For those of you enjoying December and January in our nation’s capitol, one of my favorite times of year to be here, btw, the NGA is offering some great programming: early Kazan, Warhol, Waiting for Godot. Yes, thank you! Check it out:
November 5, 12, 19, 25
December 2–4, 9, 10, 17, 24, 31
Films by Warhol (in the original 16 mm format) plus two special events are presented in association with the National Gallery’s exhibition Warhol: Headlines. Special thanks to the Circulating Film and Video Library, Museum of Modern Art, for the loan of the film prints.
The Films of Andy Warhol Stillness, Repetition, and the Surface of Things (PDF 114K)
Film series essay by David Gariff
November 6, 19, 20
December 4, 24, 31
Fantastique—or the occurrence of the uncanny and the “not rational” (Pierre Gripari) in the cinema—is no respecter of genre and form. It finds a way into fairytale, horror, melodrama, even detective films. The surrealists of the 1920s were fond of the fantastique, but so are contemporary aficionados of la science-fiction. The first of several series devoted to films of the French fantastique, many of the works in this group spring from literary sources, whether fable orfeuilleton. Le Cinéma Fantastique is presented in honor of the centennial anniversary of the creation of the Fantômas novels in 1911. With special thanks for their support to Julien Cuvillier, Agnès Bertola, CNC, Caroline Patte, Keith Cohen, Gaumont Pathé Archives, Cinémathèque Française, Embassy of France, and Culture France.
“A wizard behind the camera,” visionary Ukrainian filmmaker Yuri Ilyenko (1936–2010) graduated in 1960 from the Moscow film academy VGIK (one year earlier than his Central Asian contemporary Ali Khamraev). Though Ilyenko’s early fame derived from his stunning cinematography for friend Sergei Paradjanov’s folkloric Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, he produced his own distinctive body of painterly, allegorical films while working at Kiev’s Dovzhenko Film Studios in the 1960s and 1970s. Ilyenko’s sheer energy and expressive flair helped to craft the midcentury Ukrainian poetic cinema movement with images so surreal and audacious that his work was frequently banned by the communist authorities. This series, organized in association with Yuri Ilyenko’s son Philip and with support from Aerosvit, The Washington Group Cultural Fund and the Embassy of Ukraine (and assistance from Yuri Shevchuk and Chrystia Sonevytsky), includes three of his principal works. A fourth film by Ilyenko, White Bird with Black Mark, is included in a larger survey of Ukrainian poetic cinema in 2012. This series is presented in Washington on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Ukrainian independence in December 1991.
Since the 1970s, Fred Worden has been making experimental films primarily to examine “how a stream of still pictures passing through a projector at a speed meant to overwhelm the eyes might be harnessed to purposes other than representation or naturalism.” With wholehearted revelry in cinematic illusion and a commitment to kinetic abstractions, he produces short films and digital videos that draw attention to subjective perceptual play through the manipulation of visual phenomena. Assistant professor of art at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Worden has produced work exhibited at festivals and venues in Paris, Hong Kong, Rotterdam, London, New York, and Toronto.
French American director Maurice Tourneur (1876–1961)—who spent his early career as an actor and worked for a time in the studios of artists Auguste Rodin and Puvis de Chavannes—became a pioneer of cinema, learning his craft initially at the French production house Éclair and later in America at Fort Lee and Paramount. By the late 1920s he had returned to Europe, where he had great success, especially within the crime genre. This program includes two new restorations of the elegant work he produced after returning to France in the 1930s. Prints are from Pathé, Paris.
American audiences once supported thousands of local nickelodeons, moving picture entertainments found everywhere from urban business districts to villages and seaside resorts. The one-reel farces and melodramas that fueled this explosion were often imported directly from Paris. Pathé Frères dominated the market but the Société Française des Films et Cinématographes Éclair found a way to establish a foothold of its own. If Pathé opened a film lab in New Jersey, Éclair would go one better, and in 1911 broke ground for the first motion picture studio in Fort Lee—the opening shot in a French invasion. Richard Koszarski, author of Fort Lee, the Film Towndiscusses the impact of these French studios and introduces two Fort Lee films, Robin Hood andAlias Jimmy Valentine.
David Gatten’s filmmaking practice is unique in American cinema. His passion for historical documents, rare books, and arcane or outmoded manuals has resulted in a body of finely crafted work that explores the intersection of the printed word and the moving image in unusual ways. Using traditional research methods (reading old books) and nontraditional film technique (boiling old books), he manages to connect categories of knowledge in unexpected ways. Known for his ongoing Byrd family chronicle, an account of the 18th-century Virginia family, Gatten’s appearances at the National Gallery’s midcareer retrospective offer a rare opportunity to discuss in person his handcrafted experimental 16 mm processes. Organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, with special thanks to Chris Stults.
The ongoing film series American Originals Now offers an opportunity for discussion with young independent American filmmakers and a chance to share in their artistic practice through special screenings and presentations. The focus of this season’s installment is artist Amie Siegel (born 1974), whose intelligent and idiosyncratic ruminations on history and modernism, on filmic narrative and cultural memory, have garnered international acclaim. Her work, in a range of moving image modes, is demanding yet accessible and filled with keenly inspired associations.Empathy and DDR/DDR established Siegel as an important film essayist able to unearth material from surprising sources through observation, direct address, and interview. A recipient of many international awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Siegel teaches in the department of visual and environmental studies at Harvard University.
“Photofilms” are moving pictures composed of still photographs. PhotoFilm! broadly explores the uses of still photography within the cinematic context, attempting to expand a dialogue between the two art forms that has existed since the beginnings of the motion picture. The works run the gamut from classics such as Chris Marker’s La Jetée to new experimental films such as Shelly Silver’s What I’m Looking For. The series is presented jointly with the Goethe-Institut Washington (several additional programs take place there), supported by German Films, Ag Kurzfilm, Swedish Filminstitut, and organized by the Concrete Narrative Society E.V. Berlin. Curators Gusztáv Hámos, Katja Pratschke, and Thomas Tode are present for discussion.
Robert Bresson (1901–1999), one of the most refined and rigorous of filmmakers, was also one of the most spiritual—indeed his Jansenist perspective is fundamental to the coherence of his work. Pared-down narratives and understated moral observations are realized through an economy of means hardly matched in the cinema. From early on, the use of nonprofessional actors, restrained though elegant camera style, orchestrated dialogue, embedded sound effects and music, and elliptical storytelling became his hallmarks. Bresson managed, with self-imposed rules, to execute works of passion and suspense while still observing the mysterious movements of fate. This retrospective of all extant works has been organized by James Quandt and the Cinemathèque Ontario.
Introduction by Alex Jovanovic
(assistant to Christoph Schlingensief)
Originally planned as a fiction feature, The African Twin Towers is a documentary about Christoph Schlingensief’s last, unfinished film, set in Namibia. The film finds Schlingensief (1960–2010)—the celebrated German artist, actor, and film and theater director awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale 2011 for his German Pavilion installation—at his artistic best, gushing with ideas and attempting to find his filmic métier after a decade in performance and visual art. The voiceover was recorded later, when he was already ill with cancer. (Christoph Schlingensief, 2006, HD-Cam, subtitles, 71 minutes) Presented in association with Goethe-Institut Washington
December 21 at 12:30
Raúl Ruiz’s majestic adaption of Portuguese novelist Camilo Castelo Branco’s 1854 romantic epicMistérios de Lisboa—a brilliantly twisting tapestry of interlocking fates and identities—is this master filmmaker’s final work. As such, Ruiz has crafted a beautiful monument to the narrative cinema: visually complex, telling a story of machinations and maneuvers that are never exactly as they seem. (Raúl Ruiz, 2010, high-definition DCP, 270 minutes with intermission)
Brigid Berlin, daughter of Hearst Publishing head Richard Berlin, rejected her blue-blooded background to become part of Warhol’s Factory in the 1960s and remained a Warhol confidante until his death. In footage, she is candid about her family relationships and lifelong struggles: “I didn’t ask to be born. This is what they got, so this is what they got to contend with.” (Shelly Dunn Fremont and Vincent Fremont, 2000, 35 mm, 75 minutes)
Keith Haring, the artist who made his name with stylized graffiti caricatures (“silly drawings”) in New York’s subway system in the 1980s, was captured in interview footage with biographer John Gruen and archival clips with family and friends such as Grace Jones, Madonna, Kenny Scharf, Andy Warhol, Tony Shafrazi, and Junior Vasquez, among others. (Christina Clausen, 2008, DigiBeta, 90 minutes)
Marie Menken (1909–1970), a New York underground filmmaker once nicknamed “the mother of the avant-garde,” inspired every artist who knew her. Loaded with excerpts of her beautifully abstract works, Notes on Marie Menken also features footage from Duel of the Bolexes, a home movie of Marie and Andy Warhol on a New York rooftop. (Martina Kudlácek, 2006, 35 mm, 97 minutes)
The incredible career of superstar Candy Darling (James Lawrence Slattery) is brought to life in vintage interviews, archival video, photographs, and clips of former Warhol regulars. Actress Chloë Sevigny embodies Darling’s voice, reading from letters and diaries. (James Rasin, 2010, 35 mm, 85 minutes)
Introduction by Cindy Keefer
Oskar Fischinger (1900–1967), known as “cinema’s Kandinsky,” composed poetic and abstract animations. The first of a two-part retrospective presented in association with the Center for Visual Music, this program includes R-1 ein Formspiel, Spirals, Walking from Munich to Berlin,Spiritual Constructions, Kreise (two versions), Allegretto (two versions), American March, Radio Dynamics, Motion Painting no. 1, and more. (c. 1926–1947, 35 mm, approximate running time 75 minutes)
Introduction by Cindy Keefer
Part two of the Fischinger retrospective includes rarely seen works such as Studies 1, 3, 9,Pierrette I, Wax Experiments, Ornament Sound, Swiss Trip, Color Rhythm, Oklahoma Gas, 1920s Tests, Berlin Home Movies, and more. Prints for the retrospective were preserved by the Center for Visual Music, Academy Film Archive, EYE Film Institute, and the Fischinger Archive, with support of The Film Foundation, Sony, Cinematheque quebecoise, and Deutsches Filmmuseum. Cindy Keefer is director, Center for Visual Music. (c. 1920–1952, 35 mm and DigiBeta, approximate running time 70 minutes)
preceded by Samuel Beckett’s Film
Waiting for Godot, a teleplay from the short-lived but celebrated early 1960s WNTA-TV series Play of the Week, features Zero Mostel as Estragon and Burgess Meredith as Vladimir. “Godot and Play of the Week exemplify the potential heights the small screen could reach as a legitimate venue for meaningful and challenging dramatic arts”—Mark Quigley. (Alan Schneider, 1961, DigiBeta, 102 minutes) From the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Film, Samuel Beckett’s only screenplay (the writer supervised the production as well), is a 20-minute, almost silent short, at once an abstraction and a deeply moving meditation. An aging and weary Buster Keaton engages in a kind of face-off with the camera lens and, by extension, with the world itself. Film‘s noted cinematographer was Boris Kaufman. (Alan Schneider, 1965, 35 mm, 20 minutes) Preservation funded by The Film Foundation and administered by the National Film Preservation Foundation
followed by Wild River
The first of two lesser known works by Elia Kazan, Man on a Tightrope follows the travails of a small traveling circus in communist-era Czechoslovakia, including attempts by its manager Cernik (Fredrich March) and his wife (Gloria Grahame) to take the troupe across the border to Germany. The rich mise-en-scène and black-and-white location footage evoke Eastern European cinema of the era; Circus Brumbach performers lend verisimilitude. Although communism is the film’s perceptible menace, Kazan shrewdly avoids political statements or imagery. (Elia Kazan, 1953, 35 mm, 105 minutes)
One of Kazan’s masterworks (and allegedly his favorite among his films), Wild River was motivated by personal history: “My family also lost a house. . . this was the first film where I said, ‘I’m going to be as lyric as I can. . . .'” A quiet but resolute Tennessee Valley Authority overseer (Montgomery Clift) arrives to work in a town targeted for flooding and the associated displacement. Naturally, he runs headlong into the wrath and ruses of the locals, particularly one matriarch, as well as a love interest (Lee Remick). The film’s tone is interestingly reflective and subtly questions the New Deal’s notions of progress. (Elia Kazan, 1960, 35 mm, 105 minutes)
Gaumont’s luminous restoration of Jean Renoir’s classic tale of the origins of the Moulin Rouge screens on the occasion of the reopening of the National Gallery’s French painting galleries. With its sensuous color and soft lighting, the lively Technicolor extravaganza remains an enduring homage to Renoir’s father, Auguste, and other artists of the era, especially Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas. (Jean Renoir, 1954, DCP from 35 mm, 102 minutes)
Dennis James, theater organ
Theater organist Dennis James performs his historically themed organ score for Nathan der Weise, a 1920s adaptation of the famously controversial Enlightenment-era play about religious tolerance from dramatist philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Sultan Saladin (Fritz Greiner) takes Jerusalem in spite of counter efforts from his brother Assad, a Christian convert who fought with the Knights Templar. Meanwhile Jewish merchant Nathan (Werner Krauss) loses his sons when the synagogue burns, but ends up adopting young Recha, the daughter of Assad. (Manfred Noa, 1922, DigiBeta from 35 mm, 128 minutes)
The plaza known as Marx-Engels-Forum in the historic Mitte district of what was once East Berlin was constructed 30 years ago to honor communist icons Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Famed painter and filmmaker Jürgen Böttcher revisited footage he shot during the forum’s creation, then returned 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, composing a filmic collage with his old and new material. This experimental documentary features Günter “Baby” Sommer and Dietmar Diesner, improvisational jazz artists from the former DDR, in a striking nonfiction essay. (Jürgen Böttcher, 2001, 35 mm, German with subtitles, 88 minutes)
February 9, 10 at 12:30
Three screenings of the classic 1956 film by Clouzot—an imaginative homage to his friend Picasso as the maestro paints before the camera—are presented in association with the exhibitionPicasso’s Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition. (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956, 35 mm, French with subtitles, 78 minutes)
Introduction by C. Ford Peatross
Charles and Ray Eames were among our most influential designers, literally shaping the course of American architecture, furniture, industrial design, and film. Eames: The Architect and the Painterdraws from a mass of rare and unusual archival material, as well as surprising interview footage with friends and colleagues, to depict the couple’s lives while placing them in the milieu of midcentury America. (Jason Cohn, 2011, HD-Cam, 83 minutes)
This selection of new short films from France is filled with humor, compassion, suspense, and beauty. Four works, presented in original format, are shown as part of the Lutins du Court-Métrage festival organized in association with L’Alliance Française de Washington. Titles includeThe Last Journey of Maryse Lucas, The Little Tailor, Birds Get Vertigo, Too, and Tre Ore. (Approximately 105 minutes)
Filled with anecdotes about the artist culled from friends, family members, and curators, Rothko’s Rooms tells the story behind the creation of the room designed for Rothko’s Seagram murals in London’s Tate Modern. (2000, DigiBeta, 45 minutes)
Four musicians and sound artists from radically different backgrounds—Miya Masaoka, a koto performer and composer inspired by insects and plants; Jon Rose, a violin virtuoso whose “found music” created with fencing and other apparatus has attracted the Kronos Quartet; John Luther Adams, whose tones are motivated by the natural landscape; and Bob Ostertag, who integrates sociopolitical concerns into his pieces—not only express their perceptions about music but use their musical talents to create ingenious social harmonies in an increasingly hostile universe. (Steve Elkins, 2010, HD-Cam, 118 minutes)
preceded by Sack Barrow
The Nine Muses, the latest creation of the Ghana-born British film and installation artist John Akomfrah, is a layered meditation on human mass migration and its relationship to land use and culture. Combining footage of isolated places and rarely traveled roads; readings from classic texts by Homer, Dante, T. S. Eliot, and others; and the music of Arvo Pärt and India’s Gundecha Brothers, Akomfrah has created an evocative journey through myth and environment, a self-described “Proustian attempt to suggest the idea of migration.” (John Akomfrah, 2011, HD-Cam, 94 minutes)
Artist and experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers’ Sack Barrow poetically portrays (in outmoded 16 mm format) the fading milieu of a pre–World War II factory near London during its final days of operation in 2010. Without voiceover or interview, he carefully records the routines of the last workers, traces of chemical corrosion and continuing decay, as well as the sense of ineffable sadness present in time’s passing. (Ben Rivers, 2011, 16 mm, 20 minutes)
preceded by The Silver and the Cross
Once a magnificent five-star lodge with restaurants and an Olympic pool, Mozambique’s Grande Hotel—in all its gaudiness and self-importance—was the very emblem of Portuguese colonialism. Today, as architectural statement, it is in virtual ruin. What is left of the structure survives as a sort of commune for more than 3,000 Mozambiquans, who live in its wide corridors and commanding terraces without even water or electricity. Stoops’ documentary presents a careful portrait of a grim and complex subject. (Lotte Stoops, 2010, HD-Cam, 67 minutes)
The Silver and the Cross is Harun Farocki’s pointed analysis of a 1758 naive painting depicting villages, workers, and silver mines in Peru during Spanish colonization. In the filmmaker’s words, “The Spanish brought the cross, and then took the silver,” an exploitation that continues today in other ways. (Harun Farocki, 2011, 17 minutes)
Mon, Wed, Fri from 2:30 to 3:00
December 28–January 6
Wed, Fri from 2:30 to 3:00
January 9–February 29
Mon, Wed, Fri from 2:30 to 3:00
January 7, 14, 21, 28 at 11:30
February 4, 18 at 11:30
March 3, 10, 17, 24 at 11:30
A documentary on the extensive six-month conservation treatment of the Gallery of the Louvre, this 30-minute film shares new information about the painting and features interviews with conservators, curators, and other specialists. Produced by Sandpail Productions for the Terra Foundation for American Art.
The film screens in West Building Lecture Hall with minor exceptions.
Mon–Sat from 10:00 to 5:00
Sun from 11:00 to 6:00
Chester Dale started out as a Wall Street messenger in the early years of the 20th century. By the mid-1920s, he had earned the fortune that enabled him and his wife, Maud, to assemble one of the finest art collections in America. Director Earl A. Powell III narrates a documentary produced by the National Gallery of Art. This film was made possible by the HRH Foundation.
The film screens continuously in West Building Project Room with minor exceptions.