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Thrillers, Dramas Mark UB Film Seminars Spring Semester Lineup

Release Date: December 31, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Film Seminars, a semester-long series of movie screenings sponsored by the University at Buffalo, will mark its 20th season this spring with a lineup heavy on thrillers and dramas.

The selections, many of them dark, include "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse," a 1930s film that centers on a chain of crimes bearing the signature of a criminal mastermind who has been imprisoned for a decade in an asylum. "The Picture of Dorian Gray," from 1945 and based on Oscar Wilde's novel of the same name, tells the twisted tale of handsome Dorian Gray and a painted portrait of the ageless young man that grows increasingly ugly and monstrous as Gray indulges in a life of debauchery and sin.

Diane Christian, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor, both in the Department of English, host the screenings as part of a class they teach on cinema. The spring 2010 series begins on Jan. 12. Christian and Jackson introduce and screen each film and lead a discussion on it afterward.

Each session begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre, 639 Main St. in downtown Buffalo. Anyone can participate by purchasing a ticket at regular Market Arcade prices. "Goldenrod Handouts" -- notes the two faculty members prepare for each screening -- will be available in the theater lobby on the evening of each showing and online the previous day at http://buffalofilmseminars.com.

Free parking will be available in the lighted and fenced M&T lot opposite the theater's Washington Street entrance. The theater is a few paces from the Metro Rail's Theater station.

The complete seminar schedule, with film descriptions culled from information and reviews on Amazon, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Wikipedia:

• Jan. 12: "The General," 1927, directed by Buster Keaton. A silent comedy that crashed at the box office, this movie is now considered a great film. It tells the story of Johnnie, a train engineer in the Confederacy who must save his two loves -- his train and a woman named Annabelle Lee -- from Unionists who have stolen both.

• Jan. 19: "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse," 1933, directed by Fritz Lang. A series of crimes bearing the signature of a criminal mastermind who has been imprisoned for a decade in an asylum sparks a mystery that unravels in this thriller.

• Jan. 26: "The Picture of Dorian Gray," 1945, directed by Albert Lewin. In this film based on Oscar Wilde's novel by the same name, a painted portrait of the young and handsome Dorian Gray grows increasingly ugly and monstrous as the ageless Gray lives a life of debauchery and sin.

• Feb. 2: "Night and the City," 1950, directed by Jules Dassin. Set and shot on location in London, this film noir tells the story of a hustler who believes he has been given the chance of a lifetime. But as he tries to con everyone around him, he only loses himself.

• Feb. 9: "Night of the Hunter," 1955, directed by Charles Laughton. This movie, with a script by Laughton and James Agee, incorporates elements of expressionism, fantasy and religious hysteria to tell the grim tale of a murderous, self-appointed preacher who torments a family, including two children, with the goal of uncovering a stash of money their father stole.

• Feb. 16: "The Burmese Harp," 1956, directed by Kon Ichikawa. In this movie nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and set at the end of World War II, a lone Japanese soldier, driven by obsession and haunted by the images of corpses that surround him, refuses to return home, staying, instead, to bury the war dead in Burma.

• Feb. 23: "Ride the High Country," 1962, directed by Sam Peckinpah. Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, this film features actors Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea portraying two men guarding a shipment of gold in dangerous territory. Their friendship becomes complicated when one discovers the other's plan for stealing the cargo, but events beyond their control bring them together again.

• March 2: "Z," 1969, directed by Costa-Gavras. The winner of the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film Editing, this film provides a fictionalized account of events surrounding the cover-up and investigation of the assassination of a left-wing Greek politician.

• March 16: "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," 1973, directed by Peter Yates. A low-level crook attempts to avoid going to prison by becoming a police informant, unleashing a chain of events he will regret. Robert Mitchum, in one of the best performances of his career, plays the small-time criminal, Eddie Coyle.

• March 23: "A Woman Under the Influence," 1974, directed by John Cassavetes. This dark film centers on domestic turmoil and dysfunction, focusing on a woman whose erratic, mad behavior leads her husband, who is deeply in love with her, to commit her for psychiatric treatment.

• March 30: "The Shining," 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick. This horror flick, often named as one of the best of all time, is a re-imagining of a best-selling Stephen King novel with the same name. In Kubrick's version, with surreal settings forming the backbone of bizarre, iconic scenes, a man serving as caretaker of a hotel that gets snowed in during the winter slips into insanity, embarking on a terrifying mission to kill his wife and son.

• April 6: "Das Boot," 1981, directed by Wolfgang Peterson. This historical film tells the story of a German U-boat and its crew with extraordinary realism.

• April 13: "Ginger and Fred," 1985, directed by Federico Fellini. In this comedy and drama that acts as a satirical attack against television vulgarity, Italian Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers impersonators Pippo and Amelia reunite after decades of retirement to perform on a variety show.

• April 20: "Collateral," 2004, directed by Michael Mann. In this thriller set in Los Angeles, actor Tom Cruise, in a rare role as a villain, plays a contract killer who forces a cab driver to ferry him to a string of destinations where he murders various targets. The driver, played by Jamie Foxx, risks his own life to put a stop to the killings.

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