Films shown from 1990 to 1999 Columbia Film Society

1990-1991 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $20
8:30 p.m.

CINEMA PARADISO
September 21 and 22, 1990
Life and life-as-art are intertwined in this semi-autobiographical reverie about director Tornatore's childhood. Set in Sicily, the movie house is seen as the emotional center of village life, the place where problems are revealed and changes occur. The hero is a fatherless boy who attaches himself to the gruff projectionist (Philippe Noiret), learning his trade and the wisdom he has gleaned from John Wayne movies. But his mentor recognizes his own entrapment in the enchantment surrounding the movie house and sends his surrogate son into the wider world to experience life. This is a lyrical ode to the magic of the movies.

ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY
October 12 and 13, 1990
I.B. Singer's story has been successfully recreated in film by director Paul Mazursky. In the midst of New York City's swirling vitality, four survivors drift, haunted by their terrible past. Without diminishing the horror of that tragic experience, this film examines the tortuous pain the hero finds in a situation of daily life that grows into almost farcical proportions. The hero, Ron Silver, has constructed a double life built on a web of lies. Within this, he feels the pain of guilt and gratitude to his second wife who rescued him in Poland, and he also feels the pain of wild passion for his mercurial mistress. Then, suddenly, he feels the pain of shame and fear as his first wife, whom he thought had died in the camps, comes walking toward him . . .Anjelica Huston, very much alive.

THE LITTLE THIEF
December 7 and 8,1990 Brought to the screen by his former assistant, Claude Miller, Truffaut's last story has his typical central character — a disaffected adolescent searching for love and identity. Having been abandoned by her parents, Janine is being raised by her aunt and uncle in constricted circumstances on a farm. Obsessed by the movies and drawn to the opulence she sees in them, Janine becomes a thief. Discovered and sent from her home, she continues her misadventures as she acts out her romantic fantasies in the city. Watch out! This impulsive gamin may steal your heart.

WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT
January 18 and 19, 1991
Director Pierre Sauvage explores the question of great good in the midst of great evil in this documentary about his birthplace, Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon, a town of 5000 farmers and shopkeepers who rescued about the same number of Jews from the Nazis. The community was largely of Huguenot descent and had its own historical memory of persecution within Catholic France. It also had an inspired leader who introduced the study of pacifism well before the Nazis ever arrived, providing his community with the power to make a choice few think they have. And so they baffled the Nazis by arming with "weapons of the spirit," and even as they look back today they recall what seems to them simply decent behavior, as opposed to heroism.

YAABA
February 15 and 16, 1991
Universal themes are woven into this fireside fable from the West African village where director Idrissa Ouedraogo filmed it and where he grew up. The villagers themselves tell the story in an unhurried rhythm of exquisite visual images. The superstitious villagers have blamed their misfortunes on an old woman, driving her from the town and shunning her. A boy and girl overcome their fear of her and the three become friends. When the young girl is hurt, the old woman's ability to help save her awakens the villagers to their cruelty and this injustice is movingly repudiated. Yaaba won the 1989 International Critics Prize at Cannes.

MAMA, THERE'S A MAN IN YOUR BED
March 15 and 16, 1991
This delightfully humorous romance is about wanting something so much that the usual barriers are simply ignored. The story begins as Romuald, the white executive of a yogurt company, is being set up by co-workers for scandal and dismissal. The plots are revealed to him by Juliette, the black charwoman and mother of five, who knows more about his business than he does. Romuald is irresistibly drawn to Juliette; first for help, then for refuge, and finally, for her strength of character. Juliette is the spiritual center of this film and she's poor only in the material sense. He is rich only in money. This rollicking version of Romeo and Juliet is one where everyone is going to live happily ever after.

JESUS OF MONTREAL
April 26 and 27, 1991
Denys Arcand's parable destroys religiosity with wit while it restates the spiritual message of Jesus so often obscured through the centuries. A priest in Montreal, finding the Stations of the Cross no longer well attended, hires a young actor to take the role of Jesus, find a supporting cast and restage the Passion. The cast, found in unlikely places, studies intensively sources old and new, and produces an electrifying and, in its way, very reverent performance. Their immediate popular success quickly antagonizes established power, and the stage is set for the identification of the players with the roles they have assumed. This modern retelling of the conflict of the worldly with the other-worldly flows in a stream of seemingly effortless invention.

THE STORY OF WOMEN
May 10 and 11, 1991
Based on an actual case, this is a fiercely honest study by Claude Chabrol of one woman's transformation during the German occupation of France from a desperate housewife struggling to support her children, to an amateur abortionist, and finally, to a prisoner-of-state. Betrayed to the authorities, they decide to make an example of her. These are the same people who daily cooperate with and even perpetrate great evil in the name of the Vichy government. Chabrol's interest is in the components of character which lead to the choices made by the woman and in the contrast of acceptable behaviors for men and women within the society they shared. Isabelle Huppert won the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival for this haunting portrait.

MAY FOOLS
June 7 and 8, 1991
Against the backdrop of the May 1968 student rebellions in the cities, several generations of a well-to-do bourgeois family gather in the wine country of southwest France to bury their matriarch and divide her estate. The vast national disruptions are parodied in the immediate disagreements which surface in this hasty family reunion. Before long the ominous radio reports have convinced them they will soon be faced with armed Stalinists at their door and they flee for safety into the nearby woods. Louis Malle has created a light-hearted comedy of manners where absurdity and beauty coexist in equal measure.

 

1991-1992 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays / Saturdays of Film for $22.00
8:30 p.m.

NASTY GIRL
September 27 and 28, 1991
One of the Year's Ten Best according to Time, Nasty Girl is based on a true story which still continues. It tells of a young girl, Sonja, in a German town in the 1970s who wins an essay contest and makes her town proud of her. She decides to enter another with the story of the integrity of her town in the face of the Nazis. Now she is met with less enthusiasm and a locked file of old newspapers. Sonja persists, eventually bringing suit against the town. The reaction to Sonja begins with paranoia, gradually changes to resentment, then to threats and, finally, assault. As the years pass, Sonja's essay becomes a book which wins foreign acclaim and forces her town to grant her some recognition. Sonja is portrayed as a quite ordinary person who becomes obsessed not out of grim seriousness, but as a result of her town's reaction to her. Michael Verhoeven won best director at the Berlin Film Festival for this quasi-documentary about the desire to transform or forget past actions of which we are ashamed.

CYRANO DE BERGERAC
October 25 and 26, 1991
Gerard Depardieu portrays the ultimate Cyrano. We all know the story of how his grotesque nose causes him such a lack of self-esteem that he agrees to woo his beloved Roxanne with passionate words plumbed from his heart in proxy for his handsome but tongue-tied cousin. Depardieu plays Cyrano lustily and filled with panache, but ironically aware of the pain beneath his psychological armor. The pathos and humor of this classic tragicomedy are fully realized as we ride the whirlwind of Cyrano's emotions. Superlative cinematography assists the mood with artistry of lighting and design. Even the subtitles are so well done that they capture the flavor of Cyrano's wit and poetry.

CEST LA VIE
November 15 and 16, 1991
A 13-year-old's diary records for us of the drama of a family's dissolution, a situation in sharp contrast to its holiday setting at the beach. The mother feels smothered by her marriage, and her subsequent affair drives her uncomprehending husband to loss of control and desperation. These adult behaviors seem arbitrary and capricious, only the pain is very clear to the two daughters. All of this happens amidst the small everyday events of summer vacation. Next door, constantly present and often in the way emotionally, are the cousins, a loving uncle and a pregnant aunt, seemingly secure in their family life. The adults' sexuality finds its counterpoint in the undercurrent of awakening sexuality in the young. Author and director Diane Kurys has caught every nuance just right in this third film of her autobiographical series which began with Peppermint Soda and Entre Nous.

JU-DOU
January 3 and 4, 1992
The Chinese banned this film in China and attempted to remove it as a nominee in the Academy Awards. It is a vivid and melodramatic folktale of forbidden love, revenge and retribution set in a rural dye factory in the 1920s. The setting is metaphorically vital with the rich reds and golds in cascading fabrics speaking of passion and life, while the interlocking roofs of the village reflect the constraints that will forever surround the lovers. The domestic tragedy begins when a rich factory owner buys Ju-Dou as his third wife and then beats her when she fails to provide him with the heir he desires. In her misery she finds warmth and release with his nephew and they produce a son. The twists in the story as the son grows up show that director Zhang Yi-Mou feels strongly that pervasive repression of individuality is wrong, but he feels the lovers go too far as well. Zhang shows himself a master of ominous atmosphere and film-noir in this gorgeously photographed, powerful narrative.

JOURNEY OF HOPE
January 31 and February 1, 1992
Based on a true story, this eloquent winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar calls timely attention to the desperate plight of refugees everywhere. A Kurdish father yearns to give more to his family than the dusty farm in Turkey is ever going to allow. Words on a postcard about "paradise" in Switzerland cause him, his wife and one of his sons to set forth on this perilous voyage, unaware of its hazards and filled with enthusiasm. Good Samaritans help them, but there are many unscrupulous smugglers and swindlers who are just waiting to exploit such as they. And so one arduous adventure follows another on this doomed journey, leading eventually to the gripping, climactic sequence. The handsome, haunting photography contributes to the authenticity of this endlessly repeated human drama about seeking hope, life itself, in a new land.

IRON and SILK
February 21 and 22, 1992
With beguiling naturalness, Mark Salzman plays himself in the film version of his book about living for two years in China. Having majored in Chinese at Yale, he leaves to teach English to English teachers in Hunan. He wryly tells of the cultural clash which only eventually blends into a form of brotherhood. Each person he meets, at first, is a potential source of understanding in what seems to him a strange and lonely land. He falls in love with a woman who cares for him but whom he cannot win for political reasons. His students experience dismay when he wants them to talk about themselves. One of them teaches him Tai Chi and Chinese courtesy, for he is blundering so. He also finds a martial arts mentor who doesn't know if an American can bear the pain it takes to find inner strength and true perception of life. He must have found it, for his film has been described as "done with a skill that transcends surface beauty."

IMPROMPTU
March 13 and 14,1992
This sprightly comedy does not weary us with actual facts, though it is based on them, but presents instead the insouciant bohemian circle that celebrated romanticism in the Paris of 1830. The center of this tempestuous group is the freewheeling feminist, George Sand, played superbly by Australia's Judy Davis. The shy and consumptive Chopin and his music have become her obsession. In a gathering of artists at a social climber's country place, she is in pursuit of Chopin while the other men are in pursuit of her. These are people who live with an appetite for life and are dedicated to art as transcendent. The accomplished cast allows us to admire them and their enthusiasms while we enjoy this camp and irreverent frolic.

OPEN DOORS
April 10 and 11, 1992
A startling opening to the Italian contender for Best Foreign Film this year makes the viewer a witness to a triple murder. The setting is Palermo in the 1930s and the murderer is a fascist underling and scapegoat who wants to die. The case appears to be open and shut. Everyone is eager to make it so except the Judge, played with riveting yet quiet force by Gian Maria Volonte. He senses this obvious case covers something far worse. Actually, the film is not about the case but about the judicial process, about conflicting ideologies and passion for principles. Volonte's talent makes the tensions of thought visible and involves the viewer totally in the intellectual processes that are at issue. This elegant and compelling film asks much of us, but offers abundant rewards.

EVERYBODY'S FINE
May 15 and 6 1992
In this lyrical story of a lonely old father's journey to surprise his adult children with visits. director Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) studies the effects of inevitable change upon our families and our illusions. It is a wistful movie for as we travel from Naples to Turin we see his children's necessity to hide their actual lives for fear of disappointing his expectations. Marcello Mastroianni brings magic to his role as the courtly and charming Sicilian patriarch who wears thick glasses to symbolize his inability to see life as it is. Nevertheless, his cheerful disposition allows him to respond with earthy wisdom when one of his grandsons confides some facts of modern life. But since he is being "protected" from the truth, there aren't many confidences such as this and perhaps that is the most disappointing change of them all. The geographic and emotional landscape is filled with memorable images in this warmly acted, bittersweet tragedy of life.
 
1992 - 1993 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/ Saturdays of Film for $24.00
8:30 p.m.

TOTO LE HEROS
September 18-19,1992
Last year Canne's Camera d'Or went to Jaco Van Dormael, the Belgian director who created this inventive and exuberant reverie on a life gone wrong. Thomas, an old and embittered man broods over thoughts that his rightful life of riches and adventure was stolen from him in a maternity-ward mixup sixty years ago by his neighbor and nemesis, Alfred. He schemes and plots his revenge from his nursing home. Thomas and Alfred have led lives that have intertwined and Thomas has always seen Alfred as coming out ahead while his own life remained uneventful. His life passes before him (and us) in a scrambled stream of associated images that jump from past to present, from fantasy to reality, and from pathos to droll wit. In his collage of memories we see that actually Thomas had an ideal family and, although he never became the secret agent of his dreams, he experienced love. This imaginative film illustrates the absurdity of longing for someone else's life.

HEAR MY SONG
October 9-10, 1992
There are some that think Ned Beatty should have won an Oscar for this performance as Josef Locke, a real-life Irish tenor who made women cry in the music halls of the 1950s. The film begins with a scheming, young concert promoter, Mickey, trying to keep his shabby nightclub open and woo back his girl. After hiring several disastrous acts, he is suddenly convinced that he can save his club by bringing in Mr. X, whom he thinks is Josef Locke. Mr. X is an imposter and this disaster propels Mickey to Ireland to find and coax the real Josef Locke into a come-back appearance. Josef is found and is intransigent, but Mickey has an unexpected lure to draw him back. Then we find out what real entertainment means!

MEDITERRANEO
November 6-7, 1992
This sweet and gentle anti-war film is set in World War II and begins with eight Italian military misfits trying to follow orders and occupy a not very strategic Greek island for Mussolini. They make an extraordinarily inept landing where they just barely avoid killing each other. Before long the radio is smashed, the boat is sunk, and they are stranded in Paradise. The islanders return and these non-soldiers drift into hedonism, painting frescoes, dancing and falling in love. However, the comedy is balanced with an underlying note of sadness, for the clamor of war might prevent time to think, while in this idyll there is no distraction from thoughts of their mortality. Director Salvatores won the best foreign language film Oscar with this film.

AMERICAN DREAM
January 22-23,1993
In her Oscar winning documentary, Barbara Kopple illustrates the way the ideal of shared responsibility between management and labor gives way before unembarrassed greed in the 1980's. Beginning in carefully calm tones, she shows us the stair-steps to catastrophe as they occurred in the meat-packers' strike against Hormel and Co. in Austin, Minnesota in 1985. Although Hormel had made a profit, the company decides to roll back workers' pay. The president of the local union, P-9, reacts strongly, calling in a labor consultant and together they take the union out on strike. But the situation with the national is not much better than that with the company! The power is all on the side of the company when the national advocates capitulation. The modest version of the American dream held by these formerly loyal workers is betrayed as they try to choose between principle and survival. Justice is vanquished by Power in this gripping and poignant film.

 

EUROPA, EUROPA
February 26-27, 1993
An early scene of this true story is Solly Peref’s bris. His circumcision is so central, as a Jew living among Nazis, that he claims to remember the ceremony. The film shows his life during World War II, beginning with Kristallnacht, the eve of his bar mitzvah, as a series of fantastic escapes, lightning fast analyses of suddenly changed situations, and chameleon-like adaptations to new circumstances. Solly, and the viewers, can never forget throughout each day of these long years that any prosaic call of nature can bring him fatal exposure. His life also depends on his continuous and total immersion into his changing roles, first a good communist, then as a "pure German" interpretor, and finally, as a student in a school for Hitler youth. Solly manages to survive, but never to experience his true self.

RAISE THE RED LANTERN
March 26-27, 1993
Social oppression is the theme of this gorgeously presented poetic fable by Zhang Yimou (director of last year's Ju Dou). Because the heroine's father has died, 19-year-old Songlian must give up her life as a university student, as well as any dreams she holds of future independence. She knows marriage in China in 1920 means becoming the property of her husband. Since this is now her fate, she accepts with sorrow and bitterness a marriage-of-convenience as the fourth wife of a rich, old man. Songlian soon discovers the few choices available to her may only be gained by struggling with the other wives for the old man's attentions. The women never consider cooperating but illustrate instead behavior typical of powerless people. Zhang's films make money for China but cannot be seen there. This film was recommended for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE
April 23-24, 1993
There's a hallucinatory quality to this beautiful and elusive story about two women linked by their sense of having a double somewhere. In fact, Veronika, in Poland, catches a momentary glimpse of Veronique getting on a French tour bus. The women share attributes large and small, from their musical talents to liking to walk barefoot. When Veronika collapses and dies in a performance, Veronique immediately is suffused with a sense of loss and changes the direction of her musical career. The film suggests its story of a mysterious sisterhood with poetic images. It is memorable because of the possibilities it intimates, the riddle it poses. Irene Jacob won the 1991 Cannes Best Actress Award for her double role.

LIFE IS SWEET
May 7-8, 1993
Director Mike Leigh and his cast created this film collaboratively and, as a result, the characters just seem to evolve, as in life. The focus is on the domestic life of a lower middle class suburban family consisting of a relentlessly cheerful mother who complements her slow moving husband and their very unidentical 20-year-old twins. Natalie, a pretty plumber, enjoys her parents while her sister. Nicola, is a secret bulemic who hates her life and tries endlessly to provoke her accepting family with her rage and scorn. A socially inept neighbor adds some startling slapstick to this chaos and comedy. No resolution is offered except the observation that people rarely change more than slightly, but that sometimes, that's just enough. The National Society of Film Critics gave this film Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

A WOMAN'S TALE
May 28-29, 1993
This movie portrays the last turbulent weeks in the life of Martha, a feisty, 70-year-old women dying of cancer. Written by director Paul Cox and actress Sheila Florance, it is loosely based on Florence's life. Indeed, five days after she received the Australian Oscar for this performance, she died. But the film is neither depressing nor morbid. Martha holds on ferociously to her independence in her Melbourne walk-up where she cares for a senile neighbor and for her 90-year-old friend. She fends off her insensitive son and finds absolute joy in her friendship with Anna, the district nurse. So different in age and background, the women share an almost spiritual rapport. By day Martha yearns for youth, rails against killjoys, and stays involved. By night she stays awake with sad memories. I n portraying this indomitable woman, Florance has modeled how to face both life and death with dignity and courage.


1993 - 1994 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $24.00
8:30 p.m.

INDOCHINE
September 10 and 11, 1993
This epic film about the end of French power in Indochina is a drama of politics and passion, of racial emotion, and of colonial failure. Played out against spectacular scenery, the breakdown in a family relationship is the metaphor for the rupture between the French and Vietnamese. Catherine Deneuve plays the beautiful owner of a rubber plantation, the loving mother of her adopted Vietnamese daughter, a girl born a princess in a distant province. Their love isn't strong enough to withstand their having a romance with the same handsome naval officer, however. The mother pulls strings and has him transferred to a remote outpost. Her daughter, desperately in love, follows him on foot and as she travels through the countryside, she sees for the first time the extreme poverty and oppression of her people. Inevitably, she becomes a revolutionary. Indochine won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

THE OAK
October 15 and 16, 1993
A movie must move at lightning speed to capture the bizarre, nearly hysterical world of Romania in the last days of the Ceausescu dictatorship. Normalcy doesn't work in this world, only a fearless wise man or a fool can avoid being co-opted and dehumanized. The "fool" is Nela, the heroine, who we meet in the ultimate disheveled apartment, watching movies of her childhood and unaware that her father has died beside her. When her father's wish to donate his body to science is refused, Nela starts off on a journey of discovery, clutching his ashes in a Nescafe jar. As the truth about her father is revealed and her illusions shattered, she finds a truer hero in a doctor, the fearless wise man, who rescues her from thugs. She joins him on a quixotic mission into the country. Surviving the violence all around them, they bury the past under the roots of an oak, symbol of hope, and plan their future. Ending on a note of defiance, they resist and endure.

STOLEN CHILDREN
November 5 and 6, 1993
Fleeting moments that capture the beauty of life are presented by Gianni Amelio in this return to Italian neo-realism. In his poignant tale, two young victims are falling through the minimal protective net of an indifferent society. Rescued from childhood prostitution, 11-year-old Rosetta and her 9-year-old brother are sent under the care of a serious but uncaring policeman to a foster home which refuses to accept them. Experience has taught Rosetta to threaten and her brother to withdraw, but as the trip continues, the young policeman's feelings become entwined with those of his untrusting charges. Impulsively sharing pleasures remembered from his own childhood, they begin to have fun together, only to discover that these moments of true parenting have created a scandal. The film is a documentary in style only;  still it carries the power of truth.

THE STORY OF QUI JU
January 14, and 15, 1994
The woman's position in Chinese society is again the subject behind the story in Zhang Yimou's most recent film, winner of the Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Film Festival. Qui Ju, played by the beautiful Gong Li, is simultaneously trapped in and excluded from society by the very cultural ideas she herself exemplifies in her preference for male children. Her husband has insulted the village chief by questioning the chief's virility as the father of mere girls. The chief's answering kick to her husband's groin is the cause of Qui Ju's implacable but doomed search for justice to ever-higher levels of the bureaucracy. The officials are not unresponsive to her but must first save face for the chief. The quasi-documentary effect gained by using ordinary Chinese as the background figures allows a fascinating glimpse of China today. Zhang's trademark sensitivity to sumptuous color is here in the garlands of chilis and corn that festoon the farmhouses.

OLIVIER, OLIVIER
February 11 and 12, 1994
Director Agniezka Holland, who created Europa, Europa from a true story, once again begins with reality and leads us to question just what that is. In this enigmatic tragedy a family is shattered by the loss of their son. This contemporary French family is on the edge of imbalance before he disappears. Both father and daughter jealously long for the mother's attention which is unhealthily absorbed in her son. A mood of mystery enhances the emotional complexities, with overtones from folk tales and ancient lore. After the disappearance the parents separate, six years pass. The parental longing for their child continues to be so overwhelming that when someone claiming to be he is found, they are unable to perceive clearly whether he is or is not Olivier, Nor is the viewer. The real mystery begins just when the apparent mystery seems resolved.

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE
March 11 and 12, 1994
Alfonso Arau directed this exuberant fantasy, transposing the film from the novel of the same name written by his wife, Laura Esquival. Set against the Mexican Revolution, it tells the story of that national upheaval through the marvelous mayhem taking place in one family which is ruled by tradition and a stern matriarch. When the handsome neighbor asks for the hand of Tita, the youngest daughter, he is given the hand of the eldest instead and he accepts this arrangement in order to be near to his love. By custom, Tita must dedicate her life to the care of her mother. Tita is tutored by the aging family cook to feed the soul as well as the body. Her meals bring astonishing emotional side effects. Her tears in the batter cause massive weeping, her love in the sauce helps to spark the Revolution. This elegant and affectionate satire is concerned with political and emotional liberation but handles these epic themes in an intimate way.

THE LAST DAYS OF CHEZ NOUS
April 15 and 16, 1994
Gillian Armstrong, the director of My Brilliant Career, has set her most recent film in the outskirts of contemporary Sydney where she focuses on the troubled family relationships taking place in a rambling house called Chez Nous. A successful writer, Beth, is the centerpoint for her teenage daughter, her restless, French expatriate husband, and for her sister who suddenly arrives to join them. The sister, who is recovering from recent heartbreak, needs Beth although she often resents her. Hoping to work on issues in herself which Beth feels contribute to the tensions around her, she takes a trip with her father. While Beth is gone, the attraction between her husband and her sister bursts into a passionate affair. This dramatic betrayal forces the changes which Beth had not wanted to see. This film creates an authentic experience that will linger in your thoughts.

UN COEUR EN HIVER
May 20 and 21, 1994
Claude Sautet directed this elegant and fascinating psycho-drama which, in a surprising twist, reveals the powerful reverberations that result from inaction, as opposed to action. It's the story of a love triangle involving two fellow workers in a musical repair shop. One of them is about to move in with his lover (Emmanuelle Beart) when she meets his co-worker (Daniel Auteuil) and falls in love with him instead. Auteuil is attracted to her but withdraws, unable to make a loving commitment. Auteuil creates compassion for this emotionally detached man, showing him, as well as Beart, to be a victim of his inability to love. Music is a central metaphor in this film. Auteuil makes and repairs violins but refuses to play them, while Beart converts her passion into her music. This film was the winner of the Silver Lion and the International Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival last year.

THE PIANO
June 3 and 4, 1994
This co-winner of the Golden Palm Award received a standing ovation at Cannes. Jane Campion directed this gothic romance set in New Zealand 150 years ago. It tells of a mute widow who comes, with her young daughter, as the mail order bride of a colonial landowner. She brings her dearest possession, her piano, her only means of self expression. When her new husband refuses to transport it inland, the piano is purchased by an illiterate and colorful Englishman. He allows her to buy it back key by key with favors, increasingly sexual, until they are involved in a grand passion. Her betrayed husband and daughter respond with betrayals of their own. The beautiful but spare visual images carry much significance and sometimes give an air of mystery. Holly Hunter received the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her portrayal of this nineteenth century woman who instinctively pushes against the restraints of her era.
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1994-1995  SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $25.00
8:30 p.m.

THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA
September 16 and 17,1994
The Scent of Green Papaya was the winner of the award for best first film submitted at the 1993 Cannes Festival. Directed by Tran Hung, filming began in Vietnam but lack of film technicians caused Hung to switch to Paris. It is the story of a 10-year-old orphan who becomes a servant to a Vietnamese household. The story traces her life in Saigon with this family in pre-war Vietnam from 1951 to 1961. The family is an unhappy one. The father drinks, is unfaithful and lets his wife run their business. While Mui becomes a faithful and unobtrusive servant, the family falls apart both emotionally and financially. Mui, in a slow moving almost silent-film performance, matures into a lovely woman. In the last third of the film, an epilogue, she has a new employer. He is a pianist and composer. Love develops between them. The film is noted for its nostalgic and impressionistic remembrance of a lost Vietnam. Some reviewers were reminded of the work of novelist Marcel Proust.

BELLE EPOQUE
October 14 and 15, 1994
A Cannes prize winner, Belle Epoque takes place in rural Spain in 1931, the year it became an idealistic but short-lived democracy. Fernando, a young, handsome and naive army deserter is arrested but his guard escorts argue and kill each other. Fernando must flee. He meets Manolo, an artist and easy-going anarchist. Fernando is about to return to Madrid when he meets Manolo's four daughters who have returned home from a visit to Madrid. The women are all beauties. They are: a widow recently overcoming her grief, a cross-dresser, a sensuous creature and an innocent girl who wishes she weren't. The comedy begins as Fernando decides to stay with Manolo. Each daughter decides to make love to Fernando in her own fashion. The director, Fernando Trueba, said he was influenced by directors Billy Wilder and Luis Bunuel. This is not a realistic film but as Trueba says, "how he would like life to be." It is about liberated women, lustiness, playfulness and delicacy. Fernando believes each daughter in turn is his true love. In addition to romance the film makes sharp comments about Spanish religion, marriage and politics.

BHAJI ON THE BEACH
November 4 and 5,1994
Bhaji is Punjabi for a deep-fried appetizer. The director, Gurinder Chadha, tells the story of a group of Indian women living in Britain. They are off on a one-day bus trip to Blackpool (an English Ocean City). This comedy-drama portrays three generations of Indian women adjusting to the conflicts of a traditional male-dominated Indian culture and English and Indian racism. With a light, refreshing touch we meet many characters, including Gindor, who has left her abusive husband Ranjit, and Hashida, a medical student, troubled by being made pregnant by her black boyfriend Oliver. There is also an elderly Auntie Pushpa who is a stern traditionalist. The women manage to have a fine time in spite of their intergenerational differences until the two males show up. The film makes many personal and political points but never loses its good humor and light touch.

THE SNAPPER
January 13, and 14, 1995
“Snapper” is an Irish term for “baby”. The problem with this baby is that its pregnant mother, Sharon, is unmarried. She knows who the father is but she won't tell anyone. Sharon doesn't care to marry the father and with good reason. He's an "ejit" (idiot) who boasts about the pregnancy to his drinking buddies. This simple tale set in present day Ireland is handled with good humor and many a sharp joke.

THE ACCOMPANIST
February 24 and 25, 1995
The film is set in Paris in the winter of 1942-43 under the Nazis. In these hard times Helena, an opera singer, and her husband, manager Charles Brice are living well. Helena performs for the Nazis. Charles is resolved to continue his pre-occupation style of high living. Sophie Vasseur, a young pianist living in poverty, is hired as Helena's accompanist. Sophie is treated like a family member. She helps Helena conduct an affair with a member of the Resistance. Charles senses it is time to flee France. Helena, Charles and Sophie head for London. Sophie is involved in a shipboard romance and must choose between her lover and her employer. The film is a beautiful, moving, tragic love story with a surprising climax.

FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE
March 24 and 25,1995
This is an epic historical drama of China from the 1920s to 1977. It uses the continuously unsettled times in China as a backdrop for the lives of two type-cast male Bejing Opera actors, Cheng Dieyi, who plays a concubine, and Duan Xiaolou, who plays a king. Director Chen Kaigi keeps the action moving rapidly displaying the ironies of art versus the real world. The major theme is the question: in times of perpetual political upheavals in values, can one ever be true to anyone or anything — friend, wife or one's art or ideals? The movie was the first Chinese film to win the Palme d'Or in Cannes.

WHITE
April 28 and 29, 1995
White is named for one of a three-part series by famed Polish director Kieslowski (remember his The Double Life of Veronique?). Each film represents one of the colors of the French flag: Blue for Liberty, White for Equality and Red for Fraternity. The film's hero Karol Karol (Karol is Polish for “Charlie”), a comic character, is a sad sack. He refuses to accept total rejection by his wife, Dominique. She leaves him destitute but he refuses to accept defeat. He manages to leave France and sneaks back to capitalist Poland. He becomes a successful and unscrupulous capitalist. He then seeks revenge and winds up reconciling with Dominique. Some critics noted similarities between this film and those of Charlie Chaplin.

THE BLUE KITE
May 19 and 20, 1995
This film is a metaphor for life as soaring blue kites that are always getting caught in trees. This Chinese film by T. Zhuanzhuang explores life in Bejing from 1953 to 1967. We see this period through the lives of ordinary people. The main characters are a mother, Chen Shujuan, and her experiences in three marriages. We follow her son Tietou (Iron Head) for his first 14 years. He is a product of the Maoist period. In spite of the violence depicted, this is a sophisticated, tender and meditative movie. It won the Grand Prix at the Tokyo Film Festival. The film was too threatening for the Chinese censors and was banned in China. The director was banned from making films. The film is more than a political and personal drama. It shows the folly of Maoism: that the simple acts of decency are a kind of rebellion. That is, the Chinese cannot be dominated by political ideologies.

THE WEDDING BANQUET
June 16 and 17, 1995
The Wedding Banquet is a comedy of two gays — Wai-Tung, a successful Taiwanese-immigrant, living with Simon, a white American in Manhattan. Wai-Tung is urged by his parents, who live in Taiwan, to marry and provide grandchildren. The men decide to stage a phony marriage. Wai-Tung agrees to marry an illegal immigrant as a marriage of convenience. The scheme starts to backfire when the parents show up for an extended visit prior to the wedding. The wedding banquet becomes a wild and funny affair. The movie provides a portrait of traditional Chinese attitudes about sex and posterity.

 

1995-1996 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $25.00
8:00 p.m.

RED
September 15 and 16, 1995
Krzysztof Kieslowski concludes his "Three Colors" series with this elegant, seductive, and beautiful tale of fate and love. Like Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique in which a woman and her double live parallel existences, Red is about luck and coincidence and whether that's all they are. Like Veronique, Red stars Irene Jacob, the beautiful Swiss actress who plays Valentine, a dancer and model and who, like her name, is an emblem of romantic optimism. The other two characters in this film, both of whom are oblivious to their interwoven destinies, are a lonely old judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant), and Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a young lawyer whose girlfriend will betray him. We observe in this film that, if not for kismet, Auguste and Valentine could be lovers. And if not for the tyranny of time, so could Valentine and the judge. (Newsday)

BURNT BY THE SUN
October 13 and 14, 1995
The winner of the foreign language Oscar is a towering personal achievement for Nikita Mikhalkov, who wrote, produced, directed and starred as a legendary Bolshevik soldier whose idyllic family life is disrupted by the arrival of an old friend who is working for Stalin's secret police. The movie's title, taken from a Russian folk song, has to do with the misplaced loyalties and subsequent betrayals that followed the Russian Revolution. By focusing tightly on one affected family for one day, Mikhalkov shows how 300 million people surrendered their freedom to a bad idea.

VANYA ON 42nd STREET
November 3 and 4,1995
Vanya on 42nd Street is Chekhov for people who hate Chekhov, theater for people who hate theater, and a movie for people who love movies. Louis Malle's film of Andre Gregory's perpetually-in-rehearsal production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in a decrepit New York movie house is something of a transcendent miracle. This movie... is a tribute to the magic dance of performance and text and the irrelevance of all other matters. The movie simply becomes, seamlessly and totally, the play; and then both become the universe, as every other element melts away." (Stephen Hunter, Baltimore Sun).

THE POSTMAN
January 26 and 27, 1996
Based on a Chilean novel, The Postman tells the (entirely fictional) story of a friendship that blossoms between a simple Italian mail carrier and the celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The year is 1952, and Neruda, an outspoken communist, has been exiled by Chile's repressive government and is offered sanctuary by Italy on an island off the coast near Naples. Philippe Noiret (from Cinema Paradiso) plays Neruda and Massimo Troisi is the postman. Troisi, sadly enough, died at 41 just after shooting was finished on The Postman. Always plagued by a weak heart, Troisi delayed transplant surgery to finish the project, joking that he wanted the last piece of his old heart to become part of this new film.

STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE
February 23 and 24, 1996
Tomaz Gutierrez Alea's film is mainly set in an old Havana apartment building whose chipped and gnarled walls offer a nostalgic reminder of the old Spanish Baroque colonial city’s sinfully decadent glories, out of place in the austerely functional Communist state. In this peculiar ruin, three characters who seem stranded from a Tennessee Williams play, a flamboyant and intelligent gay artist, a retired prostitute, and a handsome young (male) virgin fall in and out of love and long for greater freedom. The movie is a touching plea for friendship, sex and art. If the revolution isn't going to succeed, the movie seems to be saying, couldn't we at least have a little more of the old Cuban spirit of live and let live? (New York Magazine)

FARINELLI
March 22 and 23, 1996
Writer director Gerard Corbiau tackles — for the first time in movies, apparently —the castrati, the 18th-century singers whose castration as boys left them with voices capable of reaching unearthly highs while maintaining remarkable power. In this gorgeously staged costume melodrama, one of the five Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, Cobiau's subject is the most famous castrato of all, Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli. In his heyday Farinelli was the baroque equivalent of a rock superstar who was mobbed wherever he went, besieged by groupies, lavishly paid and thoroughly pampered. Corbiau and his collaborators painstakingly re-create this exotic world of wealth and privilege, and their presentation of Farinelli in performance is hair-raising.

COLONEL CHABERT
April 19 and 20, 1996
Gerard Depardieu stars in this epic drama based on the Balzac classic. In a twist on The Return of Martin Guerre, Depardieu plays a returning war hero thought dead who finds his wife has remarried and claimed his inheritance. Although the pace seems slow, the situation is so inherently dramatic, and the resulting intrigues so engrossing, that the film never loses interest. Ultimately, Colonel Chabert becomes more than just the recounting of a strange incident; it's also a parable about the difference between identity and selfhood — and how society will often confer the former only on those willing to compromise the latter.

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN
May 10 and 11, 1996
A delicious domestic comedy about a master chef and his daughters, from Ang Lee, the director of The Wedding Banquet. As the title implies, life has two basic drives and sometimes they blend. In the kitchen, and world, of master chef Tao Chu (veteran actor Sihung Lung, the father in Lee's Wedding Banquet), food is all. A seemingly lonely widower and father of three maturing and conflicted daughters, Chu is an artist — steaming, frying, baking, basting, wokking, not talking, and rendering as sumptuous a meal as has ever hit the screen (Babette's Feast included). Incredibly, everything he has prepared is for a single Sunday dinner, a weekly ritual in which we meet his daughters, each of whom struggles at the table to express the love they all feel for each other, while coping with distinct but similar problems of life and love. (Newsday)

SHANGHAI TRIAD
May 31 and June 1, 1996
This is Zhang Yimou's (Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qui Ju) seventh feature, but it is unlike anything he has done before. The film, which recently opened at the 1995 Cannes Festival (where it was referred to by critics as "the most exhilarating movie shown at the festival"), plays like an old Warner Bros, gangster movie. Adapted from a novel, Shanghai Triad is the simple, but visually stunning story of an attempted double-cross of Shanghai's underworld godfather by his No. 1 lieutenant during the 1930s. The surperb makes his play by seducing the godfather's ambitious mistress Xiao Jingbao (played by the heart-stopping Gong Li), whom he promises will take over the godfather’s cabaret (where she currently struts and sings) after the coup. Zhang and Gong Li were recently divorced, so this may be their last movie together.

 

1996 - 1997 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $25.00
8:00 p.m.

ANTONIA'S LINE
September 27 and 28, 1996
This film, which won the 1995 Academy Award as the Best Foreign Language film, is a marvelous fable about four generations of strong-willed women in a farming village whose failed parochialism and male domination stand in for the failures of civilization at large. It opens with an elderly woman awakening on a day she declares will be her last, then takes us back to cover the past 50 years of it. There are tales of romance and tragedy, sexual exhilaration and sexual violence, loyalty and betrayal. Its themes deal with the cycle of life, the concept of time, prejudice and the roles of women in a world wobbling from a few million years too many of male mismanagement. (Newsday)(In Dutch)

LAMERICA
October 25 and 26, 1996
This is the new film by Gianni Amelio, who made the unforgettable Stolen Children. Lamerica received Europe's Felix Award as the best film of 1994. The film is set in Albania and depicts a nation's lost soul at the end of 50 years of harsh communist rule. Italy, just across the Adriatic Sea, is a dream of freedom and riches for Albania's poor. It is a kind of America (thus the title of this exceptional film). Lamerica dramatizes the consequences of a devious business scheme that backfires on Italian opportunists, Fiore and Gino. Hoping to profit from the prostrate Albanian economy while hoodwinking the Italian government, Fiore sets up a dummy corporation for a phantom shoe factory. Amelio does an amazing job of interweaving the real-life tragedy in Albania with his fictional drama. Anyone who sees this film will walk away with both a sense of grief and a feeling of good fortune for living in a land of plenty. (In Italian)

NELLY AND MONSIEUR ARNAUD
November 22 and 23, 1996
The gravely lovely Emmanuelle Beart, who played a breathtaking cellist in Claude Sautet's meditative Un Coeur en Hiver, plays a breathtaking typist in this equally contemplative Sautet production. (He won a Cesar — the French Oscar — for each.) Once again his themes are intimacy, repression, and what's at risk when one soul reaches out to another. This time, the attractive people doing the talking instead of doing are Nelly (Beart), a directionless young woman divorcing her stick-in-the-mud husband, and Monsieur Arnaud (the wonderful Michel Serrault, the drag queen in the original La Cage Aux Folles), a wealthy older gent who hires her to type up his memoirs. (Entertainment Weekly). As Amaud, Serrault acutely captures the anguish of aging, and of love denied, as he switches from assured authority figure to flustered romantic fool—then back again. (In French)

 

MY FAVORITE SEASON
January 24 and 25, 1997
Ma Saison Preferee (My Favorite Season) is Andre Techine's moving family psychodrama of estranged middle-aged siblings, Emilie and Anthoine (Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil) who are reunited by the illness of their mother. Anthoine, a 40-year-old bachelor, and Emilie, a 45-year-old lawyer whose long marriage to Bruno has been hobbled by her emotional isolation, were as inseparable as children as they are incompatible as adults. Their discovery about what went wrong between them, and of their real feelings for each other, is the narrative thread of the film. Auteuil and Deneuve, playing complex characters who are alternately aloof and dependent, are wonderful together. Watching them rediscover each other is an odd joy, like seeing some complicated mystery unraveled, except the mystery here is all in the family. (In French)

ANGELS AND INSECTS
February 21 and 22, 1997
Director Philip Haas, working with his wife, Belinda, has adapted a marvelous 1992 A.S. Byatt novella, shrewdly preserving Byatt's volatile mix of science, sex, and Victorian class warfare. In the early 1860s, a young naturalist. William Adamson returns to England after years spent in the Amazon. Most of his specimens have been lost in a shipwreck, and he is dependent on the patronage of a wealthy family, the Alabasters, in whose great Gothic house he takes residence. The ugly gray pile seems haunted —
by the withdrawal, perhaps, of divine beneficence from the natural order, or by some dirty secret. Oblivious, Adamson goes on with his work. He marries the eldest daughter, Eugenia, and makes a professional alliance with the tutor of the young Alabaster children, a severe and exciting young woman who burns with ethical and sexual passion (New York Magazine). (In English)

THE WHITE BALLOON
March 21 and 22, 1997
This beguiling Iranian film provides an intimate look at another culture. It is about the misadventures of a little girl, Razieh, who loses the money she needs to buy a pet goldfish while on an excursion to the marketplace. The setting is Tehran on the eve of the Persian feast of Nowruz, celebrating the spring equinox.  It is a simple film with a happy ending, but it does have an edge. Some of the men in the market treat Razieh with amazing gruffness. A couple of sleazy snake charmers tease her mercilessly. And it's subtly implied through bruises on her older brother's face that her father (only heard screaming from inside the family home) is a brute. Director Jafar Panahi won the prize for Best First Feature at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. (In Farsi)

RED FIRECRACKER, GREEN FIRECRACKER
April 11 and 12, 1997
This is the story of a beautiful young woman at the turn of the century who is the sole heiress to a family fireworks business in an isolated northern village. The village is on the Yellow River, which becomes a central, and sensual, image in He Ping's gorgeous romantic drama. The young woman, Chun Zhi, is forced to suppress her femininity and rule the family business in an iron-fisted style. She takes on the characteristics of a dour, sometimes brutal matriarch, and nobody messes with her. One day, a handsome itinerant artist happens by, and she hires him to paint traditional religious symbols on the doors of her factory and residential complex in preparation for a coming New Year's celebration. It is clear from the start that the passionate artist has awakened desire in the hardhearted, repressed Chun Zhi and that it is going to result in love fireworks somewhere along the way. (In Mandarin)

LONE STAR
May 9 and 10, 1997
In the new mystery/romance/civics lesson from writer-director John Sayles, Kris Kristofferson plays a corrupt Texas sheriff, Charley Wade. Four decades ago, Wade ran his town with an itchy trigger finger. Now, his sun-bleached skull has been found in the desert. Current sheriff Sam Deeds wants to solve this old crime for personal reasons: His late father was Wade's deputy. Sayles has surrounded him with interesting characters and has warmed Lone Star with a glow of humanist optimism rare in contemporary movies. (Entertainment Weekly). Lone Star may be the most accessible, mass-audience movie Sayles has made, and many people consider it his best. (In English)

COLD COMFORT FARM
May 30 and 31, 1997
A cheeky adaptation of Stella Gibbons' darkly funny 1932 novel about an unflappable London girl called Flora (Kate Beckinsale) and her eccentric relatives who populate a decrepit farm. A truly benevolent busybody, the orphaned and penniless but irresistibly civilized Flora transforms the misery and squalor of her overwhelmed rural kin, the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, when she moves in with them. Director John Schlesinger has created a perfect, burnished little world, and the delectable cast has a great time with Malcolm Bradbury's zingy script. (Entertainment Weekly) (In English)


1997 - 1998 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $25.00
8:00 p.m.

LA PROMESSE
October 3 and 4, 1997
This thoughtful, powerful drama focuses on a 15-year-old boy whose promise to a grieving widow pits him against his father, a ruthless exploiter of immigrant labor. This film is stunningly acted by a fine cast and vividly directed by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. The directors, who say they found their inspiration in The Brothers Karamazov, have devised a fluid and edgily mobile film about a boy's moral awakening that is thoroughly engrossing, totally convincing, almost archetypical. La Promesse believes that decency is an innate human quality that can surface from any rubble. (In French)

KOLYA
October 24 and 25, 1997
Not long before the fall of the Soviet bloc and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, a middle-aged Czech musician agrees to a marriage of convenience with a Russian woman, then finds himself caring for her 5-year-old son after she unexpectedly leaves the country. This moving, endearing film depicts the mutual fondness that develops between the surrogate father and his adopted offspring. Kolya was the 1996 Academy Award winner for best foreign film. (In Czech)

ULEE'S GOLD
November 7 and 8, 1997
In middle age, Peter Fonda gives the performance of his life as Ulee Jackson, a Florida beekeeper in his mid-50s who is struggling to keep his family together. Ulee's profession is harvesting the sweetest of honey from swarms of bees; his power lies in his willingness to face forces that sting. As he rescues his drug-addict daughter-in-law, leading him into confrontation with his son's underworld past, his journey becomes a blind lunge toward grace. Fonda hypnotizes the camera with a gaze that calls up a bottomless well of anger, yearning, and loss. (Entertainment Weekly) (In English)

A MONGOLIAN TALE
January 16 and 17,1998
Xie Fei's beautiful A Mongolian Tale is a deceptively simple tale of love and loss, redemption and forgiveness. With dreamy tranquility, it tells of two children raised in an idyllic paradise. It progresses from the time when a boy named Beiyinpalica and girl named Someyer are taken in by the kindly, grandmotherly Nai Nai, to when these childhood sweethearts are separated by their adult destinies. There's a poetic quality, combined with a novel's depth of characterization, that makes A Mongolian Tale a memorable experience, superbly acted, gorgeously photographed and plaintively scored. Like Sling Blade, this film unfurls with such direct emotion and narrative drive that it feels like a universal piece of folklore or even a Bible story. (In Mongolian)

BRASSED OFF
February 6 and 7, 1998
When all else is lost, there's always the flugelhorn. Brassed Off is the enjoyable study of the effect of brass-band music on a depressed mining community in the North of England. Pete Postlethwaite stars as the bandleader, Danny. Set during the Thatcher-era coal-mine closings, the miners have too many mouths to feed and too little job security; it is the music that keeps them alive. The movie is loosely based on a real-life colliery band whose members appear here as extras, but it never tires of the delicious incongruity of working stiffs playing Rossini. The film has been described as a cross between Roger and Me and Shine. (In English)

SHALL WE DANCE
March 6 and 7, 1998
The rage for ballroom dancing in Japan is the subject of Shall We Dance, this year's box office sensation in Japan. At the start of this moving comedy-drama, a Japanese businessman goes to a ballroom dancing school so furtively he might be visiting a bordello. In Japan, ballroom dancing is regarded with much suspicion. Yet 42-year-old Shoei Sugiyama is so unsatisfied by his wife, child, house, car and accounting job in a sterile office that he desperately needs a change of pace. Shall We Dance (which has frequent evocations of the title song from The King and I) holds forth the sunny possibility that beyond the most timid exterior there may be a tangoing Water Mitty to be found. (In Japanese)

LA CEREMONIE
April 17 and 18, 1998
This slyly unsettling thriller focuses on two working-class women who develop dangerous hostility toward the well-heeled household where one of them is employed. Claude Chabrol, the most Hitchcockian of all French directors, carries the absorbing story from a tantalizing start to a disturbingly violent climax. This small-scale masterpiece is part Heavenly Creatures and part Upstairs, Downstairs, with a dash of Jean Genet's The Maids tossed in for good measure. The extraordinary cast includes Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire, and Jacqueline Bisset. (In French)

GABBEH
May 15 and 16, 1998
When a movie is praised for being "beautiful," that's usually a sure sign that it's a dud. Not in the case of Gabbeh, however. The first film by the Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to be released in this country, it's a work of dazzling visual brio, a love story in which the images, at once playful and poetic, express an enraptured romantic temperament rooted in the power of folklore. At the beginning, an old, nearly ancient rural couple engage in the daily washing of their gabbeh, a sacred rug that pictures the tale of their courtship more than 40 years before. A beautiful maiden — it's the old woman when she was young — rises out of the rug to relive the story of how she was carried away, against the threats of her father, by a horseman who wooed her with wolf calls. The bold, almost psychedelically vivid images are woven together with a dreamlike density as pure as that of The Blood of a Poet or Natural Born Killers.  Makhmalbaf draws his visions from the primal colors of the landscape, from the rituals of Iran's nomadic culture, and from the notion, at once touching and hypnotic, that love itself is an act of storytelling — a daily reliving of the past that becomes the present. (Entertainment Weekly) (In Farsi)

PONETTE
June 5 and 6,1998
Fresh, attentive and powerfully emotional, the French film Ponette is an attempt to enter the world of a 4-year-old girl, whose mother has just been killed in a car accident along one of the winding mountain roads near Lyon. Ponette, as played by pudgy, sad-eyed Victoire Thivisol (winner of a Best Actress award at the 1996 Venice Film Festival), is one of the few credible children ever to inhabit a motion picture. The rolling landscape that extends for Elysian miles behind the characters shifts from green to brown over the course of Ponette suggesting the presence of death in life and also the cycIe of the seasons that will allow life and love to return. This is a marvelous movie. (In French)

 

1998-1999 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $30.00
8:00p.m.

LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND
September 25 and 26, 1998
This British film is one of the most distinctive and intriguing movies of 1998. It observes the comic-romantic reawakening and misadventures of a reclusive, oblivious author, improbably named Giles De’ Ath and splendidly impersonated by John Hurt. Blundering into the movies, Giles is enchanted by teen fave Ronnie Bosiock (Jason Priestly), then embarks on a pilgrimage to Long Island, the home of his amiable young idol. The allusions to Thomas Mann's Death in Venice are deliberate but lead in a more benign and conciliatory direction. There has never been an "odd couple" situation quite this eccentric, suspenseful and wistful. (Washington Times) (In English)

CHARACTER
October 30 and 31, 1998
Winner of the Oscar for best foreign-language film, this Dutch drama oozes with feelings of spite and revenge that grow up between a father and the son he had out of wedlock. It is dark, bitter and fascinating, as all family feuds are—about hatred so deep that it can only be ended with a knife. It evokes some of the darker episodes of Dickens and also, in its focus on the grind of poverty and illegitimacy, reflects the twisted stories of family secrets by that grim Victorian, George Gissing. It is essentially the story of a young man growing up and making good, by pluck and intelligence, but all of his success comes out of the desire to spite his father. The movie steers a steady course between realistic drama and Kafkaesque delirium, handling both skillfully. (In Dutch).

BEAUMARCHAIS, THE SCOUNDREL
November 13 and 14, 1998
This is a star-studded French costume biography of Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, the 18th century creator of The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville, whose life and work — in the grand, giddy view of this move — anticipates the impending French Revolution. Beaumarchais is revealed as a shameless lover; a man of the people who declaims the Court of Lords to rapturous popular applause; a secret emissary from Louis XV sent to England to reverse the country's apparent plans to invade France: and a satirist who is sent to jail for his biting plays. Beaumarchais is played with great delicacy by Fabrice Luchini (the fabulous attorney in Colonel Chabert). (In French).

MA VIE EN ROSE
January 15 and 16, 1999
Childhood transvestism could hardly look more dignified than in the regally poised figure of Georges DuFresne, the extraordinary young French actor who plays 7-year old Ludovic Fabre in Alain Berliner's good-humored film. By the end of this serious comedy, the winner of the 1998 Golden Globe Award for best foreign film, Ludovic's insistence that he's a girl has endangered his parents' marriage, cost his father his job and forced the closely-knit family to move out of the buttoned-down French suburb where they have become pariahs. In treating a heavy subject like this so lightly, Ma Vie en Rose is cheekily subversive of orthodox psychology. (New York Times) (In French)

WESTERN
February 12 and 13, 1999
Western, which won the 1997 jury prize at Cannes, is a warmly comic, tenderhearted road movie in which two French-speaking foreigners cover a brief stretch of Brittany, forging an unlikely friendship. Paco, a Spanish traveling shoe salesman, has his life turned upside down when he picks up a young Russian hitchhiker, Nino (who looks like a runty hapless version of the young Bob Dylan). These two almost child-like men go on the road in search of women. The director, Manuel Poirier, is concerned with the arbitrary, transitory nature of life and he exploits his wild, mundane landscape to perfection. For all its seductive coziness, this film is about travelers who feel like foreigners wherever they go. (In French)

MEN WITH GUNS
March 5 and 6, 1999
Insofar as artists are defined by their goals. John Sayles is the most courageous and decent storyteller working in American films today. And what he dares to do, in the wake of Lone Star, is to present an allegory about war and responsibility in an unnamed Latin American country. No Hollywood star power here, and there's more dialogue in Nahuatl, Tzotzil, Maya and Kuna than there is in English (Spanish is the principal language). But Mr. Sayles's strong, deliberately paced story of how an elderly doctor awakens to the ways of guerrilla warfare is crystal clear. (New York Times) (In Spanish)

GUELWAAR
April 16 and 17, 1999
This film, by the noted Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene, is a rare opportunity for American filmgoers to avail themselves of a cinematic masterpiece that also happens to be about Africans, by an African, set and filmed in Africa. Guelwaar — which means Noble One in Sembene's native tongue — refers to Pierre Henri Thioune. a village leader and devout Catholic who has led his people against Western aid which he believes only entrenches Africa's dependency and poverty. Radical theologian, philandering husband, gifted public speaker and imposing presence, Guelwaar is a complex man who leaves an even more complicated legacy when he is killed. Sembene, who well understands how comedy and tragedy are twined in the human experience, has created a memorable cast of characters to tell his tale of modern Africa, a place as riven by internal human weakness as predatory global politics. (Baltimore Sun) (In French)

MARIUS AND JEANNETTE
May 14 and 15, 1999
This French love story is also a romance in a larger sense. The filmmaker's respect and affection for Marseille's working-class people, who reflect his own roots there, give this neighborly film its strong, hearty down-to-earth spirit. The characters, including a sweet, feisty heroine played by the filmmaker's wife (who won one of the film's several Cesars), are filled with a joie de vivre that transcends their tough circumstances. And the film watches them share warm friendships and populist ideas drawn from their daily experience. It's no surprise that Frank Capra is director Guediguian's filmmaking hero. (New York Times) (In French).

THE BEST MAN
June 11 and 12, 1999
The Best Man, nominated for the Golden Globes' best foreign film, is a bittersweet romantic comedy set in the tradition-laden end of the 19th century. Italian star Diego Abatantuono ("Mediterraneo") plays the closed-mouthed, macho Angelo who returns to Italy after making his fortune in America to serve as best man at a friend's wedding on New Year's Eve 1899. The bride in this arranged married is stunningly beautiful Francesca (Ines Sastre), but she is not attracted to her groom Edgardo (Dario Cantarelli), and pines for true love. When Francesca's eyes meet Angelo's at the altar, it's love at first sight, but she has already said "I do," and the evening that follows is a disaster. The most charming parts of the film are director-screenwriter Pupi Avati's observations of the family's and neighbors' quirky social interaction and of the sometimes superstitious Catholic-influenced wedding traditions of the lime. (In Italian).

 

1999-2000 SEASON
Presented at the Theater, Communication Arts Building, Howard Community College
Nine Fridays/Saturdays of Film for $30.00

CENTRAL STATION
September 17 and 18, 1999
Against her nature, Dora (Fernanda Montenegro), an intelligent but nihilistic old bag—a retired schoolteacher who writes letters for illiterate people and then never mails them—leaves Rio de Janeiro with a little boy in tow and takes to the road. The boy's mother has been killed, and his desire to see his missing father stirs something in Dora. The two of them are practically hoboes, but once they leave Rio, life opens up for them. This shrewd, tough and bighearted Brazilian movie, directed by Walter Salles, moves surely and convincingly from utter negation to something like guarded optimism. (New Yorker) (In Portuguese)

THE KING OF MASKS
October 22 and 23, 1999
Wu Tianming's The King of Masks is a live-action Mulan, an eloquent, uncommonly wise modern fairy tale. Set in Sichuan provinces in the dark, desperate, famine-, flood-, and drought-stricken 1930s, the film tells of an old Chinese entertainer and a homeless little girl, who become partners in the quest for a reasonably contented life. The King of Masks speaks the simple, coded language of a fairy tale. Like the world's greatest stories, the closer you look, the more it reveals. Joseph Campbell would have loved it. The acting is expressive and the cinematography dazzling. (In Mandarin)

THE DREAM LIFE OF ANGELS
November 12 and 13, 1999
Isa (Elodie Bouchez). a free spirit who moseys around northern France with a rucksack, meets Marie (Natacha Regnier) in a clothing factory, and Marie offers her a place to stay. In a sense, Erick Zonca's first feature is little more than the brief history of their friendship; what fires it up, and takes it to the brink of greatness, is not only that the director registers every tremor of his heroines' competing emotions —the smiling blitheness of Isa, the inward fury of the beautiful Marie—but that the story travels so far. The film begins with a scuffed, documentary air that gradually deepens, almost without your noticing, into serene moments of epiphany. (New Yorker) (In French)

AFTER LIFE
January 14 and 15, 2000
When we say we "remember" something, what exactly is it we recall? A feeling? A smell? Words? Facial expressions? Invited to relive an especially happy memory, how many of us would be able to go beyond recalling how we felt, and describe the setting and circumstances of that moment in precise detail? And even when we conjure vivid mental pictures of past events, how accurate are they really? These and other profound questions are the substance of Hirokazu Koreeda's brilliant, humorous, trancendently compassionate film, After Life. (New York Times). The setting of this Japanese allegory is a homely old building where newly deceased people are asked to choose their most valued memory, which is then preserved by being filmed on a movie set. The premise builds delicate emotional power as it explores the lives and wishes of its ghostly "movie producers" as well as the people they're trying to serve. (In Japanese)

THE WINSLOW BOY
February 11 and 12, 2000
Superbly acted, elegantly filmed adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's classic 1940s drama about an aging Edwardian father who launches a drawn-out legal fight to clear his son's name after the boy is convicted of a petty crime, with repercussions that affect his entire family. The subject remains as relevant as ever, touching on still-timely issues like feminist activism and media madness. David Mamet uses it to explore a wide range of moral complexities, imbuing the story with his own pungent rhythms while preserving the best elements of Rattigan's play and the stately film version produced in 1948. This is the kind of movie that literate viewers pine for, laced with gracefulness and wit from first scene to last. (Christian Science Monitor) (In English)

THE INHERITORS
February 25 and 26, 2000
This mature and memorable work from writer-director Stefan Ruzowitzy was known as The One-Seventh Farmers (the literal translation of the German title) when it won a Tiger Award at the Rotterdam festival. Making spectacular use of a young, theater-trained cast, Ruzowitzky's lale —"an Alpine western," he's called it—revolves around seven servants who inherit a farm when the much-loathed master is murdered. Visually arresting and harrowingly acted, the film combines the feel of the 1960s Young German Cinema movement with the melodramatic flourishes of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the wry humor of Woody Allen (two of the director’s acknowledged influences). As the uneducated, terrified collective stands up to the machinations of the surrounding gentry, each internalizes the stress of freedom in his or her own way, resulting in a tragic ending that reaffirms their defiance while at the same time decrying the oppression and prejudice to which they've been subjected. (In German)

THREE SEASONS  
March 10 and 11, 2000
In this debut film of the Vietnamese-American director Tony Bui, the lives of several people in Ho Chi Minh City — a cyclo driver and the prostitute he's obsessed with, a middle-aged G.I. looking for his Vietnamese daughter, a young woman who writes down the verse of a leprous poet, and a little street kid who has lost his merchandise — are woven into a composite picture of life after the war. The cinematography is lustrously beautiful, and the editing is very fine. Bui, only 26, is a superb craftsman, and the movie's lulling tone and tempo are easy to take. Harvey Keitel has a role as a former Marine searching for a lost daughter. (New Yorker) (In Vietnamese)

THE CELEBRATION
May 12 and 13, 2000
Danish newcomer Thomas Vinterberg's funny, volatile, visually dynamic story is about the unraveling of one extended family during the course of a patriarchal 60th-birthday celebration. It's at dinner for dear old Dad (Henning Moritzen) that one of his sons (Ulrich Thomsen) decides to confront the guest of honor about the long-ago incest that contributed to the recent suicide of his twin sister. Working under a set of self-imposed restrictions that are meant to return filmmaking to a fundamental honesty, Vinterberg shows off dazzling ingenuity. The Celebration won a jury prize last year at Cannes. (Entertainment Weekly)  (In Danish)

AUTUMN TALE
June 2 and 3, 2000
Eric Rohmer's final installment in his Tales of the Four Seasons is as sublimely warming an experience as the autumn sun that shines benevolently on the vineyard owned by the film's central character, Magali (Beatice Romand). The story involves a couple of rounds at matchmaking among two generations of friends in the French countryside. Rohmer reunites Beatrice Romand and Marie Riviere as two best friends who have a go-round with a prospective suitor that they meet through an ad in the local classifieds. Although the women are now showing some tarnish on the once golden gleam of their youth, they are both still vain enough to remain somewhat coy and competitive when it comes to the arena of romance. In the end, though, it isn't the story but the telling that makes Autumn Tale such a rich, emotionally satisfying experience. As the five main characters reveal their fantasies and fears, each emerges as an astoundingly complex and fully rounded human being. (New York Times). (In French)