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Block Cinema February 2009 Film Calendar

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January 27, 2009 | 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. 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 winter, Block Cinema is screening films in two new series -- The Times of Robert Mapplethorpe -- sponsored by Northwestern's Center for Global Culture and Communication -- and Remake/Remodel: Rock and Roll Movies.

The Times of Robert Mapplethorpe complements the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art's "Polaroids: Mapplethorpe" exhibition on view in the museum's Alsdorf Gallery from Jan. 13 to April 5. Block Cinema has chosen to situate Mapplethorpe within the context of "queer cinema" from Kenneth Anger, who released his first film in 1947, to the New Queer Cinema movement that began in the early 1990s. The series also provides a feel for 1960s New York from which a young Mapplethorpe emerged. Among the films to be screened are Derek Jarman's "Sebastiane" (Feb. 5), Tod Browning's "Freaks" (Feb. 25) and Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's "Performance (Feb. 26).

The Remake/Remodel: Rock and Roll Movies series of films survey how the movies have documented and advertised rock. Featuring artists Chuck Berry, an American guitarist, singer, songwriter and one of the pioneers of rock 'n' roll, to the English alternative rock band Radiohead, the series takes a wide-angle look at rock's expanding universe. Rock star David Bowie in "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" (Feb. 11) is radically different from the persona of James Brown, "The Godfather of Soul" in "The T.A.M.I. Show" (Feb. 27), but both films capture seminal live moments. They also chronicle both the evolution of commercial music and documentary film as the essential packaging for any rock star. Another film to be screened in February is Ondi Timoner's 2004 film "DiG!" (Feb. 18) which tells the story of the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre -- both rock bands -- as the former band approaches commercial success and the latter spirals away from it.

Other February screenings include Deborah Stratman's 2008 film "O'er the Land" (Feb. 6), co-sponsored by Block Cinema and the Northwestern University department of art theory and practice, and the world premiere of Llewellyn Smith's documentary "Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness" (Feb. 13), which examines the works of Melville Herskovits, who established Northwestern's Program of African Studies in 1948.

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

FEBRUARY 2009 FILMS

Rock and Roll series, "Spice World," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4 (Bob Spiers, 1997, United Kingdom, 90 minutes, 35 mm). "A Hard Day's Night" for the 1990s, "Spice World" follows the Spice Girls -- Baby, Scary, Sporty, Ginger and Posh -- around London the day before a major concert, with Elton John, Jennifer Saunders, Roger Moore and Elvis Costello making guest appearances. The film, filled with surreal subplots and zany musical numbers, is a must-see for anyone nostalgic for the English pop band's heyday.

Mapplethorpe Series, "Sebastiane," 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 (Derek Jarman, 1976, United Kingdom, 90 minutes, 35 mm). In this groundbreaking historical film about a gay icon, Sebastiane, a common Roman soldier, is banished from Rome for voicing his beliefs and sent to a barren coastal outpost where men freely explore their homosexual desires. When Sebastiane rejects the advances of a commanding officer, he's condemned to death. With a script entirely in Latin and a beautiful, minimalist score by Brian Eno, experimental filmmaker Derek Jarman tells the story of the martyred saint with unmatched veracity. Allen Frantzen, an English professor at Loyola University, Chicago, will introduce the film.

Art Theory and Practice Series, "O'er the Land," 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6 (Deborah Stratman, 2008, United States, 52 minutes, 16 mm). Fresh from its premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, "O'er the Land" is a meditation on the role of technology in American myth and history. This collage is interrupted by the story of Colonel William Rankin, who in 1959 ejected from his fighter jet at 48,000 feet only to be trapped for 45 minutes in the up and down drafts of a massive thunderstorm. Deborah Stratman is a Chicago-based artist and filmmaker whose work in various media plies the territory between experimental and documentary genres. The film will be preceded by "The Paranormal Trilogy" (Stratman, 2005-07, 11 minutes, video and 16mm). Co-sponsored by Block Cinema and the Northwestern University department of art theory and practice. Admission is free.

Rock and Roll Series, "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 (D.A. Pennebaker, 1973, United States, 90 minutes, 35 mm). "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" documents David Bowie's last performance as his glam-rock alter ego Ziggy Stardust. This is Bowie at his most flamboyant and outrageous. Working with footage that's at times blurry and hazy, and sound quality that's never pristine, Pennebaker manages to preserve the feeling of being present at this final Ziggy extravaganza.

Rock and Roll Series, "Chuck Berry Hail! Hail!" 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12 (Taylor Hackford, 1987, United States, 120 minutes, 35 mm). Simply put, Chuck Berry is rock 'n' roll. In 1986 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones paid tribute by organizing a 60th birthday concert for Berry in his hometown of St. Louis. Notorious for not rehearsing, Berry was backed here by an all-star band formed by Richards. The concert is spectacular, but "Hail!" is most notable for its copious rehearsal and interview footage, including Berry feuding with Richards and just about everyone else on the set and a roundtable discussion on the origins of rock 'n' roll, featuring Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley.

Documentary Film World Premiere, "Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness," 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 (Llewellyn Smith, 2008, United States, 54 minutes, DVD). Brilliant, ambitious, high-minded and manipulative, Melville Herskovits was an anthropologist who pioneered the study of Africa in the United States. Herskovits was the chair of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern -- the first such position in American academia -- and his groundbreaking work detailed the influence of African cultures on African-American society. His success and authority pushed some black scholars to the margins; paradoxically, his work became a powerful tool for black liberation movements in the U.S. and abroad. Bringing together archival footage and interviews of leading scholars of race and culture, "Herskovits" depicts an ongoing struggle over who has the power to describe and define the contours of our cultural history. The film will be introduced by Director Llewellyn Smith.

Rock and Roll Series, "DiG!" 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18 (Ondi Timoner, 2004, United States, 107 minutes, 35 mm). The winner of the Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize, "DiG!" turns the story of the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre -- both rock bands on the make -- into an epic about ambition, integrity and the future of rock 'n' roll. During seven years of filming, Timoner watched as the Dandy Warhols came closer to commercial success and the Brian Jonestown Massacre spiraled away from it. "DiG!" is a street-level look at making it (or not) in the new music business.

Mapplethorpe Series, "Fast Trip, Long Drop," 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 (Gregg Bordowitz, 1993, United States, 54 minutes, DVD). Gregg Bordowitz, who was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 23, is a video artist whose work wrestles with the question of how to be an activist and artist in the age of an epidemic. A deeply personal work, "Fast Trip, Long Drop" asks how an artist can and should bear witness to a social tragedy on the scale of AIDS. It is a profound aesthetic statement on the dirty, earthy nature of honesty and the possibility of an anti-aesthetic in the most glamorous of artist media. Artist and School of the Art Institute of Chicago Professor Gregg Bordowitz will be in attendance to introduce the film and discuss art and AIDS in 1980s New York City.

Mapplethorpe Series, "Parting Glances," 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20 (Bill Sherwood, 1985, United States, 90 minutes, 35 mm). "Parting Glances" is one of the first narrative American films to deal matter-of-factly with gay desire. "Parting Glances" takes on the AIDS crisis and its effect on New York. It features Steve Buscemi (in his first major role) as a New Yorker suffering from AIDS. The director, Bill Sherwood, who later died of AIDS, imbued the film with genuine emotional pain and a controversial ending. Lane Fenrich, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences will introduce the film.

Double Feature, Mapplethorpe Series, "Freaks," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 (Tod Browning, 1932, United States, 64 minutes, 16 mm). Tod Browning's "Freaks," based largely on the director's own experience in the traveling circus, follows a trapeze artist who pretends to fall in love with Hans, a wealthy sideshow midget. When Hans falls mysteriously ill the night of their marriage, his community of carnival "freaks" -- including a bearded woman, conjoined twins and the Human Torso -- suspects foul play. To the outrage of audiences, Browning cast actors with actual physical deformities; the horrified reaction to the film arguably cost him his career. "Freaks" will be followed by "Flaming Creatures" (Jack Smith, 1963, United States, 45 minutes, 16 mm). Jack Smith's surreal "Flaming Creatures" has been called legendary, orgiastic, jubilant and apocalyptic. A New York Criminal Court called it obscene, and banned it. Susan Sontag said that it was "that rare modern work of art: it is about joy and innocence." Nicholas K. Davis, assistant professor of English and gender studies, Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will introduce both films.

Mapplethorpe Series, "Performance," 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26 (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970, United States, 105 minutes, 35 mm). Aesthetically situated in the 1970s, "Performance" is nonetheless a timeless film. Repudiated on its release for its violence, graphic sex and homoeroticism, some critics now consider it among the most remarkable British films ever made. Starring Mick Jagger, its hectic narrative repeatedly folds back onto itself and then fragments, creating unexpected associations and visual rhymes. Relentlessly experimental, "Performance" remains a strange, daunting movie.

Rock and Roll Series, "The T.A.M.I. Show," 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 (Steven Binder, 1964, United States, 123 minutes, 35 mm). From the slice of time between the birth of mainstream rock 'n' roll and the advent of rhythm and blues comes "The T.A.M.I Show." The Teen Age Music International Show, a 1964 concert in Santa Monica, Calif., features a Hall-of-Fame lineup of performers, including Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, the Rolling Stones and the Supremes. But the concert is best known for James Brown's performance: Brown shimmies across the stage on one leg, wails into the microphone, and collapses onstage, only to rise up and do it all over again. Adam Sekular, program director of Northwest Film Forum, a Seattle-based non-profit organization dedicated to becoming the nation's leading center for film artists, will introduce the film.