Milestone Films: 20th Anniversary

Since 1990, Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, co-founders of the renowned New York-based distributor, Milestone Films, have dedicated themselves to bringing the best of classic, independent and international film and video to audiences worldwide, often collaborating with film archives on long-awaited restorations. Block Cinema will screen five films from the Milestone catalog, including celebrated films by international auteurs Luchino Visconti, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Orson Welles, and two landmarks of independent film by Charles Burnett and Kent Mackenzie in restored 35mm prints.

The Exiles

Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:00 PM
(Kent Mackenzie, 1961, US, 35mm, 72 min.)

After studying film at the University of Southern California during the late 1950s, director Mackenzie recruited friends to shoot this unique time capsule of life in Los Angeles’s long-gone Bunker Hill neighborhood. The cast members essentially portray themselves: Native Americans who have left the reservations in search of the American dream in the city. Framing this cinematic snapshot are troubled couple Yvonne and Homer, who are expecting their first child. While lonely Yvonne dreams of prosperity and family stability, Homer escapes the drudgery of his daytime responsibilities with a wild night of drinking, flirting, and fighting.

Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli)

Friday, October 8, 2010 7:00 PM
(Luchino Visconti, 1960, Italy/France, 35mm, 180 min.)

Lauded during its initial release as a return to socio-political form for the famously left-wing Visconti, Rocco and His Brothers depicts the corruption and disintegration of the Parondi family. After fleeing Italy’s impoverished, rural south for the promise of a fresh start in Milan, Rocco (then newcomer Alain Delon) struggles to keep his fractious family out of trouble while falling for a prostitute, Nadia, his disturbed brother’s ex-girlfriend. “Visconti's masterful Rocco is restored to its glory...The operatic magnitude of the emotions is dazzling.”—Chicago Tribune

Killer of Sheep

Thursday, October 14, 2010 7:00 PM
(Charles Burnett, 1977, US, 35mm, 83 min)

Made as his thesis film at UCLA in the 1970s, Charles Burnett’s feature debut is a powerful portrait of a black working-class family and community in South Los Angeles. Killer of Sheep is full of stark, indelible images, its bracing realism tempered with lyrical moments and wry humor. For thirty years—until UCLA restored it and Milestone Films released it officially—it was largely unavailable due to music rights issues. “A masterpiece. One of the most insightful and authentic dramas about African-American life on film. One of the finest American films, period.” —International Herald Tribune

The Mystery of Picasso (Le mystère Picasso)

Friday, October 15, 2010 7:00 PM
(Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956, France, 35mm, 78 min.)

Though best known as a Gallic rival to Hitchcock, director Clouzot proved himself an incredibly capable documentarian as well as a master of suspense with this unique glimpse into the artist’s process. Over the course of the film, Picasso creates nearly two-dozen original works literally right before the viewer’s eyes. Clouzot films the master at work from behind a sheet of translucent material, which also serves as the canvas. These innovative works were summarily destroyed with the subject’s consent, allowing them to exist only in the eternal time and space of cinema.

Preceded by:

The Bride Stripped Bare

(Tom Palazzolo, 1967, US, 16mm, 12 min.)

The Bride Stripped Bare is Chicago filmmaker Palazzolo’s masterful meditation on the unveiling of the “Chicago Picasso” in Daley Plaza.

The Trial

Thursday, October 21, 2010 7:00 PM
(Orson Welles, 1962, France/W. Germany/Italy, 35mm, 118 min.)

Kafka’s The Trial is no doubt one of the more daunting novels to adapt for cinema, but writer, director, and here supporting actor, Orson Welles handles his source material masterfully. Anthony Perkins stars as Josef K., a man caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare for an offense he can’t discern. His wanderings through the city streets, and room after cavernous room, provide him with a series of strange encounters with inscrutable characters (including Jeanne Moreau and Romy Schneider), lending a somber intensity to the film’s demanding dream-logic. Welles’ film has significance to two other Block programs this fall: not only is The Trial noted for its stunning use of architectural space, but the film has also been cited by Block Museum-featured artist Shirin Neshat as an inspiration to her own work.