Film: Pablo Kjolseth's IFS spring calendar picks
Deep in the midst of the digital age, International Film Series programmer Pablo Kjolseth makes no bones about his love of celluloid, the analog of film, especially, but not necessarily, in black and white. Because of that, the University of Colorado's IFS is arguably the region's last true vestige of repertory cinema, the kind that died twenty years ago or so with the rise of home video. IFS's spring calendar kicked off on Wednesday with the last film in the stunning Swedish Stieg Larsson trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest; tonight and tomorrow, you can still catch an IFS Sundance Shorts program. Great starting-off points, to be sure, but according to Pablo's TCM blog, here's where his heart really lies:
Over the years I've purchased a lot of my favorite films on DVD. Most of them are still wrapped in their cellophane. Why? Because by watching it on DVD I knew I'd be cheating myself of their reel magic. This Spring calendar I've decided to dedicate Sunday to some of these titles. The first half are film noirs, the second half are enigmatic, haunting, or somehow infused with the fantastic. All of these Sunday films make incredible use of black-and-white cinematography, and all of these Sunday films are on 35mm film.
You know where this is going. Get out your calendars, film buffs: Following are some of Pablo's IFS picks, with previews.
February 6: The Man from London (dir. by Bela Tarr, 2007)
As to The Man from London, this had to to with the fact that when I think of magical black-and-white films, Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies ranks there at my very top for pure celluloid bliss. This last film by the cantankerous Hungarian garnered mixed reviews, but the only way I would ever see a Tarr film is on 35mm, so given that it's both in black-and-white and billed as a modern noir I selfishly figured this was as good a chance as any to finally see it on film myself.
February 20: Dead Man (dir. by Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
On my fourth "noir" Sunday night I will admit to a cheat. Dead Man is certainly no film noir in any traditional sense and probably should have been squeezed into the second-half of my Black & White Magic on Sunday's program (what with it being haunting, enigmatic, and having fantasy elements). Still... so many of my favorite film noirs feature doomed characters and deadly gunslingers in an existential battle that puts their free will into question, and I feel Dead Man touches on all of those things -- and more. J. Hoberman referred to Dead Man as "the Western Andrei Tarkovsky always wanted to make." Here is a film that casts a spell. If you get it, you're mesmerized and carried somewhere transcendent. If you don't get it, well, you'll probably hate it and get sick, quickly, of Neil Young's repetitive (aka: hypnotic) score. Much like American Astronaut (another true, great, black-and-white original), it's one of those films where you can easily divide those who love it (these usually having seen it on film, on the big screen, with a receptive crowd), versus those who don't (which, from my personal experience, means those who saw it on DVD, on a small screen, with a distracted friend or two). When programming a series of resplendent films whose black-and-white cinematography shine on celluloid, I had to sneak Dead Man in. Perhaps this excerpt by Jonathan Rosenbaum for his BFI Modern Classics on Dead Man will explain why:
Robby Müller's stunningly beautiful and exquisitely composed black-and-white cinematography, which includes a wide range of intermediate greys, is punctuated by fade-outs and black-outs between scenes, as if giving us forecasts of Blake's death even before he's wounded. Playing against the rhythms of the westbound train at the very beginning of the film, these interludes of unconsciousness or something resembling dream time create a form of of suspension that continues periodically throughout the film, and are an essential part of Neil Young's haunting score, one of the greatest in contemporary movies.
April 3: Woman in the Dunes (dir. by Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964).
Ah! Now we begin the second-part of my black-and-white celluloid series. The first half was film noirs, while this, the second half, tilts itself toward different terrain. It boils down to showcasing films with black-and-white cinematography that gives me goosebumps -- and Hiroshi Segawa's work in Woman in the Dunes most certainly does exactly that. It's surreal premise involves a bug collector who gets tossed into a sandy pit by the sea, trapped as a mate to a mysterious woman. I first saw it as a college student, whacked-out on no sleep and after several days of cramming for exams. It's haunted me ever since. This is a film I like to bring back every few years for my own repeat enjoyment.