Unsurprisingly, Cornell Cinema returns this semester with a stellar line-up of classic, rare, avant-garde, and mainstream films shown on campus in beautiful new prints for dirt-cheap prices. With a clutch of major new Ithaca premiers and the promise of a new concession stand in the Willard-Straight Hall theatre, Cornell Cinema offers perhaps the most illuminating and entertaining way to spend a night and four bucks this semester, covering everything from Brando to Bresson and Moore to Murdoch.
The two largest and most comprehensive series this month are Viva la France! A Survey of Classic French Cinema and Manufacturing Consent: The Press, Politics & the Powers That Be. Viva la France! is presented in conjunction with Professor Timothy Murray’s French Film class, and its films were selected by Murray and Cornell Cinema director Mary Fessenden. Starting with Jean Vigo’s 1934 romance L’Atalante, the series crosses through poetic realism, film noir, and the French New Wave. The series will include three more films in October, including works by Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, two directors largely credited for influencing the more audacious and brilliant cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. Murray explains that, although distribution prevents some famous films from being shown, the selected movies act as a “condensation” of French cinema, as well as offering insight into why that national industry had been so prolific and influential in the 1930s and late 1950s/early 1960s. Murray suggests that what distinguishes French film from other national cinemas is an “emphasis on the cinema of thought, of idea, from a relationship with the great French tradition of intellectual culture, experimentation and political activism.”
Citing Jean Renoir (whose Grand Illusion is playing in mid-September), Murray suggests that “although the ’30s were an extraordinarily significant decade for cinema as a whole [because of the introduction of sound and dialogue], French film in particular engaged in pressing social issues, while intersecting with poetic realism. It was a sort of marriage between realist concerns and poetic sensibilities.”
Murray will introduce the series and L’Atalante (on Monday, September 6), a masterpiece he calls “an especially beautiful film, a great example of the spectacle of cinematic life and narrative in France.”
Manufacturing Consent continues Cornell Cinema’s devotion to social debate and commentary with screenings of huge media phenomena (Fahrenheit 9/11, Outfoxed) and lesser-known glimpses into contemporary journalism and business (Circle of Deceit, Orwell Rolls Over in His Grave). Next month, media activist Deedee Halleck will present clips of her 13-part TV series Shocking and Awful: A Grass Roots Response to War in Iraq. Made for Deep Dish TV and made available to public access stations, the film “covers everything about the war in Iraq,” says Fessenden.
In addition, A.D. White Professor-at-Large, journalist, media critic, and filmmaker John Pilger will come to Cornell in October to present two documentaries on the notion of “investigative journalism” and the role of the mainstream media. Other socially conscious films will be a part of the week-long Environmental Film Festival, coordinated by Christopher Riley. A joint venture between Cornell, Ithaca College, and the Sciencenter, among other organizations, the series will include several documentaries, features, and shorts about everything from American business in the country of Georgia to an accidently-created lake in Northern California.
Later in the semester, Cornell will host a huge retrospective of the late Marlon Brando’s career, including On the Waterfront, The Wild One, and Last Tango in Paris. This series will intersect with a mafia-themed series in conjunction with a course in the Architecture school that will include major films by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.
Other notable events include two silent films with live accompaniment. On Saturday, October 23, the Boston-based Devil Music Ensemble will present their original Tex-Mex score to Big State, a rare silent Western that Fessenden says is “really fun and crazy with a strange premise involving a Texan cowboy vying for the hand of a senorita’s love” The Rochester-based avant-garde jazz musician and Theremin master Eric Ross will also come to Cornell to accompany video artwork by his wife, Mary Ross.
For those whose tastes run more towards the contemporary, Cornell Cinema will offer new and highly anticipated movies from Canadian cult-fave Guy Maddin, Danish iconoclast Lars von Trier, and a new, radical director’s cut of Donnie Darko.
Now that the prices of both undergraduate tickets and discount cards have been reduced, students and professors alike have absolutely no reasonable excuse for depriving themselves the priveledge of viewing these classic and contemporary masterpieces of world cinema.
Archived article by Alex Linhardt
Red Letter Daze Editor-in-Chief