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Chaplin film among highlights in series

The Great Dictator Movie poster

Sue Wuetcher

Published January 13, 2013

Pandora's Box movie poster

“The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin’s controversial masterpiece and first true talking movie, is among the offerings in the spring 2013 edition of the Buffalo Film Seminars, the popular, semester-long series of film screenings and discussions hosted by UB faculty members Diane Christian and Bruce Jackson.

Each session of the Buffalo Film Seminars (BFS) will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 15 and running through April 23, in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center, 639 Main St. in downtown Buffalo.

There is no screening on March 12.

Christian, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of English, and Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture in the Department of English, will introduce each film. Following a short break at the end of each film, they will lead a discussion of the film.

The screenings are part of “Film Directors” (Eng 438), an undergraduate course being taught by the pair. Students enrolled in the course are admitted free; others may attend at the Market Arcade’s regular admission prices of $9 for adults, $7 for students and $6.50 for seniors. Season tickets are available any time at a 15 percent reduction for the cost of the remaining films.

Free parking is available in the M&T fenced lot opposite the theater’s Washington Street entrance. The ticket clerk in the theater will reimburse patrons the $3 parking fee.

“Goldenrod handouts”—four- to eight-page notes on each film—will be posted on the seminar’s website  the day before each screening, and will be available in the Market Arcade lobby 45 minutes before each session.

The series will open on Jan. 15 with Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s 1929 silent melodrama “Pandora’s Box.”

The film stars Louise Brooks in the story of the rise and inevitable fall of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature inspires lust and violence in those around her. Brooks’ performance, although initially unappreciated, eventually made her a star.

The remainder of the BFS schedule, with descriptions culled from the IMDb online movie database:

  • Jan. 22: “L’Atalante,” 1934, directed by Jean Vigo. Juliette marries Jean and comes to live on his ship with his strange, old second mate, Pere Jules. Soon bored by life on the river, she slips off to see the nightlife when they come to Paris. Angered by this, Jean sets off, leaving Juliette behind. Overcome by grief and longing for his wife, Jean falls into a depression and Pere Jules goes off to find Juliette. It has been hailed by many critics as one of the greatest films of all time.
  • Jan 29: “The Great Dictator,” 1940, directed by Charlie Chaplin. In his most commercially successful film, Chaplin combines slapstick, satire and social commentary in the dual role of a Jewish ghetto barber and dictator Adenoid Hynkel.
  • Feb 5: “Les visiteurs du soir” (“The Devil’s Envoys”), 1942, directed by Marcel Carné. At the end of the 15th century, two of the devil’s envoys, Gilles and Dominique, arrive at the castle of Baron Hugues to ruin the upcoming wedding of his daughter, Anne. Gilles charms Anne, while Dominique charms both Hugues and Anne’s fiance. But when Gilles falls in love with Anne, the devil arrives to ensure that any happiness is destroyed.
  • Feb. 12: “Touch of Evil,” 1958, directed by Orson Welles. The stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping and police corruption in a Mexican border town. Stars Welles, Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh.
  • Feb. 19: “Revenge of a Kabuki Actor,” 1963, directed by Kon Ichikawa. While performing in a touring kabuki troupe, leading female impersonator Yukinojo comes across the three men who drove his parents to suicide 20 years earlier. He plans his revenge.
  • Feb. 26: “Fat City,” 1972, directed by John Huston. Two brothers working as professional boxers come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum. Stars Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges.
  • March 5: “The Tin Drum,” 1979, directed by Volker Schlöndorf. Oskar Matzerath is a most unusual boy. Possessing adult intellect right from birth, he decides on his third birthday not to grow up as he sees a crazy world around him on the eve of World War II. So he refuses to take part in society, and his tin drum symbolizes his protest against the middle-class mentality of his family and neighborhood, which stand for all passive people in Nazi Germany at that time. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and the 1979 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • March 19: “Naked,” 1994, directed by Mike Leigh. Johnny flees Manchester for London to avoid a beating from the family of a girl he has raped. There, he finds an old girlfriend and spends some time homeless, meeting characters in situations very much like his own.
  • March 26: “Heaven’s Gate,” 1980, directed by Michael Cimino. This bleak Western film portrays a fictional dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s.
  • April 2: “Punch-Drunk Love,” 2002, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged into a romance with an English woman, all the while being blackmailed by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman—and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding. Stars Adam Sandler in his first major departure from the broader comedies that made him a star.
  • April 9: “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” 2007, directed by Sidney Lumet. When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store, the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother’s wife hurtling towards a shattering climax. This was Lumet’s last feature film before he died in 2011.
  • April 16: “Watchmen,” 2009, directed by Zack Snyder. In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.
  • April 23: “Within the Whirlwind,” 2009, directed by Marleen Gorris. During Stalin’s reign of terror, literature professor Evgenia Ginzburg is sent to a gulag in Siberia for 10 years of hard labor. Having lost everything and no longer wishing to live, she meets the camp doctor and begins to come back to life.

For more information, visit the Buffalo Film Seminars’ website.