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 made 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, “The Blue Angel,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 1 (Edward F. Cline, 1930, United States, 64 minutes, 35 mm). As a co-production of Par Studio and Paramount, “The Blue Angel” launched the careers of German actress and icon Marlene Dietrich, who later became the highest paid Hollywood actress of her time. The film follows nightclub singer Lola (Dietrich) as she seduces professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings). This film demonstrates the stunning and dark depths movies could overtly mine before the enforcement of the Hays code.
Life of the Spirit, “Thérése,” 8 p.m. Thursday, March 2 (Alain Cavalier, 1986, France, 100 minutes, 16 mm). Free. As a film to depict the life of Saint Theresa, director Alain Cavalier’s “Thérése,” is as simple as it is profound. Comprised of short vignettes, the story of “Little Thérése” (Catherine Mouchet) and her fellow nuns is plainly told and filmed with great control and austerity.
Altman, “3 Women,” 8 p.m. Friday, March 3 (Robert Altman, 1977, United States, 124 minutes, 35 mm). Inspired by a dream, “3 Women” follows the story of three women (a therapist, her roommate and a painter) who live in apartments along the California desert and eventually swap personalities. With an acclaimed performance by Shelly Duval as the audacious therapist, “3 Women” is a strange but wonderful cinematic journey.
Pre-Code Paramount, “Murder at the Vanities,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 (Mitchell Leisen, 1934, United States, 95 minutes, 35 mm). The plot of this film isn’t anything unusual -- a cop arrives at a theatre to investigate an attempted murder, only to be there when an actual murder occurs. Though it seems to play to the mystery genre, director Mitchell Leisen transforms the story into a unique musical that combines the charm of the genre with the mystery of a whodunit. Lavishly styled, “Murder at the Vanities” has almost everything you want in a movie -- sex, murder and an appearance by Duke Ellington.
The Life of Spirit, “My Mother’s Smile,” 8 p.m. Thursday, March 9 (Marco Bellocchio, 2002, Italy, 103 minutes, 35 mm). Free. In “My Mother’s Smile,” director Marco Bellocchio explicitly exposes the tension between commercialism and sanctity in modern-day religion. When Ernesto learns that the Catholic Church is considering his mother -- who was anything but saintly -- for canonization, he begins to question his family and faith. Meanwhile, Ernesto’s family tries to capitalize on the situation despite his brother having murdered their mother. As a dark and thoughtful film, it is a quiet and damning reflection on the bureaucracy of faith.
Altman, “Popeye,” 8 p.m. Friday, March 10 (Robert Altman, 1980, United States, 114 minutes, 35 mm). Altman capped a magnificent decade with a moody big-budget take on the classic comic strip, turning the sugary town of Sweethaven into an atmospheric play land. Altman’s second-highest grossing film (after “M*A*S*H”), “Popeye” is bulging with talent. Scripted by cartoonist Jules Feiffer, the cast included the film debut of Robin Williams as the title character and Shelley Duvall, making her final Altman appearance, as Olive Oyl.