At the Pacific Film Archive, November/December is always the shortest schedule of the year. Thank the holidays for that. A lot of people go to movies on Christmas, but they don’t go to the Pacific Film Archive.
But the PFA has a promising month and a half of cinematic studies and pleasures.
Certainly the most interesting series on the new calendar is Carl Theodor Dreyer, with 13 films by the famed Danish director—and two by others his work inspired (Jean-Luc Godard and Lars von Trier). The highlight of the Dreyer retrospective is The Passion of Joan of Arc, screening not at the Archive but the Oakland Paramount on December 2. A 22-piece orchestra and a very large chorus will accompany this silent film with Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light—both a score for Dreyer’s film and a respected piece of music in its own right.
I hate to admit this, but the only other Dreyer film I’ve seen is Vampyr, and that was very long ago. It’s playing December 4 (I have other plans) . Most of the Dreyer screenings are set for weekends, and I’m hoping I can find the time to properly acquaint myself with this important artist.
A more commercial artist, with a much more famous face and body, also gets a retrospective this month with Grin, Smile, Smirk: The Films of Burt Lancaster. Certainly one of Hollywood’s greatest stars as well as an important producer, Lancaster had everything: looks, sex appeal, charisma, the physical grace of an acrobat (which he was before he became a movie star), tremendous acting talent, and a taste for good scripts. The nine files in the series include film noir (The Killers and Sweet Smell of Success), social dramas (Elmer Gantry and Sweet Smell of Success), and even a swashbuckler (The Crimson Pirate). I could probably come up with nine other Lancaster films that deserve screening.
With this schedule the PFA starts a new series: Filmmakers and Critics, which will be exactly what it sounds like. In the space of three days (November 11 –-13), the Archive will screen four films by Kelly (Wendy and Lucy) Reichardt, each followed by a discussion between Reichardt and author B. Ruby Rich.
Days of Glory: Revisiting Italian Neorealism has been going on for more than a month, now, but it continues through this calendar. The PFA screened the famous works (The Bicycle Thief, Miracle in Milan) last month. So now we come to less well-known films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less worth seeing.