Release Date: April 3, 2013
Spring Film Season at National Gallery Includes Major Restorations and Premieres, Tributes to African American Filmmakers, Universal Pictures, and the Ballets Russes, and Special Events with Filmmakers Jem Cohen, Jonas Mekas, Zoe Beloff, and More
Film still from Journal de France (Claudine Nougaret and Raymond
Depardon, 2012, DCP, subtitles, 100 minutes) to be shown at the National
Gallery of Art on Sunday, June 16, 4:30 p.m. Image courtesy of Wild
Washington, DC— The 2013 spring film season at the National Gallery of Art opens with a continuation of the series L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema, featuring three programs of recently restored historic short films by African American directors. Additional special series this season include Universal at 100, a celebration of the pioneering production studio presented in association with Universal Pictures and UCLA Film & Television Archive; Shirley Clarke: The Real Thing, which includes the Washington premiere of the influential and newly restored Portrait of Jason on May 11; selected works by the famous French ethnographer Jean Rouch; and innovative documentaries by Britain's Seventh Art Productions, presented by director and producer Phil Grabsky.
Artist Zoe Beloff presents stereoscopic films at two special events in the West Building Lecture Hall in May, and will also deliver an illustrated artist's talk about her recent projects in the Gallery's traditional screening space, the East Building Auditorium. Other noteworthy special events include the Washington premieres of Jem Cohen's latest feature Museum Hours, Raymond Depardon's Journal de France, Manoel de Oliveira's Gebo and the Shadow, and Roman Polanski's restored Tess on May 18, and a presentation by media historian David James on the cinematic legacy of the Rolling Stones, followed by a rare screening of Robert Frank's CS Blues on May 25.
Other presentations include new titles by Jonas Mekas in celebration of his 90th birthday; filmed performances of Ballets Russes dances; and screenings of The Red Shoes and Ballets Russes on May 31 in conjunction with the exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music.
Films are screened in the East Building Auditorium, located at Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Works are presented in original formats and seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors open 30 minutes before each show and programs are subject to change. For more information, visit www.nga.gov/film or call (202) 842-6799.
Art Films and Events
Sunday, April 14, 4:30 p.m.
A graceful and polished tribute to the power of art, Jem Cohen's new narrative feature is also a shrewd character study and a sly homage to the architectural marvels of Vienna. Set mainly inside the vast Kunsthistorisches Museum, Museum Hours revolves around an oddly fascinating bond that develops between a first-time visitor to Vienna (Mary Margaret O'Hara) and a middle-aged museum guard (Bobby Sommer), while at the same time unveiling a host of complex musings on art, life, and companionship. "Cohen is one of the most important innovators and courageous moving-image artists working today. Museum Hours shows an impressive assurance and intensity, while retaining a lightly worn humility in the face of great art" — Noah Cowan. (Jem Cohen, 2012, DCP, 106 minutes) Presented in association with FilmFest DC.
David Driskell: In Search of the Creative Truth
David C. Driskell, Dr. Johnnetta Cole, and Curlee Holton in person
Saturday, April 20, 4:00 p.m.
Born in 1931 to a family of Georgia sharecroppers, David C. Driskell is now a leading collector, connoisseur, and scholar of African American art and a primary conduit for bringing black artists into the mainstream. (Since the late 1970s he has been curator of Bill Cosby's collection.) A celebrated painter whose work pulls from abstract expressionism, African masks, and Coptic art, Driskell is also a wise spokesperson for his mentor Romare Bearden. This new film captures Driskell working on collages, painting in his Maine studio, and conversing with curator Ruth Fine and master printmaker Curlee Holton. Dr. Johnnetta Cole, director, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, introduces the program. (Richard Kane, 2012, HDCam, 30 minutes)
Jonas Mekas: New Works
Out-Takes from the Life of a Happy Man preceded by Reminiscences from Germany
Jonas Mekas in person
Saturday, April 27, 4:30 p.m.
Fleeting scenes and favorite moments, Out-Takes is composed of fragments not used in his earlier diary films, the genre that Jonas Mekas (now ninety) made famous during his more than fifty years of filmmaking."Brief glimpses of family, my friends, girlfriends, the City, seasons of the year, travels. Occasionally I talk, reminisce, or play music I taped during those earlier years, plus more recent piano improvisations by Auguste Varkalis. It is a kind of autobiographical, diaristic poem, celebration of happiness and life. I consider myself a happy man." (Jonas Mekas, 2012, DigiBeta, 68 minutes)
Reminiscences from Germany, writes Mekas, is "an attempt to provide an introduction to the German period of my life from 1944 to 1949. Using original photos taken by myself and my brother Adolfas, and footage from 1971 and 1993, I revisit Elmshorn, Flensburg, Wiesbaden, Mainz and Kassel where I spent five years—first as a Forced Laborer in a war prisoners' camp, and later as a Displaced Person in displaced persons' camps." (Jonas Mekas, 2012, DigiBeta, 22 minutes)
Méliès: A Trip to the Moon and More
Wednesday, May 1, 2:00 p.m.; Thursday, May 2 and Friday, May 3, 12:30 p.m.
The grand master of movie illusionism Georges Méliès (1861–1938) in original 35 mm format: the hand-colored A Trip to the Moon (1902), an unforgettable voyage in a bullet-shaped spaceship; The Brahmin and the Butterfly (1901); India Rubber Head (1901); The Mysterious Box (1903); The Marvelous Wreath (1903); and The Melomaniac (1903). The program is presented in association with the exhibition Faking It. (Total running time approximately 40 minutes)
Washington premiere of the digital restoration
Sunday, May 12, 4:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 18, 2:00 p.m.
Hardy's Victorian heroine has been portrayed in dramatic adaptations as both nature goddess and wounded prey in need of compassion. About his own spare and hard-edged rendering of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Roman Polanski wrote, "I have been influenced (in the past) by surrealism and the theater of the absurd but now that the world itself has become absurd, I want to go back to the simplicity and essence of human relationships. What happens to Tess is very much the raw bones of Victorian melodrama: she is seduced when young, bears a child who dies, is deserted by the man she marries, and finally sent to the gallows. . . . But the flesh Hardy puts on those bones is astonishing. . . . She is regeneration and continuance . . . she belongs to the modern age." (Roman Polanski, 1979, DCP, 171 minutes)
Sunday, May 19, 4:30 p.m.
August Strindberg's enduring Nordic tour de force of repression, lust, and class relationships in nineteenth-century Sweden has been adapted for the screen many times but never as successfully as in Alf Sjöberg's 1951 film. Opening up the play's original tense and tightly focused kitchen setting, the film takes full advantage of cinematic experience, allowing characters to roam the vast landscapes in midsummer, while drifting forward and backward in time via flashback and fantasy. This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Strindberg's death. (Alf Sjöberg, 1951, 35 mm, Swedish with subtitles, 90 minutes) With thanks to the Swedish Film Institute and the Embassy of Sweden.
Toward CS Blues: Delinquency and Danger in Rolling Stones' Films
Illustrated lecture by David James followed by CS Blues
Saturday, May 25, 4:00 p.m.
Reviewing the history of the Rolling Stones on film—the group's fiftieth anniversary is this year—media historian David James probes the recurring portrayal of recklessness and violence, tracing these themes through Charlie Is My Darling (Peter Whitehead, 1966), Tonite Let's All Make Love in London (Peter Whitehead, 1967), One Plus One (Jean-Luc Godard, 1968), Invocation of My Demon Brother (Kenneth Anger, 1969), Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970), and Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, 1970).
CS Blues, Robert Frank's legendary on-the-road rendering of the Stones' 1972 North American cross-country tour, reconstructs themes found in many of the earlier films. Rarely screened now in public, this DigiBeta copy is loaned through the courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. (Robert Frank, 1972, 93 minutes)
The Red Shoes
Introduction by Betty Low
Friday, May 31, 1:00 p.m.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's stunning masterpiece—an inspired attempt at fusing music, ballet, painting, and cinema into one form—tells a classic tale of a dancer who must make the anguished choice between her art and her lover. The cast is headed by Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, and Léonide Massine. Betty Low (stage name Ludmila Lvova), who danced with Massine and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, introduces the program. (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948, 35 mm, 133 minutes) Courtesy UCLA Film and Television Archive. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation
Introduction by Anna Winestein
Friday, May 31, 3:45 p.m.
From the Diaghilev-era early years in turn-of-the-century Paris, to the American tours of the 1930s and 1940s when the troupe amazed naïve audiences with sophisticated artistry, to the final downfall in the 1950s and 1960s, Ballets Russes presents rare interviews and dance footage in a compelling documentary. Discussion with Anna Winestein, executive director of the Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership, follows the screening. (Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, 2005, 35 mm, 118 minutes)
Ballets Russes Dances
Wednesdays, June 5, 12, 19, and 26, 12:30 p.m.
Filmed performances of dances originally premiered by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, including The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, Afternoon of a Faun, Prodigal Son, and Le Train Bleu are shown on a rotating cycle, in conjunction with the exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909 – 1929: When Art Danced with Music.
Black Maria: Selections from the Festival
Saturday, June 8, 3:30 p.m.
Named for Thomas Edison's pioneering New Jersey film studio, this renowned festival competition is now in its thirty-first year. A selection of the festival's best documentary and experimental shorts from new and experienced independent filmmakers is culled from their December 2012 judging and is presented by Black Maria's founding director, John Columbus. Included in the line-up are Nile Perch, Bridge, Here and Away, Fordland, Fanfare for Marching Band, and The Lost Interview of Ray Bradbury. (Total running time approximately 120 minutes)
Journal de France
Sunday, June 16, 4:30 p.m.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and documentarian Raymond Depardon, friend and occasional collaborator of Jean Rouch, last year completed (with his spouse and sound engineer Claudine Nougaret) this beautifully restrained, yet completely compelling, portrait of France. A mix of road movie and memoir, and a unique work in recent French filmmaking, Journal de France constantly cross-examines Depardon's prolific career and sheds new light on the history of documentary filmmaking. "A film that emerges from Depardon's archives—from out-takes and reels of reportage accumulated since the early 1960s"—British Film Institute. "A tribute to a masterful eye, a humanistic heart, and a wondrous life"—Variety. (Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon, 2012, DCP, subtitles, 100 minutes)
Moana of the South Seas
followed by Selections from the Flaherty Seminar 2012
Introduction by Sami van Ingen
Saturday, June 22, 2:00 p.m.
In 1923, Robert Flaherty and his family traveled to the island of Savai'I in the South Pacific to make a film about the Samoan people. The now famous outcome was Moana of the South Seas. In the mid 1970s, daughter Monica Flaherty Frassetto (only four when she originally accompanied her father) took over the family legacy and revisited the island with Richard Leacock to record traditional Samoan songs and chants. Her aim was to synchronize the audio with the visuals, creating a soundtrack. Sami van Ingen, Monica's grand-nephew, introduces the film. (Robert Flaherty, 1926, 16 mm, 77 minutes)
The Flaherty Seminar, an annual colloquium founded by Robert's widow Frances in 1955, brings together a remarkable range of filmmakers, critics, curators, students, and academics to view, discuss, debate, and ponder the nature of non-fiction film and the current state of the art. The 2012 Seminar, called "Open Wounds," was programmed by Josexto Cerdán, and this screening includes a sampling of the works featured: The Creation as We Saw It (Ben Rivers, 2012); River Rites (Ben Russell, 2011); Coal Spell (Sun Xun, 2008); and Three Men and a Fish Pond (Laila Pakalnina and Mamris Maskalans, 2008), among others. With thanks to Linda Lilienfeld and Mary Baron
Hunky Blues–The American Dream
Saturday, June 29, 2:30 p.m.
Presented in association with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival's Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival, Hunky Blues considers the passage to America of thousands of Hungarians who arrived between 1890 and 1921. Rather than conventional documentary, media artist Péter Forgács weaves a vast visual epic, combining clips from found footage, American cinema, and interviews revealing hard moments of arrival and assimilation. (Péter Forgács, 2009, HDCam, Hungarian with subtitles, 99 minutes) With thanks to the Embassy of Hungary and the Smithsonian Institution.
Gebo and the Shadow
Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30, 4:30 p.m.
Master filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira's most recent work transforms a 1923 Dostoevsky influenced drama (Gebo e a sombra by Portuguese symbolist Raul Brandão) into a taut cinematic chamber piece with a small but fascinating cast of five—the still commanding Jeanne Moreau, Claudia Cardinale, and Michael Lonsdale (as Gebo) opposite younger Portuguese actors Leonor Silveira and Ricardo Trêpe. What exactly constitutes the play's "shadow" is purposefully vague, possibly referring to the darkened and dreamlike setting, or even to the mysterious, and seemingly sinister, son of Gebo. (Manoel de Oliveira, 2012, 35 mm, subtitles, 91 minutes)
Universal at 100
In association with Universal Pictures and UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Gallery presents this selection of ten legendary titles from Universal's vaults, celebrating this pioneering movie studio's first century of filmmaking. All prints are 35 mm, from Universal, the Library of Congress, and the UCLA Archive with support from American Express. Special thanks to Shannon Kelley and Paul Ginsburg.
followed by Murders in the Rue Morgue
Saturday, April 6, noon
In the 1930s, Universal enjoyed unprecedented success with a string of mythic monster movies. Émigré cameraman Karl Freund (he was director of photography for Dracula in 1931) revealed a flair for the genre, and The Mummy became his directorial debut. The film was also a vehicle for Boris Karloff, as an ancient Egyptian priest brought back to life by a British Museum archeologist. "One of the least appreciated and one of the best horror films of the thirties"— William K. Everson. (Karl Freund, 1932, 35 mm, 73 minutes)
In the same year, Universal released Murders in the Rue Morgue. Photographed by Karl Freund and directed by Robert Florey after the tale by Edgar Allan Poe, the film's angular sets exude expressionistic excess. Erik the ape, a companion to the crazed carnival showman and conniving Darwinist Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi), needs a mate. After injecting many Parisian beauties with Erik's blood, Dr. Mirakle fixes on the lovely Camille (Sidney Fox). (Robert Florey, 1932, 35 mm, 61 minutes)
The Black Cat
Saturday, April 6, 2:30 p.m.
The Black Cat, again inspired by Poe, brought Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together as an eccentric scientist and mad architect locked in a vengeful fight—a sort of old-dark-house mystery, where the house in question is a fashionably modernist steel, marble, and glass Art Deco design. With its impressively chilly climax, The Black Cat was one of Universal's "finest pre-Code moments, and a masterpiece of the horror genre"—Jason Sanders. (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934, 35 mm, 66 minutes)
Ciné-Concert: Traffic in Souls
followed by Where Are My Children?
Andrew Simpson, piano
Sunday, April 7, 4:00 p.m.
Traffic in Souls is an unusual silent feature based, in part, on a Rockefeller Commission report about the prevalence of teenage prostitution. After accepting a date with a "fine" young fellow, a gullible candy store clerk is sold to a white slave ring (run by a well-known philanthropist). Shot in actual New York locations, the film offers present-day viewers a rare window on the past. (George Loane Tucker, 1913, 35 mm, silent, 88 minutes)
In Where Are My Children? an ardent prosecutor accuses a doctor of performing illegal abortions, while remaining unaware of his own wife's secret life. By the end, the film becomes both a compelling defense of birth control and a denunciation of abortion. Weber herself, one of the most opinionated women in pre-sound Hollywood, was an outspoken social reformer. (Lois Weber, 1916, 35 mm, silent, 62 minutes)
Saturday, April 13, 2:00 p.m.
Edna Ferber's sprawling saga of life on a Mississippi River floating theater was a natural candidate for cinematic adaptation. Universal's 1936 rendering was faithful not only to the novel but even more to the Broadway musical version by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. Even the cast of the film was largely from the play—Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson ("Old Man River"), Charles Winninger, and Helen Morgan. Despite the cost overruns, production delays, and the surprise choice of Englishman Whale to direct, the New York Times called it "one of the finest musical films we have seen." (James Whale, 1936, 35 mm, 115 minutes)
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
Sunday, April 21, 4:00 p.m.
W.C. Fields' final film for Universal was the most outrageous caper of his career. As a screenwriter vainly trying to interest "Esoteric Studios" in a silly script about selling nutmegs to Russian expatriates in Mexico, Fields ends up leaving Hollywood altogether for even crazier adventures. Among the film's many choice antics are a visit to a mountaintop with the man-eating Mrs. Hemogloben (Margaret Dumont), and a fast and furious car chase through the streets of Glendale. (Edward Cline, 1941, 35 mm, 70 minutes)
Sunday, April 21, 5:30 p.m.
In Hollywood's long and outlandish history no superstar shines quite like Universal's Maria Montez, the Dominican-born "Queen of Technicolor." Her exotic B-movie adventures were laced with delicious absurdities (avant-garde filmmakers Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith were big fans). Here Montez plays dual roles as the virtuous princess Tollea and her evil twin Naja, the iron-fisted, fabulously attired ruler of Cobra Island. (Robert Siodmak, 1944, 35 mm, 70 minutes)
Saturday, April 27, 2:00 p.m.
Hitchcock's macabre tale of a massive bird onslaught, inspired by Daphne du Maurier's novella, leaves open-ended the basis behind the eerie avian attack. Was it meant to suggest an environmental disaster, a Cold War metaphor, or merely a Freudian fantasy? By the film's end, the reasons for it hardly matter. "In the Hitchcockian universe fear is irrational and complacency can be shattered by a single seagull"—British Film Institute. (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963, 35 mm, 119 minutes)
High Plains Drifter
Sunday, April 28, 4:00 p.m.
Following Clint Eastwood's apprenticeship at Universal in the 1950s, he appeared in the TV series Rawhide and unpredictably became a superstar in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s. By the 1970s, Eastwood was directing his own Westerns, and High Plains Drifter is now considered a masterpiece. Stylized and revisionist in the manner of Leone, it allows Eastwood the opportunity to pay homage to his Italian mentor, while referencing the popular Japanese cinema that so effected Leone's work. "There's a boldness, confident stylization, and genuine weirdness to the movie that totally escaped other post-spaghetti American Westerns"— Paul Taylor. (Clint Eastwood, 1973, 35 mm, 105 minutes)
L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema
Three programs of shorts conclude a retrospective that began in March, presenting a selection of work associated with the creative renaissance realized by a group of African and African American filmmakers who entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television during the 1970s and 1980s. Windows on the legacies of black communities, the films in the program are remarkable not only for their evocations of everyday life, but even more for the revelation of a diverse talent pool and political resolve. Presented in association with UCLA Film & Television Archive and supported in part by grants from the Getty Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The series curators are Allyson Nadia Field, Jan-Christopher Horak, Shannon Kelley, and Jacqueline Stewart. The series is presented at the National Gallery and the American Film Institute Silver Theatre.
Shorts Program I
Saturday, April 6, 4:00 p.m.
Child of Resistance (Haile Gerima, 1972), inspired by the filmmaker's dream after seeing Angela Davis on television, follows a woman (Barbara O. Jones) who has been imprisoned as a result of her fight for social justice; Brick by Brick (Shirikiana Aina, 1982) documents a late 1970s Washington, DC, as poor residents are displaced by the oncoming tide of gentrification; L.A. in My Mind (O.Funmilayo Makarah, 2006) is a montage of notable Los Angeles sites, laced with locals, and accompanied by street sounds; The Dawn at My Back: Memoir of a Black Texas Upbringing (Carroll Parrott Blue and Kristy H. A. Kang, 2003) leads viewers on an exploration of Blue's family history within Houston's black community; Rain (Melvonna Ballenger, 1978), accompanied by John Coltrane's "After the Rain," meditates on rainy days and one woman's growing sense of self. (Various formats, total running time 99 minutes)
Shorts Program II
Saturday, April 13, 4:00 p.m.
Rich (S. Torriano Berry, 1982) follows a youth on the day of his graduation, as he battles for self-determination; Shipley Street (Jacqueline Frazier, 1981) follows a young black girl's experiences on entering an all-white Catholic school; Fragrance (Gay Abel-Bey, 1991) revisits the complex issues surrounding young African Americans and the Vietnam War; Your Children Come Back to You (Alile Sharon Larkin, 1979) is the story of a single mother's struggle to provide for her daughter. (Various formats, total running time 115 minutes)
Shorts Program III
Saturday, April 20, 2:00 p.m.
Black Art, Black Artists (Elyseo Taylor, 1971) is a thoughtful survey of black artists and attitudes toward art, from an influential faculty member at UCLA; Festival of Mask (Don Amis, 1982) documents performances and parades during an annual multi-ethnic festival of masks; Four Women (Julie Dash, 1975), a dance film examining black female stereotypes, is set to Nina Simone's stirring ballad "Four Women"; Define (O.Funmilayo Makarah, 1988) is an oblique meditation on the ethics of ethnic female identity; Bellydancing—A History and an Art (Alicia Dhanifu, 1979) is a beautifully rendered account of the roots of bellydancing, its forms, and meanings. (Various formats, total running time 75 minutes)
American Originals Now: Zoe Beloff
Artist Zoe Beloff describes herself as a medium, and indeed does work as a unique interpreter, keen to manifest the philosophies, legacies, and influences of various historic figures both real and imagined. Working primarily with film, installation, and drawings on paper she explores spiritualism, psychoanalysis, and—more recently—progressive social movements with a keen interest in manifesting and communicating what seems ephemeral. Beloff's work has been featured in numerous international exhibitions and screenings including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Site Santa Fe, the MHKA in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. She is professor in the departments of media studies and art at Queens College, CUNY.
In the Kingdom of Shadows
Zoe Beloff in person
Saturday, May 4, 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.
Location: West Building Lecture Hall
Using a self-designed 16 mm stereoscopic format to both capture and project, Zoe Beloff presents two films: Shadow Land or Light from the Other Side, based on the 1897 autobiography of Elizabeth d'Esperance, an English medium who could conjure up full body apparitions; and Charming Augustine, an experimental narrative inspired by a series of photographs and texts about a young hysteric, published in the Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière during the 1880s. As Beloff states these 3-D works evoke "a moment in time when the moving image was on the brink of existence in a form not yet standardized. [They] suggest a different direction that cinema might have taken. Ultimately what I wish to convey is a fragile, spectral, what if…" (Total running time approximately 75 minutes)
Two Utopian Societies
Illustrated talk by Zoe Beloff
Sunday, May 5, 4:30 p.m.
Beloff presents two recent installation projects exploring the potential meanings and results of actively practicing social revolt in the everyday. She describes The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926–1972 as "the archive of a group of working people interested in creating their own intimate politics of desire inspired by Sigmund Freud." The project includes a series of filmed dream reenactments and plans for Freudian-influenced amusement rides. Begun in the spring of 2012, the ongoing project The Days of the Commune documents Beloff's restaging of Bertolt Brecht's play performed on the streets around Zuccotti Park, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. (Total running time approximately 100 minutes)
Shirley Clarke: The Real Thing
Shirley Clarke (1919–1997) was a central presence in New York's underground film world, a pioneer and protestor who abandoned a privileged childhood to adopt the bohemian life, first as dancer and choreographer, and then as filmmaker. After studying under Hans Richter, her films became key to the formation of the independent American cinema movement, while her life represents one of the more interesting but lesser known chronicles of activism in midcentury urban America. "I'm revolting against the conventions of movies," she stated in 1962, "there must be forty or fifty others like me in the country, with a desire for self-expression and no urge to move to Hollywood." With filmmaker and critic Jonas Mekas, Clarke founded the Film-Makers Cooperative, a nonprofit collective for the distribution of independent film now in its fifty-second year. This program is presented through the cooperation of Milestone, Dennis Doros, and Amy Heller, whose restoration of Portrait of Jason receives its Washington premiere.
Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World
Saturday, May 11, 2:00 p.m.
Although an unusual topic for Shirley Clarke, her 1962 television portrait of the New England poet (completed just weeks before his death) won an Oscar, an award from the official establishment that Clarke so often disdained. The film is an intelligent blend of interviews, footage of Frost and his home, and a surprise voiceover segment from admirer John F. Kennedy, his encomium to Frost delivered at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in March 1962. (Shirley Clarke with Robert Hughes and Terence Macartney-Filgate, 1962, DigiBeta, 52 minutes)
Portrait of Jason
Washington premiere of the digital restoration
Saturday, May 11, 4:00 p.m.
Clarke's cinéma vérité study of the enigmatic Jason Holliday, an African American male hooker in 1960s America, was infamous in its day for Clarke's exploiting of her subject's inner anguish to suit her own artistic self-interest (a feature of documentary making that is now hardly noted). It was filmed in a single twelve-hour session in her apartment. Typical for this director, the mind-numbing material is transformed into an absorbing and innovative piece—even Ingmar Bergman was impressed, calling it "the most fascinating film I've ever seen." (Shirley Clarke, 1967, DCP, 105 minutes)
Ornette: Made in America
Saturday, May 25, 2:00 p.m.
The music of saxophonist Ornette Coleman has inspired virtually every jazz musician in the world, and Shirley Clarke's film, though made nearly thirty years ago, remains the definitive portrait of this brilliant and elusive artist. The film ambitiously attempts to capture the full range of his life and work, from his Texas childhood to his continuing influence, through an amazing array of documentary and found footage, dramatic portrayal, and music video, with informants ranging from Charlie Haden, to William Burroughs, Yoko Ono, and Buckminster Fuller. (1986, 35 mm, 85 minutes)
Sunday, May 26, 4:30 p.m.
The Living Theater first performed Jack Gelber's play The Connection in 1959, drawing national attention to this stark Off-Broadway portrayal of addicts and "philosophers of the needle." Shirley Clarke was inspired to make a film version, a revolutionary notion in 1961. The result was "neither creaky problem melodrama nor flashy, experiential panorama"—Jaime N. Christley. Instead, Clarke created a hybrid docu-fiction that anticipates the landmark David Holzman's Diary, "continually acknowledging its own production"—Christley. Clarke and her producer ended up in a dispute with the New York State Board of Regents who at the time declared The Connection unacceptable for theatrical viewing. (1961, 35 mm, 110 minutes) Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive with support of The Film Foundation.
Jean Rouch in Africa
May 26–June 15
Famed French ethnographer Jean Rouch (1917–2004) began his long and prolific filmmaking career in France's West African territories while on assignment as a civil engineer after World War II. Combining an ethnographer's awareness with an artist's eye and resourcefulness, he "invented" cinéma vérité years before it became a popular approach to documentary in the 1960s. Rouch always credited his African friends, subjects, and co-workers as his collaborators and co-creators on all of his projects. He described his practice as "shared anthropology," which he said "appears to me to be the only morally and scientifically feasible anthropological attitude." This series brings together highlights from his work in West Africa. Special thanks to Livia Bloom.
Moi, un noir
preceded by Mammy Water
Sunday, May 26, 2:00 p.m.
One of the most celebrated examples of Rouch's early "ethno-fiction," Moi, un noir is a tale of poor immigrant workers from Niger, who arrive in Ivory Coast and fabricate Western names and personalities (Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Constantine, Tarzan, Dorothy Lamour, Sugar Ray Robinson, and others). With a pointed voiceover narration (sync sound was not an option), "Edward G. Robinson" surveys his new world, imagines a different existence, and questions the real meaning of the things he is learning. (1958, DigiBeta, French with subtitles, 72 minutes)
In Mammy Water, Rouch depicts "surf boys"—teams of expert fishermen off the coast of Ghana who paddle the ocean in large canoes, sometimes staying at sea for more than one night. Their success is governed by water spirits (Mammy Water). When the catch is bad, villagers must honor the spirits with a ceremony if they wish to change their fortunes. (1956, DigiBeta, French with subtitles, 18 minutes)
Les Maîtres fous
followed by Jaguar
Saturday, June 15, 2:00 p.m.
The first of two works by Rouch examining colonialism and displacement, Les Maîtres fous—once considered controversial but now a classic ethnographic study—documents a Hauka ritual in which participants become possessed and transform into their colonial powers. Jean Genet used the film as the basis for his notorious play The Blacks. (1954, DigiBeta, subtitles, 28 minutes)
In Jaguar, a playful mix of ethnology and improvised dialogue, "a gallant public writer, a shepherd, and a fisherman—portrayed respectively by non-professionals Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahim Dia, and Illo Gaoudel—leave their village to try their luck on the fabled Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana). In the big city of Accra, Damouré becomes a 'jaguar'—a city slicker. The three buddies jovially comment on the action, observing that the Brits royally conned Africa out of its gold"—California Institute of the Arts. Filmed in the mid-1950s, Jaguar's sound was added later, the original participants recalling dialogue and making up their spirited commentary. (1955/1967, HDCam, French with subtitles, 88 minutes)
Petit à petit
Saturday, June 15, 4:30 p.m.
By the late 1960s, Rouch had spent more than two decades documenting West Africa, and had completed (with Edgar Morin) Chronicle of a Summer, an anthropological investigation of Parisian life, in 1961. In Petit à petit (Little by Little), Rouch's collaborators Damouré Zika and Lam Ibrahim Dia travel to Paris—following up on plans to expand their company, Petit à Petit, formed at the conclusion of Jaguar. "Mesmerizing, frequently hilarious, and a provocative masterpiece"—Eric Kohn. (1970, HDCam, French with subtitles, 96 minutes)
For Art's Sake: Britain's Seventh Art Productions
Five events devoted to Seventh Art Productions, the Brighton-based company that has been creating quality films for exhibition and broadcast on music, painting, theatre, and other art forms for over twenty years, include a discussion with Seventh Art's innovative producer and director, Phil Grabsky.
In Search of Haydn
followed by In Search of Chopin (sneak peek)
Phil Grabsky in person
Sunday, June 9, 4:30 p.m.
In Search of Haydn delves into the life of the Austrian court composer known as "father of the string quartet." Working through Haydn's life story in interview and performance, the film includes footage of Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Roger Norrington, Frans Bruggen, Ronald Brautigam, Emanuel Ax, Christophe Rousset, and Les Talens Lyriques, among others. (Phil Grabsky, 2012, HDCam, 102 minutes)
Footage from Seventh Art's work-in-progress, In Search of Chopin, follows the screening. (Approximately 30 minutes)
In Search of Beethoven
Sunday, June 23, 2:00 p.m.
No other composer has been more often quoted, written about, painted, or adopted for political cause than Beethoven, but who was the man behind the romantic legend of tortured artist? In Search of Beethoven explores the layers of myth through interviews with musicians, historians, and conductors, interlaced with performances by the Wiener Symphoniker and Salzburg Camerata. (Phil Grabsky, 2009, HDCam, 139 minutes)
Exhibition Manet: Portraying Life
followed by Making War Horse
Sunday, June 23, 4:30 p.m.
From London's Royal Academy, Seventh Art documents the history, production, and installation of the acclaimed 2013 exhibition Manet: Portraying Life featuring over fifty paintings from throughout the artist's career. Largely concentrating on portraits, both the exhibition and the film reveal that with Edouard Manet, portraiture was a very flexible notion. (2013, HDCam, 80 minutes)
Making War Horse goes behind the scenes of the epic, smash hit play produced by the National Theatre based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted by Nick Stafford for the stage. (2012, HDCam, 52 minutes)
Saturday, June 29, 12:45 p.m.
Leonardo Live is the high-definition film version of the live simulcast from the opening celebrations surrounding the National Gallery, London's landmark 2011 Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, the largest ever assemblage of the artist's surviving paintings. (Phil Grabsky, 2012, HDCam, 80 minutes)
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