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November 2008 Film Calendar

October 21, 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, Northwestern faculty and staff, senior citizens aged 65 and older, and students with IDs. Films in the "Reeltime" and Louis Family Nature 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 visit the Block Cinema Web site at http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema.

This fall, Block Cinema is screening 30 films in two series -- The Berlin School and WWII: The Photography of John Swope and Hollywood's Depiction of WWII.

The Berlin School series
features contemporary films from what may be the next great wave in German cinema. These small-scale films explore issues of 21st century life, including the integration of East and West Germany and the dominance of globalized capitalism. The series is a special chance to see these films, which have been rarely screened in the United States. Benjamin Heisenberg's 2005 film "Schlafer" ("Sleeper") makes its Chicago-area premiere at Block Cinema Nov. 20.

Block Cinema's WWII film series relates to the Block Museum's Fall 2008 exhibition in the Main Gallery, "A Letter from Japan: The Photographs of John Swope." In that spirit, Block Cinema has programmed a series of Hollywood films that provide multisided perspectives -- often devastating, sometimes funny and always nuanced -- on World War II. World War II is the defining historical event of the 20th century, and Hollywood has grappled with its meaning ever since the studios donated their services to the U.S. Armed Forces in 1941.

Block Cinema also has included a number of non-Hollywood films in the series, including two Japanese films from director Kon Ichikawa. The chaos and destruction of war is impossible to represent. These films succeed not with "accurate" depictions of war, but rather with the powerful honesty of fresh perspectives.

David Lean's classic 1957 film "The Bridge on the River Kwai" will be shown Nov. 12.

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


Reeltime "In the Family," 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5 (Joanna Rudnick, 2008, United States, 83 minutes, video). What do you do when your genes are your enemy? This intensely personal documentary follows Chicago filmmaker Joanna Rudnick as she tests positive for the hereditary breast cancer gene. As Rudnick reaches out to other women in a similar predicament, she poses and clarifies the complex issues connected with predictive genetic testing. Filmmaker Joanna Rudnick will make a special guest appearance. A co-presentation with P.O.V. (a cinema term for "point of view"), Public Broadcasting Service's award-winning nonfiction film series.

Berlin School, Chicago Premiere of "Ferien," ("Vacation") 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6 (Thomas Arslan, 2007, Germany, 91 minutes, 35 mm).
A closely observed and strikingly alive family drama, "Ferien" is a film whose natural landscapes both complement and counter the feelings of its characters. Summer gets off to a great start when Anna (Angela Winkler, a New German Cinema icon) invites much of her extended family to join her and her husband and son at their country getaway. But when the sudden illness of Anna's mother uncovers deep family tensions, things fall apart.

WWII, "Fires on the Plain," 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7 (Kon Ichikawa, 1959, Japan, 108 minutes, 35 mm).
Japanese director Kon Ichikawa's war films are particularly interesting because they are at the intersection of his patriotism and his critique of his country. Is his focus primarily on Japanese victims or is there more nuanced commentary folded into these stories of death and destruction? "Fires on the Plain" depicts the Japanese Imperial Army in 1945, a decimated assortment of men and boys barely hanging on to the Philippines.

WWII, Short Films from the Academy Film Archive, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12 (Various directors, 1941 to 1945, United States, about 90 minutes, 16 mm). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Film Archive preserved these films because they did not exist on 35 mm in any other archive. Featuring the aptly named "It's All Over But the Shooting" (1945), "The Battle of Midway" (1942) directed by John Ford and "Women in Defense" (1941) narrated by Katharine Hepburn. Block Museum Film Curator Will Schmenner will lead a discussion after the screening.

Berlin School, "Milchwald," ("This Very Moment") 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13 (Christoph Hochäusler, 2003, Germany, 87 minutes, 35 mm). With a nod to Hansel and Gretel, "Milchwald" tells the story of two young children on a shopping trip to Poland with their stepmother. The stepmother, jealous that the children draw her husband's attention away from her, decides to leave them behind. The youngsters must find their own way home in a land where they cannot speak the language and where anyone willing to help seems to have ulterior motives. The film is a thoughtful look at freedom and independence both inside and outside of the family structure. Northwestern University Visiting Associate Professor of German Bradley J. Prager will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

WWII, "The Bridge on the River Kwai," 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14 (David Lean, 1957, United States & United Kingdom, 161 minutes, 35 mm).
This award-winning adaptation of the Pierre Boulle novel, about the battle of wills between a Japanese POW camp commander and a British colonel over the construction of a rail bridge and the parallel efforts by an escaped prisoner to destroy it, stars Sessue Haykawa, Alec Guinness and William Holden.

WWII, "I Was a Male War Bride," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19 (Howard Hawks, 1949, United States, 105 minutes, 35 mm).
Cary Grant plays Henri Rochard, a captain in the French Army, in this comedy. After a period of mutual hatred, Lt. Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan) of the U.S. Army and Rochard fall in love in postwar Europe. But their love is threatened when Gates is called back to America. Duty bound to go, Gates invokes the War Bride's Act in order to bring her husband with her, and a series of awkward costumes and spatial confinements follow for Grant.

Berlin School, Chicago Premiere of "Schläfer," ("Sleeper") 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20 (Benjamin Heisenberg, 2005, Austria and Germany, 100 minutes, 35 mm). Johannes (Bastian Trost), a new assistant at the university, befriends his Algerian colleague, Farid (Mehdi Nebbou). As their relationship begins to turn sour, Johannes is approached by the German government to report on Farid, a suspected sleeper terrorist. Tense and timely, director Benjamin Heisenberg's finely crafted debut feature depicts how Johannes, alone and uncertain, is unraveled by a friend's possible betrayal.

WWII, "The Burmese Harp," 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 (Kon Ichikawa, 1956, Japan, 116 minutes, 16 mm).
Director Kon Ichikawa's deeply affecting, spiritual film, "The Burmese Harp," ranks among Japanese cinema's most significant antiwar statements. After an Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to the British at Burma, the prisoners take solace in their self-taught lute player, Private Mizushima, whom the British believe is a Buddhist monk. Not wishing to continue the fighting, the British send Mizushima into the mountains to secure the surrender of another Japanese company.
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