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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cinematheque to Screen Landmark Films by Female Directors

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 3:09 PM

click to enlarge the-dumb-girl-of-portici-still.jpg
The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque has just announced that starting on Jan. 14 it will screen nine movies by six female filmmakers as part of the series, The Female Gaze: Landmark Films by Women.

The movies, all of which come from the United States, France and Belgium, have been recently restored and re-released. Admission to each program is $10, $7 for Cinematheque members, those with CIA or CSU I.D. cards, or those age 25 and under. The series commences on Jan. 14. with a screening of The Dumb Girl of Portici (pictured) and Shoes, two silent films.

Courtesy of the Cinematheque, here are the descriptions of each film.

Saturday, Jan. 14, at 7:15 p.m.
The Dumb Girl of Portici/Shoes

Two silent films by Lois Weber (1879-1939), the leading female director of early Hollywood, have been newly restored for their 100th anniversary. The Dumb Girl of Portici is not only the first screen epic directed by a woman, it's also the only film starring the legendary Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Anna Pavlova, one of the superstars of her day. Pavlova plays a mute girl, living in Spanish-occupied 17th-century Naples, who is seduced and abandoned by a Spanish nobleman, sparking a revolution. Pavlova's energy, face, and grace are something to behold, and the elaborate movie itself boasts original color tints and a new score by John Sweeney. Tonight's second feature, Shoes, is considered Weber's masterpiece. It's the heartbreaking account of a hardworking shop girl-the only wage earner in her family of six-who contemplates prostitution in order to afford to buy a new pair of shoes.

Saturday, Jan. 21, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m.
Dance, Girl, Dance

Dorothy Arzner was the only female film director working in Hollywood during the 1930s; this 1940 comedy-drama is considered her masterpiece. It tells of two Broadway chorus girls-one (Maureen O'Hara) an aspiring ballerina, the other (Lucille Ball) a burlesque hottie-who fall for the same wealthy playboy. Selected for the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 2007, the movie boasts prescient feminist attitudes about the objectification of women.

Thursday, Jan. 26, at 6:45 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 28, at 5 p.m.
Le Bonheur (Happiness)

A happily married young husband, living in the country with his dressmaker wife and two small children, begins an affair with an attractive postal clerk. But he feels he can love both women at the same time. Agnès Varda's sunny, beautifully photographed French New Wave classic is almost insipidly "pretty," with a cheerful color palate and music by Mozart that seem to run counter to the self-centeredness and infidelity on display.

Saturday, Feb. 4, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m.
Daughters of the Dust

The first feature by an African-American woman to receive a wide theatrical release is also one of the most beautiful color movies ever made. (This 25th anniversary restoration, done in conjunction with UCLA and overseen by cinematographer Arthur Jafa, should look stunning.) Set at the dawn of the 20th century, the film centers on a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off South Carolina. There these former West African slaves with many of their ancestors' Yoruba traditions contemplate leaving their economically depressed island for the growing northern industrial cities on the mainland. But how will they maintain their cultural heritage and folklore when they migrate even further from their roots?

Thursday, Feb. 9, at 6:45 p.m.
The Watermelon Woman

The first film directed by an African-American lesbian is a breezy independent comedy that's been restored and re-released for its 20th anniversary. The movie follows Philadelphia video store clerk Cheryl (director Dunye) as she researches the life of a forgotten, 1930s black actress for a film she's making. Known as the "Watermelon Woman," this performer was relegated to "mammy" roles. Cheryl is also involved in her own race relations via a budding romance with a white woman (Guinevere Turner of Go Fish ).

Friday, Feb. 17, at 9 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 20, at 6:45 p.m.
Je Tu Il Elle (I You He She)/News from Home

Two key works by the late, great Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman. The director herself stars in her minimalist first feature, Je Tu Il Elle. Reminiscent of early Fassbinder, it's the stark tale of an isolated young woman who writes love letters in her spartan apartment and ventures out only for two sexual encounters. News from Home, made after Akerman moved to New York City, juxtaposes evocative images of 1970s Manhattan with Akerman's voiceover reading of plaintive, sometimes scolding letters from her mother in Brussels. It's a haunting portrait of absence and homesickness.

Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.

Early 1980s Lower East Side New York is vividly rendered in Susan (Desperately Seeking Susan) Seidelman's debut feature, the first American independent film to compete for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The movie follows a self-absorbed New Jersey girl (Susan Berman) who moves to Manhattan determined to break into the punk music scene. Richard Hell co-stars; music by the Feelies.

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