Film 50

I was recently browsing the UC Berkeley events web-calendar, when my eyes were attracted by a special post: the description of a course quite different from the others. The title Film 50: History of the Cinema - The Cinematic City (Department of Film & Media, UC Berkeley) and the main question "what is it about the city that makes it such a rich subject for cinematic representation?", were more than enough for me to start further exploring what is all about. I soon realized that the interest is not confined just to the subject of this course. Marilyn Fabe, senior lecturer in film and media at UC Berkeley has interestingly structured the course around fourteen excellent films, which will be screened and analyzed every week from January 23 to May 1, 2013. The course is open to the public and sponsored by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. At the time of writing this post all films are (unfortunately) sold out. However, I give the list below along with the course’s introductory paragraph, hoping that it will contain your favorite films too. Mine are already there…

Source: BAM/PFA

Film 50: History of Cinema – The Cinematic City
Marilyn Fabe, Senior Lecturer in film & media at UC Berkeley

Filmmakers have always loved how cinema can capture or create a sense of place. In this year’s Film 50, that place is the city. Each film we’ll study, beginning with some of the earliest films projected, prominently features an urban setting. These works present the city variously as a dynamic visual attraction, a celebration of modernity, a dystopian nightmare, a psychic projection, or a vehicle for social commentary. As we explore a range of cinematic cities, we’ll also explore the history and aesthetics of the film medium and ponder: what is it about the city that makes it such a rich subject for cinematic representation?

(Click on the title for film details)
Walther Ruttmann (Germany, 1927). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Judith Rosenberg on piano. A great “city symphony” of the silent era that celebrates the pulsating life of the streets. With A Trip Down Market Street (Miles Brothers, 1906). (82 mins)

Fritz Lang (Germany, 1926). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Judith Rosenberg on piano. Set in the year 2026, Lang’s futuristic super-production is an anxiety dream of urban dystopia expressed as science fiction. (124 mins)
Alfred E. Green (U.S., 1933). Restored Print! Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Stanwyck sleeps her way to the top in this notorious pre-Code melodrama set in Manhattan. (76 mins)
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1936). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. In this famous melodrama, Mizoguchi strips away the romantic veneer of the geisha business, both in the story and in a stark visual style that capitalizes on visual elements of the Gion district. “A masterpiece” (Tadao Sato). (68 mins)
Vittorio De Sica (Italy, 1948). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. De Sica’s masterpiece of a father and son searching the streets of Rome for their stolen bicycle is considered one of the greatest films ever made. “An allegory at once timeless and topical” (Village Voice). (93 mins)
Carol Reed (U.K., 1949). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Joseph Cotten pursues Welles through postwar Vienna in Graham Greene and Carol Reed’s cynical masterpiece. “Seeing it on the big screen is like watching it for the first time" (NY Times). (109 mins) 

The 400 Blows
François Truffaut (France, 1959). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Truffaut’s quintessential coming-of-age film is a lyrical but unsentimental portrait of adolescence and of Paris, naturalistically captured by cinematographer Henri Decaë. (99 mins) 

Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1958). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Detective Jimmy Stewart combs the Bay Area looking for the secret behind Kim Novak’s beauty in Hitchcock’s sinister ode to voyeurism, death, and amorous fixation. “Perhaps the finest film starring San Francisco” (San Francisco Chronicle). (128 mins) 

The Battle of Algiers
Gillo Pontecorvo (Italy/Algeria, 1966). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. “Because of its perfect fusion of form and content, one of the most strikingly successful subversive films ever made (Amos Vogel). (123 mins) 

Woody Allen (U.S., 1979). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Woody Allen’s visual love poem to the city of his heart. With Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand's Manhatta. (107 mins) 

Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee (U.S., 1989). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Lee’s third feature, a lively, frequently hilarious but hard-hitting drama, charts mounting racial tensions on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. “The funniest, most stylized, most visceral New York street scene this side of Scorseseland” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice). (120 mins) 

Touki Bouki
Djibril Diop-Mambéty (Senegal, 1973). Imported 35mm restored print! Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Two youths cruise the streets of Dakar on a motorbike, looking for adventure and scams, in this African Easy Rider, awash with the raw energy of urban Senegal and global psychedelic youth culture. “Surreal, richly sumptuous, quite extraordinary” (Telegraph UK). (88 mins) 

The Truman Show
Peter Weir (U.S., 1998). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, living a life completely planned (by the Hollywood producer of a reality show starring the unwitting Truman) in a completely planned community based on Seaside, Florida. (103 mins) 

Manufactured Landscapes
Jennifer Baichwal (Canada, 2006). Lecture by Marilyn Fabe. A pictorially ravishing tour of China's devastated industrial landscapes with photographer Edward Burtynsky. (90 mins)

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