A crazy wall of movies spanning from premieres to obscure retrospectives.
When you get the email of all the free films that the UW Cinematheque is going to be screening in an upcoming season, it’s always way more than you can easily digest in one passing. It really is a deluge that you have to look at from a few different angles lest you miss one of its many facets. This fall’s calendar, which should be live on Cinematheque’s website by Monday, is no different. It manages to squeeze in something for everyone, from certifiably canonical stuff like Dr. Strangelove and Adam’s Rib to beloved world cinema classics like Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, to recent festival circuit award-winners like Tangerine and Heaven Knows What, to rock and roll excursions like Phantom Of The Paradise and A Poem Is A Naked Person, to a deeeep dive into some overlooked documentaries from Agnes Varda… and this is even before we dig into the next, and one would presume final, leg of Cinematheque’s Orson Welles centennial series.
The Cinematheque has spent the past year delving deeply into the films by and starring Welles, and they have curated a number of series delving into the films of Japan’s legendary animation house Studio Ghibli, so the fall season’s slate kicks off fittingly enough, with a 35mm print of Orson Welles’ Macbeth (9/4) from the UCLA Film & Television Archive that restores 16 minutes of footage not found in the American Release, and When Marnie Was There (9/5), the final film to roll off the line from Ghibli. Looking all the way to the end of things in December, you see Satyajit Ray’s pillar of Bollywood history The Apu Trilogy (12/4, 12/11, and 12/18), which details the childhood, adulthood, and fatherhood, spread across three chilly December Fridays.
In between these bookends we find three director-specific examinations looking at hand-picked gems from “The Godmother of France’s Nouvelle Vague” Agnès Varda (presented in conjunction with the publication of a new critical study of Varda by UW Madison Professor Kelley Conway), the onetime-blacklisted Cy Endfield (the subject of a new book available from the University of Wisconsin Press) whose oeuvre is more than ready for a canny reevaluation, and French filmmaker Jean Grémillon (for whom a book from some UW affiliated entity sadly has yet to be announced).
While my requests for a screening of The Transformers: The Movie seems to fall on deaf ears over at Cinematheque, they are wrapping up their “Centennial Celebration” of Kenosha-born Welles in style, highlighting his directorial efforts helming the aforementioned Macbeth, an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial(9/11), and a tricked-out screening of The Magnificent Ambersons (9/26) which will be followed by an hour long presentation by Welles scholar Joseph McBride (who also presides over an evening of “Wellesiana” rarities on 9/25) that will deconstruct Welles’ career and works as best as you can in the course of an hour I suppose. Also screening in conjunction with the final Welles collection will be the George Segal-Ursula Andress adventure farce The Southern Star (9/18), which also featured Welles in a role that I can only hope exceeds his work as the voice of Unicron.
The “Premiere Showcase” represents Cinematheque’s ramped-up efforts to bring in the latest and most fest-hyped films. It starts with the aforementioned final film from Studio Ghibli, When Marnie Was There, but also includes the latest Jason Schwartzman vehicle 7 Chinese Brothers (9/17), Vietnam-war-era gun-running documentary Operation Popcorn (10/10), the shot-entirely-on-an-iPhone trans comedy Tangerine (10/24), the acclaimed addiction character sketch Heaven Knows What (11/20), and the latest from Guy Maddin, The Forbidden Room (12/12).
One of the happiest marriages of ideas to happen over the past few years has been the Marquee Mondays series that combines the efforts of The UW Cinematheque and UW’s WUD Film Committee which this year bears fruit in the form of Les Blank’s first feature film, A Poem Is A Naked Person (9/21), which was shot in the early ’70s but is only just now seeing the light of day, and Gerald Kargl’s home invasion horror film Angst(10/26), which was shot in 1983 but also is only just now getting a proper release. The only film in the Monday marquee series to get a proper release upon its completion is James Toback’s mysterious oddball Exposed(11/16) which stars Nastassja Kinski as a Wisconsin farm girl turned New York fashion model.
The Sunday series at the Chazen Museum of Art’s cozy theater, which in the past has taken long and loving looks into the history of Studio Ghibli, thankfully continues with a pointed focus on new or only slightly not so new 35mm film prints. Highlights will include Stanley Kubrick’s masterful black and white black comedy Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (9/5), George Cukor’s screwball comedy Adam’s Rib (9/13), starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Brian DePalma’s Faustian rock and roll fever dream of a Hitchcock ode Phantom Of The Paradise (10/18), Jean-Luc Godard’s surreal Weekend (11/22), which tells the tale of a holiday gone wrong, a grip of animated films from John and Faith Hubley (11/15), and almost a dozen more, all screening in glorious 35mm.
The catch-all “Special Presentations” section is where you’ll find in person pop-ins from avant garde filmmaker Vanessa Renwick, for a collection of her short films (10/29), and documentarian Richard Kaplan, for his Varian And Putzi: A 20th Century Tale (11/5). Also lumped in here is a collection of adaptations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Vietnam-era war documentaries Winter Solider and Far From Vietnam (both on 12/5)—the latter of which was co-directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, and Agnès Varda—and somehow even more unique filmic takes not easily slotted anywhere else.