Block Cinema is a collaboration of the Northwestern University School of Communication, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and the student-run Film and Projection Society.
All films are screened in the Pick-Laudati Auditorium at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum.
Unless noted, general admission to Block Cinema screenings is $6 or $4 for Block Museum members, students with ID’s and senior citizens. Films in “The Life of the Spirit” and Reeltime series are free. Season passes are $20. Tickets are available 30 minutes before showtime.
For more information, call the Block Cinema Hotline at (847) 491-4000 or go to the Block Cinema Web site at http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema.
This winter, Block Cinema will present three series of films.
“The Life of the Spirit in French and Italian Film” series reflects the profound social and religious trauma that plagued 20th century France and Italy. Socialism seeking to replace religious beliefs severely tested the traditional dominance of the Church. Many Europeans, especially artists, believed as much in spiritual as in political revolution. Claiming to speak for the little man and promoting fundamental virtues of compassion and social justice, these new voices condemned Church corruption and complicity, gave shape to new forms of faith, and even proposed a new perception of Christ as a champion of the oppressed. This series is free and includes films by directors Robert Bresson and Jean-Luc Godard.
Films in the “Pre-code Paramount” series were made before the motion picture industry enforced the decency code of 1930 -- the Hays code -- to regulate the content of Hollywood movies. It was a gesture of good faith to an essential part of Hollywood’s developing fan base and to a branch of the American public that was clamoring for decency. For four years the code went unenforced until in 1934 surging public opinion demanded the entertainment industry make good on its promise. Many of these films are ageless and among the great Hollywood comedies and were made by directors such as Ernst Lubitsch and Cecil B. DeMille.
The Arthur Freed and the MGM Musical series focuses on films by the legendary MGM producer. Assembling a team of filmmakers in the 1940s, Freed and his crews produced some of the best musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, including “Singin’ In the Rain,” “On the Town” and “The Band Wagon.” Working with Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, Vincente Minnelli and Fred Astaire, it would be hard to expect less. But Freed gave these musicals more than great talent -- he increased their production value, helping to create the MGM look, a sophisticated, lavish and polished production style that audiences adored. He also challenged those working for him to tap into their creative networks and be spontaneous -- whether it was Astaire dancing on the ceiling or Kelly dancing on roller skates.
The Robert Altman in the 1970s series features films by the movie director. While many of Altman’s colleagues pursued big budgets and epic stories, during the 1970s, Altman make quirky and delicate movies about fascinating characters and places. Among his biggest successes was the anti-war movie “M*A*S*H*,” as well as films such as “Buffalo Bill and the Indians” and the comedy “Popeye,” which deconstructed popular American legends. The Altman selections chosen by Block Cinema depict an ambitious director coming into his own -- and one who, even today at the age of 80, continues to make fascinating movies.
In addition, the Reeltime Independent Film and Video Forum is a presentation of award-winning independent feature, documentary and short subject films and videos. The series is jointly sponsored by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and the Evanston Public Library, in partnership with project directors Kathy Berger and Ines Sommer. Each screening is followed by discussions with the audiences. All Reeltime screenings are free.
Pre-code Paramount, “Love Me Tonight,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 (Rouben Mamoulian, 1932, United States, 35 mm). Combining a musical score by Rodgers and Hart with cinematic innovations in acting, dancing and lighting, “Love Me Tonight” is a rhythmic film that is regarded as one of the finest musicals ever made. The film is based on the relationship between renowned tailor Maurice Courtelin (Maurice Chevalier), who is strapped for cash, and snobby princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald). A romance blossoms but the film’s wit and sheer pace will enchant even the most cynical.
Freed, “It’s Always Fair Weather,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1955, United States, 102 minutes, 35 mm). The last musical that Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen directed together, pairs three war buddies who reunite a decade later, only to discover that they don’t have anything in common. The film is a showcase for a series of extravagant dance numbers, including the famous “garbage can ballet.” Kelly makes his extraordinary dance-on-roller-skates number, “I Like Myself,” look effortless.
Altman, “Thieves Like Us,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3 (Robert Altman, 1974, United States, 123 minutes, 35 mm). A trio of escaped convicts performs a series of bank robberies in Depression-era Mississippi. When the youngest of the trio, Bowie (Keith Carradine), falls in love with Keechee (Shelley Duvall), he tries to go straight, much to the dismay of his partners. A remake of Nicholas Ray’s “They Live By Night,” this agrarian noir is considered to be a masterpiece.
“Until The Violence Stops,” 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 (Abby Epstein, 2003, United States, 74 minutes, video). Free. In 2002, 800 cities participated in V-Day events to end violence against women and girls, a movement that grew out of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues. “This feature documentary follows the grassroots impact on the V-Day movement in five communities while exposing the various forms of violence that women experience worldwide. What emerges is an alternately devastating and hopeful look at the global and grassroots efforts to stop violence against women and girls. The screening is sponsored by Northwestern University’s College Feminists and the departments of gender studies and radio/television/film.
Pre-Code Paramount, “One Hour With You,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 (George Cukor and Ernst Lubitsch, 1932, United States, 80 minutes, 35 mm). First directed by George Cukor, known as a “woman’s director” for his success directing actresses, “One Hour With You” was later re-shot by Ernst Lubitsch, who had a more technical approach. Regardless, this film will perk you up with the sharp banter of married couple Andre and Colette Bertier (Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald), who each admit to extra-martial affairs.
Freed, “Silk Stockings,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 (Rouben Mamoulian, 1957, United States, 117 minutes, 35 mm). A Cold War comedy with a classic Cole Porter score, “Silk Stockings” is the final studio musical Fred Astaire ever made. It is a remake of the 1939 film “Ninotchka,” which starred Greta Garbo. The beautiful Ninotchka, the Garbo part, is played by Cyd Charisse, who eventually falls in love with American director Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire).
Altman, “California Split,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 (Robert Altman, 1974, United States, 108 minutes, 35 mm). A down on his luck gambler, Billy Denny (George Seagal), links up with free spirit Charlie Waters (Elliot Gould). At first, they are just having fun, but an unscheduled trip to Tijuana lands them in serious debt. As a final act of desperation, Denny pawns most of his possessions for the poker game of a lifetime in Reno. The film is a reckless odyssey set in casinos and racetracks, and is a pastiche of mostly winning, losing and drinking.
Pre-Code Paramount, “Million Dollar Legs,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15 (Edward F. Cline, 1932, United States, 64 minutes, 35 mm). Welcome to the fictional (and absurd) country of Klopstockia, where everyone is named Angela or George and athleticism abounds. In the film, Klopstockia, on the verge of economic collapse, goes to the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Letting loose its most famous athlete, Migg Tweeny (Jack Oakie), Klopstockia prays for victory, national glory and economic opportunity. It stars W.C. Fields as the country’s president and has been called “one of the silliest and funniest pictures ever made.”
Life of the Spirit, “Il Posto,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 (Ermanno Olmi, 1961, Italy, 90 minutes, 35 mm). Free. The journey from youth to adulthood is a classic subject for literature and cinema. In “Il Posto,” young Domenico and Antoinetta make the leap from suburban innocence to a “job for life” with a major corporation in Milan. Once there, they pursue a conflicted romance while discovering the dehumanization of “il posto” -- the workplace. Solemn yet humorous, Olmi’s social commentary captures the touching nuances of youth and maturity.
Altman, “Nashville,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 (Robert Altman, 1975, United States, 159 minutes, 35 mm). This epic vision of America in the year of its bicentennial follows 24 characters for five days in the country music capital of the world, Nashville. Widely praised by critics and recognized for its groundbreaking sound mix (the overlapping dialogue of several characters speaking at once), the film is often called Altman’s best and most ambitious. It features an array of Altman regulars who sing their own songs.
Pre-Code Paramount, “This Day and Age,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 (Cecil B. DeMille, 1933, United States, 86 minutes, 35 mm). Cecil B. DeMille may be best known for larger-than-life religious epics such as “The Ten Commandments,” but hidden in his oeuvre is this little-known gem. A genre-defying movie, “This Day and Age” follows gangster Louis Garrett (Charles Bickford) into small-town America. There, Garrett kills a popular town shopkeeper. After city officials do nothing, a group of local teens take matters into their own hands.
Life of the Spirit, “Hail Mary,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1985, France, 105 minutes, 35 mm). Free. Mary -- a virgin -- plays basketball, works at a gas station, and leads an unassuming life in modern-day Switzerland until she collides head-on with divine intervention. Pregnant with the Lord’s child, she’s also under the suspicious eye of Joseph, her husband. Told in the classic Godard manner of a mosaic of scenes, the film retells the story of the birth of Christ -- Immaculate Conception, Annunciation, and all -- as if it happened among us today, fusing a clever concept with serious insights.
Altman, “Buffalo Bill and the Indians,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 (Robert Altman, 1976, United States, 123 minutes, 35 mm). Following the themes of “Nashville,” Robert Altman continued to explore American show business in “Buffalo Bill and the Indians,” a deconstruction of the persona of “Buffalo Bill.” Paul Newman plays William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, whose Wild West Show is more focused on making millions than honoring any American tradition. Classically Altman in its subject matter -- both bizarre and squarely American -- the film, like “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” gleefully complicates the textbook mythology of the American West.