To Save and Project: The 12th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation
October 24–November 22, 2014
Each fall, MoMA’s annual festival of newly preserved films, To Save and Project, brings together masterworks and rediscoveries from film archives, studios, and foundations from around the world. Many of the films in the festival will be receiving their first American screening since their original release; others will be shown in meticulously restored editions that more closely approximate the original experience of the film; a few will even be publicly screened for the first time ever in New York—including work by Orson Welles (sequences filmed but never used for the 1938 Mercury Theatre production Too Much Johnson). Also presented are films by Charles Chaplin, Maya Deren, Allan Dwan, Derek Jarman, Sergio Leone, Kenji Mizoguchi, Raul Ruiz, and Edgar G. Ulmer. Guest presenters include Kathryn Bigelow, John Boorman, George Chakiris, and Ken Jacobs.
The opening-night film is the North American premiere of a new MoMA restoration: Allan Dwan’s 1929 masterpiece The Iron Mask, a rousingly entertaining swashbuckler starring Douglas Fairbanks that is often considered, as Dwan himself called it, “the last of the big silents.” MoMA’s version, however, contains the entire original Vitaphone soundtrack—with music, sound effects, and three spoken sequences—which will be heard here for the first time since the film’s original roadshow presentation.
These titles will join dozens of others from archives both public and private to create a four-week overview of the tremendously exciting work that is being done around the world to reclaim endangered films and rediscover forgotten treasures.
Related Film Screenings
The Iron Mask
1929. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. Story by Elton Thomas (Douglas Fairbanks). With Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Dorothy Revier, Nigel De Brulier. We are proud to open To Save and Project 2014 with the North American premiere of The Iron Mask, a major restoration from MoMA’s film archive supervised by Peter Williamson, Preservation Officer, and based on the original camera negative given to MoMA in 1935 by Douglas Fairbanks. A stand-alone sequel to Fairbanks’s 1921 hit The Three Musketeers, The Iron Mask was, in the words of its director, Allan Dwan, “the last of the big silents,” and the swashbuckling action—superbly filmed by Dwan, one of the great masters of the seamless classical style—leads gracefully into a poignant farewell to silent films and the larger-than-life figures who inhabited them. Midway through production, Fairbanks decided to yield in part to the rapidly emerging demand for talking pictures and added three spoken sequences to the film. Thanks to the recent rediscovery of the missing soundtrack discs, The Iron Mask can now be heard for the first time since 1929 with all of the spoken sequences, as well as Hugo Riesenfeld’s symphonic score, restored to their original fidelity. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation. 95 min.
1976. Italy/France. Directed by Elio Petri. Screenplay by Petri, Berto Pelosso, Leonardo Sciascia, based on Sciascia’s novel. With Gian Maria Volonté, Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori, Michel Piccoli. After he laid bare the rampant corruption, spiritual bankruptcy, and violent chaos of 1970s Italy—the notoriously grim gli anni di piombo (years of lead)—in films like Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion and The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Petri transformed Sciascia’s metaphysical mystery novel, Todo Modo, into a defiant and lugubrious satire of the Christian Democrat Party. Volonté plays a thinly veiled caricature of party leader and power broker Aldo Moro, holed up with his cronies and rivals at a monastic retreat where they plot their political fortunes while being led by a Jesuit cleric (Mastroianni) in spiritual cleansings. Todo Modo struck too close to home—Alberto Moravia sneered at its Dantean depiction of the Italian ruling class “in a grotesquely apocalyptic setting, as a clique of dead souls in bodies only provisionally still alive”—and the film largely disappeared from view when, two years after its release, Moro was kidnapped and murdered by the Red Brigades. Now, thanks to a digital restoration by Cineteca di Bologna and the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, Todo Modo returns to its rightful place in the canon of political cinema. In Italian; English subtitles. 125 min.
Too Much Johnson [work print]
1938. USA. Directed by Orson Welles. With Joseph Cotten, Ruth Ford, George Duthie, Edgar Barrier. Welles’s first professional undertaking as a filmmaker was this unfinished project, a silent film in three parts meant to be shown with the Mercury Theatre’s 1938 production of William Gillette’s 1894 stage farce. Though Welles seems to have completed the editing of only the first seven minutes before the film component of the production was abandoned, the surviving 66-minute work print—miraculously discovered in a warehouse in Pordenone, Italy—offers a world of wonderment to Welles, revealing its director to be well on the way to the stylistic advances that would startle the world in Citizen Kane three years later. Paolo Cherchi Usai, Senior Curator of Motion Pictures at George Eastman House, will lead us on a tour of the raw footage, which includes many glimpses of New York City and its environs. The film is from the Cinemazero collection at the Cineteca del Friuli and was preserved by George Eastman House through a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, with additional funding from the Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Orson Welles Directing Too Much Johnson [home movie]. 1938. USA. Directed by Myron Falk. Accompanying the presentation is this three-minute short, shot by Mercury Theatre funder Myron Falk, showing Welles at work on the production. Preserved by University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). 3 min. Silent.
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
1920. Germany. Directed by Robert Wiene. Screenplay by Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz. With Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Fehér, Lil Dagover. Routinely cited as one of the greatest films ever made, this classic of German Expressionism can now be seen in entirely new light, thanks to a painstaking 4K digital restoration by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung Foundation and Cineteca di Bologna that, for the first time, integrates Caligari’s camera negative from the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv with the best elements from the world’s surviving prints. The result more closely approximates how the film looked on its theatrical release nearly a century ago, its image sharper and its color tinting truer to Wiene’s haunting vision. A sinister tale of psychosis and murder, Caligari is set in a warped Gothic landscape of disorienting angles and jarring contrasts of light and shadow. “[W]hat matters is to create states of anxiety and terror,” Lotte H. Eisner writes in The Haunted Screen. “In Caligari, the Expressionist treatment was unusually successful in evoking the ‘latent physiognomy’ of a small medieval town, with its dark twisting back-alleys boxed in by crumbling houses whose inclined facades keep out all daylight....The bizarre exaltation brooding over the synthetic sets of Caligari brings to mind Edschmid’s statement that ‘Expressionism evolves in a perpetual excitation.’” Caligari screens at Film Forum from October 31 through November 6; deepest thanks to Kino Lorber Films. Silent, with score on soundtrack. German intertitles; English subtitles. 75 min.
Wutai Jiemei (Stage Sisters)
1964. China. Directed by Xie Jin. Screenplay by Xie Jin, Xu Jin, Wang Lingu. With Xie Fang, Cao Yindi. A Sirkian melodrama of the highest order—put to the service of Maoist principles of loyalty and sacrifice—Stage Sisters follows 20 years in the lives, loves, and artistry of an itinerant Chinese opera company during the 1930s and 1940s. The film’s titular stage “sisters” are, in fact, friends who take divergent paths, one suffering nobly in the provinces while the other is corrupted by the sinful pleasures of the Shanghai nightlife. Although Xie Jin, with his exquisite sense of color and fluid camerawork, showed the makings of a wonderful film stylist, party officials condemned Stage Sisters for advocating “the reconciliation of social classes,” and he soon became a victim of the Cultural Revolution, his parents both suicides and his career derailed by a 10-year “rehabilitation” in a forced-labor camp and then under house arrest. He was permitted to make films again in the mid-1970s under strict censorship control, but was attacked by some critics as a Party hack. Only recently has a newer generation of Chinese filmmakers, including Jia Zhangke, shown a renewed appreciation for his work. Restored in 4K by Shanghai International Film Festival, in collaboration with Shanghai Film Group, Shanghai Film Technology Co., and the Shanghai Film Museum, with funding by Jaeger-LeCoutre. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 112 min.
George Chakiris: A Life in Film
George Chakiris became a permanent part of the iconography of New York City for his role as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang in the 1961 film West Side Story. But there is much more to the life and career of this versatile performer, who was born to Greek immigrant parents in Norwood, Ohio. Trained at the American School of Dance, Mr. Chakiris turned professional at the age of 13, when he was cast in the chorus of the MGM musical Song of Love (1947). A decade of Hollywood dance followed, including appearances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, screening on October 27), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), and White Christmas (1954). After his breakthrough in West Side Story, Chakiris performed as a singer and dancer on many television specials of the 1960s and recorded several albums. In 1962 he left Hollywood in search of more demanding dramatic roles, making films in England (633 Squadron), France (Jacques Demy’s classic Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) and Italy (Luigi Comencini’s La Ragazza di Bube/Bebo’s Girl, screening this evening). In a rare visit to New York, Chakiris joins dance critic Debra Levine to discuss the many facets of his career, in a presentation illustrated with rare clips courtesy the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
La Ragazza di Buba (Bebo’s Girl)
1964. Italy. Directed by Luigi Comencini. Screenplay by Comencini, Marcello Fondato, based on a novel by Carlo Cassola. With George Chakiris, Claudia Cardinale, Marc Michel, Dany Paris. At the end of World War II, shallow, self-centered Mara (Cardinale) is the prettiest girl in her small Italian village; Bebo (Chakiris) is a Communist partisan who is finding it difficult to adjust to the dull banalities of life in peacetime. When Mara’s father, a passionate Communist, declares that his daughter will marry the returning hero, her reactions range from joy to bitter resentment, as director Comencini—one of the greats of Italian comedy, here deftly turning his hand to drama—traces her development from a flighty adolescent into a mature woman. Though dubbed in Italian, Chakiris creates a stirring portrayal though posture and movement as the dazzling but deeply flawed Bebo, who seems to lose his heroic dimensions as Mara’s grow. Preserved print from the Cineteca Nazionale, Rome; courtesy Cristaldi Films. In Italian; English subtitles. 106 min.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
1953. USA. Directed by Howard Hawks. Screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on the musical comedy by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos. With Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, George Chakiris. As a hard-working Hollywood chorus dancer, Chakiris appeared in several of the most famous musicals of the 1950s, though his most memorable (and conspicuous) appearance may be as one of the formally attired suitors beseeching Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” one of the four production numbers staged for the film by the brilliant choreographer Jack Cole. Chakiris introduces the film and shares memories of Monroe, with whom he also appeared in There’s No Business Like Show Business. Recent 2K digital restoration courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.
Ready When You Are, Mr. Diaghilev: Debra Levine on Theodore Kosloff, Cecil B. De Mille, and Madam Satan
Those who have seen Cecil B. DeMille’s extravagant 1930 musical Madam Satan will not soon forget the hallucinatory “ballet mécanique” improbably performed for a party of socialites aboard a dirigible anchored over Central Park (in a thunderstorm). At the center of the ballet is a striking figure with lightning bolts shooting from his head and hands—“The Spirit of Electricity” as danced by Theodore Kosloff, a veteran of the Ballets Russes whose friendship with DeMille dated to the 1916 The Woman God Forgot and continued until the dancer’s death in 1956. Dance critic Debra Levine tells the story of this enduring, unlikely friendship, and the astounding moment of cinema it produced, in an illustrated lecture, followed by a screening of the complete, see-it-to-believe-it film.
Madam Satan 1930. USA. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Screenplay by Jeanie Macpherson, Gladys Unger, Elsie Janis. With Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Lilian Roth, Roland Young. Preserved print courtesy Warner Bros. 116 min.
1918. USA. Directed by William S. Hart. 1918. USA. Directed by William S. Hart. Screenplay by C. Gardner Sullivan. With Hart, Katherine MacDonald, Joseph Singleton, George A. McDaniel. William S. Hart’s combination of Western action and romantic drama made him one of the biggest stars of the 1910s and early 1920s. In this 1918 film, newly restored by MoMA, Hart is a ship's captain in the Pacific Northwest who abandons his post to pursue a woman who does not love him (MacDonald) across the Klondike, eventually rescuing her from the grip of a white slaver. Hart’s direction emphasizes the stone-faced suffering his fans treasured; the cinematographer Joseph H. August, later known for his long collaboration with John Ford, contributes some striking night sequences. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and Barbara Wertz. Silent. 60 min.
To the Last Man
1933. USA. Directed by Henry Hathaway. Screenplay by Jack Cunningham, based on the novel by Zane Grey. With Randolph Scott, Esther Ralston, Gail Patrick, Barton MacLane, Buster Crabbe. Long available only in battered television prints, this early feature by the prolific Hathaway (The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit) has been restored by MoMA from the original camera negative, with one reel of missing footage filled in from a 16mm print. The last in a series of seven low-budget Westerns directed by Hathaway for Paramount’s emerging star Randolph Scott, To the Last Man already revels in the harsh tone and sharp violence that would become Hathaway’s trademarks—notably in a sequence in which the bad guys blast the head off the porcelain doll belonging to Shirley Temple (already a scene-stealer in this early, unbilled appearance). Restored by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation. 72 min.
The Golden Boat
1990. USA. Directed by Raul Ruiz. Screenplay by Ruiz, Federico Muchnik. With Muchnik, Michael Kirby, Kate Valk, Kathy Acker, Jim Jarmusch. Chilean cinema’s great absurdist, Raul Ruiz transforms the No-Wave scene of still-seedy, early 1990s downtown New York into a noirish Mexican telenovela involving artists, rock critics, overwrought actors, dime-store philosophers, and a mysterious knife-wielding stranger. A Who’s Who of indie cinema—including producers James Schamus, Scott Macaulay, and Jordi Torrent, and assistant director Christine Vachon—join us to discuss the making of Ruiz’s deadpan caper, which features actors from the Wooster Group and Squat Theater; cameos by Jim and Tom Jarmusch, Acker, Annie Sprinkle, and Vito Acconci; and a saxophone score by John Zorn. Digital preservation courtesy Symbolic Exchange/Strand Releasing. 83 min.
1935. Japan. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Screenplay by Haruo Takayanagi, Daisuke Ito, based on a novel by Soseki Natsume. With Daijiro Natsukawa, Ichiro Tsukita, Kazuyoshi Takeda. Ninety percent of prewar Japanese cinema seems to be definitively lost, and of the films that do survive most are known only through poor 16mm duplicates. It is particularly exciting, then, to present the New York premiere of a Kenji Mizoguchi film from 1935 that has been restored from the original nitrate camera negative. The story of a student torn between his engagement to a traditional girl from back home and the Westernized heiress who has won his love in Tokyo, this deft, naturalistic melodrama explores many of the fundamental conflicts in Mizoguchi’s work. Preserved by the National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, courtesy of Janus Films. Special thanks to Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordstrom. In Japanese; English subtitles. 73 min.
Ojô Okichi (Miss Okichi)
1935. Japan. Directed by Tatsunosuke Takashima. Screenplay by Matsutaro Kawaguchi. With Isuzu Yamada, Yoko Umemura, Komako Hara. Kenji Mizoguchi is credited as “supervisor” on this rare Japanese genre film, which stars the stunning Isuzu Yamada (Osaka Elegy, Throne of Blood) as a professional criminal, part con woman and part martial artist, who falls in love with a young man from the straight world. Scholars have debated the extent of Mizoguchi’s contribution to the film; for David Bordwell, it has “some typically Mizoguchian scenes that dwell on chiaroscuro melancholy.” That, and an elaborately choreographed fight sequence that seems to anticipate Toshiya Fujita’s cult favorite Lady Snowblood. Preserved by the National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, courtesy of Shochiku Co., Ltd. Special thanks to Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordstrom. In Japanese; English subtitles. 64 min.
Joseph Cornell and Ken Jacobs: Footage Lost and Found
MoMA presents the world premiere of a recent discovery in its collection, Untitled Joseph Cornell Film (The Wool Collage), shown with the Museum’s new restoration of Ken Jacobs’s Perfect Film. Following the screening, Jacobs takes part in a discussion with Anne Morra, MoMA Associate Curator of Film, who organized this program. Since 1995, The Museum of Modern Art has been home to the personal film collection of the artist Joseph Cornell, as donated to MoMA by the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. The collection contains both films made by Cornell and those he purchased to entertain his disabled brother, Robert—which in turn became a source for the marvelous collage films (Rose Hobart and many others) that today are central to Cornell’s accomplishments as a filmmaker. During the course of a 2011 research project, in which every can of film material in the Cornell collection was hand-inspected and cataloged, Morra and Film Conservation Manager Peter Williamson discovered a single 16mm reel that had been edited using Cornell’s distinctive splicing tape. Originally identified as Collage Fragments on the inventory, study of the reel revealed a distinct narrative structure. With a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, new 16mm prints and a polyester negative were created from what is now identified as Untitled Joseph Cornell Film (The Wool Collage) (c. 1940–55). Since 1955 Ken Jacobs has been making experimental films that repurpose found footage, often in combination with newly shot images or through optical manipulation of the original film. His Perfect Film (1985) may be Jacobs’s most radical gesture in the use of found footage: the film consists entirely of an unedited reel of interviews with eyewitnesses to the assassination of Malcolm X, shot by a New York television station. Jacobs did nothing to alter the material, allowing the choices made by the unidentified cameraman as to who, what, and when to film, to create a spontaneous narrative. Perfect Film has been preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation. It is not surprising to learn that Jacobs worked for Cornell as a studio assistant in the 1950s. Both artists are masters of the manipulation of found footage, each taking the practice to very different ends with very different methods.
Untitled Joseph Cornell Film (The Wool Collage). c. 1940–55. USA. Directed by Joseph Cornell. 23 min.
Perfect Film. 1985. USA. Directed by Ken Jacobs. 21 min.
Program 75 min
1976. Great Britain. Written and directed by Paul Humfress, Derek Jarman.. With Leonardo Treveliglio, Barney James, Neil Kennedy. Humfress and Jarman’s sado-erotic retelling of the agonies and martyrdom of Sebastian, a fourth-century Praetorian Guard, is Queer Cinema at its most poetic and ravishing. Set in the golden-hued wilds of Sardinia and performed entirely in vulgar Latin by a sun-kissed, all-male cast, the film heralded newcomer Derek Jarman as a savior of British independent cinema. ("Sebastiane was, for so many, nothing short of a miracle,” Tilda Swinton would recall.) Preserved by the BFI in a new 2K digital version, remastered from the camera negative; courtesy Kino Lorber Films. 86 min.
1986. Great Britain. Derek Jarman. Screenplay by Jarman, Suso Cecchi d’Amico. With Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton, Michael Gough. Jarman’s Caravaggio is a feverish, chiaroscuro portrait of the Baroque artist who hustled painting commissions out of the Church while consorting with male lovers, prostitutes, and the criminal underclass of early 17th-century Rome. “The idea that [Caravaggio] was an early martyr to the drives of an unconventional sexuality is an anachronistic fiction,” observes biographer Andrew-Graham Dixon—an anachronism that Jarman exalts in his series of sublime, and sublimely vulgar, postmodern tableaux. Tilda Swinton makes her feature debut, the start of a long and cherished collaboration with Jarman. Preserved by the BFI in a new 2K digital version, remastered from the camera negative; courtesy Zeitgeist Films. 93 min.
Another Man’s Poison
1951. Great Britain. Directed by Irving Rapper. Screenplay by Val Guest, based on a play by Leslie Sands. With Bette Davis, Gary Merrill, Emlyn Williams. Producer Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., lured Bette Davis and her new husband, Gary Merrill, to England to film this little-seen independent production, a feebly plotted thriller that quickly becomes a chance for Davis to slip back into her high camp mannerisms from All About Eve, filmed one year before. As Janet Frobisher, a suspense novelist with a home on a misty moor, Davis has to deal with a murdered husband, a young lover (Anthony Steel), and her husband’s blackmailing partner in crime (Merrill), while an epicene local veterinarian (Williams) hovers about, suspecting foul play. Luckily, Davis also has a malleable director of her own choice, Rapper, who lets her get away with murder in more ways than one. Restored print courtesy Cohen Film Collection LLC. 90 min.
A Child’s Introduction to the Wonders of Space
1979. USA. Written and directed by Rachel Reichman. A young woman settles into her new life in New York City, reveling in crowds but wary of human contact. Rachel Reichman’s short film exemplifies the return to narrative in independent filmmaking following the structuralist experiments of the 1970s. Print restored by Cineric Inc. and the Women's Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film & Television. 10 min.
The Family Secret
1924. USA. William A. Seiter. Screenplay by Lois Zellner, based on a story by Frances Hodgson Burnett. With Baby Peggy Montgomery (Diana Serra Cary), Gladys Hulette, Edward Earle. Adapted from a children’s book by Burnett (The Little Princess, The Secret Garden), this 1924 feature was a vehicle for the child star Baby Peggy, who, as Diana Serra Carey, remains very much with us today at the age of 95. A typical Burnett tale of a traumatic childhood leading to a compensatory discovery of independence and imagination, the material makes a surprisingly good fit for its young director, Seiter, who would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most accomplished directors of character comedy (Sing and Like It, If You Could Only Cook). Preserved by The Library of Congress; courtesy Universal Pictures.
Miles of Smiles
1923. USA. Alfred J. Goulding. Written and directed by Alfred J. Goulding. Baby Peggy plays a pair of mischievous twins who go for a ride on the miniature railroad that once ringed Venice, California, in an example of the child star’s many short comedies. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art, with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation. Silent, with piano accompaniment by Ben Model. 90 min.
Memories of the Eichmann Trial
1979. Israel. Directed by David Perlov. The banality of evil has itself become a banality. A recent biography of Otto Adolf Eichmann by Bettina Stangneth has rekindled the debate over Hannah Arendt’s portrait of the Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer, logistician, and executor of the Final Solution as an apathetic, bureaucratic functionary “who never realized what he was doing.” David Perlov’s sober and poignant documentary offers reminiscences by trial witnesses, Holocaust survivors, Israelis of the second generation, and others who were directly involved in the Eichmann case. Prominent among these are Henryk Ross, a Polish Jew who, with the help of his wife Stefania, took clandestine photographs of life in the Lodz Ghetto while carrying out Nazi orders to record Jews on their way to the death camps; and Rafi Eitan, who led the operation to capture Eichmann in Argentina. Perlov is considered the father of Israeli nonfiction cinema, having imbued it with his deeply personal, artistic sensibility. Broadcast only once on Israeli television in 1979, Memories of the Eichmann Trial was rediscovered and restored in 2011 by Yad Vashem Visual Center and the Israel Broadcasting Authority-Channel 1, with the support of the Perlov family and the Forum for the Preservation of Audio-Visual Memory in Israel. Special thanks to the Office for Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York. In Hebrew and Polish; English subtitles. 65 min.
Per un Pugno di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars)
1964. Italy/West Germany/Spain. Directed by Sergio Leone. Screenplay by Leone, Victor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, and others. With Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonté, Marianne Koch. Italian westerns have a glorious past but a dismal present, having mostly survived as faded, chopped-up prints. We have reason to applaud, then, the new 4K digital restoration of A Fistful of Dollars carried out by the Cineteca di Bologna and Unidis Jolly Film at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation. Inspired by the taut, tongue-in-cheek violence of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (which also influenced Walter Hill’s Last Man Standing), A Fistful of Dollars inspired a thousand genre imitators in turn, from Tarantino to Fukasaku to Verbinski, all on bended knee before Ennio Morricone’s score, Massimo Dallamano’s widescreen cinematography, and Eastwood’s tight-lipped, amoral gunfighter. In Italian; English subtitles. 99 min.
Laurel and Hardy: The Boys Are Back in Town
The films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have been almost literally loved to death. In almost constant release since they were first made, the classic Laurel and Hardy shorts and features have been copied and recopied, cut and recut, so many times over the decades that they today retain little of their original luster and technical polish. Thankfully, a major reclamation effort is underway at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, where the publicly financed Laurel and Hardy Preservation Fund is making it possible to restore the surviving original camera negatives. Our program includes three of UCLA’s most recent restorations, courtesy Sonar Entertainment.
Busy Bodies. 1933. USA. Directed by Lloyd French. Another day at the sawmill for Stan and Ollie. 22 min.
The Midnight Patrol. 1933. USA. Directed by Lloyd French. A night on the job for beat cops Stan and Ollie ends when they arrest the wrong man for a burglary, leading to a memorably grim conclusion. 20 min.
The Music Box. 1932. USA. Directed by James Parrott. One of the greatest of all slapstick comedies (and, perhaps coincidentally, the winner of the Oscar for best comedy short of 1932), The Music Box possesses the simplicity of a fable and the impact of a Beckett play, as the boys attempt to deliver a packing crate containing an upright piano to a house located at the top of a long, long flight of stairs. 29 min.
Program 71 min.
Gertie the Dinosaur Is 100 Years Young: John Canemaker Presents Animated Masterworks by Winsor McCay
Animation historian and Academy Award-winning filmmaker John Canemaker presents four groundbreaking animated films by Winsor McCay. “Long before any princesses wandered across the screen,” Canemaker observes, “animation’s first female personality was spunky Gertie the Dinosaur, who celebrates her 100th birthday this year. McCay’s breakthrough film is a masterpiece of early character animation, a type of individualization in animation whose legacy is the pantheon of Walt Disney.” This salute to Gertie and her creator, the prolific comic-strip artist and animation pioneer McCay (1867–1934), is richly illustrated with rare photographs and examples of McCay’s art for newspapers and the movies. It includes his seminal 1905 comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, and four of his extraordinary animated shorts: Little Nemo (1911), How a Mosquito Operates (1912), Gertie (1914), and The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918), as well as a re-creation—with audience participation—of the legendary routine that introduced Gertie in McCay’s vaudeville act. Preserved prints courtesy the Cinémathèque Quebecoise; The Library of Congress; Library and Archives Canada; and The Museum of Modern Art; digital material courtesy Milestone Films. Silent. 80 min.
1966. USA. Written and directed by Arch Oboler. With Michael Cole, Deborah Walley, Johnny Desmond. Fourteen years after Arch Oboler touched off the 3-D boom of the 1950s with Bwana Devil, the first feature-length film in the modern, polarized process, he returned with The Bubble, a science-fiction film intended as a showcase for a refined system called 4-D Space-Vision, which made it possible to project a widescreen 3-D image from a single strip of film. Based on an original story by Oboler that in many ways anticipates Stephen King’s Under the Dome, the film was both ahead of its time and behind it, and even a title change—to Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth—didn’t draw large audiences to Oboler’s offbeat blend of politics and suspense. Out of circulation for many years, The Bubble has now been restored from the original camera negative by the 3-D Film Archive (see 3dfilmarchive.com for a full account) and now looks sharper, brighter, and more dimensional than it ever has before. Courtesy Kino Lorber Films. 91 min.
Bert Williams: 100 Years in Post-Production
At a challenging time of segregation in the fall of 1913, a virtuoso cast of African American performers led by famed Caribbean American entertainer Bert Williams (1874–1922) gathered in the Bronx to make a feature-length motion picture. After more than an hour of film was shot, the unreleased project was abandoned by its white producers and left forgotten until today. Found in MoMA’s Biograph Studio collection, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage represent the earliest known surviving feature with a cast of black actors. Shot at locations in New York and New Jersey, the comedy centers on Williams’s efforts to win the hand of the local beauty, and boasts among its highlights a two-minute exhibition dance sequence and a cutting-edge display of onscreen affection between its black leads. Additionally, nearly 100 remarkable still images of the interracial production were recovered from within the unedited material, providing evidence of an historic effort by a little-known Harlem theatrical community to gain access to the developing medium of moving pictures. To Save and Project premieres the Museum’s restoration of this lost landmark of film history with an hour-long assemblage of daily rushes and multiple takes. MoMA project leaders Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator, and Peter Williamson, Preservation Officer, narrate a selection of unique photographs from the pioneering production and present visual material explaining the film’s creation, 101-year disappearance, and ultimate resurrection. The presentation accompanies a gallery exhibition, 100 Years in Post-Production: Resurrecting a Lost Landmark of Black Film History, on view through March 2015.
[Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day]. 1913. USA. Produced by Biograph Co. for Klaw and Erlanger. Directors Edwin Middleton, T. Hunter Hayes, Sam Corker Jr. With Bert Williams, Odessa Warren Grey, Walker Thompson, and members of J. Leubrie Hill’s Darktown Follies Company. Silent.
Program 100 min.
1971. South Africa. Directed by Louis de Witt. Produced by Tonie van der Merwe. With Ken Gampu, Abigail Kubeka, Cocky “Two Bull” Tlhotlhalemaje. Each edition of To Save and Project sheds light on a forgotten chapter of cinema history, and this year’s festival is no exception. Joe Bullet was the first South African film with an all-black cast, a Blaxploitation-inspired action movie intended solely for black audiences in the townships. Johannesburg’s answer to Shaft, Joe Bullet uses street smarts, karate chops, and an arsenal of weapons and explosives to root out corruption. The image of a gun-toting black hero who liked fast cars and quick(witted) women proved so unsettling to censors that they banned Joe Bullet after only two screenings. Nonetheless, producer-director Tonie van der Merwe was able to convince government authorities to create a subsidy for black films, and for the next two decades, roughly 25 filmmakers made more than 1,600 so-called B-scheme movies—films that, unlike the promise of Joe Bullet, seemed to many critics to reinforce the apartheid system of segregation and obedience. Thanks to Benjamin Cowley, the chief executive of Gravel Road Entertainment, 25 of these films have been rediscovered and digitally preserved through the Gravel Road African Film Legacy (GRAFL) Initiative by the Waterfront Film Studios in Cape Town. 79 min.
1928. USA. Directed by Erle C. Kenton. Screenplay by Harold Schumate, based on a story by Adele Buffington. With Virginia Lee Corbin, Donald Keith, Jane Winton, Johnnie Walker. That rich late-1920s genre, the flapper comedy, is here explored by an independent studio, Gotham Productions. Corbin is the liberated big-city girl who visits her married, conservative sister (Winton) in small town Virginia—a village so sleepy that Virginia decides to wake it up by ordering thigh-baring uniforms for the girls’ softball team. The eclectic Erle C. Kenton (Island of Lost Souls) directed this engaging discovery, full of flaming youth and saucy intertitles (“Our mother didn’t leave us much...but she sure left it in the right places!”). Preserved by The Library of Congress. Silent, with piano accompaniment by Ben Model. 60 min.
1928. USA. Directed by Edwin Carewe. Screenplay by Finis Fox. With Dolores del Rio, Warner Baxter, Roland Drew. Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 novel Ramona, about the mixed-race ward of a California sheep rancher and her tragic love affair with a full-blooded Indian, had long haunted the American imagination, inspiring a stage adaptation and at least two previous films (two more would follow) before this visually stunning 1928 interpretation directed by Edwin Carewe, a rare Hollywood filmmaker of Native American descent. The Mexican actress Dolores del Rio stars as the title character; her tortured lover is the somewhat less convincing Warner Baxter. The November 9 screening is introduced by Library of Congress preservationists George Willeman and Valerie Cervantes, who will also present clips from the previous two versions, directed by D. W. Griffith and Donald Crisp. Preserved by The Library of Congress. Silent. 100 min.
Hollywood and the Second World War: John Ford and John Huston
Mark Harris, the author of the authoritative and highly readable history Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War (Penguin, 2014), introduces a selection of short films that represent the extraordinary contribution made by Hollywood filmmakers to the war effort—as propagandists, witnesses, and eulogists. While Harris’s book traces the wartime careers of five directors—Frank Capra, William Wyler, George Stevens, John Huston, and John Ford—this program focuses on the distinctive and very different visions of the latter two filmmakers. Huston’s Report from the Aleutians (1943) emphasizes the numbing routine of the servicemen stationed on remote Adak Island, a staging center for aerial raids on a Japanese-occupied island in the Aleutian chain. Ford’s The Battle of Midway (1942), perhaps the most acclaimed film to emerge from the war effort, contains some of the most vivid and frightening combat footage ever captured, as what begins as a documentary on daily life on Midway Island is interrupted by a Japanese attack. Preserved prints courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration.
Report from the Aleutians. 1943. USA. Directed by John Huston. 46 min.
The Battle of Midway. 1942. USA. Directed by John Ford. 18 min.
Torpedo Squadron. 1942. USA. Directed by John Ford. 8 min.
1947. USA. Directed by Alfred L. Werker. Screenplay by Walter Bullock, based on a novel by William O’Farrell. Music by George Anthiel. With Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, Virginia Field, Richard Basehart. The films of Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” studios, where budgetary constraints could also mean freedom from convention, remain a constant source of surprise. This overlooked Eagle-Lion production from 1947, one of two films made at the studio by contract-breaking Warner Bros. star Joan Leslie, has been described by the critic Eddie Muller as “the film noir version of It’s a Wonderful Life.” Leslie plays a Broadway star who shoots her alcoholic husband (Hayward) on New Year’s Eve; her wish to “do it all over again” is suddenly and inexplicably granted, and as the action continues she gradually discovers that she is reliving the last year of her life. Stylish work by the journeyman director Werker complements a witty script by Bullock. 35mm print restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, with funding from the Film Noir Foundation; courtesy Films Around the World, Inc. 91 min.
"Oreos – Little Girls Have Pretty Curls.”
1962. USA. Directed, photographed, and edited by Morris Engel. Produced by the McCann-Erickson Agency in New York, and winner of the Best Baked Goods & Confections Award at the 1962 3rd American TV Commercial Awards, this commercial spot for Oreo Cookies was directed with great charm by Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive), and stars 10-year-old Tommy Norden (Bud Ricks on Flipper). New 35mm preservation print courtesy Cinema Conservancy.
Her Sister’s Secret
1946. USA. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Screenplay by Anne Green, based on a novel by Gina Kaus. With Nancy Coleman, Margaret Lindsay, Phillip Reed, Regis Toomey. Ulmer has come to exemplify the sort of resourceful, ambitious filmmaker who could survive and even prosper on Poverty Row. This 1946 melodrama becomes, with this newly restored 35mm print from UCLA, certainly the best preserved of Ulmer’s many films for the marginal Producers Releasing Corporation, thanks to the lucky survival of the original 35mm camera negative. A tale of two sisters (Coleman and Lindsay)—one an unwed mother, the other married, barren, and pining for a child—it was brought to the screen by a team of Austro-Hungarian Jews: novelist Gina Kaus, producer Arnold Pressburger, and cinematographer Franz Planer, backed by émigrés Hans Sommer (music), Felix Bressart, Fritz Feld, and Rudolph Anders (supporting cast). Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, with funding from The Film Foundation and the Franco-American Cultural Fund, a unique partnership between the Directors Guild of America (DGA); the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA); Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique (SACEM); and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW); courtesy Films Around the World, Inc. 86 min.
Den vita sporten (The White Game)
1968. Sweden. Directed by the documentary collective Grupp 13, which included Roy Andersson, Bo Widerberg, Lena Ewert, and Jörgen Persson. Sweden was not immune to the political firestorm of May 1968, as demonstrations broke out during a Davis Cup tennis match between the host nation and Rhodesia in the posh holiday resort of Baståd. Swedish student activists, joined by protesters from abroad, led the charge against the racist policies of the white minority Rhodesian Front and against Sweden’s willingness to compete with, and thus legitimize, a government that was sanctioned by much of the international community. True to the spirit of the times, a collective of 13 filmmakers—including big names like Roy Andersson and Bo Widerberg—was formed to document the roiling events, from interviews with impassioned student activists, indignant white Rhodesians, and government officials including Olaf Palme, then the Minister of Education, to tense altercations with the police. The situation grew so heated that the match was postponed and later restaged, secretly, at a private tennis club in France. On November 13, Richard Porton, editor of Cineaste, a quarterly journal dedicated to the art and politics of cinema, introduces The White Game in a special co-presentation with MoMA. Preserved 35mm print courtesy the Archival Collections of the Swedish Film Institute. 102 min.
Leo the Last
1970. Great Britain. Directed by John Boorman. Screenplay by Boorman, Bill Stair, based on a play by George Tabori. With Marcello Mastroianni, Billie Whitelaw, Calvin Lockhart. Courtesy Park Circus. 104 min.
Chaplin Restored: Three Essanay Classics
The Chaplin Project brings together a consortium of international archives with Lobster Films in Paris and the Cineteca di Bologna in Italy to restore all of Charles Chaplin’s short films and features. Serge Bromberg, who has helped spearhead this project as the founder of Lobster Films, presents the North American premieres of Easy Street, The Bank, and A Night in the Show—all made between 1915 and 1917, the period during which Chaplin was lured away from Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios to produce comedies for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. During his acrimonious but pivotal career at Essanay, which ended in 1918, Chaplin took greater control over his films. By honing his comic timing and deepening the humor through pathos, romantic disillusionment, and fantasy, he turned the Tramp into an international phenomenon. On November 15, in his inimitably entertaining way, Bromberg presents before-and-after examples of the restoration effort and accompanies the films on piano. On November 22, Ben Model performs piano accompaniment, following his fascinating illustrated lecture at 3:00 p.m. on the use of undercranking in silent slapstick comedy.
The Bank. 1915. USA. With Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Leo White. Restored from unique material held in The Museum of Modern Art, thanks to the generous support of Susan Harmon and Richard Meyer. 25 min.
Easy Street. 1917. USA. With Chaplin, Purviance, Eric Campbell, Lloyd Bacon. 23 min.
A Night in the Show. 1915. USA. With Chaplin, Purviance, Wesley Ruggles. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L'Immagine Ritrovata, in collaboration with Lobster Films and Film Preservation Associates, with funding provided by The Film Foundation, the George Lucas Family Foundation, and The Material World Charitable Foundation. 23 min. Easy Street. 1917. USA. With Chaplin, Purviance, Eric Campbell, Lloyd Bacon. 23 min.
Program approx. 80 min.
Special thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Serge Bromberg’s Retour de Flamme: A Presentation of Wondrous New Discoveries
Serge Bromberg, the founder of Lobster Films in Paris, is a true impresario: a huntsman who salvages lost classics and curiosities of cinema from attics, flea markets, and other serendipitous places; a conservator who collaborates with archives, foundations, studios, and festivals worldwide to restore these films; and a born showman who, through his now-famous Retour de Flamme (Saved from the flames) presentations, makes moviegoing a thing of wonder and excitement again. This year’s program, which Bromberg also accompanies on piano, features discoveries that he and other dogged film enthusiasts have recently made, including a previously unknown version of Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith (1922) that the archivist and historian Fernando Martin Peña unearthed in Argentina. Special thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. 70 min.
1981. Great Britain. Directed by John Boorman. Screenplay by Boorman, Rospo Pallenberg, based on Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory. With Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Patrick Stewart. Courtesy Warner Bros. 140 min.
John Cage and the Avant-Garde Film Score
This program explores the use of avant-garde music in experimental cinema, with a particular focus on John Cage, who used chance, unconventional instrumentation, electroacoustics, ambient sound, and silence in his film scores. Cage’s collaborations with Maya Deren, Sidney Peterson, and Herbert Matter are included, along with a film by Ian Hugo featuring an original score by the electronic music pioneers Bebe and Louis Barron. The program culminates in four recent restorations by Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles: John Cage and Richard Lippold’s The Sun Film (1956); Cage and Lippold’s unfinished collaboration The Sun, Variations with a Sphere No. 10 (1956); Oskar Fischinger’s Studie nr. 5 (1930); and Jordan Belson’s LSD (c.1962).
At Land. 1944. USA. Directed by Maya Deren. With Deren, John Cage, Parker Tyler, Alexander Hammid. Deren’s dream of self-discovery unfolds in a series of silent, sensuous tableaux. “I wanted it to look like an underwater garden,” Deren would recall. “And the falling down the rocks is the tempo of underwater falling!” Preserved by Anthology Film Archives. 15 min.
Horror Dream. 1947. USA. Directed by Sidney Peterson, Hy Hirsh. During World War II, Mills College in Oakland, California, was a center of artistic innovation. The choreographer Marian Van Tuyl and the composer John Cage taught there for a number of years, and in 1947 they collaborated on this “choreographed interpretation of a dancer’s anxiety before starting her theater routine” (Scott MacDonald). Preserved by University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA); courtesy Canyon Cinema. 10 min.
Jazz of Lights. 1954. USA. Directed by Ian Hugo. Music by Louis and Bebe Barron. A pulsating city symphony of light, movement, and electronic music, transforming Times Square in the 1950s into what Hugo’s wife, the writer Anaïs Nin, called "an ephemeral flow of sensations.” Preserved by The Library of Congress through the National Film Preservation Foundation's Avant-Garde Masters Grant program funded by The Film Foundation. 16 min.
Works of Calder. 1950. USA. Directed by Herbert Matter. Music by John Cage. Narration by Burgess Meredith. A portrait of the artist Alexander Calder, for which Cage wrote a complex score featuring prepared piano, percussion, electronic effects, and the gentle clanging of Calder’s mobiles. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art. 20 min.
The Sun Film. 1956. USA. Directed by John Cage, Richard Lippold. Silent. 6 min.
The Sun, Variations within a Sphere No. 10 [documentation]. 1956. USA. Directed by John Cage, Richard Lippold. Silent. 7 min.
Two films on the construction and display of Lippold’s kinetic art sculpture, The Sun, edited according to Cage’s graphic score composed via chance. Cage himself edited the first film; the second was never completed. These “lost” films were discovered in 2010 in a Long Island storage locker by the musicologist Richard Brown. Both films restored by Center for Visual Music in association with The John Cage Trust, with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
LSD. c. 1962. USA. Directed by Jordan Belson. “Belson created abstract films richly woven with cosmological imagery. LSD, for which Belson created an avant-garde score, was for him an experiment representing the zeitgeist of early 1960s San Francisco” (Cindy Keefer). Restored by Center for Visual Music with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation. 5 min.
Studie nr. 5. 1930. Germany. Directed by Oskar Fischinger. A “fantastic abstract ballet” (William Moritz) based on a popular foxtrot, “I’ve Never Seen a Smile Like Yours.” A young John Cage’s brief apprenticeship with Fischinger in 1937 was an encounter that would revolutionize his music: “[Fischinger] began to talk with me about the spirit which is inside each of the objects of this world,” Cage later recalled. “So, he told me, all we need to do to liberate that spirit is to brush past the object, and to draw forth its sound. That’s the idea which led me to percussion.” Restored by Center for Visual Music with funding from EYE Film Institute. 3 min.
John Cage performs "Water Walk" on I’ve Got a Secret 1960. USA. Cage performs his 1959 composition on live television, using an eclectic array of instruments including a rubber duck and a vase of roses. Courtesy The John Cage Trust. 5 min.
Me and Me Dad
2011. Great Britain/Ireland. Directed by Katrine Boorman. Courtesy Colourframe 66 min.
Modern Mondays: An Evening with Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Oblowitz and Sylvère Lotringer
To Save and Project, in a special co-presentation with Modern Mondays, revisits Cine Virus, a film program organized in 1978 by the filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, The Hurt Locker) and Michael Oblowitz to coincide with the publication of Schizo-Culture, a widely influential special issue of the radical journal Semiotext(e). Founded by Sylvère Lotringer and a group of Columbia University graduate students in 1974, Semiotext(e) was known both for introducing American readers to French poststructuralist theory and for bringing disparate elements of New York’s downtown cultural scene together in the late 1970s and 1980s—“making profuse connections via a circuitry that seemed to exist between the cracks,” as Jim Fletcher would observe.
While Schizo-Culture insisted on a violent break with the counterculture of the 1960s, its sister film program offered its own sinister directive: “Everyone wants to be infected/everyone wants to be infectious. Cine Virus programs cinema as a soft-machine of control bringing into proximity different strains of the disease. The virus is the pleasure and contamination: the infection.”
Bigelow and Oblowitz present films from that original Cine Virus program, including Antony Balch’s dizzying William S. Burroughs collage Cut Ups; Bruce Conner’s music video for Devo’s “Mongoloid”; and the MoMA restoration of Bigelow‘s own Set-Up, in which two semioticians—Lotringer and Marshall Blonsky—unpack, through voiceover commentary, seductively shot images of two men engaged in a brutal fight. Author Kate Zambreno reads from the work of the late Kathy Acker, who contributed a live performance to the 1978 event and also wrote for Schizo-Culture. This event is presented in conjunction with The Return of Schizo-Culture at MoMA PS1, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Semiotext(e).
Cut Ups. 1967. Great Britain. Directed by Antony Balch. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art. 11 min.
Mass Homicide. 1978/2014. USA. Directed by Eric Mitchell. Digital projection. 3 min.
Set-Up. 1978. USA. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation. 17 min.
Circuits of Control: I/Land. 1978/2014. Directed by Michael Oblowitz. Digital projection. 30 min.
Snake Woman. 1977. USA. Directed by Tina L'Hotsky. Cinematography by Michael Oblowitz. Digital projection, courtesy Monday/Wednesday/Friday Video. 15 min.
Mongoloid. 1977. USA. Directed by Bruce Conner. Music by Devo. 4 min.
Kathy Acker: Blood and Guts in High School [live reading]. 1978/2014. Live reading by Kate Zambreno. 10 min.
Burroughs on Bowery. 1977. USA. Directed by Marc Olmsted. 5 min.
Pan si Dong (The Cave of the Silken Web)
1927. China. Directed by Dan Duyu. With Yin Mingzhu, He Rongzhu, Dan Erchun. Virtually all of silent Chinese cinema is believed lost because of neglect, deterioration, or outright destruction, so the recent discovery of a nitrate 35mm print of Pan si Dong in the archives of the National Library of Norway is cause for joy. Based on a climactic moment in Wu Cheng'en’s classic Ming Dynasty fable Journey to the West, the film was one of the most ambitious of its time; directed by Dan Duyu, a successful portrait painter who in 1920 created China’s second movie studio, Shanghai Photoplay Company, it stars his wife, the sensational actress Yin Mingzhu, as a femme fatale. Pan si Dong follows a Buddhist monk and his three guardian disciples, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy, on a perilous odyssey across the west—and into India—in search of sacred scriptures. Their quest is fraught with danger and temptation, bringing demons, evil spirits, and flesh-eating spider women. Preserved by the National Library of Norway. Chinese and Norwegian intertitles; English subtitles. 60 min.
China and the Chinese [Part 2]
1917. USA. This rare travelogue offers revelatory images of Shanghai on the eve of China’s declaration of war on Germany. The film, with its bustling street scenes of peddlers, rickshaw drivers, merchants, and other urban workers, was part of a broader ambitious effort by a Russian American entrepreneur, Benjamin Brodsky, to dispel Western myths and stereotypes about the Chinese people. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with funds from the National Film Preservation Foundation as part of a generous repatriation by the New Zealand Film Archive. Silent with Piano Accompaniment. 18 min.
Orphans at MoMA: An Amateur Cinema League of Nations
Inaugurating a new annual collaboration in To Save and Project between MoMA and the NYU Orphan Film Symposium, this program celebrates the historical art of amateur filmmaking. Six curator-historians present six short, sophisticated movies covering a 50-year span, from 1926 through 1976. The Amateur Cinema League, founded in 1926, offered an animated screen logo proclaiming itself “the world wide organization of amateur movie makers.” Its members proudly shared their well-crafted small-gauge films in clubs and festivals, but today even the winners of the ACL’s annual Ten Best competition are difficult to find. David Weiss of Northeast Historic Film presents one of the first productions by the League’s founder, Hiram Percy Maxim, and premieres the restoration of ACL member O. P. Geer’s Poem of Montclair (1933), a playful depiction of a day in the life of his family in Montclair, New Jersey. Historian Charles Tepperman, from the University of Calgary, introduces Another Day (1934) by the Toronto Amateur Movie Club’s Leslie Thatcher, a three-time Ten Best honoree. Kimberly Tarr, of NYU Libraries, debuts a 16mm print of legendary amateur film booster Robbins Barstow’s newly preserved The Abbakadabba Coopno (1941), featuring “the Newark Kid-Stars in their real-life drama of Christian farm work.” (Barstow’s celebrated Disneyland Dreams, elected to The Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as arguably the greatest home movie ever made, was a highlight of a previous edition of To Save and Project.) Scholar Maria Vinogradova, also from NYU, concludes the eclectic and entertaining program with a distinctive rediscovery: a Soviet amateur film shot in 35mm by a member of the People’s Film Studio of Leningrad traveling to Montreal in 1976. Vladimir Medvedev’s reflective On the Same Earth strikes a utopian chord that resonates with the other cine-poets and idealists in this amateur “league of nations.” Pianist Stephen Horne accompanies the silent pieces, which include an unidentified but ingenious 1928 triptych by an unknown filmmaker, preserved by The Library of Congress. This program is organized by Dan Streible, director of the Orphan Film Symposium; Marissa Hicks-Alcaraz, master's student, NYU Cinema Studies; and Katie Trainor, MoMA Film Collections Manager. Films courtesy Northeast Historic Film, The Library of Congress, Archives of Ontario, and NYU Libraries. 90 min.
Sudba Cheloveka (The Fate of a Man)
1959. USSR. Directed by Sergey Bondarchuk. Screenplay by Yuri Lukin, Fyodor Shakhmagonov, Mikhail Sholokhov, based on a short story by Sholokhov. With Bondarchuk, Pavlik Boriskin, Zoya Kirienko, Pavel Volkov. The Fate of a Man was a Soviet war epic directed by and starring Sergei Bondarchuk, who, after this promising feature debut, went on to make his spectacular and grandiose adaptation of War and Peace in 1964. Based on a popular, patriotic short story by Nobel laureate Mikhail Sholokhov (And Quiet Flows the Don), the film traces, in flashback, the dramatic life of a truck driver buffeted by historical circumstance into fighting in the Russian Civil War, enduring the famine of 1922, crossing enemy lines during the Second World War, and surviving a German concentration camp—only to find that his remarkable saga will meet a tragic and painful end. Preserved by Gosfilmofond, Moscow; courtesy Mosfilm. With thanks to the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art. In Russian; English subtitles. 103 min.
One of the unexpected side benefits of the digital cinema revolution has been the surge in classic 3-D films now made available through the new technology, many looking better than ever. This program of rare short films suggests the international reach of the 3-D phenomenon of the late 1940s and early 1950s as well as the range of material created for the new medium. The program begins with Now Is the Time (To Put on Your 3-D Glasses), from 1951, a brief reminder from the National Film Board of Canada and its star animator, Norman McLaren, that the audience must do its part, too, in creating the spectacle. It will be followed by three more animated shorts by McLaren: O Canada, Around Is Around, and Twirligig. The latter has an interesting history: Gretta Ekman, whose drawings on film were turned into 3-D by McLaren, was a victim of an anti-Communist purge at the NFB in 1952 and her name was removed from the credits; her credit has now been restored. From Gosfilmofond, the Russian state film archive, come two rarely seen Soviet-era 3-D shorts, the 1948 educational film Kristally (Crystals), directed by Jakov Kaplunov, and the 1952 travelogue V Allejah parka (In The Alleys of the Park), directed by Andrei G. Boltianski. Concluding the show are three rarities from the 3-D Film Archive, presented by its founder, Robert Furmanek: M.L. Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision Three-Dimension, in which the puppets Beany and Cecil explain how the process works; the trailer for William Cameron Menzies’s 3-D horror film The Maze; and a new restoration of the widescreen Technicolor cartoon Boo Moon, directed by Izzy Sparber and Seymour Kneitel for Famous Studios and starring Casper the Friendly Ghost. Program 75 min.
Now Is The Time. 1951. Canada. Directed by Norman McLaren. 3 min.
O Canada. 1952. Canada. Directed by McLaren. 2 min.
Around Is Around. 1951. Canada. Directed by McLaren. 8 min.
Twirligig. 1952. Canada. Directed by McLaren. 4 min. Stereoscopic 3-D restorations courtesy the National Film Board of Canada.
Kristally (Crystals). 1948. USSR. Directed by Jakov Kaplunov. 20 min.
V Allejah parka (In The Alleys of the Park). 1952. USSR. Directed by Andrei G. Boltianski. 7 min. Both preserved by Gosfilmofund, Moscow.
M.L. Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision Three-Dimension. 1952. USA. 5 min.
The Maze (trailer). 1953. USA. Directed by William Cameron Menzies. 3 min.
Boo Moon. 1953. USA. Directed by Izzy Sparber, Seymour Kneitel. 7 min.
All courtesy the 3-D Film Archive.
Undercranking: The Magic behind the Slapstick
In this insightful and original lecture, film historian Ben Model shows how artists like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and other silent-era comedians systematically employed what is now referred to as “undercranking” to create gags that cannot exist at real-time speed or in life itself. An overlooked characteristic of silent film, inherited from the early days of hand-cranked cameras and projectors, is its capacity to speed up or slow down action, depending on how the operator varied the speed at which the film moved through the apparatus. Shooting at a rate of 12 or 14 frames a second created, when projected, a sense of accelerated, stylized, almost dance-like movement. The makers and stars of comic films, in particular, found expressive ways of exploiting this hidden feature—a creative tool that vanished when sound film imposed a constant rate of 24 frames a second.
Beth Custer Ensemble Accompanies Kote Mikaberidze’s My Grandmother
Held in conjunction with MoMA’s Discovering Georgian Cinema exhibition, this special presentation, introduced by Nikolay Mikhailovich Borodachev, the Director of the Russian state archive Gosfilmofond in Moscow, features a live performance by Beth Custer Ensemble of an original score commissioned by Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). With thanks to the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.
My Grandmother (Chemi Bebia/Moya Babushka)
1929. USSR. Directed and cowritten by Kote Mikaberidze. With Aleksandre Takaishvili, Bella Chernova, E. Ovanov. Mikaberidze’s satire of Soviet bureaucracy is a genuine piece of grotesquerie, a Georgian version of the antic experiments of FEKS (the Factory of the Eccentric Actor). The film’s most memorable character is a wide-eyed, wild-haired wife of a bureaucrat, caught up in a frenzy of bourgeois living. Her equally comic husband, modeled after Harold Lloyd, personifies the indolence and irrelevance of a State system that resembles nothing so much as a roundtable defended by benighted stooges. When the husband loses his job, he learns the value of a “grandmother”—a slang term for the boodle that moves the table round. This irreverent blast, complete with Constructivist sets and deconstructivist slapstick, has lost none of its bite. Russian intertitles; simultaneous English translation. 65 min.