Lecturer: Fred Camper
From August 30 through December 10, we offer a series of fourteen programs entitled Viewing Positions, with weekly Tuesday lectures by Fred Camper, artist and longtime art and film critic for the Chicago Reader and many other publications. The series is presented in cooperation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism. Additional screenings of the films on Friday or Saturday do not include Fred Camper's lecture. Admission to all Viewing Positions programs is $5 for Film Center members; usual admission prices apply for non-members.
This series will use a wide variety of films to demonstrate the different relationships that films establish with the viewer, and the thematic, cultural, and ideological implications of those differences. One opposition observed will be between classical Hollywood films that try to involve the viewer in the world of the story without calling attention to their style, and a film such as MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, which exposes the secrets of how a film is constructed, becoming, in effect, the story of its own making. Other models include the tangled emotionalism of Yvonne Rainer’s feminism, the voyeurism of Andy Warhol, and the transhuman view of the Robert Bresson film whose protagonist is a donkey.
Shadow of a Doubt
1943, Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 108 min.
With Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright
One of Hitchcock’s favorites among his own films, SHADOW OF A DOUBT chillingly unfolds the psychology of a mass murderer against the warmly embracing background of a small town. The script, by Thornton Wilder (Our Town) and Sally Benson (Meet Me in St. Louis), strikes all the right notes of Americana while Hitchcock thoroughly undermines our sense of security through revelations that only the audience is privy to. The urbane, globe-trotting Uncle Charlie (Cotten) pays a welcome visit to his sister’s family. While ever at his side, his alert niece and namesake (Wright) forms the disconcerting suspicion that her adored uncle may not be the man he seems. 35mm. (BS)
1925, Sergei Eisenstein, Russia, 70 min.
Like CITIZEN KANE and BREATHLESS, BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN is one of those groundbreaking classics that never gets old, retaining its freshness and excitement in viewing after viewing. Eisenstein's brilliant editing and compositional strategies prove the perfect vehicle for this dynamic, emotionally riveting recreation of the 1905 naval mutiny that erupted into a widespread uprising, foreshadowing the 1917 revolution. Silent film with prerecorded music score (Edmund Meisel). DCP digital. (MR)
Man with a Movie Camera
Chelovek s kino-apparatom
1929, Dziga Vertov, USSR, 68 min.
The apotheosis of the “City Film” movement of the late 1920s-early 1930s, MAN creates a composite City out of three cities (Moscow, Kiev, Odessa), starting in the dormant dawn and continuing into the sports-filled afternoon, before the chronological sequence breaks down in an ecstatic finale. One of the most dazzlingly edited films ever made, MAN is a statement on both the city and the act of filmmaking, the latter evoked in self-referential tropes that are playful and profound. Voted the greatest documentary of all time in a 2014 Sight and Sound poll. DCP digital. Silent film with prerecorded score (Alloy Orchestra) on Fri.; live piano accompaniment by Dave Drazin on Tue. (MR)
1931, Fritz Lang, Germany, 111 min.
With Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke
“Breathtaking...the best of all serial-killer movies.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Lang’s gripping account of a police manhunt remains one of the cinema’s most profound visions of crime and its impact on society. Peter Lorre delivers an unforgettable performance as the child-murderer caught between the machinery of the law and the machinations of the criminal underworld. In German with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
1949, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 108 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara
One of Ozu’s best-loved films, LATE SPRING initiates his mature period and the cycle of marrying-off-the-daughter plots that dominate his late work. In their quintessential roles, Chishu Ryu plays an aging professor, and Setsuko Hara is the dutiful daughter whose reluctance to marry moves her father to play a trick on her. The final scene, keyed on an apple peel, breaking waves, and a father’s tears, is one of Ozu’s most poetic and poignant. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
Au Hasard Balthazar
1966, Robert Bresson, France, 95 min.
With Anne Wiazemsky, François Lefarge
"Heart-breaking and magnificent...the supreme masterpiece by one of the greatest filmmakers."—J. Hoberman, Village Voice
"The finest, most deeply personal work of a filmmaker who has been compared, justifiably, to both Dostoyevsky and Bach."—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
Widely considered one of Bresson's greatest masterpieces, this sublime film uses a donkey's life to frame the inhabitants of a rural French village and their struggles with sin and chance (hasard), as Balthazar is used and abused by a schoolteacher, a tramp, a motorcycle punk, a circus, a miser, a smuggler, and a girl (Wiazemsky) whose misfortunes mirror his own. Godard called it "the world in an hour and a half." In French with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
Too Early, Too Late
Trop tôt, Trop tard
1982, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, France/Egypt, 100 min.
- Fri, Oct 11th 3:45pm
- Tue, Oct 15th 6:00pm
"Almost certainly my favorite landscape film...What's remarkable about Straub and Huillet's beautiful long takes is how their rigorous attention to both sound and image seems to open up an entire universe...As in Jacques Tati's PLAYTIME, their subject is the sheer richness of the world we live in."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Perhaps the finest achievement of the great materialist filmmakers Straub and Huillet, TOO EARLY, TOO LATE is a film about landscapes—landscapes recorded with a Lumière-like precision and clarity. The first of the film's two parts juxtaposes present-day views of French villages with Friedrich Engels's descriptions of the same locales on the eve of the French revolution. The second, longer part shifts to Egyptian scenes, accompanied by a recent Marxist history of the country's resistance to colonialism. Such a description of the film's content might make it seem like a didactic exercise, without sufficiently indicating the extraordinary sensory beauty with which its sounds and images unfold before us. In German, French, and Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
From the Other Side
De l'autre côté
2002, Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France, 103 min.
“Stunning…unforgettably forceful.”—Stuart Klawans, The Nation.
“Eerily beautiful and filled with a quiet compassion.”—Dave Kehr, The New York Times.
Akerman’s powerful synthesis of polemic and poetry contemplates the unseen, unacknowledged war that is fought nightly along the U.S.-Mexico border. The film’s central image is the endless fortified barrier that separates Agua Prieta, Mexico, and Douglas, Arizona. Alternating between incisive interviews and haunting landscapes, FROM THE OTHER SIDE begins south, with Mexicans who have lost loved ones in the attempt to cross over. Moving north, Akerman finds Arizonians both frightened and saddened by the “invasion,” including a sheriff who condemns the INS’s acceptance of increased fatalities as “a calculated consequence.” ProRes digital. (MR)
Film About a Woman Who...
1974, Yvonne Rainer, USA, 90 min.
With Dempster Leech, Shirley Soffer
- Tue, Oct 29th 6:00pm
"A remarkable juxtaposition of visual and verbal descriptive methods...Insight, irony, and wit are marvelously combined."—Simon Field, Time Out London
Yvonne Rainer transitioned from dance to cinema to become one of the most important avant-garde filmmakers of the 1970s. Along with such contemporaries as Chantal Akerman and Laura Mulvey, she was a key figure in an emerging radical feminist cinema that interrogated structures of representation centered on the male gaze. Deconstructing the codes of melodrama and soap opera, FILM ABOUT A WOMAN WHO… examines the relationships among two unnamed couples, one of whom have a young daughter. The film posits a hyper-alert and destabilized viewer as it constantly shifts among different registers of delivering information through sound and image—among them, voiceover narration (with both a male and female narrator), superimposed text, intertitles, text pasted on a woman's face, black screen, and, very occasionally, direct speech. As Rainer said, "I’m talking about films where in every scene you have to decide anew the priorities of looking and listening.” Digital video. (MR)
1965, Andy Warhol, USA, 66 min.
With Edie Sedgwick, Gino Piserchio
- Tue, Nov 5th 6:00pm
Billed as "an untraditional triangle (without love)," BEAUTY #2 is considered the zenith of Warhol's work with his early, doomed superstar, Edie Sedgwick. Filmed from a single, fixed viewpoint, the action is set in and around a rumpled bed in Sedgwick's Upper East Side apartment. Lounging on the bed are Sedgwick and her latest lover, pretty boy Gino Piserchio. Located just offscreen is Sedgwick's former lover, Chuck Wein. As Edie and Gino smoke, drink, pet a dog, and make out, Chuck taunts her with increasing hostility until she flings an ashtray at him. The film can be seen as a commentary on the often sadomasochistic relationship between director and actress, with the viewer caught in the crossfire. 16mm.
Also on the program: THE RIDDLE OF LUMEN (1972, Stan Brakhage, USA, 14 min.), a series of nonverbal associations between images whose "hero," according to Brakhage, is light itself. 16mm. (MR)