“Wit” is not only the title of one of Mike Nichols’s recent films; it also succinctly identifies an often elusive trait that this director seems to possess in endless supply. An accomplished performer (most notably alongside Elaine May) and renowned stage director, Nichols is, however, first and foremost a great American filmmaker. His films are a true pleasure to watch, never threatening to alienate the cinema-going public. The laughs or tears in a Nichols film are always born of something tangible, with authentic actions leading to comprehensible results. He invites us to connect with our own devastating, illuminating humanity.
This survey encompasses the scope of Nichols’s directing career, from staggering early successes like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, which propelled him to the top of the field when he was in his 30s; through his reemergence in the early 1980s with Silkwood; to such recent made-for-cable masterworks as Angels in America and Wit. The exhibition begins and ends with a pair of phenomenally influential but rarely screened films—Carnal Knowledge and Catch-22, respectively—and the films in between are shown out of chronological order, emphasizing their timeless sophistication. All films are from the U.S. and directed by Mike Nichols.
Organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film.