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February 2007 Block Cinema Film Calendar

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January 30, 2007 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- 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 for the general public or $4 for Block Museum members, students with IDs and senior citizens. Films in the “Reeltime” series are free. Special events are $10. Season passes are $20. Tickets are available 30 minutes before show time.

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 is screening three new film series. The “New Jack Cinema” series is a retrospective of films made by predominately black directors with largely black casts during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The series showcases works by filmmakers Spike Lee, Mario Van Peebles, John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers, whose films focus on the deterioration of the inner cities of New York and Los Angeles. Alongside artists in hip-hop, graffiti, DJing (a person who selects and plays pre-recorded music) and break dancing, film as a medium let these bright young directors express the sense of sorrow, injustice and rage felt by many in these communities.

The “Ride Lonesome: The Western Hero” series pays homage to popular conceptions of the American frontier and the larger-than-life depictions of rugged male heroes, including Daniel Boone, Natty Bumppo, Tom Mix, Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody.

The “Fritz Lang: Relentless Emergencies” series looks at the films of Austrian director Fritz Lang. From his first American film, “Fury” (1936), Lang's pictures had a narrative directness, an intense stylistic refinement -- often from adapting German Expressionist filmmaking to Hollywood -- and a brutally efficient pace. Lang was fascinated by the give and take between man and society and how they played out on the battlefield of justice, whether that was newspaper offices or the lair of the criminal underworld.

FEBRUARY 2007 FILMS

New Jack Cinema, “King of New York,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1. (Abel Ferrara, 1990, United States, 103 minutes, 35 mm, admission free). Frank White (Christopher Walken), the self-declared mayor of the streets, is an unusual combination of trades: businessman, philanthropist and executioner. After serving a long prison sentence, White decides to give back to society by donating a portion of his drug-based income to under-funded projects. White and his cronies (portrayed by Laurence Fishburne and Steve Buscemi) seize their turf in a sweeping, brutal coup, helping make “King of New York” a gangster rap favorite.

Fritz Lang, “Secret Beyond the Door,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2. (Fritz Lang, 1948, United States, 99 minutes, 35 mm). In this Freudian version of the Bluebeard tale, the heroine gradually realizes that, married to an architect who obsessively 'collects' rooms in which murders have occurred, she must uncover the secret of the one room always kept locked.

Westerns, “Johnny Guitar,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7. (Nicholas Ray, 1954, United States, 110 minutes, 35 mm). A western shot in vivid Technicolor and starring a black-clad, sexually domineering Joan Crawford, Nicholas Ray's expressionist film has retained popularity through the years in its rejection of realism for a story of passion and sexual vivacity. Vienna (Crawford) is a tough saloon owner who holds her ground when Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) and the town's officials wrongly accuse her and her gang of a deadly stagecoach robbery. 

Special Event, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8. (Harry Edwards, 1926, United States, 63 minutes, 35 mm). In this slapstick silent gem, Harry Langdon makes one last attempt to save his father's failing boot-making business by entering a cross-country foot race. The only things standing between Harry and the $25,000 prize are his infantile outlook on life, a ridiculously unbuffed physique and a cyclone. The film also stars a young and gorgeous Joan Crawford. Guitarist Robbie Fulks and avant-garde banjoist and all-around acoustic music scholar Danny Barnes, who plays a variety of instruments, will perform a new original score live during the screening. The Northwest Film Forum in Seattle commissioned the score from Barnes.

New Jack Cinema, “New Jack City,” 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, free admission. (Mario Van Peebles, 1991, United States, 97 minutes, video). A classic in the repertoire of contemporary black cinema, Mario Van Peebles' directorial debut tackles New York's crack cocaine epidemic. Wesley Snipes plays drug lord Nino Brown, a gang leader deluded by his own sense of power; a pair of cops (Ice-T and Judd Nelson) and a recovering crack addict (Chris Rock) try to bring him down at whatever cost. “New Jack City” is an indictment of the crack underworld and the corrosive effect it has on everything above it.

Fritz Lang, “Clash by Night,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, free admission. (Fritz Lang, 1952, United States, 105 minutes, video). In this film, Lang took a topic -- a cynical woman's adultery, based on a Clifford Odets' play -- that was more neo-realism than heart-pounding thriller. Barbara Stanwyck plays the unhappy lead, who, out of discontent as much as greed, tries to have her cake and eat it, too. Marilyn Monroe (in her first major role) and Keith Andes, as simple young lovers, provide a fascinating counterpoint.

Westerns, “Ride Lonesome,” 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14. (Budd Boetticher, 1959, United States, 73 minutes, 35 mm). This masterful collaboration of actor Randolph Scott, director Budd Boetticher and scriptwriter Burt Kennedy features villains and heroes whose loyalties and desires shift often. The hero is an aging lawman, played by Scott, who persists in the search for his wife's killer.

Westerns, “Naked Spur,” 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14. (Anthony Mann, 1953, United States, 91 minutes, 35 mm). Shot in Durango, this film is remembered as Anthony Mann's self-conscious effort to show the landscapes of the American West but is also noted as an examination of characters almost losing their minds. To earn enough money to buy back his farm, Howard Kemp (Jimmy Stewart) tries to track down the murderer Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) for a $5,000 bounty.

New Jack Cinema, “Boyz 'N the Hood,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. (John Singleton, 1991, United States, 107 minutes, 35 mm). Basing many of the characters on people in his life, director John Singleton maps the paths of three friends in South Central Los Angeles who encounter dire consequences that are avoidable and inevitable. Half-brothers Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut) take up crime and college, respectively, while Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), with the guidance of his father (Laurence Fishburne), learns to negotiate good and evil on the streets. Nicholas Davis, College Fellow, Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will introduce this film.

Fritz Lang, “The Big Heat,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16. (Fritz Lang, 1953, United States, 89 minutes, 35 mm). Detective Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) is assigned to investigate the suicide of a police sergeant, but his principled approach puts him at odds with the corrupt realities of the police force. When he retaliates after a gangster threatens his wife and family, he is ordered off the case. But Bannion is unable to walk away. Part film noir, part violent melodrama, “The Big Heat” is known for its implied off-screen cruelty, Robert Peterson's set design and Lang's efficient direction. Professor Tom Gunning of the University of Chicago will introduce this film.

Reel Time, “Black Gold,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21. (Mark and Nick Francis, 2006, United States, 78 minutes, video). A cup of coffee might perk up a person's afternoon, but it places heavy burdens on the backs of coffee farmers in Ethiopia who struggle to feed and clothe their families. This film dramatically details the unfair trade practices that help keep Africa stuck in poverty. This film is co-presented with ITVS Community Cinema, Independent Lens and WTTW/Channel 11.

New Jack Cinema, “Dead Presidents,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22. (Albert and Allan Hughes, 1995, United States, 115 minutes, 35 mm). Although decidedly more grounded in everyday realities and thus decidedly more downbeat than its predecessor “Forrest Gump,” “Dead Presidents” is also about a man's return from the Vietnam War. Unlike Forrest, veteran Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) isn't any good at ping-pong; instead, unemployed and forgotten, Curtis turns to armed robbery. With the best heist sequences of the 1990s, this is a meditation on film history as much as the urban black experience. Kevin Bell, Northwestern assistant professor of English, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will introduce this film.

Special Event, “Pandora's Box,” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23. (G.W. Pabst, 1929, Germany, 110 minutes, 35 mm). Lulu (Louise Brooks), a sensual yet innocent showgirl, weaves a spell of sexual delirium that wrecks the lives of the men and women who fall in love with her. Ultimately a tragedy, the film follows her career and romantic exploits until her eventual destruction. Dramatizing the temptations of Berlin between the wars, “Pandora's Box” is one of the classics of silent cinema. This is Block Cinema's contribution to the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art's winter 2007 exhibition “From the Trenches to the Street: Art from Germany, 1910s to 1920s” (Jan. 19 to March 18). The film will be shown with live musical accompaniment by guitar virtuoso Andreas Kapsalis and his band.

Westerns, “For a Few Dollars More,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28. (Sergio Leone, 1965 Italy/Spain/West Germany, 126 minutes, 35 mm). This violent film may be the pinnacle of the spaghetti western. It is set in the American West, but financed and produced by Italian studios. Passing through a phantasmagoric western landscape, Clint Eastwood, who repeats his role as a shadowy bounty hunter without a name, is on the trail of the dangerous fugitive “El Indio.” His journey, backlit by an extraordinary Ennio Morricone soundtrack, is punctuated by taciturn benedictions such as Eastwood's famous line, “It's too bad you have to die.”