Revivals and Rediscoveries

In this ongoing series, Block Cinema screens rare and often hard-to-see American and international films—from revered classics to obscure curiosities—that deserve a second look. In spring 2010 we featured two over-the-top depictions of female protagonists: La Signora di Tutti (1934), an early Max Ophüls melodrama chronicling the tragic life of a young actress, and Cobra Woman (1944), with the inimitable Maria Montez in dual roles as twin sisters who battle to control “Cobra Island.” Fall’s offerings included two landmark documentaries from the same year, 1980, which offer hilarious and fascinating portraits of odd pairs, including Poto and Cabengo, Jean-Pierre Gorin’s legendary study of 6 year old twins who become a media sensation after supposedly creating their own language, and Demon Lover Diary, Joel DeMott’s side-splitting, jaw-dropping portrait of Don and Jerry, two Midwestern factory workers who set out to fulfill their lifelong dream of making a low-budget horror film.

Cobra Woman

Friday, May 14, 2010 7:00 PM
(Robert Siodmak, 1944, USA, 35mm, 71 min.)

Beloved by avant-garde filmmakers Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith, Robert Siodmak's jaw-dropping camp classic features Universal's inimitable “Queen of Technicolor” Maria Montez in dual roles as Tollea and her evil twin Naja, the high-priestess of a snake cult that practices human sacrifice on a remote tropical island. This over-the-top escapist fantasy also stars an open-shirted Jon Hall, Sabu, Lon Chaney Jr. and a loin-cloth clad chimp named Coco. Firmly planted in the “so bad it's great” category, Cobra Woman is worth vieiwing simply for the deliriously randy "dance of the snakes." Hail, King Cobra!

Archival print from Universal Pictures

La Signora di Tutti

Friday, June 11, 2010 7:00 PM
(Max Ophüls, 1934, Italy, 35mm, 97 min.)

La signora di tutti (Everybody’s Woman) occupies a unique place in the well-traveled Ophüls’ filmography, being the director’s only Italian production (and one of his first as an exile from Hitler’s Germany). The signature Ophüls look and themes—sweeping camera movements, operatic mise-en-scene, and tragic heroines doomed by love—are not lost in translation. Following a botched suicide attempt, a famous star, Gaby Doriot (Isa Miranda), relives her sordid past through a series of flashbacks. Sublimely melodramatic, Ophüls’ early and hard-to-see masterwork is also a cautionary tale about the perils of fame and celebrity.

Archival print from the British Film Institute

Demon Lover Diary

Friday, October 29, 2010 7:00 PM
(Joel DeMott, 1980, US, 16mm, 90 min.)

Don and Jerry, factory workers who grew up on comic books and B-movies, are fulfilling a lifelong dream: they’re producing their own low-budget horror movie. Jeff and Joel, lovers and cinema-verité filmmakers, have come out to Michigan to help their dream come true: they’re shooting The Demon Lover for Don and Jerry. Two weeks after production starts, Jeff and Joel are fleeing Michigan—bullets ricocheting off their car—their lives and a complete record of the events in jeopardy. Ms. DeMott’s phenomenal film is unquestionably one of the greatest American documentaries. “Real-life horror far more unsettling than any found in fictional thrillers. This is America . . . a funny, frightening, exhilarating film.”—The Los Angeles Herald Examiner

Poto and Cabengo

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 7:00 PM
(Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1980, US, HDCam video, 76 min.)

Co-Presented by White Light Cinema


After his 1970s collaborative films with Jean-Luc Godard (Tout Va Bien, Letter to Jane), filmmaker and intellectual Jean-Pierre Gorin left France to teach at UC San Diego. Primarily a professor and writer, his filmmaking has been sparse, but his “Southern California Trilogy” documentaries have been recognized as classics in the genre. The first of those films, the remarkable Poto and Cabengo, interweaves the lives of two six year-old identical twin girls who seem to have developed their own private language, and Gorin’s own personal reflections on his adopted country. The result moves beyond the specific to illuminate just what it means to be human. New digital restoration from Janus Films.