Campus News

Buffalo Film Seminars returns for 42nd season

Promotional graphic for "Psycho," 1960.

The Alfred Hitchcock classic "Psycho" will be the topic of a Buffalo Film Seminars' Zoom discussion on March 9.


Published January 21, 2021


The show must go on, and despite the hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buffalo Film Seminars returns next month for its 42nd season with a lineup of stellar films.

Hosted by UB faculty members Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian, the series’ weekly discussions take place via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays from Feb. 2 through May 4.

An email notification about each film will be sent out on the Sunday before the Zoom discussion date to students registered for Christian and Jackson’s “Film Directors” class (ENG 381), as well as to the Department of English’s Discussion List and to the Buffalo Film Seminars’ listserv (email Jackson or Christian to get on the BFS listserv). That notice will include a URL for the pair’s Vimeo introduction to the film and a PDF of that week’s Goldenrod Handout. The notice will also include an invitation to the Zoom discussion.

Most of the films are available to students and other UB email account holders through the UB Libraries’ Kanopy and Swank portals. Log in to the UB Libraries Databases page and type “Kanopy” or “Swank” into the “Find Databases by Keyword” field.

Movie poster for "The General," 1929.

And all of the films except “Floating Weeds,” “My Night at Maud’s” and “The Ruling Class” are available on Amazon Prime (12.99/month; $119/annual). A single month’s membership on the Criterion Channel ($10.99/month; $99.99 annual) will provide streaming access to the three films not available on Amazon Prime.

Participants can stream the films whenever it is convenient, but Jackson suggests watching the Vimeo introductions before viewing the films.

The semester usually begins with a classic film from the pre-sound era, and the series opener on Feb. 2 is no exception, offering the 1926 comedy “The General,” written, directed by and starring Buster Keaton. The film tells the story of an engineer whose beloved locomotive is stolen by Union spies, and his single-handed pursuit of the engine through enemy lines. Although the film was not well-received by critics and audiences at the time of its initial release, it is now considered by many to be one of the greatest American films ever made.

The remainder of the schedule, with descriptions culled from IMDb and other sources:

Promotional graphic for "The Public Enemy," 1931.
  • Feb 9: “The Public Enemy,” 1931, directed by William A. Wellman. A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war. Stars James Cagney and Jean Harlow.
  • Feb. 16: The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942, directed by Orson Welles. The spoiled young heir to the decaying Amberson fortune comes between the man she has always loved and his widowed mother.
  • Feb. 23: “The Bicycle Thieves,” 1947, directed by Vittorio de Sica. In post-war Italy, a working-class man’s bicycle is stolen, and he and his son set out to find it.
Promotional graphic for "Floating Weeds," 1959.
  • March 2: “Floating Weeds,” 1959, directed by Yasujirô Ozu. The head of a Japanese theater troupe returns to a small coastal town where he left a son who thinks he is his uncle. He tries to make up for lost time, but his current mistress grows jealous.
  •  March 9: “Psycho,” 1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother. Considered one of Hitchcock’s best films, it set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films, and is widely considered to be the earliest example of the slasher film genre. You may never take a shower again.
Scene from "My Night at Maud's," 1969.
  • March 16: “My Night at Maud’s,” 1969, directed by Eric Rohmer. The rigid principles of a devout Catholic man are challenged during a one-night stay with Maud, a divorced woman with an outsize personality.
Movie poster for "The Ruling Class," 1972.
  • March 23: “The Ruling Class,” 1972, directed by Peter Medak. A member of the House of Lords dies, leaving his estate to his son, who thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other, somewhat more respectable, members of the family plot to steal the estate from him. Murder and mayhem ensue.
  • March 30: “Days of Heaven,” 1978, directed by Terrence Malick. A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.
  • April 6: “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” 1981, directed by Karel Reisz. The actors in a film about a man and woman involved in an affair go through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters. Stars Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.
Scene from "Do the Right Thing," 1989.
  • April 13: “Do the Right Thing,” 1989, directed by Spike Lee. On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
Promotional graphic for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," 2000.
  • April 20: “The Piano,” 1993, directed by Jane Campion. In the mid-19th century, a mute woman is sent to New Zealand, along with her young daughter and prized piano, for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, but is soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.
  • April 27: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” 2000, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. In the Deep South during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.
  • May 4: “Fanny and Alexander,” 1982, directed by Ingmar Bergman. Two young Swedish children experience the many comedies and tragedies of their family. Won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.