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Block Cinema April 2009 Film Calendar

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March 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.

Block Cinema is screening films in three new series this spring -- Gordon Parks, Biomimicry and 60s Godard.

The Gordon Parks series complements the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art's Spring 2009 main gallery exhibition "Bare Witnesss: Photographs by Gordon Parks" (April 24 to June 28). It celebrates the works of Parks (1912-2006), a barrier-breaking African American artist and photographer. The breath of his work covers journalistic, fashion and fine art photography, feature filmmaking, documentary filmmaking, composing, writing, painting, poetry and activism. Parks turned toward cinema writing and music in the late 1960s, directing several motion pictures, including the hits "Shaft" and "Shaft's Big Score." Most of his films, however, were made independently, and many of the 16 mm and 35 mm prints have been lost. Block Cinema has assembled a small selection of rarely shown films that underscore the importance of preserving such fragile, pioneering and vital works of art.

The title of the Biomimicry series is borrowed from the name of a field of engineering which uses nature to find solutions to design problems and that has produced Velcro fasteners and autonomous insectoid robots. At its roots, "biomimicry" describes the process of reproducing life with technology. The films selected for this series represent a cross-section of science fiction, drama, action and adventure stories, all of which focus on the divide between human and robot, and how technology can, in very real ways, make us less human.

The 60s Godard series examines the 1960s cinema dawning of the French New Wave, a group of directors who drew their inspiration from classic French and American cinema, but made movies for the "baby boom" generation. Among the movement's directors, Jean-Luc Godard led the French New Wave in its honoring and remaking of cinema. He understood that the New Wave needed to do more than inject new energy into cinema – they had to reinvent it.

The Louis Family Nature Series allows viewers to witness the most intimate and complete picture of nature every filmed, including the high-definition BBC's 10-part television series "The Life of Birds." Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the series took three years to make at a cost of $15 million. The production was shot by a team of 48 cinematographers who worked in 42 countries on five continents.

Block Cinema also will screen the 2000 film "Tears of the Black Tiger," a Western from Thailand (April 15), and host a talk on the practice of art (April 9) by Los Angeles-based architect Fritz Haeg. Haeg's talk is cosponsored by Northwestern's department of art theory and practice.

The following is a listing of Block Cinema film screenings and events in April.

APRIL 2009 EVENTS

Louis Family Nature series, "The Life of Birds," Episodes 1 and 2: "To Fly or Not to Fly" and "The Mastery of Flight," 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 1 (Joanna Sarsby, 1998, United Kingdom, 99 minutes, video). When it comes to nature documentaries, Sir David Attenborough is the only superstar of this important genre of filmmaking. His first major contribution was the "Life" trilogy, which began in 1979 with "Life on Earth." Today, he is most famous for "Planet Earth," which Block Cinema screened last spring. This spring, Block Cinema will screen "The Life of Birds," a brilliant series written and narrated by Attenborough on the origin of birds and the wonder and trial of flight.

60s Godard series, "Masculine Feminine," 8 p.m. Thursday, April 2 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966, France, 103 minutes, 35 mm). "Masculine Feminine" is a whimsical and captivating film about the love affair of Madeleine and Paul (Jean-Pierre Leaud, from "The 400 Blows") in mid-1960s revolutionary Paris. It is a fable of courtship in an age of free love.

Biomimicry series /Double Feature, "Frankenstein" (James Whale, 1931, United States, 71 minutes, 35 mm) and "Creation of the Humanoids" (Wesley Barry, 1962, United States, 75 minutes, video), 7 p.m. Friday, April 3. Artificial life forms expose the depths of human cruelty in this double feature. Director James Whale, with the help of Boris Karloff's body, invents the monster in "Frankenstein" as we know him, escaping his megalomaniacal creator only to be assaulted by his cruel and fearful neighbors. Whale's classic film will be followed by Wesley Barry's bizarre science-fiction video, "Creation of the Humanoids," about survivors of a nuclear holocaust, who have to battle rebellious cyborgs reacting against the racism of the social order and the humans-only ruling group, "The Order of the Flesh and Blood."

Biomimicry series, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8 (Steven Spielberg, 2001, United States, 146 minutes, 35 mm). This futuristic film is about a visually spectacular grey and candy-colored dystopia. To compensate for massive depopulation after global warming has devastated the planet, human-like automatons called "mechas" fill most service jobs, but childlike David (Haley Joel Osment) is a special robot built to imprint "feelings."

Art Practice, A Talk by Fritz Haeg, 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9, free. Los Angeles-based Fritz Haeg applies his skills as an architect to artistic and curatorial practices that include designing houses, leading a peripatetic education center, facilitating grassroots political activism and experimenting in radical gardening. Rejecting categorization and specialization, Haeg is attracted to multidisciplinary projects that manifest as social opportunities, benevolent gestures or inspirational models. Like Dutch-born artist and designer Joep van Lieshout, Haeg takes a collective approach to his work, viewing its outcomes as organic culminations of multiple individual inputs rather than the result of directorial cues. Haeg's talk is cosponsored by Northwestern University's department of art theory and practice.

60s Godard series, "Pierrot Le Fou," 8 p.m. Friday, April 10 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965, France, 110 minutes, 35 mm). Godard's 10th feature film follows two lovers on a surreal road trip across France. Largely improvised, the movie combines the absurd with the tragic, and sincere tenderness with slapstick humor and violence. It is a portrait of the stagnancy of modern life and the madness of love.

"Tears of the Black Tiger," 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 15 (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000, Thailand, 110 minutes 35 mm).
This over-the-top modern Western from Thailand celebrates and parodies Thai action melodrama of the 1950s and 1960s while suggesting Sergio Leone's stylish camerawork and Douglas Sirk's rich color palate. This film has showdowns and style to spare and is an example on how the Western lives on.

Biomimicry series, "eXistenZ," 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16 (David Cronenberg, 1999, United States, 97 minutes, 35 mm). Fleshy man-made orifices and organic weapons abound in David Cronenberg's paranoid techno-thriller. It stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Allegra Geller, the world's leading video game designer, pushing the envelope of what is possible with her latest invention: a virtual reality game that runs through a bio-organic console and attaches to each player through a bioport at the base of the spine. Just as she begins the test run, Geller is attacked by an assassin and is forced to flee to the virtual realm of the game.

60s Godard series, "Contempt," 8 p.m. Friday, April 17 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963, France, 103 minutes, 35 mm). "Contempt" is Godard's farewell to classic Hollywood cinema. He says goodbye with Jack Palance and Fritz Lang, Bridget Bardot, and a film version of Homer's "The Odyssey." Godard's first and only big-budget production, it teases the viewer while it reinvents desire, love and tragedy.

Louis Family Nature series, "The Life of Birds," Episodes 3 and 4, "The Insatiable Appetite" and "Meat Eaters," 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 22 (Joanna Sarsby, 1998, United Kingdom, 99 minutes, video), free. This video features wondrous footage of birds eating, which narrator Sir David Attenborough informs viewers, birds need to do almost constantly because flight is so energy intensive. The BBC takes viewers around the world to watch sapsuckers, geese, arctic owls and kestrels.

Parks series, "The Learning Tree," 8 p.m. Thursday, April 23 (Gordon Parks, 1969, United States, 107 minutes, 16 mm). Released the year after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Gordon Parks' "The Learning Tree," is based on his autobiographical novel of the same name. It confronts the stifling effects of segregation in rural Kansas in the 1920s. In Parks' most personal and emotionally nuanced film, he captures a small town on the verge of the Depression and masterfully evokes the drama of a child's sudden transition into adulthood.
Parks directed and produced the film and composed the score.

Biomimicry series, A Night of Digital Lust, WARNING: NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, "Demonlover" and "I.K.U," 8 p.m. Friday, April 24. "Demonlover," (Olivier Assayas, 2002, France, 115 minutes 35 mm). "Demonlover" is an adults-only thriller about corporate intrigue and betrayal and a meditation on the alienating effects of technology. It tells the story of an American executive (Connie Nielsen) who travels to Japan to negotiate the distribution rights to an anime studio specializing in 3-D pornography. When Nielsen sets out to find the Web master of the mysterious and increasing popular Web site, she is led down a bloody rabbit hole of slavery, lust, violence and boredom. "I.K.U." (Shu Lea Chang, 2001, Japan, 94 minutes, video). Marketed as a "sci-fi porn feature," Chang's controversial film, supposedly inspired by "Blade Runner," is considered the first porn film to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Set in Tokyo of the near future, the Genom Corporation is researching how to give customers full sexual gratification without the need for another person. To perfect their breakthrough I.K.U. chip, and to find out what arouses human beings, the company dispatches to New Toyko sexy cyborgs named "Reiko," who can transform their appearances depending on their target person's desires.

Parks series, "Visions," 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 29 (Gordon Parks, 1996, United States, 60 minutes, BetaSP). Gordon Parks was a groundbreaking American photographer, composer, poet, activist and film director. He is perhaps best remembered for his photo essays for "Life" magazine and as the director of the 1971 film "Shaft." A number of his films, including "Diary of a Harlem Family" and "Supercops," may have already been lost. This is Parks own film about his imagery, words and music.

Parks series, "Half Past Autumn: The Life and Words of Gordon Parks," 8 p.m. Thursday, April 30, free (Craig Laurence Rice, 2000, United States, 91 minutes, video).
It is an impossible task to describe Gordon Parks in one documentary. "Half Past Autumn" lets Parks, in his 80s when this film was made, speak for himself, providing a taste of his energy and curiosity. It also, in the words of reviewer Steven Oxman, gives the viewer an appreciation of Parks' "remarkably understated yet supremely sincere and engaging personality."