omplete QPORIT: 1968 AT LINCOLN CENTER

Monday, April 28, 2008

 

1968 AT LINCOLN CENTER


Dionysus in 69
Directed by Brian De Palma & Richard Schechner, US, 1970;
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Richard Schechner



In one of the most important retrospectives ever at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, there will be a series of some of the most important (some very rarely seen, as well) films of a central period in recent American and world history.


Film Society Presents 1968:
An International Perspective Anniversary Series
revisits an explosive and resonating era

April 29-May 14


Here are some of the extraordinary reasons that 1968 was such a central year. (Just to be a bit confusing, in the temper of those times, we are going to mix up underlying causes and specific events!)

  • The Vietnam War, and the threat of the draft (Note -- one big difference between Iraq & Vietnam was the presence of the draft!)

  • Children born after WW II were in their early twenties or younger.

  • The post-war lean economy, war-psychology, and cold war had left a long period of cultural suppression. Until the election of Kennedy, it had been the Eisenhower, button-down look, and worry about the bomb, and the Communists, and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

  • The economy had changed; the psychological mood had changed with the election of Kennedy.

  • Sexual experimentation and freedom had begun to flower (both in life and in films and theater). AIDS had not yet happened; STD drugs were working. Women were looking for new roles. The Civil Rights Movement was progressing.

  • Kennedy had been assassinated. King had been assasinated.

  • In films and theater, there was a new interest in experimenting with some kind of interaction with the audience; for the audience in the US, there was an interest in discovering the world.
All of these conflicting and disparate trends were stirring the air in '68, and it was reflected in a period of vibrant and very unique cinema.

Here are some comments from the Film Society, and the schedule:

"NEW YORK, April 2, 2008––1968 was a year that shook the world: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Prague spring, the student sit-ins at Columbia University, the tumultuous Democratic convention in Chicago, and the “events of May ’68” in France, which began with the ousting of Henri Langlois from the Cinématheque Française. The Film Society of Lincoln Center honors the spirit of that bellwether year on its 40th anniversary with 1968: An International Perspective, a showcase of features, shorts, documentaries and newsreels at the Walter Reade Theater, April 29–May 14.

Discussions with guests and panels are scheduled throughout the series, along with several special event screenings. These include the return of King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis, an epic documentary on Martin Luther King rarely seen since its initial release in 1971;

Dionysus in ’69, Brian De Palma’s film of a controversial and highly influential Performance Group production of The Bacchae, directed by Richard Schechner; and A Time to Stir, a work-in-progress screening of Paul Cronin’s upcoming film on the 1968 Columbia strike.

The 1968 Series Pass ($40 public/$30 members) admits one person to five titles in the series except for the screening of Dionysus in ’69 on Saturday, May 10. The pass is available only at the Walter Reade Theater box office (cash only). Tickets for Dionysus in’69 on Saturday, May 10, are $15; $12 for Film Society members and students. All other single screening tickets are $11; $7 for Film Society members, students and children (6-12, accompanied by an adult); and $8 for seniors (62+). They are available at both the Walter Reade Theater box office and online at
www.filmlinc.com."





1968: An International Perspective
Schedule at a Glance (Detailed Program Information Follows)

Tuesday, April 29
2:00 pm Regular Lovers, 178m

Wednesday, April 30
1:00 pm Milestones, 195m
4:45 pm The Man Who Left His Will on Film, 94m
6:45 pm Films from Newsreel, Part One, 80m
8:40 pm The Man Who Left His Will on Film

Thursday, May 1
6:15 pm Films from Newsreel, Part Two, 95m
8:15 pm Milestones

Friday, May 2
1:00 pm Maydays, 97m
3:15 pm Zabriskie Point, 110m

Saturday, May 3
6:00 pm La Chinoise, 96m
8:00 pm Regular Lovers

Sunday, May 4
1:00 pm King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery to Memphis, 185m
4:45 pm In the Year of the Pig, 103m
6:50 pm Zabriskie Point
9:00 pm Blow for Blow, 90m

Monday, May 5
2:00 pm Blow for Blow
4:00 pm Les Lip––L’imagination au pouvoir, 119m
9:10 pm Remonstrance, 97m

Tuesday, May 6
2:00 pm The Whistling Cobblestone, 96m
4:00 pm The War at Home, 100m
9:00 pm The War at Home

Wednesday, May 7
2:00 pm ‘68 On Film, 123m
4:00 pm Remonstrance
6:30 pm ‘68 On Film
9:15 pm The Whistling Cobblestone

Thursday, May 8
2:00 pm Antonio das Mortes, 100m
4:00 pm The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp, 23m,

with

It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives, 67m
8:30 pm A Time to Stir, 75m

Friday, May 9
1:00 pm King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery to Memphis
4:45 pm Medium Cool, 110m
7:00 pm WR: Mysteries of the Organism, 85m
8:45 pm Reflections from the Avant-Garde, 84m

Saturday, May 10
6:00 pm Dionysus in ‘69, 90m
8:30 pm The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp, with It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives

Sunday, May 11
4:15 pm Killed the Family and Went to the Movies, 64m
6:00 pm Antonio das Mortes
8:00 pm Maydays

Monday, May 12
2:20 pm WR: Mysteries of the Organism
4:15 pm Killed the Family and Went to the Movies
6:15 pm Medium Cool
8:30 pm Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, 116m


Tuesday, May 13
1:00 pm Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000
4:15 pm Reflections from the Avant-Garde
6:00 pm Les Lip––L’imagination au pouvoir
8:15 pm Grin Without a Cat, 180m

Wednesday, May 14
1:00 pm Grin Without a Cat



1968: An International Perspective
Detailed Program and Schedule Information
(My notes in italics.)

’68 On Film
US, 1968; 123m
Wed May 7: 2:00pm and 6:30pm
(I interviewed Peter Davis after his brilliant documentary "Hearts and Minds" about the Vietnam War. I was most impressed by his soul, as he dealt with raising his children after a tragic accident killed his wife when a car jumped onto the sidewalk, while creating work that helped change history.)

Three independent documentaries from the period. Special thanks to Peter Davis for making this program possible.

Made by veteran filmmaker Bill Jersey, America Against Itself presents the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago from the point of view of the protesters.
Peter Davis’s Where’s George? is the story of George Caputo, a seventeen-year old soldier who, refusing to serve in Vietnam, took refuge in the Columbia University Chapel. Supported by several student groups and some faculty, George became both a symbol and a cause for the campus’s growing anti-war movement.


The Yippie Political Commercial (Quest Productions) will tell you all you’ll ever need to know about their political program. With Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman.


Antonio das Mortes / O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro
Glauber Rocha, Brazil/France/West Germany, 1969; 100m
Thu May 8: 2:00pm; Sun May 11: 6:00pm

(I interviewed Glauber Rocha over lunch in a very American coffee shop, which -- before I met him -- I feared would be absoutely the wrong place to meet. But he was not the furious tower of rage (and anti-Americanism) I expected, but a friendly young kid. Tragically, he died very young.)

No other film better captured the radical ferment of Latin American cinema and politics than Glauber Rocha’s Antonio das Mortes. A hulking bounty hunter in the employ of the military and the landowners, Antonio is sent off to kill Coirana, last of the cangaceiros, gaudily dressed bandits often celebrated as folk heroes because of their attacks on the rich. Antonio is victorious, but somehow Coirana refuses to die: his rebellious energy and spirit have been transferred to the local townspeople, whose continuous dancing and chanting seems to keep Coirana alive. The local schoolteacher shows Antonio that he can make history—the question, however, is whose history does he want to make? Awash with religious imagery drawn from both Christian and African traditions (the Portuguese title translates to The Dragon of Evil vs. the Holy Warrior), Antonio das Mortes is outrageous, allegorical, operatic and essential.


Blow for Blow / Coup pour coup
Marin Karmitz, France/West Germany, 1971; 90m
Sun May 4: 9:00pm; Mon May 5: 2:00pm

Currently one of the most powerful figures in French and international media (MK2 Productions, Distribution, Theaters, etc.), Marin Karmitz began his career as a filmmaker working in the wake of ’68 on a number of politically themed projects. In Blow for Blow, a unit at a textile factory composed of female workers goes on a wildcat strike to protest their high-handed and arbitrary treatment by management. Tensions escalate and the strike turns into an occupation of the factory.

Karmitz used the testimony of a group of female factory workers who pulled off a successful strike; several of these women also appear in the film. In recording the decision-making process of the workers, Karmitz captures their contradictions, including nervousness about losing their jobs or trusting their fate to their co-workers as well as the double duties they perform as housewives and mothers. A provocative combination of fiction and documentary, Blow for Blow marks an important move away from the earlier, more heroic presentations of labor struggles to one more attuned to practicalities of resistance.


The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp / Der Bräutiggam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter
Jean-Marie Straub, West Germany, 1968; 23m
SCREENING WITH
It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives / Nicht der Homosexuelle ist pervers, sondern die Situation, in der er lebt
Rosa von Praunheim, West Germany, 1971; 67m
Thu May 8: 4:00pm; Sat May 10: 8:30pm

Among the most formally radical filmmakers of the ‘60s (and beyond), Jean-Marie Straub and his partner Danielle Huillet create a collage in three separate sequences. In the first, a sweeping tracking shot takes us into Munich at night, past the bars, cafes and occasional prostitutes. In the second, Fassbinder’s Anti-Theater troupe performs a ten-minute distillation of Bruckner’s Sickness of Youth. The third part is a confrontation between a newly married prostitute and her pimp (Fassbinder himself). The result is a provocative pocket history of the cinema as seen through its depiction of power relations.

Rosa von Praunheim’s first feature tells the story of Daniel, a shy country boy who comes to Berlin and falls in love with the handsome, smooth-talking Clemens. Yet the attractions of Berlin’s booming gay scene prove too much for the romance, and Daniel finds himself overtaken by the temptations of endless barhopping and nonstop opportunities for sex. A self-conscious panoply of clichés of gay life, It Is Not the Homosexual was denounced by the right (not surprisingly) as well as the left, for what was perceived as its overt sensationalism. For von Praunheim, what was most important was to force an awareness of gay life and issues into the open and onto the political agenda.


La Chinoise
Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1967; 96m
Sat May 3: 6:00pm


(Amazingly, this piece of fiction is a documentary of the future. It was made at the University of Nanterre which was --about a year after the film was shot -- one of the centers of the 1968 student uprising.

The film presents a view of the "revolutionaries" that is both sympathetic and satirical. There's a good description of the film in Wikipedia.

Stylistically, the most striking thing about the film is its use of text, color and complex narrative -- styles that only much later leached into more mainstream films.

One of my favorite photographs is a picture I took in the Green Room at Alice tully Hall of Juliet Berto, incredibly beautiful, looking extremely French, smoking from a long cigarette holder. (I hope to post that photo here later this week.) Unfortunately, like (her reported lover) Glauber Rocha, she died very young. In her case, I believe, from lung cancer.)


When Godard’s La Chinoise opened in New York on April 3, 1968, the film anticipated and critiqued the student movements that would storm barricades in Paris and take over buildings at Columbia just a few weeks later. Upper-class Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky) searches for the theoretical justification for her militant urges. Her actor boyfriend Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) wants to imagine a place for his art in the new order. Together they move into a well-appointed Parisian apartment for the summer, arguing militant strategies with fellow radicals while each battles for his place in the group’s shifting hierarchy. No other Godard film more successfully uses the director’s Pop Art sensibility. Images, colors and slogans flash across the screen as his characters act out their imagined revolutionary roles, living their lives as if they were quotations. “The children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” indeed!


Dionysus in ’69
Brian De Palma & Richard Schechner, US, 1970; 90m
Richard Schechner in Person
Sat May 10: 6:00pm

(I did not see this show when it came out. But I saw a tape, a few years ago, of a performance of the show. However, I'm not sure if it was this film or not. I was not as shocked as I expected to be by the sex or the politics of the show -- But I guess I'm not easily shocked. And this is still a very interesting version of the play.

One of my ambitions for many years has been to do a new adaptation and performance of The Bacchae, which I think captures the central danger of political cycles. Just to suggest how long I've been thinking about it, one of my working titles was "Dionysus in 96.)

Just as he was finishing up Greetings and about to embark on Hi, Mom!, Brian De Palma decided to film a sensational and controversial avant-garde theaterpiece that was the talk of New York: a version of Euripides’ Bacchae conceived and performed by the Performance Group under the direction of Richard Schechner. With its simulated sex and pointed political speeches, the production blurred the lines between performers and audience, opening up the scene space in provocative new ways. De Palma makes extensive use of split screen, creating “frames within frames” that adds a new layer of theatricality to the spectacle; it also helps capture the sense of a work that was literally going on in every inch of the space. An important document of a fascinating period of New York (and American) theater, Dionysus in ’69 is also an unjustly neglected piece of De Palma’s early career that includes several elements he would explore in greater depth in his later films. Director Richard Schechner is expected to attend this rare look at one of New York theater’s pivotal productions. Tickets: $12 member/student; $15 public.


Films from Newsreel, Part One
US, 1968; 80m
Wed Apr 30: 6:45pm

The Newsreel collectives were composed of filmmakers and photographers who sought to provide images of protests and efforts at social justice different from those found in the mainstream media. This program will be introduced by Roz Payne, a founder of Newsreel and longtime political activist.

One of the first films about the Black Panthers, Off the Pig (Black Panther) contains interviews with party leaders Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, who describe the party’s formation and goals, including the 10 Point Program laid out by Chairman Bobby Seale.

In May 1968, the students of Columbia University went on strike after their demand for open discussion of the university’s policies towards the surrounding community of Harlem went unmet. Columbia Revolt is a chronicle of the era’s first major and most important student revolt, told from inside the occupied buildings of the Columbia Quad.

Filmed during a bitter strike by New York’s sanitation workers, Garbage records the efforts of the protest group Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers to export garbage from the Lower East Side to the halls of Lincoln Center.


Films from Newsreel, Part Two
US, 1968-71; 95m
Thu May 1: 6:15pm

In the spring of 1969, the Berkeley street community initiated a project to transform a barren university-owned lot into a park for the whole community to enjoy. People’s Park (1969) documents the escalating confrontation between the community, the university and the National Guard over the rights to the space.

Summer ’68 (1968) defines the nature of commitment to “The Movement” by focusing on the organizers of events across the U.S.––draft resistance in Boston; a Boston organizer’s trip to North Vietnam; a G.I. coffeehouse in Texas; Newsreel’s takeover of Channel 13 in New York; and Chicago during the Democratic Convention.

1968 marked the definitive emergence of the New Left, establishing a place in politics for everything from gay rights to the green movement. The Earth Belongs to the People (1971) touches on issues of population growth, equitable distribution of natural resources and pollution.


Grin Without a Cat / Le Fond de l’air est rouge
Chris Marker, France, 1978/1993; 180m
Tue May 13: 8:15pm; Wed May 14: 2:00pm

“This film is a mirror held up to each of us, a mirror that wanders through all the paths that we have taken or crossed (Vietnam protests, pro-Latin American movements, May ’68, the rise and fall of the Left) and encourages us to reflect along with it about the journey and its goal.”—Regis Debray


Chris Marker’s magnum opus Grin Without a Cat is a profoundly challenging meditation on the period from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s. Described by Marker as “scenes of the third world war,” the film weaves together images, sounds and themes of protest, defiance, solidarity and mourning to describe a moment when suddenly all seemed possible—and then just as suddenly was closed. Beginning with the Vietnam War and the various international movements to support the Vietnamese in their struggle, the film then examines the causes of and reactions to May ’68 in France before heading to Latin America and the birth (and subsequent death) of Allende’s Chile. Essayistic in form, Grin invites dialogue and comparisons between and among the various situations depicted while pointing out those factors that also made each unique.


In the Year of the Pig
Emile de Antonio, US, 1969; 103m
Sun May 4: 4:45pm

(Emile De Antonio was a roly-poly kind-of early version of Michael Moore. Except, while his films were greatly respected in liberal circles, they were nowhere near as successful as Moore's. When I interviewed him, he invited me to a sumptuous meal in an expensive restaurant, together with a large collection -- about a dozen -- other people of all shapes and sizes, from young, pretty hangers-on to -- to I'm not sure who the others were, or why they were there, or how his backers gave him enough money for escapades like that.)

Simultaneously nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and the subject of bomb threats and innumerable editorial attacks, In the Year of the Pig became a rallying cry for the growing anti-Vietnam War movement and a sensation whenever and wherever it screened. The first part offers a detailed chronicle of Vietnam’s history up to the moment of U.S. involvement: the age-old struggle of the country to remain independent from its neighbors, the experience of French colonialism, World War II and finally the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu. The film moves to the contemporary struggle, showing how the promises made for free elections were betrayed as soon as it became clear that North Vietnam’s communist leader Ho Chi Minh would win. News footage of military and civilian leaders of the U.S. war effort are paired with interviews featuring Daniel Berrigan, David Halberstam, Harrison Salisbury and many others offering personal takes on the war and its consequences. Reportedly de Antonio’s personal favorite among his films, In the Year of the Pig remains not only a great document of the era but also a sad and still relevant meditation on the hubris of power. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.


Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 / Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000
Alain Tanner, France/Switzerland, 1976; 116m
May Mon 12: 8:30pm; Tue May 13: 2:00pm

(This is one of my favorite films. I find the title inexplicably optimistic, and the whole atmosphere quite marvelous. Tanner has made many films since this, but none have gotten extensive exhibition in the US.)

One of the best-loved international arthouse hits, Jonah follows the lives and life choices made by a group of May ’68 activists who now find themselves in Geneva in the mid-’70s. Max, a proofreader, uses his talents to stop an unscrupulous real estate developer. High school teacher Marco has a distinctive way of teaching history. A supermarket cashier, Marie, pursues her own plan to help the elderly. And Mathieu must come up with a means of supporting his growing family. Through these stories, Jonah offers a thoughtful, often funny and always perceptive portrait of youthful idealism brushing up against the reality of a generally unsympathetic world. Yet the film never feels bitter or condescending towards its subjects. Rather, it celebrates their refusal to let go of their ideals and their principles, no matter what compromises might have to be made.


Killed the Family and Went to the Movies / Matou a Família e Foi ao Cinema
Júlio Bressane, Brazil, 1969; 64m
Sun May 11: 4:15pm; Mon May 12: 4:15pm

In the dark days of December 1968, Brazil’s military government decreed the Fifth Institutional Act, a law that effectively suspended all civil liberties. A movement emerged among young filmmakers, variously called “underground” or “marginal” cinema, which confronted the strict censorship of the dictatorship by creating works wildly anarchic in form and subject—works that flirted at times with incoherence. One of the first and most influential of these films, Killed the Family and Went to the Movies, was made by a 23-year-old Júlio Bressane.

A 30-year-old man performs the titular acts. At the cinema, he sees a film called Lost in Love, about two women drifting into a lesbian relationship. Sometimes the man projects himself into the movie. Other times the scene changes to a torture chamber, where the man is being interrogated. Outrageous and consistently inventive, Killed the Family combines shards of stories that together offer an unsettling portrait of a country living in fear and aching for release. Print courtesy of Júlio Bressane.


King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis
Sidney Lumet & Joseph L. Mankiewicz, US, 1970; 185m
Producer Richard Kaplan in Person
Sun May 4: 1:00pm; Fri May 9: 1:00pm

(Sidney Lumet's most recent film, "Before The Devil Know's You're Dead," is a brilliant noir that has just come out on DVD after getting less attention in the theaters than it deserves.)

Amid the tumult of 1968, two assassinations profoundly affected the future course of America: Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. King: A Filmed Record is really the biography of a movement, the chronicle of a growing, nationwide tide of protest and political activity.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of news footage, the filmmakers create a detailed portrait of Dr. King, from his early work during the Montgomery bus strike to his tragic death by an assassin’s bullet. Along the way we get to experience his victories as well as his defeats, as the struggle for civil rights evolves and at times even moves in unexpected directions. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, King: A Filmed Record includes some of Dr. King’s most memorable speeches, as well as eloquent statements about war, poverty and prejudice. Richard Kaplan, a longtime friend of Dr. and Mrs. King and the film’s co-producer, will be on hand to introduce and discuss the film.


Les Lip––L’imagination au pouvoir
Christian Rouaud, France, 2007; 119m
Mon May 5: 4:00pm; Tue May 13: 6:00pm

The events of 1968 were felt in France for years afterward, especially in the rising militancy of the country’s labor movement. Les Lip––L’imagination au pouvoir is a powerful and engaging study of this trend, capturing the groundbreaking Lip Watch Factory strike and worker takeover of 1973-75 using period footage and interviews with participants on both sides of the worker/management line. Director Christian Rouaud develops the complexity of the strike’s development by carefully outlining the multiple and at times contradictory forces at work. He also clarifies the growing tensions during the strike between the workers and the CGT (the national French labor organization) as well as with the Gaullist government. Of particular interest is the role of the then-emerging Jacques Chirac in these events, a role he’s publicly denied since the film’s release.


The Man Who Left His Will on Film, aka The Battle of Tokyo or He Died After the War / Tokyo senso sengo hiwa
Nagisa Oshima, Japan, 1970; 94m
Wed Apr 30: 4:45pm and 8:40pm

One of Oshima’s most remarkable and experimental works, The Man Who Left His Will on Film begins as Motoki, a member of a left-wing film collective, tries to grab a Bolex camera from the hands of an unknown, off-screen cameraman. The cameraman escapes and runs, with Motoki in hot pursuit. Ascending to the roof of a tall building, the cameraman seemingly leaps to his death, although the camera survives the fall in perfect condition. Motoki tries to take possession of it, but the police drive away with it. Motoki again takes off after the camera…

Oshima creates a series of frames within frames, of films within films, as the idea of point-of-view becomes increasingly enigmatic and the line between filmmaker and filmed subject grows blurred. Oshima’s young subjects have taken Godard’s dictum to heart: It’s not enough to make political films, one must learn to film politically.


Maydays / Grands soirs et petits matins
William Klein, France, 1968-78; 97m
Fri May 2: 1:00pm; Sun May 11: 8:00pm

American-born, France-based photographer/filmmaker William Klein was in Paris when the first protests began spilling out onto to the streets. He followed the growing unrest as it moved beyond the city limits and included cross-sections of students, workers and many others. He also captured the emergence of some of the movement’s leaders, such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, aka Dany the Red. Maydays is his extraordinary chronicle of those extraordinary weeks. The rawness in Klein’s work allows us to experience events as they happen, presenting them in all their confusion and contradiction, while capturing the heady elation of feeling as though one were part of history.


Medium Cool
Haskell Wexler, US, 1969; 110m
Introduced by Verna Bloom
Fri May 9: 4:45pm; Mon May 12: 6:15pm

Already an award-winning cinematographer, Haskell Wexler decided to stake a considerable amount of his own money in an independent production about the contemporary ethics of journalism—but got far more for his investment than he could have ever imagined. Wexler’s fictional story involved brash news cameraman John Cassellis (beautifully played by Robert Forster), known for chasing down a story wherever he needed to go, who discovers that his station has been selling his footage to the government to help it track down agitators. Cassellis quits and strikes out on his own. Meanwhile, his relationship with Dede (Christine Bergstrom) and her son Harold (Harold Blankenship) grows deeper. But then Wexler, his film and his characters got caught up in the actual police riots that accompanied the 1968 Democratic Convention. Suddenly, fictional characters became part of real events, and real characters wandered into a fictional story. One of the most important American independent films of the ‘60s, and amazing to watch. Actress Verna Bloom will introduce the Monday, May 12 screening.


Milestones
Robert Kramer & John Douglas, US, 1975; 195m
Wed Apr 30: 1:00pm; Thu May 1: 8:15pm

Milestones captures the vast American landscape and more than 50 people who had been involved in political protests at a time when America searched for identity in the wake of the Vietnam War and the country’s incipient conservative turn. Everything from nudism to organic farming to radical politics are practiced on local levels, while many of the film’s subjects are constantly on the move, never quite comfortable where they are. This powerful, affecting lament for a generation whose aspirations never coalesced into a workable politics or lifestyle offers a fascinating comparison to the new political activism that has begun to appear all over the U.S.


Reflections from the Avant-Garde
1968-71; 84m
Fri May 9: 8:45pm; Tue May 13: 4:15pm

Already radical in form, avant-garde films were no less affected by the political and cultural currents of 1968 than other areas of cinema. In this program, three shorts each in their way capture the spirit of ’68.

Dedicated to and starring San Francisco poet David Franks, T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (Paul Sharits, US, 1968) powerfully captures that unique combination of the ecstatic and the violent that characterizes so much of the era’s art. Brilliantly colored images flash by while an aural mantra of a single word is repeated. The film becomes an open text of color, imagery, movement and sound waiting to be redesigned by the viewer.

Described by Jonas Mekas as “maybe the best (or richest) political movie around,” Rat Life and Diet in North America (Joyce Weiland, Canada, 1968) details the daring escape by a band of revolutionary gerbils from their skulking cat jailers and their liberation in Canada.

Quick Billy (Bruce Baillie, US, 1971) is a record of the filmmaker’s physical and spiritual journey, a search for self at a time in which the old values and conventions no longer apply. Partially inspired by the Bardo Thodol, aka The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Quick Billy merges the American myth of the West (and its corollary of self-discovery) with an Eastern spiritual sensibility that seeks unity with the absolute.


Regular Lovers / Les Amants réguliers
Philippe Garrel, France, 2005; 178m
Tue Apr 29: 2:00pm; Sat May 3: 8:00pm

The events of May 1968 and their disappointing aftermath have always been at the heart of Philippe Garrel’s work. Regular Lovers is Garrel’s achingly beautiful memorial to the moment itself, and to the poignant confusion felt by French youth who tried to keep the spirit of revolt alive as they grappled with adulthood. A young poet (played beautifully by the director’s son Louis) witnesses the conflagration during a night on the barricades and experiences the euphoria of love and communal freedom followed by the inevitable moment when reality comes to collect its due. Garrel fashions an intimate poetic epic, which harks back to the silent films of Louis Feuillade and the poetry of Baudelaire and Gérard de Nerval in its austere yet romantic vision of Paris by night and day.


Remonstrance / Motforestilling
Erik Løchen, Norway, 1972; 97m
Introduced by Joachim Trier
Mon May 5: 9:10pm; Wed May 7: 4:30pm

The artistic impact of ’68 effected even those countries that did not directly experience social and political upheaval. Norwegian filmmaker Erik Løchen had made The Hunt in 1959, a fascinating, modernist work that paralleled the better-known experiments with cinematic storytelling of Resnais, Godard, Antonioni and others. Løchen returned to feature films in 1972 with an even more radical cinematic experience.

The story of a film crew trying to make a political film, Remonstrance brilliantly captures the posing and grandstanding that sometimes accompanies political discussions around correct form in art, but Løchen goes his characters one better. He designed Remonstrance so that its five reels could shown in any order, rendering 120 possible versions of the film. This screening will be introduced by Joachim Trier, Løchen’s grandson and the director of Reprise, one of the highlights of ND/NF 2007 and soon to be released. (The Film Society will screen Reprise on Monday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m.)


The War at Home
Glenn Silber & Barry Alexander Brown, US, 1979; 100m
Introduced by Barry Alexander Brown
Tue May 6: 4:00pm and 9:00pm

One of the finest and most revealing studies of the home front during the Vietnam era, The War at Home follows the growth of the anti-war movement in one medium-sized American city. Madison, Wisconsin entered the ‘60s like much of the rest of U.S.—a somewhat sleepy university town, still enjoying the postwar boom in the economy and higher education. Gradually, though, local opposition to American policies in Vietnam grows, as meetings turn into protest marches into increasingly militant action and violent confrontations with the police. Using footage largely culled from local television stations as well as interviews with those who took part in the depicted events, co-directors Silber and Brown beautifully reveal how a movement grew in a few short years from afternoon teach-ins to a nationwide phenomenon. Director Barry Alexander Brown will introduce the 9:00 p.m. screening.


A Time to Stir
Paul Cronin, US/UK, 2008; approx. 75m
Thu May 8: 8:30pm

Filmmaker Paul Cronin (Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16) presents excerpts from his upcoming film on the spring ‘68 Columbia student strikes. “A Time to Stir features new interviews with leading players of a wide variety of persuasions,” says Cronin, “including SDS students who occupied four buildings on campus, African-American students who were gathered on their own in Hamilton Hall, older politically active graduate students who took issue with SDS leadership, Columbia students who opposed the takeover of campus by protesters, faculty both for and against the activists and the Tactical Patrol Force who cleared the buildings on the orders of the university administration.” A special panel discussion on the film featuring participants in the Columbia events will follow the screening.


The Whistling Cobblestone /A Sípoló macskakö
Gyula Gazdag, Hungary, 1971; 96m
Tue May 6: 2:00pm; Wed May 7: 9:00pm

A favorite with Hungarian audiences, The Whistling Cobblestone was made when director Gyula Gazdag was just 24 years old—and thus not much older than his subjects. The setting is a summer work camp for teenage boys at the end of the ‘60s. The young men have been sent to build character and imbibe socialist values, but instead they plot how to escape the staff’s surveillance. Even their teachers have doubts: They’ve repeated the phrases and slogans so many times, they now question what they’re about. Then a young Frenchman arrives to look at socialism-in-action, carrying a pavement stone that had been hurled at the French police during the revolution just months before. A film of dark humor and great wit, The Whistling Cobblestone offers a rare glimpse at ‘60s youth culture in the Soviet bloc, as well as a portent of what was to come. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.


WR: Mysteries of the Organism /WR – Misterije organizma
Dusan Makavejev, Yugoslavia/West Germany, 1971; 85m
Fri May 9: 7:00pm; Mon May 12: 2:20pm

WR: Mysteries of the Organism tackles crucial, and perennial, problems in culture, sexuality and politics. It honors, critically yet nostalgically, a pioneer attempt to reconcile Marx and Freud. It’s the first and [among] the boldest explorations of social breakdowns in Eastern European communisms.”—Raymond Durgnat

Makavejev’s provocative and often hilarious take on the sexual revolution and its consequences intercuts a wry, modern romance between two young Yugoslavs and a visiting
Russian ice skater with an exploration of the work of Wilhelm Reich, the controversial psychoanalyst and sex therapist whose promotion of orgone energy theory eventually brought him to the unwelcome attention of the U.S. authorities. Too anarchic in form to take itself entirely seriously, WR was banned for 16 years in Yugoslavia and led to Makavejev leaving for the West and supposedly friendlier shores for his kind of cinema.


Zabriskie Point
Michelangelo Antonioni, US, 1970; 110m
Fri May 2: 3:15pm; Sun May 4: 6:50pm

Described by critic David Thompson as “Antonioni’s most beautiful inspection of emptiness,” Zabriskie Point followed hot on the heels of Antonioni’s enormously successful take on swingin’ London, Blow-Up. This time, the focus is on American youth culture and radical politics. The result, however, would be far more controversial, with harsh criticisms of the film emerging from both left and right. Casting beautiful newcomers Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin, Antonioni fashions a story that veers from documentary to drama to outer space. Political theory lurches into practice as Mark, a college radical, kills a policeman and heads off into the desert with Daria, the pot-smoking secretary of a businessman. The young people at the core of the film constantly search for some kind of absolute they can believe, now that everything they’ve been taught no longer applies. The film is suspended between the loftiness of ideals and the sometimes grim consequences of actions. Sam Shepard contributed to the screenplay, and the extraordinary soundtrack features Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, John Fahey and Patti Page.

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