schmutziges Geld (Dirty Money). (Richard Eichberg, 1928, English intertitles, silent with live accompaniment by London pianist Stephen Horne, 94 minutes)

American Independents: The Black Maria
Saturday, February 21, at 2:00 p.m.

Named for Thomas Edison's pioneering West Orange, New Jersey, film studio, the "Black Maria," this renowned festival competition is now in its 28th year. A selection of the best cutting-edge experimental shorts and documentaries culled from the December 2008 judging is introduced by the Black Maria Festival's director, John Columbus. (approximately 120 minutes)

New Masters of European Cinema: The Brothers Karamazov (Karamazovi)
Sunday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m.
Washington premiere
Petr Zelenka in person

Acclaimed Czech director Petr Zelenka has taken his inspiration for his most recent film from the famously long-running stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel at Prague's Dejvicke Theatre. In the film, actors rehearse the Karamazov story in a huge empty steelworks factory outside the historic city of Nowa Huta, Poland. Zelenka's story includes a foray into the play's audience as well as the lives of its actors. (Petr Zelenka, 2008, 35 mm, Czech and Polish with subtitles, 110 minutes)

Ciné-Concert: Cajus Julius Caesar
Saturday, March 14, at 1:00 p.m.
Introduction by Martin Winkler; Burnett Thompson on piano

Director Enrico Guazzoni made a number of historical epics for the successful Italian production house Cinès. This one, Cajus Julius Caesar (Caio Giulio Cesare), was released just one year after Guazzoni's Antony and Cleopatra, screened last fall at the National Gallery. Burnett Thompson performs his original piano score for the film. (Enrico Guazzoni, 1914, 35 mm, 60 minutes)

Of Time and the City
Saturday, March 14, at 2:30 p.m.
Washington premiere

British filmmaker Terence Davies' native Liverpool is the subject of his latest essay film—a glorious evocation of his own childhood and poetic account of the city's once-Dickensian spirit, a mystique that has all but disappeared. His stance vis-à-vis urban cultural conservation is eloquently expressed in often surprising and thought-provoking juxtapositions of imagery and sound. Presented in association with the Environmental Film Festival. (Terence Davies, 35 mm, 2008, 77 minutes)

Thursday, March 19, at 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 22, at 4:30 p.m.

A methodical chronicle about the most commonplace material—ordinary dust—uncovers astonishing facts and in the end offers nothing less than a new way to view the world. "Perceives the subject as one of nature's undefeatable enemies, yet one of its most fascinating"—Nathan Southern. (Hartmut Bitomsky, 35 mm, 2007, 90 minutes)

Film Series

Teuvo Tulio: Northern Tones

Latvian-born Finnish actor and director Teuvo Tulio (1912–2000) forged a distinctive style in the late 1930s, loading his wildly melodramatic narratives with exaggerated metaphor and feeling. Starkly beautiful Scandinavian nature cinematography mirrors emotion—rivers surge when love is realized; a tempest rages when anger swells. Although Tulio's films are rarely screened today, the celebrated contemporary Finnish filmmakers Mika and Aki Kaurismäki acknowledge their stylistic debt to him. These four works from the 1930s and 1940s are presented through the cooperation of the National Audiovisual Archive, Helsinki, with special thanks to Satu Laaksonen, Florence Almozini, Adrienne Mancia, and Kathy Geritz.

Cross of Love followed by The Way You Wanted Me
Saturday, January 10, at 2:30 p.m.

The lighthouse keeper's daughter is engulfed by the sinful life of the city in this symbol-rich work based on a Pushkin story. Eventually, the girl finds a handsome artist to marry—until her tarnished past is revealed. Critic Peter von Bagh notes, "Tulio's productions remain in the grand operatic tradition—as profound as they are absurd." (1946, 35 mm, Finnish with subtitles, 95 minutes)

The motif of the naive country girl corrupted by the city recurs in The Way You Wanted Me. Sunlit images of Finland's rural landscapes convey both calm and order, while the town, shown at night, is sheer chaos. (1944, 35 mm, Finnish with subtitles, 99 minutes)

In the Fields of Dreams
Sunday, January 11, at 4:30 p.m.

The breathtaking beauty of the Finnish countryside is again the backdrop for a finely honed melodrama whose over-the-top storyline plumbs the depths of the religious culture of the Finnish peasantry. Beautiful Sirkka Salonen, Miss Europe of 1938, plays a naive servant who, as the film's pivotal centerpiece, instigates jealousy among the household help. (1940, 35 mm, Finnish with subtitles, 108 minutes)

The Rebel Set: Film and the Beat Legacy

In association with the exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans," this program surveys in six sections the artist-made and avant-garde film movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. Themes and subject matter often overlap with contemporary art, photography, and music as filmmakers find a language for interior thought and expression.

Beat and The End followed by Cry of Jazz
Saturday, January 17, at 2:30 p.m.

Christopher MacLaine's Beat is a short choreographic study of human movement (1958, 16 mm, 6 minutes) while The End is his darkly humorous take on the last day of life for six people, culminating in an imaginary end-of-the-world sequence set to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (1953, 16 mm, 35 minutes). Filmed in Chicago in the late 1950s, Cry of Jazz provides an Afrocentric view of jazz history and presciently predicts the civil unrest of subsequent decades. (Edward O. Bland, 1958, 16 mm, 35 minutes) 

Pull My Daisy followed by The Savage Eye
Saturday, January 17, at 4:00 p.m.

Pull My Daisy is the quintessential beat experience on film, an improvisational scene from an unproduced play by Jack Kerouac, shot in a Greenwich Village apartment. (Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, 1959, 35 mm, 30 minutes) Intense repartee in The Savage Eye between a down-and-out woman and a poet (her own conscience) is "a tour-de-force lesson in camera-eye technique," said Jonas Mekas, and a precursor to the cinema verité movement. (Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers, Joseph Strick, and Haskell Wexler, 1959, 16 mm, 68 minutes)

Shadows followed by Bridges-Go-Round
Introduction by Desson Thomson
Sunday, January 18, at 4:30 p.m.

With its unstructured, naturalistic narrative about three young people footloose in Manhattan, Shadows comes close to emulating the improvisational qualities of jazz. (John Cassavetes, 1959, 35 mm, from UCLA Film Archive with new preservation funded by The Film Foundation and Hollywood Foreign Press, 82 minutes) 

In Bridges-Go-Round, stock footage of Manhattan's bridges becomes counterpoint for two wildly divergent musical tracks, one jazz and the other electronic. (Shirley Clarke, 1958, 16 mm, 7 minutes)

Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baillie, Ken Jacobs
Sunday, January 25, at 4:30 p.m.

An anthology of 16 mm films by Kenneth Anger, including Eaux d'Artifice (1953, 13 minutes), Scorpio Rising (1964, 30 minutes), and Rabbit's Moon (1972, 8 minutes), is followed by Ken Jacobs' Little Cobra Dance (1957, 2 minutes), and Stan Brakhage's Desistfilm (1954, 7 minutes) and The Dead (1960, 11 minutes). Bruce Baillie's Mass for the Dakota Sioux (1963–1964, 20 minutes) is last. 

Echoes of Silence followed by Happy Birthday to John
Saturday, January 31, at 2:00 p.m.

In Echoes of Silence, short installments from the isolated lives of people living in Greenwich Village are sustained by the soundtrack music of Charles Mingus, Pete Seeger, Igor Stravinsky, and Sergei Prokofiev. (Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965, 16 mm, 75 minutes)

Happy Birthday to John, Jonas Mekas' collection of clips from John Lennon's life, includes the singer's birthday party, an art opening in Syracuse, a 1972 concert in Madison Square Garden, and the vigil on the day of his death. (Jonas Mekas, 1972–1996, 16 mm, 24 minutes)

He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life
Saturday, January 31, at 4:00 p.m.

Assembled from Jonas Mekas' footage collection, this diary-like film records his friends and acquaintances from the 1960s, including many figures in the avant-garde—Hollis Frampton, Peter Kubelka, Ken Jacobs, and P. Adams Sitney, among others. (Jonas Mekas, 1985, 16 mm, 124 minutes)

Barcelona Masters: José Luis Guerín and Pere Portabella

Born a generation apart in Barcelona, Pere Portabella (b. 1929) and José Luis Guerín (b. 1960) share a genius for making uniquely imaginative works of uncommon breadth and beauty. Although their interests are different, both combine fictional and documentary elements to explore mythology, memory, and art as well as the mundane facets of daily life. Interspersed throughout are fascinating diversions and strange junctures of sights and sounds. Coinciding with Preview Spain Arts and Culture, the Gallery wishes to thank the Embassy of Spain, Helena Goma, Mary Baron, Linda Lilienfeld, and Filmoteca de Catalunya.

Sunday, February 1, at 4:30 p.m.

José Luis Guerín shows his fondness for John Ford's classic The Quiet Man by traveling to County Clare, Ireland, where Ford's film was made. Exploring The Quiet Man's myth and aftermath among local residents, Guerín finds unexpected consequences connecting the film to local history and culture. "With an imagined Maureen O'Hara, Innisfree charts the interval between memory and history . . . "— Harvard Film Archive. (José Luis Guerín, 1990, 35 mm, 110 minutes)

Shadow Train (Tren de Sombras) preceded by Miró l'Altre
Saturday, February 7, at 4:00 p.m.

A quiet meditation on long-forgotten lives, Train of Shadows mingles antique home-movie footage with a mock documentary to ponder the disappearance of an amateur filmmaker in rural France in the late 1920s. Loss and decay, cinematic archaeology, and illusion versus reality are a few of the themes that Guerín considers. (José Luis Guerín, 1997, 35 mm, Spanish with subtitles, 88 minutes)

In the short Miró l'Altre, Catalan artist Joan Miró paints a mural outside an exhibition, only to see it disappear. (Pere Portabella, 1969, 35 mm, Spanish and Catalan with subtitles, 18 minutes)

Cuadecuc, Vampir
Sunday, February 8, at 4:30 p.m.
Introduction by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Film historian and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum provides a context for the work of Pere Portabella, whose associations with the surrealist and dadaist-influenced avant-garde movements in Spain affected his filmmaking. After founding his company Films 59 in Barcelona, Portabella produced early films by maverick directors Marco Ferreri, Carlos Saura, and Luis Buñuel (for example, Buñuel's notorious 1961 Viridiana). Cuadecuc, Vampir, writes Rosenbaum, is "a black-and-white documentary on the shooting of hack director Jess Franco's Count Dracula with Christopher Lee . . . . More than a documentary, the film displays a kind of poetic alchemy in which Portabella converts a horror movie into one of the most beautiful films ever made about anything." (Pere Portabella, 1970, 35 mm, 67 minutes)

The Silence before Bach
Saturday, February 14, at 2:00 p.m.

Portabella's most recent work is a musical experiment as well as a film, a meditation on music's social history that "creates a dialectic between sound and image," writes J. Hoberman, "and exciting, new contexts for Bach . . . not so much reinvigorating the music, but placing it in unfamiliar territory to emphasize its nuances." (Pere Portabella, 2007, 35 mm, Spanish, German, and Catalan with subtitles, 102 minutes)

Warsaw Bridge preceded by Playback
Sunday, February 15, at 4:30 p.m.

Slyly undercutting his own eccentric narrative, a love triangle set in contemporary Barcelona, Portabella creates a tale with mise-en-scène clearly inspired by Luis Buñuel and reflects on architecture, landscape, music, food, and painting (in an homage to the bathers and odalisques of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres). "An anthology of his own interests," notes Jonathan Rosenbaum. (Pere Portabella, 1990, 35 mm, Spanish with subtitles, 85 minutes)

Playback documents a Carles Santos recording in which the chorus of the Liceu of Barcelona converts a musical text into a verbal and physical performance. (1970, 35 mm, 8 minutes)

In the City of Sylvia
Sunday, February 22, at 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 28, at 3:30 p.m.

A romantic young artist spends three days in the city of Strasbourg searching for a young woman named Sylvie whom he thinks he met there years before. The haunting sadness of his situation is underscored by Guerín's beautiful virtuoso photography, casting, editing, and musical scoring. (José Luis Guerín, 2007, 35 mm, ambient sounds, some French and Spanish, 84 minutes)

Some Photos in the City of Sylvia
Saturday, February 28, at 2:00 p.m.
José Luis Guerín in person

An essay in the style of French avant-gardist Chris Marker, Some Photos in the City of Sylvia juxtaposes still photographs from Guerín's In the City of Sylvia with other stills to create a context for a much broader theme—the "unattainable woman" in poetry, art, and filmmaking. (José Luis Guerín, 2007, 35 mm, Spanish with subtitles, 67 minutes)

In the Realm of Oshima

The filmmaker who ushered in the Japanese New Wave in the late 1950s, Nagisa Oshima (b. 1932, Kyoto), rejected the genteel tenor of Japanese filmmaking and chose as his métier the turmoil of contemporary politics and culture. Imperfect characters from society's fringes were his vehicles for complex and often controversial ideas, while his formal brilliance won accolades around the world. This series, organized by James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario, and The Japan Foundation, Tokyo, is presented in Washington at the Freer Gallery of Art, the American Film Institute, and the National Gallery of Art.

A Town of Love and Hope followed by Diary of Yunbogi
Saturday, March 7, at 2:00 p.m.

A boy's lucrative con game consists of continually reselling his pet pigeon—a homing pigeon—to fund his mother's medical expenses. Then the boy befriends a well-to-do businessman's daughter and his life seems to improve. "A prime example of the socially critical eye that would guide all of Oshima's work"—Tony Rayns. (1959, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 62 minutes)

Diary of Yunbogi is a moving evocation of a Korean boy's plight through a striking montage of still photographs taken by Oshima during a 1964 visit to Korea. In dramatic voiceover, the director reads from the boy's diary, reminding the viewer that Japan's wartime occupation of Korea continues to have an effect. (1965, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 30 minutes)

Cruel Story of Youth
Saturday, March 7, at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m.

A thrill-seeking teenager is rescued by a sometime student when her reckless hitchhiking turns ugly. Then, the two start playing this badger game for real. The popularity and notoriety of Oshima's second film, with its dramatically lurid urban night scenes, jump cuts, hand-held traveling CinemaScope camerawork, and blaring color scheme, made him the "darling of the age." (1960, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 96 minutes)

Night and Fog in Japan
Saturday, March 14, at 4:30 p.m.

In the wake of riots over Japan's security pact with the United States, a marriage between demonstrators turns sour when two generations of opposing factions erupt in acrimony. Night and Fog in Japan's hypnotic combination of endless and constantly moving takes (forty-three shots compose the entire film) and its passionate, dramatic denunciations compelled the horrified studio to pull the film from theaters during its first week. (1960, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 107 minutes)

The Sun's Burial
Sunday, March 15, at 4:30 p.m.

In the depths of a Tokyo slum, a young girl makes ends meet by selling black-market blood by day and her body by night, even as her right-wing father runs a gang of thieves. Could the film's title perhaps be a metaphor? "Oshima's focus here is not the romanticism of disillusionment, but the politics of despair in postwar Japan"—Pacific Film Archive. (1960, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 87 minutes) 

The Catch
Saturday, March 28, at 2:00 p.m.

Villagers gloat over the bounty they might be able to collect after capturing a black American pilot, even as he becomes their whipping boy for feuds and jealousies. One thing they have not considered—what if Japan loses the war? (1961, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 97 minutes)

Shiro Amakusa, the Christian Rebel
Saturday, March 28, at 4:00 p.m.

A rare historical film from Oshima's oeuvre, Shiro Amakusa is based on a true event, a seventeenth-century uprising in which a young boy known as Shiro (played by popular actor Hashizo Okawa) led the poor and exploited Christian peasantry against the Shogunate. (1962, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 100 minutes)

The Ceremony
Sunday, March 29, at 4:30 p.m.

Chronicling the history of a powerful provincial family, The Ceremony is a satirical allegory of Japan's postwar predicament told through flashbacks at the family's yearly ceremonial gatherings. By requiring orderliness and obedience at all costs, the patriarch clearly caused ensuing generations to crack under pressure. With three major Kinema Jumpo awards (Japan's highest film honor) bestowed in 1972, the film is seen by many as Oshima's masterpiece. (1971, 35 mm, Japanese with subtitles, 122 minutes)

General Information

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