Class

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I’m jumping on a plane to Venice today, en route to Pordenone. So as a stop-gap measure, here’s the list of screenings I’ve set for students at Edinburgh College of Art where I work. They’ve already had THE GENERAL, M and CRISS CROSS.

The screenings start off in chronological order but then meander. The choices are not so much to fill in vital areas of film history — impossible to do with so few! — but to hint at the development of the medium while pointing to clues useful to our students’ work. Things like POV and subjective emotional effects, use of time, movement, props and their relationship to character and story, seducing the audience to go on a journey…

My blurbs are on the basic side, written in half an hour…

TUESDAY 15TH OCTOBER
RASHOMON
(Akira Kurosawa)
The film that introduced Japanese cinema to the west. A dizzying exploration of truth and lies. Several people have witnessed a murder, but at trial their accounts differ so radically that nobody can make sense of what really happened. Kurosawa turns this premise into a hypnotic, sometimes shocking, always beautiful study of our problematic relationship to truth.

THURSDAY 24TH OCTOBER
WILD STRAWBERRIES
(Ingmar Bergman)
An old man nearing death goes on a journey into his past. Bergman’s poetic film uses cinema to explore time and memory as a key to character. The aging actor/director Victor Sjostrom, in his last role, is extraordinary.

THURSDAY 31ST OCTOBER
SECONDS
(John Frankenheimer)
A man is approached by a mysterious company who offer him a new life. A new face, a new identity, a chance to start again. Second helpings. Both melancholy and stylistically dazzling, the film unites the influences of Hollywood, television, and European arthouse to paint a haunting portrait of longing and failure that will incidentally terrify you.

THURSDAY 7TH NOVEMBER
DON’T LOOK NOW…
(Nicolas Roeg)
Visually beautiful, romantic, frightening. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are grieving parents in wintry Venice, haunted by visions of their dead child and embroiled in a deeper, darker mystery. Roeg practically reinvented film cutting with his allusive, mosaic-like approach, fragmenting time and space.

cabaret2

THURSDAY 14TH NOVEMBER
CABARET
(Bob Fosse)
Not always considered in the context of New Hollywood cinema (Scorsese, Coppola etc), but he definitely belongs there, the choreographer-turned-director Fosse proved himself with this divinely decadent exploration of Berlin night-life in the years just before the rise of Hitler. A musical which is also sinister, sexy, scary, political and unsettling.

THURSDAY 21ST NOVEMBER
A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE
(Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
Documentary and fiction crash together in such a way that you can’t tell them apart. Director Makhmalbaf decides to make a film about the policeman he stabbed during the Iranian revolution. He hires the policeman to play himself. What will a fictional recreation of a real event reveal?

THURSDAY 28TH NOVEMBER
SHORT FILMS PROGRAMME
Classic and obscure short fiction films selected to broaden or even explode your thinking about story, performance, photography, design, editing…

THURSDAY 5TH DECEMBER
THE SUITOR
Pierre Etaix stands somewhere between Jaques Tati and Woody Allen, delivering visuals gags around romantic situations. Playing almost like a series of short films, The Suitor follows Pierre’s misadventures as he doggedly tries to find romance, without understanding really what it is. For his use of framing, props and the language of film, Etaix is a master to learn from.

THURSDAY 12TH DECEMBER
THE CONFORMIST
(Bernardo Bertolucci)
Simply one of the most exhilarating pieces of filmmaking ever, this political thriller is also a dark psychological drama and a joyous romp through cinematic technique. Clerici wants to please Italy’s fascist rulers because he needs to feel he belongs – he’s worried about an event in his youth which may mark him as different. The state sends him to Paris to assassinate his old teacher, to prove his loyalty. Since he’s getting married, he brings his new wife along – it’ll make a nice honeymoon…

THURSDAY 19TH DECEMBER
L’ASSASSINAT DU PERE NOEL (THE MURDER OF SANTA CLAUS)
(Christian-Jaque)
A delightful mystery which serves up the true spirit of Christmas: murder, suspicion, insanity and malaise. But all wrapped up at the end in a way that’s charming and funny and surprisingly heart-warming. Amazing to think this confection was first served up during the Nazi occupation.

Up until the last minute the list included COME AND SEE, an amazing film which I think students would get a lot out of… but I began to fear that the schedule was getting to be too much of a wrist-slitter. I don’t find any of these films depressing, but some light and shade is useful.

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6 Responses to “Class”

  1. jackboy63 Says:

    Sorry this is a bit off-topic but I saw on your YouTube channel that you were offering copies of La bandera (1935) with English subtitles. I was wondering if they are still on offer, if they are R2 and if I could possibly purchase one from you.

  2. Jack, I’ll send you an email.

  3. david wingrove Says:

    Fantastic list…just don’t make them watch Holy Motors!

  4. They’re safe from that. Don’t want to confuse them too much yet.

  5. “Roeg practically reinvented film cutting… etc”. Well, perhaps it would be worth pointing out that Roeg’s co-directing/editing work with Donald Cammell (on Performance), the fragmented editing of which was largely down to Cammell’s vision, is what likely pushed Roeg into whole-heartedly embracing the atomized narrative of Don’t Look Now et al. I would suggest that perhaps Cammell was the master, as it were, and Roeg the student. Cammell’s subsequent Demon Seed, too, was re-cut by the studio execs who effectively barred Cammell from the editing room and had the film cut under cover of darkness, without informing Cammell. All this and much more info courtesy Frank Mazzola, when, some years ago at the Los Angeles Outfest, he introduced the ‘director’s cut’ of the also-brutalised Wild Side, which Mazzola had painstakingly re-edited in accordance with – as far as was possible – the late Cammell’s intentions.

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