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Metropolis: Alloy Orchestra Come to Cornell Cinema

Created in 1927, Metropolis (dir. Fritz Lang) is a classic urban dystopian tale — we follow the story of Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the wealthy Joh Frederson (Alfred Abel), whose power and influence essentially keep the city running, and Maria (Brigitte Helm), a young woman who is a saint to the poor underground workers who keep the city’s essential machinery running through long, tiring shifts. With the class struggle as a core driving force of the plot, Metropolis was initially criticized for communist themes — and shortly after the premiere, the film was heavily edited and shortened. On Saturday night, Cornell Cinema played the most recent restoration of the film, done in 2010, which, amazingly, has restored 95% of the original film. Despite the length of this restoration (over two hours), the film is well worth it — filled with the Art deco themes that are so indicative of the twenties, Metropolis feels strangely modern; it’s visually pleasing, even in black-and-white.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

After surviving attempts to destroy all copies of this film due to copyright infringement (they never got the rights to the material), this adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula (1897) was brought before a packed audience in Sage Chapel. For those who don’t know, Nosferatu is a 1922 silent, expressionist, German film. This means lots of beautiful stylized acting may be in store, which is my favorite part of any silent film. Since silent films can only use intertitles for dialogue, the plot has to be conveyed via the characters’ actions. The actors are over the top in their gestures, and their eyes bulge farther than I think should be physically possible.

COURTESY OF ORION CLASSICS

Ran: One of the Best Films Ever Made

With our attention more divided than ever by ubiquitous media, it’s easy to understand why some film critics feel the need to hyperbolize their positive, but by no means ecstatic, reactions so as to convince readers that the arduous journey to the theater might actually be worth it. However, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, screening twice this week at the Cornell Cinema, requires no embellishment; while other Kurosawa films such Seven Samurai and Rashomon occupy a higher perch on the Sight & Sound rankings, make no mistake, Ran is still among the greatest films ever made. Charged with the virtuosic kineticism evident throughout the Japanese director’s oeuvre, Ran, an appropriation of King Lear, skillfully combines the pathetic nihilism of its Shakespearean source with the violent feudalism of Japanese legend. As a contemporary appropriation of medieval tales, Ran is an enrapturing example of the immersive, spectacular possibilities of cinema. After decades amassing a large empire, 70-year-old Lord Hidetora Ichimonji abdicates his throne in favor of the eldest of his three sons, but not without providing the younger two with their own castles by which to support their older brother.

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Unpacking Robert Frank at Cornell Cinema: Art within Art

Don’t Blink: Robert Frank, showing at Cornell Cinema this Wednesday, tells the story behind a photograph. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in his lifetime Robert Frank, named by his former employer, The New York Times, as “the world’s pre-eminent living photographer,” captures the unusual and the unseen. If you’ve never heard of Robert Frank, Don’t Blink will make you fall in love with him. If you’ve heard what critics say about the eccentric artist, Don’t Blink will have you discredit every insult.

The film frames Robert Frank as a man eschewing all expectations — or, in other words, fulfilling his stereotype: that of a frustrated artist. He’s expressed his creative urges for 70 years by freezing time, and yet he can’t stand still.

COURTESY OF PARADISE FILMS

No Home at Cornell Cinema

I fear that the following review may give away too much of Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie; but, I question how much there lies in its plot to spoil. Visually, the film captures a day in the life of your grandmother. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. The movie, showing at Cornell Cinema this Thursday, begins with five minutes of a tree blowing in the wind. Five minutes for you to believe the film must have broken.

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The Lanthanide Series at Cornell Cinema

The Lanthanide Series is an experimental video essay produced by Cornell alumna Erin Espelie, and its subject is the series of rare-earth metals used throughout history in the production and replication of images: first in the obsidian “black mirrors” of early societies, now in your iPhone screen. The film has no plot, characters or dialogue. Instead, it consists mostly of shots of industry, the natural world and spliced-in clips from outside sources, with a narrator reading in monotone over the top. Interposed are references to historical figures, like Gutenberg and Primo Levi, who had some hand in the process of image creation. Exactly what point Espelie is using all these techniques and subjects to make is a little unclear.

Blending Boundaries: RAMS at Cornell Cinema

Grímur Hákonarson’s Icelandic film, RAMS, won’t warm you up. Set in a secluded, mountainous valley, winter rolls into the lives of Gummi and Kiddi, two sheep-rearing brothers, much as it does in Ithaca, and brings with it an ironically accessible story of death and rebirth. Despite the wind and snow, RAMS captures the warmth of our approaching spring. The film combines an understanding of humanity and nature in the lives of Gummi and Kiddi, two aging men, neighbors and antagonists. When scrapie, a brain-eating sheep disease, infects Kiddi’s herd, veterinarians demand that every sheep and ram in the valley be slaughtered.

Disdaining Fortune: Macbeth at Cornell Cinema

Last year saw the release of the latest film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel. Gory, passion-driven and gripping, this film captures the vengeful air of Shakespeare’s Scotland well. The film was originally shown at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The audience thought it was so extraordinary that Macbeth received a ten minute-long standing ovation after its screening. Since then, it has received positive reviews across the board, and it has easily become one of my personal favorite Shakespeare adaptations.

COURTESY OF STUDIO GHIBLI

Memory Drips Down: Only Yesterday at Cornell Cinema

Animation has always held a distinct position within the realm of film, enchanting viewers with its unique advantages. One of its most powerful capabilities is its ability to infuse fantastical elements into otherwise totally realistic settings. Before the advent of CGI, animation was pretty much the only way to create convincing epic fantasy worlds such as those we see in contemporary blockbusters like Avengers or Lord of the Rings. When it comes to the history of western animation, Disney towers above almost everyone else. Virtually every American child in the 20th century has come into contact with the ideals expressed in films like The Lion King.