Serious Cinema and Having Fun at BAMPFA

The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, also known as BAMPFA, is one of only two movie theaters within Berkeley’s city limits. BAMPFA, which is part of the university, doesn’t just show movies. It runs series of films. And this summer’s series looks very good. There’s animation, Claudia Cardinale, Luis Buñuel, movies set in Tokyo, and the comedic genius of Preston Sturges.

I’m having some serious technical problems. Hopefully, they won’t hurt your reading.

Here are the series that will screen from June to August:

Ambassador of Cinema: Tom Luddy’s Lasting Influence at BAMPFA
June 1–July 15

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
I met Tom Luddy two or three times. I didn’t say much; I was in awe. Among his jobs, he was cofounder and codirector of the Telluride Film Festival. He had worked with the San Francisco International Film Festival (now SFFilm). He also worked with the New York Film Festival. Luddy died last February. To celebrate his work, BAMPFA will screen some of his favorite films, including Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Vivre sa vie, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Claudia Cardinale Once Upon a Time
June 9–July 22, 2023

The Leopard
Do I really have to tell you about the beautiful and talented Claudia Cardinale? This series screens eleven films starring the beloved Italian actress. I haven’t seen all of the films that will play in this series, but among the ones I’ve seen, there’s 8 1/2, The Leopard, and, if you don’t like subtitles, Once Upon a Time in the West.

Shitamachi: Tales of Downtown Tokyo
June 16–July 29

Japanese Grandmas
Here are 12 Japanese films set in post-war downtown Tokyo. It contains three films made by my all-time-favorite director, Akira Kurosawa: Stray Dog, Ikiru, and Drunken Angel. I haven’t seen the other eight films.

Luis Buñuel’s Magnificent Weapon
July 7–November

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
This series goes well past the end of the summer, but you can’t fit Buñuel into a small box. The Magnificent Weapon of the series’ title should really be called a Magnificent Target. And that target is everything about proper society. Buñuel’s strange comedies attacked the rich, the church, and all nations. In The Exterminating Angel (my favorite of his work), the guests at a fancy dinner find themselves desperate for food and water. He drags down civilization in such films as Belle de jour, Viridiana, Simon of the Desert, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Out of the Vault: The Enchanted Yuliya Solntseva
July 21–August 27

Aelita, Queen of Mars
All of the nine films in this series were made in what was then the USSR. Now the sons and daughters of the filmmakers are probably fighting for their real homeland: Ukraine. This series celebrates the married filmmaking duo of Yuliya Solntesva and Oleksandr Dovzhenko. They had a long career; the films in the series go from 1924 to 1964. In 1930, they celebrated Ukrainian farming in Earth (which isn’t as good as I thought it would be). But what I’m really looking forward to is Aelita, Queen of Mars. The films will be projected off rare 35mm prints from BAMPFA’s collection.

Preston Sturges: More Than Comedy
July 27–August 26

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
This is the series I’ve been waiting for. Through World War II and beyond, writer/director Preston Sturges kept the home front laughing with movies such as The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, and Sullivan’s Travels. He got laughs about politicians, the upper classes, the lower classes, and even sex – at a time when that was allowed in movies. Sturges was a successful screenwriter before Paramount let him direct, and this series contains three rare films that Sturges wrote but didn’t direct.

The Art of Animation: Storytelling in the Digital Age
August 3–31, 2023

Spirited Away
This animation series focuses largely on the big studios. Four of the ten films to be screened were made by Pixar – which is owned by Disney. Two others are from Japan’s Studio Ghibli. Either way, there are some great movies here. For the kiddies, there’s Toy Story 2, Ratatouille, Spirited Away Finding Nemo and Fantastic Mr. Fox. But there are lesser known films like My Life as a Zucchini and Flee. For the adults, there will be Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis. Some of these films will be screened outdoors for free.

It seems as if there will be some good movies to watch this summer at BAMPFA.

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