Revivals and Rediscoveries

Date Film Time
2/1 Wild Girl 7 pm
2/2 Native Son 3 pm
2/9 History is Made at Night 3 pm
2/15 Hud 7 pm
2/16 China Express 3 pm
2/23 Ornette: Made in America 3 pm
3/2 Gabriel 3 pm

In this recurring series, Block Cinema screens American and international films–from revered classics to more obscure works–that deserve a second look. This winter the offerings include seven films from the 1920s through the 1980s, most of them presented in archival and newly preserved 35mm prints. Highlights of the program include the newly restored print of Raoul Walsh’s 1932 pre-Code film, Wild Girl, starring Joan Bennett as the titular heroine. Also included is the Library of Congress’ recently preserved film, Native Son (1951), starring author Richard Wright himself in the lead role, and a tribute to NU alumnae Patricia Neal, who won an Oscar for her role in Hud (1963).

Wild Girl

Friday, February 1, 2013 7:00 PM
(Raoul Walsh, 1932, USA, 35mm, 80 min.)

An exceptionally rare pre-Code western-romance-comedy starring Joan Bennett, Charles Farrell, Ralph Bellamy, and Eugene Pallette, and directed by the always-brash Raoul Walsh? What more could you ask for? Filmed on location amongst the majestic California redwoods, the film features a young (and blonde) Joan Bennett as the titular “wild girl”—a nature-loving free-spirit who is wooed by many but who falls for an out-of-town stranger (Farrell). A major highlight of this past year’s Cinema Ritrovato film festival in Bologna, Italy, and MoMA’s film preservation series, Wild Girl shuttles between romance, adventure, raucous comedy, and titillation (a skinny-dipping Bennett). From the opening credit sequence–one of the most memorable of the period, it’s more rowdy fun than one should be allowed in a single sitting.

Preserved by the Museum of Modern Art with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund.

Native Son

Saturday, February 2, 2013 3:00 PM
(Pierre Chenal, 1951, Argentina, 35mm, 90 min.)

Native Son is a curious and remarkable adaptation of Richard Wright’s acclaimed 1940 novel about a young African American man who commits a horrific crime, and the consequences of his actions. Worried that Hollywood would soften the book’s stark look at poverty on the South Side of Chicago and its depiction of the crimes of Bigger Thomas, Wright instead chose to have it independently produced in Argentina. What the film lacks in technical polish and star power (Wright himself plays Bigger, and the rest of the cast are mostly amateurs), it makes up for in retaining the grit, rawness, and anger of the novel.

History is Made at Night

Saturday, February 9, 2013 3:00 PM
(Frank Borzage, 1937, USA, 35mm, 97 min.)

Hailed as the great romantic of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Frank Borzage outdid himself with this radiant masterpiece. Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur star as would-be lovers, but Arthur is married to an intolerable shipping magnate (Colin Clive) and the pair’s budding romance is cut short after a single night on the town. The film culminates on an ocean liner (in a scene referencing the Titanic), where external forces again threaten their happiness. Borzage’s cinema is one of pure emotion, achingly realized through his mastery of lighting, framing, and camera movement. “It is melodrama, certainly, but melodrama played with so much conviction and exquisite sensitivity that all the viewer's defenses are destroyed.” —Dave Kehr

35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Hud

Friday, February 15, 2013 7:00 PM FREE
(Martin Ritt, 1963, USA, 35mm, 112 min.)

Director Martin Ritt’s explosive family drama stars Paul Newman as Hud Bannon, an arrogant and embittered man with little regard for society or the feelings of others. Dodging responsibility at every corner, Hud locks horns with his principled father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas), a cattle rancher, and finds himself an unlikely role model for his impressionable young nephew, Lonnie. Northwestern alumnae Patricia Neal netted a Best Actress Oscar for her nuanced portrayal of Alma Brown, the sharp-tongued caretaker of three generations of Bannon men.

Restored by the Academy Film Archive.

In person: Patricia Neal’s daughters, Lucy and Ophelia Dahl.

Co-Presented with the Northwestern University Library

China Express (aka Goluboi Ekspress)

Saturday, February 16, 2013 3:00 PM
(Ilya Trauberg, 1929, USSR, 16mm, 90 min.)

One of the great, if little known, films from the rich era of Soviet silent cinema, Ilya Trauberg brings a documentarian’s eye and a visual dynamism inspired by Sergei Eisenstein (with whom he worked on October) to his first fiction film. China Express is a riveting tale of Chinese workers who commandeer the train they are traveling on, which is also carrying an English general and a number of Chinese elite. An influence on Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express, Trauberg capitalizes on the potent symbolism of trains for revolutionary movement while creating a rousing action film.

Live musical accompaniment by David Drazin.

Ornette: Made in America

Saturday, February 23, 2013 3:00 PM
(Shirley Clarke, 1985, USA, 35mm, 87 min.)

A pioneer of American independent cinema in the 1960s, Shirley Clarke began as an experimental filmmaker in the 1950s and later explored the possibilities of video beginning in the 1970s. All of these interests combine in her final film, Ornette: Made in America, about jazz icon Ornette Coleman. The film is no typical documentary portrait, but instead has a loose, improvisatory feel—mirroring the free jazz style that Coleman is best known for. Clarke weaves together contemporary and vintage performance footage, interviews, dramatic recreations of Coleman as a young boy, and expressive video and animation effects into an impressionistic look at one of the geniuses of American music.

Print courtesy of Milestone Films. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Gabriel

Saturday, March 2, 2013 3:00 PM FREE
(Agnes Martin, 1976, USA, video, 78 min.)

The celebrated abstract painter Agnes Martin’s only film, Gabriel, is a stylistic departure from her work on canvas. Structured as a very loose, minimal narrative, it is, in Martin’s words, “about this little boy who climbs a mountain and all the beautiful things he sees.” Martin used this framing device to present an observational film centered on landscape and nature, a film about a more casual kind of looking than her compositionally-precise geometric paintings demand. Gabriel sees Martin in a playful artistic mode: “My movie is about happiness, innocence, and beauty.” This is a rare opportunity to see another side of one of the great artists of mid-century modernism.

Courtesy of The Pace Gallery.

Co-Presented with White Light Cinema