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February 2010 Film Calendar

Block Cinema to screen films related to teens, politics, Bloomsbury group and more

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January 25, 2010 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Block Cinema is screening films in three series this winter -- The Teen Screen; A Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham: Political Comedies; and A Cinema of Their Own: Bloomsbury on Film.

Block Cinema will also present a selection of recent documentary work this winter, including a sneak preview of "Prodigal Sons" (Feb. 4). Also screening is "Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman" (Feb. 6), a celebration of the great architectural photographer, and "Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger" (Feb. 18), which looks at one priest's activism on Chicago's South Side.

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. It is dedicated to providing the Northwestern campus, the North Shore and the Chicago area with a quality venue for repertory cinema.

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" series are free. 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 www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema.

The Teen Screen series captures a time in life when every conceivable human emotion is felt, but is little understood. The teens in the selected films, though divided by miles and decades, experience the universal tug-of-war between childhood and adulthood, hedonism and discipline, rebellion and responsibility. "Afterschool" (Feb. 12) examines the oppressive reality of an elite boarding school in the aftermath of two student deaths. "The Cool World" (Feb. 19) tells the story of an aspiring gangster in search of a gun to earn respect and fear.

The Film and Projection Society (FPS), a student-run film group at Northwestern dedicated to fostering film culture on campus, will present the Political Comedies series. In an age when war and protests dominate headlines, few weapons -- real or rhetorical -- pose a greater threat to politicians and social orders than a well-timed gag. Humor can expose corruption, injustice, hypocrisy or just plain foolishness. In February, "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (Feb. 11) and "The Firemen's Ball" (Feb. 25) depict bureaucratic folly in endeavors of leisure and celebration.

To coincide with the Block Museum's winter exhibition, "A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections," Block Cinema presents the Bloomsbury on Film series of Saturday matinees with films about the lives and writings of members of the Bloomsbury group. Selections include "Maurice" (Feb. 13), an adaptation of one of E.M. Forster's most personal works, and "Love Letters and Live Wires: Highlights from the GPO Film Unit" (Feb. 20), a collection of shorts sharing Bloomsbury's modernist sensibility.

FEBRUARY 2010 FILMS

New Documentary series, "Prodigal Sons," 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 (Kimberly Reed, 2009, United States, color, 86 minutes, video, free). High-school reunions can be scary, especially for a onetime football hero who wonders how former classmates will react to her gender transition. One of those classmates is her own adopted brother, from whom she has been estranged, and who just might be the biological grandchild of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. These siblings' lives are about to change in touching, tense and shattering ways. Kimberly Reed filmed the events in her family's life as they unfolded, yielding an unforgettable tale about the pasts we desire and the ones we try to escape. Co-presented with Northwestern University's department of gender studies. Director Kimberly Reed will attend the screening.

Art Theory & Practice presents, "Landscape Annihilates Consciousness," 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 (various directors, black and white and color, approximately 90 minutes, video). The land is changing, possibly disappearing. But perhaps it was never there to begin with. Perhaps it was a seductive mirage conjured by our cameras. From a deft re-editing of PBS's "The Joy of Painting" to futuristic visions of people and places, to stories of exile and immigration, these five recent works re-imagine landscape as a shifting ground, an anxious force and backdrop to live in and move through. The films featured are "Landscape Annihilates Consciousness," (Sterling Ruby, 2002, 12 minutes); "Stranger Comes to Town" (Jacqueline Goss, 2007, 29 minutes); "Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure" (Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, 2007, 15 minutes); "Apple Grown in Wind Tunnel" (Steven Matheson, 2000, 26 minutes); and "Aya Mama" (Brendan Fernandes, 2008, 8 minutes). Programmed by Northwestern students Christine Negus and Crystal Heiden.

New Documentary series, "Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman," 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 (Eric Bricker, 2009, United States, color, 83 minutes, video). "Visual Acoustics" celebrates the life and artistic impact of architectural photographer Julius Shulman. In a career spanning eight decades, Shulman's sensuous and humanistic photographs helped bring southern Californian modernism into the American mainstream. Featuring narration by Dustin Hoffman and personal reflections by architect Frank Gehry, artist Ed Ruscha and others, the film stands as a testament to the power and potential of urban design and to Shulman's indelible images. Co-presented with the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

Political Comedies series, "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11 (Luis Bunuel, 1972, France, color, 102 minutes, 35 mm). Winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar, Luis Bunuel's surrealist comedy of errors remains one of the director's iconic films. In a series of dream-like vignettes, six well-heeled couples find their meal plans repeatedly interrupted by corpses, armed soldiers and flaring libidos. Not content to eviscerate middle class social decorum and expose the fear, hypocrisy and ennui that lie within, Bunuel also digs his scalpel into politics, religion and the idea of justice. The film will be preceded by "Next Floor" (Denis Villeneuve, 2008, Canada, color, 12 minutes, 35 mm). With a nod to Bunuel, Villeneuve's Cannes-winning short focuses on an opulent dinner party where posh and pampered guests participate in a most bizarre banquet.

The Teen Screen series, "Afterschool," 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12 (Antonio Campos, 2009, United States, color, 120 minutes, 35 mm). Campos' first feature unfolds in an elite boarding school where outcast underclassman Robert witnesses the death of two popular twins and is enlisted by the AV club to compose their memorial video. Fascinated with online clips and videos from teenage melees and amateur pornography, Robert quietly navigates the cloistered halls of his suburban school attempting to mediate his relationship between the "reality" of the images he sees online and the reality of school.

Bloomsbury series, "Maurice," 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13 (James Ivory, 1987, United Kingdom, color, 140 minutes, video, free). Adapting one of author E.M. Forster's most personal works, this Merchant Ivory period drama follows an upper class gay man's coming of age in Edwardian Britain. Fellow Cambridge students Maurice (James Wilby) and Clive (Hugh Grant) fall in love, but the legal and social ramifications of open homosexuality pressure Clive to renounce his true feelings and marry a socialite (Phoebe Nicholls). Unable to escape his attraction to Clive, Maurice remains a fixture in the couple's life, and finds new hope for romantic fulfillment with their handsome gamekeeper (Rupert Graves).

Reeltime series, "Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger," 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18 (Bob Hercules, 2009, United States, color, 58 minutes, video). Father Michael Pfleger of Chicago's St. Sabina Church has stirred up much controversy over the years by using the power of his pulpit to battle inequalities in his South Side parish. This has made him an outspoken hero to some and a renegade to others in the Catholic Church's hierarchy. Evanston filmmaker Bob Hercules' comprehensive new film captures Pfleger's charisma and passion for activism while exploring issues of racism, theology and the role of the media. Admission is free. Director Bob Hercules will attend the screening.

The Teen Screen series, "The Cool World," 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19 (Shirley Clarke, 1964, United States, black and white, 105 minutes, 16 mm). Pioneering independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke casts a documentarian's eye on teenage gang life in 1960s Harlem. Shot on location with a largely nonprofessional cast, "The Cool World" follows Duke (Hampton Clanton), an ambitious young tough eager to rise to the top of his gang. In order to earn the fear and respect of both his neighbors and rivals as a "real cold killer," Duke hits the streets in search of a then-rare prize for a kid with delusions of gangster grandeur: a gun.

Bloomsbury on Film, "Love Letters and Live Wires: Highlights from the GPO Film Unit," 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20 (various directors, 1936 to 39, United Kingdom, black and white and color, approximately 80 minutes, 35 mm). Commissioned by Britain's GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit in the 1930s and preserved by the British Film Institute, this collection of amusing and eclectic shorts focus on the theme of communication (via post or phone) and feature works by well-known documentary and avant-garde filmmakers of the period. While not directly related to Bloomsbury, the films and filmmakers featured in this program share with the Bloomsbury artists a distinct modernist sensibility. From Len Lye's stunning animated "Trade Tattoo" (1937) to the poetic postal homage "Night Mail" (1936), these eight short works are a delightful discovery. For a complete list of films and their descriptions, visit the Block Cinema Web site.

Political Comedies series, "The Firemen's Ball" ("Hori, ma panenko"), 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 (Milos Forman, 1967, Czechoslovakia, color, 71 minutes, 35 mm). Although its director denies having a political agenda, Milos Forman's masterful "The Firemen's Ball" reads like a comic condemnation of the hypocrisies of communist Czechoslovakia. The film depicts a group of firemen and their half-baked attempt at celebrating their chief's retirement. Despite good intentions, raffle prizes are stolen before they can be given away, and the contestants of a beauty pageant turn out to be neither beautiful nor particularly enthusiastic. Whether subtle satire or apolitical slapstick, "The Firemen's Ball" inarguably finds humor in the frustrations and indignities suffered under a bumbling bureaucracy.

The Teen Screen series, "I'm Gonna Explode" ("Voy a explotar"), 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 (Gerardo Naranjo, 2008, Mexico, color, 106 minutes, 35 mm). "I'm Gonna Explode" explores first love and teenage rebellion without hiding the acne and awkwardness. When Maru (Maria Deschamps) and her classmates witness a new student, Roman (Juan Pablo de Santiago), attempt suicide on stage at their high school talent show, Maru is the only person in the audience who applauds. Roman, the troubled son of a conservative politician, is smitten with her. After a violent encounter with Maru's ex-boyfriend, the two go into hiding before hitting the road. Co-produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.The film will be preceded by "Top Girl" (Rebecca Johnson, 2008, United Kingdom, color, 35 mm, 18 minutes). A Brixton teen learns some hard lessons about boys, intimacy and friendship in this compelling coming-of-age story.

(Nathalie Rayter, a junior in the School of Education and Social Policy, contributed to this story.)