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January 22, 2020

Cornell Cinema Spring Preview (Also a Love Letter)

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Phone in hand, I jumped from the couch screaming, “This is the best thing that ever happened to me!” My friend looked up confused and curious — just like a scene from a teen melodrama, only that I didn’t get a text from someone I was crushing on or an acceptance from my dream school; the Cornell Cinema spring calendar was what got me so excited. This upcoming semester has a truly wonderful program.

Those who know me know how much Agnès Varda influenced me as a filmmaker and a person. I’ve practically been begging Mary Fessenden (Director of Cornell Cinema, who got to know me because I was literally always there) to do a Varda series since my sophomore year. Finally, my prayers are answered. Cornell Cinema presents a selection of documentaries throughout Varda’s career, every single one of which showcases her endlessly inventive formal expression and the humanistic force that unites all her work. I was able to go to Lincoln Center’s Varda retrospective this past winter and felt extremely lucky to live in a world where there’s still more Varda for me to watch.

American Cinema, taught by Prof. Sabine Haenni, Performing and Media Arts, was nothing short of life-changing for me; I have since dropped out of pre-med, changed my major, watched a lot more films and became a filmmaker. The class is being offered again this semester in conjunction with the American Cinema Survey series at the Cinema, which includes five classics from five acclaimed directors. From Billy Wilder’s transgressive Some Like It Hot, Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., to Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder and the unmissable gangster film Bonnie and Clyde, these films defined, challenged and reinvented Hollywood.

The Cinema also continues its tradition of bringing contemporary world cinema to the Ithaca community this spring. Other than the two most celebrated foreign films of 2019, Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, the series includes some lesser-known but equally wonderful selections, such as Beanpole, And Then We Danced and Chinese Portrait. Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms was among my top films last year; I was deeply moved, if not haunted, by the incredibly visceral performance by newcomer Tom Mercier as well as the relatable narrative of struggling to establish and reinvent oneself in an idealized landscape. I also got to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire at Cannes last year and have been meaning to rewatch it. I was completely blown away by the emotional intensity and the intimate cinematography after the initial viewing.

And if you haven’t seen many of the contenders of this Oscar Season, definitely catch them before the ceremony on February 9 at the Cinema. Ithaca premieres of the nominated shorts (including Animated, Live Action and Documentary) start January 31. Widely discussed features such as Little Women, Marriage Story, The Lighthouse and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood are also playing throughout February.

I went to my first movie at Cornell Cinema during orientation week and have barely left since then. I’ve met some wonderful friends and mentors here — Mary and Doug McLaren who manage the theatre, Varun who used to watch three to four films with me each week before he moved to Boston for Harvard Film Archive and Adam who has become a close collaborator in my filmmaking endeavors. A favorite Varda quote goes like this: “Cinema is my home. I feel like I’ve lived here forever.” Cornell Cinema has created a place close to home in this corner of the world for cinephiles like myself, and I’m so deeply grateful for that. This is an invitation — see you at the screenings.

Ruby Que is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at rque@cornellsun.com.