How to Read a Film: Mark Schenker’s Hitchcock lectures continue with “Strangers on a Train” Sun., Jan. 11, at 2 PM

Mark Schenker discussing the historical context for the "Downton Abbey" series at a lecture in the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2014.

Mark Schenker discussing the historical context for the “Downton Abbey” series at a lecture in the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2014.

Mark Schenker, Dean of Academic Affairs in Yale College and frequent lecturer on film and literature topics at venues throughout Connecticut, presents four lectures on the films of Alfred Hitchcock on successive Sunday afternoons in January. The series began on Sunday, Jan. 4, with a talk to a packed room about Hitchcock’s 1946 thriller “Notorious,” starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Each lecture begins at 2 PM. The cost is $7 per lecture or $25 for the entire series.

Dean Schenker’s talks are both informative and fun, as attendees of his August lecture at Best Video on the historical context of the “Downton Abbey” TV series can attest.

The series continues with the next three movies in chronological order of their release:

Sun., Jan. 11: “Strangers on a Train” (1951), with Robert Walker as one of Hitchcock’s most impressive villains.

Sun., Jan. 18: “Rear Window” (1954), with James Stewart and Grace Kelly in a voyeuristic thriller.

Sun., Jan. 25: “North by Northwest” (1959), with Cary Grant as another of Hitchcock’s innocent men on the run in a movie that is a sophisticated blend of thriller, romance, and comedy.

The lectures will address aspects of the individual works, characteristics of Hitchcock’s art, and ways that participants can be better “readers” of film—more adept at what to look for and see in considering movies as work of art at no cost to their ability to entertain and enthrall us. Clips from each of the films will accompany the lectures.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Sunday, Jan. 11. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “STRANGERS ON A TRAIN”

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

• Thursday, Jan. 15. SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR: ROBERT MESSORE

• Friday, Jan. 16: INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Sunday, Jan. 18. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “REAR WINDOW”

• Wednesday, Jan. 21. SONGWRITERS’ CIRCLE: MARK MIRANDO, DICK NEAL, REX FOWLER

• Thursday, Jan. 22. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Sunday, Jan. 25. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NORTH BY NORTHWEST”

• Friday., Jan. 30. JAZZ: URI SHAHAM

• Friday, Feb. 6. AVANT-GARDE: RIVENER, LIGHT UPON BLIGHT

• Thursday. Mar. 5. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, Mar. 6. JAZZ: NICK DiMARIA WiRED

• Friday, April 3. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR

• Friday, April 17. WPKN BENEFIT

• Friday, May 1. FILM FEST: “A DARK ROOM”

How to Read a Film: Four lectures by Mark Schenker on classic films by Alfred Hitchcock

Mark Schenker discussing the historical context for the "Downton Abbey" series at a lecture in the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2014.

Mark Schenker discussing the historical context for the “Downton Abbey” series at a lecture in the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2014.

Mark Schenker, Dean of Academic Affairs in Yale College and frequent lecturer on film and literature topics at venues throughout Connecticut, presents four lectures on the films of Alfred Hitchcock on successive Sunday afternoons in January. The series starts on Sunday, Jan. 4, and concludes on Sunday, Jan. 25. Each lecture begins at 2 PM. The cost is $7 per lecture or $25 for the entire series.

Dean Schenker’s talks are both informative and fun, as attendees of his August lecture at Best Video on the historical context of the “Downton Abbey” TV series can attest.

Dean Schenker will discuss the four movies in chronological order of their release:

Sun., Jan. 4: “Notorious” (1946), with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in what is perhaps the director’s most fully realized love story.

Sun., Jan. 11: “Strangers on a Train” (1951), with Robert Walker as one of Hitchcock’s most impressive villains.

Sun., Jan. 18: “Rear Window” (1954), with James Stewart and Grace Kelly in a voyeuristic thriller.

Sun., Jan. 25: “North by Northwest” (1959), with Cary Grant as another of Hitchcock’s innocent men on the run in a movie that is a sophisticated blend of thriller, romance, and comedy.

The lectures will address aspects of the individual works, characteristics of Hitchcock’s art, and ways that participants can be better “readers” of film—more adept at what to look for and see in considering movies as work of art at no cost to their ability to entertain and enthrall us. Clips from each of the films will accompany the lectures.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, Jan. 2. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES, HAPPY ENDING DUO (BEST VIDEO’S OWN HANK HOFFMAN & RICHARD BROWN)

• Sunday, Jan. 4. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NOTORIOUS”

• Wednesday, Jan. 7. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: CRISTINA HARRIS, PATRICK DALTON

• Thursday, Jan. 8. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Sunday, Jan. 11. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “STRANGERS ON A TRAIN”

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

• Thursday, Jan. 15. SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR: ROBERT MESSORE

• Friday, Jan. 16: INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Sunday, Jan. 18. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “REAR WINDOW”

• Wednesday, Jan. 21. SONGWRITERS’ CIRCLE: MARK MIRANDO, DICK NEAL, REX FOWLER

• Thursday, Jan. 22. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Sunday, Jan. 25. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NORTH BY NORTHWEST”

• Friday., Jan. 30. JAZZ: URI SHAHAM

• Friday, Feb. 6. AVANT-GARDE: RIVENER, LIGHT UPON BLIGHT

• Friday, Mar. 6. JAZZ: NICK DiMARIA WiRED

• Friday, April 3. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR

• Friday, April 17. WPKN BENEFIT

• Friday, May 1. FILM FEST: “A DARK ROOM”

Film screening: “I Confess” on Mon., Nov. 17, 7 PM, as part of “Religion and Society” film series

I_Confess_poster_WebIt’s no joke! The current film series in collaboration with Temple Beth Sholom continues next Tuesday with the Alfred Hitchcock-directed “I Confess,” starring Montgomery Clift. “A Rabbi, A Priest and A Minister Walk Into Best Video Performance Space” features powerful films with the theme of religion and society. As has been our practice, each screening begins with a short, context-setting introduction and is followed by an optional discussion.

Each screening begins at 7 PM. The cost for each movie is $5 and reservations are highly encouraged. The first two screening attracted capacity audiences.

This is the upcoming schedule:

Mon., Nov. 17: “I Confess”

In this unique drama stunningly filmed in Quebec, a murderer confesses his heinous crime to Father Michael Logan, a local priest who, because of the sanctity of the confessional, cannot reveal the confession, not even when he himself becomes the leading suspect! This model piece of film-making directed by Alfred Hitchcock features haunting location shots, mounting suspense and, as Father Logan, a charismatic Montgomery Clift whose face you will not be able to take your eyes from. In a film that will have you hooked all the way, you will discover that, while confession may be good for the soul, it also may be deadly to your life.

Mon., Nov. 24: “Babette’s Feast”

In this simple yet sumptuous Oscar winning film, adapted from an Isak Dinesen short story, two beautiful daughters of a devout, self-denying clergyman carry on his austere teachings by sacrificing their youth and passion to faith and duty. Like their entire hamlet, their lives are lived in self-denial. That is, until the arrival of Babette, a mysterious refugee from France’s civil war. As a servant to the daughters for fourteen years, Babette suddenly reveals her own passion and artistry that moves toward a tumultuous transformation of the town’s inhabitants. This film will raise issues of art and duty, self-indulgence and self-denial, asking the question: can or should there be a balance?

Mon., Dec. 1: “Doubt”

Sister Aloysius Beauvier, played by Meryl Streep, is the rigid and fearsome principal of a Bronx Catholic high school who has an extreme dislike for the progressive and popular parish priest, Father Flynn, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Looking for wrongdoing in every corner, she believes she has uncovered the ultimate sin when she hears Father Flynn has taken a special interest in a troubled boy. But there is no clear proof; the only thing certain is doubt. Based on the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play and nominated for 5 Academy Awards, there is little doubt this is one of the most honored films of recent times. Also starring Amy Adams and Viola Davis, the superbly acted, spellbindingly suspenseful film raises questions about whether doubt should interfere with action when safety is at issue, even when that issue might be personal.

Mon., Dec. 8: “The End of the Affair”

During the London blitz, a married Londoner, played by Julianne Moore, suddenly breaks off a passionate five-year affair with writer, Maurice Bendrix, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, who suspects another love. When, years later, Fiennes accidentally meets with her dull, civil servant husband, played by Stephen Rea, and then hires a detective to follow Moore, what he discovers becomes a blitz of the soul. This intense adult drama, adapted from a Graham Greene novel and directed by Oscar winner Neal Jordan, poses questions about love, faith and betrayal that will have you searching your own soul long after the movie is done.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Thursday, Nov. 13. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: FRANK CRITELLI, JASON PRINCE

• Friday, Nov. 14. INDIE FOLK: OLIVE TIGER

• Monday, Nov. 17. FILM SCREENING: “I CONFESS”

• Wednesday, Nov. 19. SONGWRITERS’ CIRCLE: MARK MIRANDO, DICK NEAL, LAURA JOY

• Thursday, Nov. 20. FILM SCREENING: “SEVEN DAYS IN MAY”

• Friday, Nov. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: BECKY KESSLER (Violent Mae), SAM PERDUTA (Elison Jackson)

• Monday, Nov. 24. FILM SCREENING: “BABETTE’S FEAST”

• Friday, Nov. 28. PSYCHO-FOLK: MILKSOP: UNSUNG

• Monday, Dec. 1. FILM SCREENING: “DOUBT”

• Thursday, Dec. 4. JAZZ: REBECCA ABBOTT

• Friday, Dec. 5. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Monday, Dec. 8. FILM SCREENING: “THE END OF THE AFFAIR”

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

 

Hank’s (and Rob Harmon’s) Recommendations 08/13/13

hank_paperHANK’S PICS 08/13/13

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP — When a wife and mother, and former member of the Weather Underground (Susan Sarandon), turns herself in for her role, thirty years ago, in the robbery of a bank and the murder of a security guard, it upsets a whole network of former Weathermen who have since rebuilt new lives, especially one who is now forced to go on the run, pursued by both the FBI and a dogged reporter.

Directed by and starring Robert Redford, this film is a man-on-the-run thriller, a newspaper drama about going for a big story in a dying industry, as well as a film about families, lies and betrayals. It is also about the past (the Vietnam War and the violent protests against it) and the present (posing political questions that are still relevant today).

While Redford himself looks perhaps ten years too old for the part, he has assembled an incredible cast (Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrance Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliot and Brit Marling) to tell a fairly gripping, thought-provoking story.

While not, perhaps of the stature of Redford’s other directorial outings (ORDINARY PEOPLE, THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, QUIZ SHOW, THE HORSE WHISPERER; Redford also, more recently, directed the less compelling THE CONSPIRATOR), this is an under-rated, under-distributed film, both intelligent and entertaining, whose company you should definitely keep.

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksROB HARMON’S PICS 08/13/13:

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S BIRTHDAY

Today is the birthday of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, born this day in 1899 in Leytonstone, England and died on April 29, 1980 at the age of 80. My earliest fascination with Hitchcock and his films almost exactly coincides with when I was first becoming interested in film itself—middle school and high school—and the two (film and Hitchcock) have been almost synonymous in my mind ever since.

Mr. Hitchcock’s staggering influence upon the cinema survives to this day, particularly in the genres of mystery/suspense thrillers and horror, but equally important in many other respects, too numerous to list here. With a total of 53 films to his credit it is never a bad time to familiarize yourself with the Master of Suspense: let’s call this Film, or Hitchcock, 101!

To Catch A Thief MoviestillsWe’ll start with Ten Hitchcock Masterpieces:

1 • REBECCA (1940): Poor Mrs. Danvers….
2 • FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940): Intrigue for a Yank across the pond, with Europe on the brink of war.
3 • SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943): Everyone should have an Uncle Charlie.
4 • NOTORIOUS (1946): Hitchcockian romance, at its very best.
5 • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951): Hitchcock adapts Highsmith—mind who you speak to on trains….
6 • REAR WINDOW (1954): Did he, or didn’t he, see a murder?
7 • VERTIGO (1958): Dark, touching, and sad, this is perhaps Hitchcock’s most personal film.
8 • NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959): Some guys have all the fun.
9 • PSYCHO (1960): Bates Motel – twelve cabins, twelve vacancies.
10 • THE BIRDS (1963): It’s woman vs. nature.

Seen those? How about, Ten Must-Sees from Hitchcock’s British Period:

1 • THE LODGER (1926): Jack the Ripper, anyone?
2 • THE RING (1927): Excellent silent boxing drama.
3 • BLACKMAIL (1929): Guilt pursues the killer—an innovative use of early sound technology.
4 • RICH AND STRANGE (1932): Eerie, early romantic melodrama.
5 • THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934): Knowing too much is a dangerous thing, indeed…. (1956 American version: Stewart and Day give strong performances; a worthy encore!)
6 • THE 39 STEPS (1935): High adventure on the Scottish moors—a man, a woman, and a pair of handcuffs!
7 • SABOTAGE (1936): Who killed cock robin?
8 • YOUNG AND INNOCENT (1937): The camera identifies the killer.
9 • THE LADY VANISHES (1938): Intrigue among passengers on a train across Europe—a ripping good yarn!
10 • JAMAICA INN (1939): Great adventure story; Laughton memorable as the villain, Sir Humphrey Pengallan.

Still hungry? Here are Ten Further Classics from Hitchcock’s Hollywood Career:

1 • SABOTEUR (1942): It’s The 39 Steps in the good old U.S.A.!
2 • LIFEBOAT (1944): Tallulah Bankhead in a boat.
3 • SPELLBOUND (1945): Romance and psychoanalysis – a union that only Hitchcock could bring about.
4 • ROPE (1948): What’s in the trunk?
5 • STAGE FRIGHT (1950): Highly under-rated; Dietrich sings “The Laziest Gal in Town.”
6 • DIAL ME FOR MURDER (1954): Crackling good murder mystery; originally filmed in 3-D!
7 • THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955): Dead body on a mountain-top—what to do with it?
8 • THE WRONG MAN (1956): Eerie, dark drama based on a real-life case.
9 • MARNIE (1964): Hitchcock examines the female psyche—’nuff said!
10 • FRENZY (1972): Hitchcock returns home to England—who knew rigor mortis could be this much fun?

Hank’s recommendations 03/12/13

hank_paperHITCHCOCK — Murder is so much fun in Hitchcock!

The only suspense in this thoroughly delightful, well-written and acted, film is how the aging Hitchcock, fresh off his success in NORTH BY NORTHWEST in 1959, seeks to prove he still has what it takes to be, well, Hitchcock. The vehicle he chooses to confirm his continued worth and, in fact, be fresh and current and different, is adapted from a then-current gruesome horror novel about the serial killer Ed Gein. The bestseller is called PSYCHO, displaying graphic subject matter that cause both his agent and longtime studio to avert their eyes from supporting it, forcing the Hitchcocks to mortgage their beloved Hollywood home in order to finance the film themselves. Talk about a scarily suspenseful adventure!

This movie has all the elements that make, not a perfect “Hitchcock film,” but a perfect film about Hitchcock and the making of Psycho: the advisory phantom of Ed Gein himself, backstabbing studio politics, Hitchcock’s eccentrically brilliant directorial craft, the famous shower scene, his trademark Hitchcock TV show, his infatuation with his blonde leading ladies, his less than earnest battle with corpulence, and, above all, his longstanding marriage to Alma Revel who was his confidante, advisor, editor and supporter in every film—right through Psycho—since their early days making British silent films together. The question of whether Hitchcock’s might finally acknowledge her irreplaceable role is another fine element of suspense.

The two actors—Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren—are expectantly excellent, especially Hopkins. One would think no one could convincingly portray the unique, inimitable Hitchcock, but you soon forget you’re watching anyone but the famous director himself.

All the dry wit and acerbic perceptions, the sense of fun and surprise you associate with Hitchcock are in this well-written movie.

The last three lines are the perfect capstone:

“You know, Alma, I will never be able to find a Hitchcock blonde as beautiful as you.”

“I’ve waited thirty years to hear you say that.”

“And that, my dear, is why they call me…the Master of Suspense.”

THE FLAT — A 98 year old grandmother dies in Tel Aviv. Her daughter, in her 70s, and her own older children and grandchildren go to clean out the apartment.

Among the old German furniture and bric-a-brac are discovered a huge and surprising cache of letters, photo albums and mementos harkening back to a pre-war Berlin where the grandmother and her traffic judge husband led a privileged life. Among the aging relics is a prominent Nazi newspaper from the late 30s whose banner headline announces the couple’s trip abroad to Palestine in the company of a high Nazi official.

The mother claims she never knew anything about that. Her parents never talked about their past life nor did she ever ask any questions. She herself lives only for the here and now. Her own apartment in Tel Aviv is neat as a pin: no clutter, everything in its place, not a thing that’s reminiscent of the past.

But the son evinces surprise and curiosity. The video he happens to be recording of the apartment cleaning becomes the movie we are watching as he decides to pursue that curiosity. What he discovers as he travels across Israel and to Germany to uncover his grandparents’ hitherto unrevealed life defies belief, leading to personal confrontations that will dispel complacency, reveal hard truths and alter lives on both continents.

This profound and haunting family mystery raises unfathomable questions and goes to places you couldn’t expect. It will have its intended effect if you don’t first read the spoilers on the back of the DVD cover.