Buffalo Film Seminars returns with ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Beau Travail

 

Pandoras-Box

It’s spring semester time, so the Buffalo Film Seminars is back. Here’s the preview I wrote this week for Buffalo.com.

The Buffalo Film Seminars can always be counted on for an eclectic lineup and a fascinating opener, and the latest installment of the series hosted by Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian is no exception. Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s “Pandora’s Box” screens at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre (3500 Main St.).

The silent classic stars the inimitable Louise Brooks as an uninhibited young woman who undergoes a fast rise and grim fall. The 1928 film is pre-Production Code, meaning the level of raw sexuality and violence onscreen is eye-opening even for current audiences. It’s an ideal opening selection, and Jackson and Christian should have some fascinating discussion points.

The rest of the spring series includes a number of heavyweights — Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, Sergio Leone, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa — and, in Claire Denis’ “Beau Travail,” an absolute must-see. (The latter, an adaptation of Melville’s “Billy Budd” involving soldiers in the French Foreign Legion, is notoriously difficult to track down on DVD.)

Here is the rest of the lineup:

 
Feb. 2: “Rules of the Game” (directed by Jean Renoir, 1939)

Feb. 9: “Notorious” (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)

Feb. 16: “Pather Panchali” (Satyajit Ray, 1955)

Feb. 23: “The Producers” (Mel Brooks, 1967)

March 1: “Once Upon a Time in the West” (Sergio Leone, 1968)

March 8: “The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)

March 22: “Raging Bull” (Martin Scorsese, 1980)

March 29: “Ran” (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

April 5: “Malcolm X” (Spike Lee , 1992)

April 12: “Beau Travail” (Claire Denis, 1999)

April 19: “Waltz with Bashir” (Ari Folman, 2008)

April 26: “Amour” (Michael Haneke, 2012)

May 3: “The Fisher King” (Terry Gilliam, 1991)

Tickets are $9.50 for adults, $7.50 for students, and $7. They can be purchased at the theater box office or at dipsontheatres.com. For more information on the Buffalo Film Seminars, visit buffalofilmseminars.com.

Cocteau, Cassavetes, and Anderson highlight the latest Buffalo Film Seminars lineup

royal

Like increased traffic around UB’s North Campus and stories of South Campus revelry, the start of the school’s spring semester also means the Buffalo Film Seminars are back. And as usual, the weekly film series (7 p.m. at the Market Arcade) run by the great Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian features a diverse mix of established classics and intriguing newbies.

Kicking off tomorrow night with the silent film Underworld, the lineup includes one of my favorite films, Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, but what excites me are the films on the list I’ve never had a chance to watch: The Life of Oharu, Ray’s Charulata, Varda’s Vagabond, Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street. I’m a bit surprised at the inclusion of Tommy Lee Jones’s Melquiades Estrada and José Padilha’s Elite Squad, two good films that I would not quite have on this list. But both are relatively underseen, so it’s nice to see their inclusion.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • January 28: Underworld (1927, directed by Josef von Sternberg; screening features electronic piano accompaniment by Philip Carli)
  • February 4: Orpheus (1950, directed by Jean Cocteau)
  • February 11: The Life of Oharu (1952, Kenji Mizoguchi)
  • February 18: Charulata (1964, Satyajit Ray)
  • February 25: Dry Summer, (1964, Metin Erksan)
  • March 4: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971, Monte Hellman)
  • March 11: Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976, John Cassavetes)
  • March 25: Vagabond (1985, Agnes Varda)
  • April 1: Babette’s Feast (1987, Gabriel Axel)
  • April 8: Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, Louis Malle)
  • April 15: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)
  • April 22: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005, Tommy Lee Jones)
  • April 29: Elite Squad (2007, José Padilha)
  • May 6: The Dead (1987, John Huston).

(Pictured: a photo from Matt Zoller Seitz’s “The Wes Anderson Collection,” which I wrote about for The Film Stage in December.)

Wilder, Bogdanovich, Jarmusch, and … Luhrmann? It must be Buffalo Film Seminars time

deadman

The onset of fall means back to school, and back to the Market Arcade for the Buffalo Film Seminars. The Bruce Jackson- and Diane Christian-hosted series is a Western New York tradition, a screening and discussion of perennial classics (“8 ½”) new greats (“Oldboy,” “Chunking Express”), well-regarded blockbusters (“The Dark Knight”), and some left-field picks (“A Fish Called Wanda”).

Last spring, for example, saw a screening of Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate”; as I wrote in Buffalo Spree, “the filmmaker’s follow-up to ‘The Deer Hunter’ [is] the notoriously earth-shattering financial flop that helped sink United Artists. But in the years since, the story of the battle between European immigrants and greedy land barons in nineteenth century Wyoming has undergone something of a critical reevaluation. While some still scoff, for many seasoned viewers, it is now seen as a sumptuous, stunningly ambitious epic. Its status as undervalued masterpiece was confirmed in late 2012 with the Criterion Collection’s remastered release of the film on Blu-ray and DVD. Buffalo Film Seminars’ screening offers an opportunity to look past the years of controversy, and with hosts Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian, view it with fresh eyes.”

Well said, me. I love the idea of Jackson and Christian selecting a film with a mixed reputation.

This fall’s lineup, which kicks off tomorrow with Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer,” is typically eclectic. There are the obvious cinematic masterpieces (“The Grand Illusion,” “Double Indemnity”), some ’70s favorites (“Network,” “The Last Picture Show”), an offbeat bit of ’90s indie-cool (Jarmusch’s Johnny Depp-starring “Dead Man”), and even Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.”

It also includes Jackson and Christian’s acclaimed 1979 documentary “Death Row,” and it should lead to an insightful discussion.

Here is the fall schedule in its entirety:

  • August 27 — Alan Crosland’s “The Jazz Singer,” 1927
  • September 3 — Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night,” 1934
  • September 10 — Jean Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion,” 1937
  • September 17 — Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” 1944
  • September 24 — Delmer Daves’s “3:10 to Yuma,” 1957
  • October 1 — Kon Ichikawa’s “Fires on the Plain,” 1959
  • October 8 — Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” 1971
  • October 15 — Sidney Lumet’s “Network,” 1976
  • October 22 — Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian’s “Death Row,” 1979
  • October 29 — Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man,” 1995
  • November 5 — Pedro Almodóvar’s “Talk to Her,” 2002
  • November 12 — Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York,” 2008
  • November 19 — Wim Wenders’s “Pina,” 2011
  • November 26 — Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” 2013

Note that the BFS website features a history of the seminars, “goldenrod handouts,” and a list of all the films that have screened. Films are screened 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Market Arcade Film and ArtsCenter; 639 Main St.; see buffalofilmseminars.com for more info.

Photo from “Dead Man”