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January 2008 Film Calendar

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January 15, 2008 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Block Cinema, a collaboration of the Northwestern University School of Communication and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, screens classic and contemporary films. Block Cinema is dedicated to providing the Northwestern campus, the North Shore and the Chicago area with a quality venue for repertory cinema.

All films are screened in the James B. Pick and Rosalyn M. 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 otherwise 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 more than 30 films from South Korea, Japan and China -- films directed by Akira Kurosawa, Zhang Ke Jia, Kim Ki-Duk, Kenji Mizoguchi, Jooh-ho Bong and Im Kwon-Taek. Also screened will be a number of short films about early computer animation that relate to the Block Museum's two Winter 2008 exhibitions -- "Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of the Computer Print" in the museum's Main Gallery and "Space, Color and Motion" in the Alsdorf Gallery -- both on public exhibition from Jan. 18 through April 6.

Later this winter, four Soviet "new wave" films that followed Joseph Stalin's death and were directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, the former head of film production under Stalin, also will be shown. Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky (whose work is featured in three of these films) used athletic hand-held camerawork to convey the emotions of the characters -- a technique Kalatozov referred to as the "emotional camera."

The following is a listing of upcoming Block Cinema films that will be screened in January.

JANUARY 2008 FILMS

Zhang Ke Jia Series, "Platform," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9 (Zhang Ke Jia, 2000, China, Japan and France, 154 minutes, 35 mm). The year 2000 was a banner year for Chinese film: Edward Yang's "Yi Yi," Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love" and Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Zhang Ke Jia's second feature, "Platform" didn't receive as much notice, but it remains the only truly Mainland Chinese film and the most globally relevant. Jia is fascinated by China's modernization and move towards capitalism, and "Platform" captures the sweeping changes of the 1980s in the lives of four friends. In 1979 they're performing Maoist propaganda in a state-run variety troupe; by the mid-1980s Deng Xiaoping's Open Door policy has upset their livelihood and lives. The film is a grand tragedy of loss and home.

South Korean Cinema Series, "Bad Guy," 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10 (Kim Ki-Duk, 2001, South Korea, 100 minutes, 35 mm). While strutting through downtown Seoul, gangland pimp Han-Gi spots Sun-Hwa, a pretty, middle-class college student, alone on a park bench. He grabs her and forcefully kisses her, even while being beaten by bystanders. Here begins Han-Gi's obsessive mission to possess this woman by forcing her into the dark world of prostitution. Director Kim Ki-Duk transcends the conventions of traditional narrative in this surreal, fantasy-fueled clash.

Kenji Mizoguchi Series, "Sisters of the Gion," 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936, Japan, 69 minutes, 35 mm).
Often called the best pre-war Japanese film, "Sisters of the Gion" tells the story of two sisters -- the older trained as a geisha in the old tradition and devoted to her bankrupt former patron and the younger an apprentice with more modern ideas, who rebels against the conventions of the profession and resents the callous way men treat women. Set in Tokyo's red-light district, "Sisters of Gion" is a harsh film that showcases Mizoguchi's sensitivity towards the plight of women in traditional Japanese society.

Zhang Ke Jia Series, "Unknown Pleasures," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 (Zhang Ke Jia, 2002, South Korea, Japan, China and France, 112 minutes, 35 mm). Director Zhang Ke Jia was once asked if he was "more prone to the negative." He responded, "I am more concerned with the people who have fallen into the margins." In "Unknown Pleasures," Jia shows filmgoers a few of those people: young adults -- China's new Lost Generation -- who are struggling to find roles in their frighteningly new and dynamic society. It is a film that's both comic and desperate.

South Korean Series, "The Host," 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17 (Joon-ho Bong, 2006, South Korea, 119 minutes, 35 mm). In the long tradition of metropolis-terrorizing monsters, a mysterious creature emerges from the Han River to torment Seoul, the result of an American laboratory that has dumped chemicals into the water. After the creature captures a young girl, her misfit family, part of a fantastic ensemble cast, sets out to save her by their attempts to destroy the monster. The highest-grossing South Korean film ever, "The Host" is an entertaining terrifying thriller filled with anti-American satire and slapstick comedy.

Kenji Mizoguchi Series, "The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum," 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939, Japan, 148 minutes, 35 mm). This is a story of Otuku, a lowly wet-nurse in a powerful family of kabuki actors. A family member learns from Otuku that his acting is praised only because of his influential connections, while other actors complain of his incompetence behind his back. To achieve success he will either have to forsake the wet-nurse or his family. The film is a moving portrait of the price of fame.

Zhang Ke Jia Series, "The World," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 (Zhang Ke Jia, 2004 China, Japan and France, 143 minutes, 35 mm). On the outskirts of Beijing lies a theme park with miniatures of the world's great monuments from the Egyptian pyramids to France's Eiffel Tower. For workers there, the metropolis of Beijing, littered with cranes and the skeletons of buildings under construction, is in the distance, and the world, so to speak, is all around them. Through a series of vignettes film director Jia introduces the audience to the lives of the theme park's employees, the disaffected young Chinese who are Jia's obsession.

South Korean Series, "Sopyonje," 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 (Im Kwon-Taek, 1993, South Korea, 112 minutes, 35 mm). Director Im Kwon-Taek explores his fascination with "pansori," a genre of Korean traditional folk music, in this masterpiece. The film is about a family of pansori singers struggling to make a living in the 1940s and in the decades thereafter, a time when many aspects of Korean culture came under siege from Japanese and Western influences. The film represents the struggle to maintain an essential "Koreanness" during the rush of modernity and globalization. It also broke box office records in Korea for a Korean film.

Zhang Ke Jia Series, "Pickpocket," 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 (Zhang Ke Jia, 1997, China and Hong Kong, 105 minutes, 35 mm). Originally shot on 16 mm film and filled with kinetic, hand-held shots, "Pickpocket" was director Zhang Ke Jia's first film. The low-budget production concerns the life of Xiao Wu -- which is the film's Chinese and more appropriate title. Wu remains a small-time thief while his former friends and colleagues have parlayed their resumes into entrepreneurial endeavors applauded by the state-run media. Wu's former best friend, Xiao Yang, has been named a "Model Entrepreneur" for his cigarette trafficking activities. Wu's family is still rooted in their agrarian lifestyle and older, Maoist ways in the backwater town of Fenyang, where the film is set. Filmgoers watch Xiao Wu as he falls through the ever-widening cracks between China's original face and the new China of today.

Kenji Mizoguchi Series, "The Life of Oharu," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1952, Japan, 148 minutes, 35 mm). A response to Akira Kurosawa's then just-released "Rashomon," "The Life of Oharu" ranks among the great tragedies of cinema, a brutal and beautiful film. Mizoguchi's film chronicles the decline of a woman from a respected member of the Imperial Japanese Court to a whore and beggar. Set in feudal Japan, this film was clearly a comment on contemporary Japanese life, and it solidifies Mizoguchi's reputation as the cinema's greatest director of women.

South Korean Series, "Address Unknown," 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 (Kim Ki-Duk, 2001, South Korea, 117 minutes, 35 mm). Director Kim Ki-Duk's bleak tragedy explores the legacy of an American military base in the South Korean countryside. Kim expertly weaves together the stories of many characters -- a horribly disfigured girl, an abandoned wife of an American soldier, an American Army recruit coping with a foreign environment -- all searching for a happy ending that does not exist.