University Film Series

$3 donation appreciated, Tuesdays, 7:30pm in the Little Theatre (Ayres 106)

Director: Sarah Pike
Phone: 530-898-6341


* The Humanities Center’s theme for this year is “Food and Culture.”

Feb. 02Two films by Buster Keaton

The Playhouse (USA, 1921) 22 minutes and Sherlock, Jr. (USA, 1924) 56 minutes. Directed by Buster Keaton.  Introduced by Sarah Pike, Comparative Religion.

The Playhouse is a silent short film, written, directed and starring Buster Keaton, which opens with a variety show where Keaton plays every role.  Playing with camera tricks and doubling, things are rarely what they appear to be.  The longer Sherlock Jr., also directed by and starring Keaton, follows a film projectionist (Keaton) who is in love with a girl (Kathryn McGuire), who is also being pursued by a “local sheik” (Ward Crane), and who frames Keaton’s character for a petty crime.  Sherlock Jr. “marshals eye-popping special effects, precision editing, sophisticated action choreography, and diabolically elaborate sets to explore the nexus between dreams and reality” (Chris Baker).

Feb. 09Heavenly Creatures

(New Zealand, 1994) 99 minutes. Directed by Peter Jackson. Introduced by Laura Nice, Humanities.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay from a script written by Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, Heavenly Creatures is based on the infamous 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey make their screen debuts playing teenage girls Pauline (Lynskey) and Juliet (Winslet), who develop an intense friendship sparked by their shared experience of childhood illness.  They create an elaborate fantasy world called Borovnia, which becomes increasingly real, and when it appears that they will be separated, they plot to remove their biggest obstacle. “What makes Jackson's film enthralling and frightening is the way it shows these two unhappy girls, creating an alternative world so safe and attractive they thought it was worth killing for” (Roger Ebert).    

Feb. 16Les Vacances de M. Hulot

(France, 1953) 114 minutes. Directed by Jacques Tati. Introduced by Sarah Pike, Comparative Religion.

A French comedy centered on the character of Monsieur Hulot, a hapless but loveable bachelor who inadvertently causes chaos during a seaside vacation.  Tati stars as Hulot and directs and “composes this movie with a perfect eye and ear for the comic possibilities in everything: composition, lighting, minimal marble-mouth dialogue, certain sounds (a duck call, a door repeatedly opening and shutting). This is a superior work that ranks among all-time classic comedies.” (Tom Keogh)

Feb. 23Rocco and His Brothers

(Italy, 1960) 177 minutes. Directed by Luchino Visconti. Introduced by Brunella Windsor, International Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Rocco, one of five sons from a poor rural southern Italian family, moves to the industrial north to try to start over after the death of his father. A story of murder, rape and disillusionment, “Rocco and His Brothers is a film both authentic and ambitious, a classic that is as adept at telling individual stories as it is in drawing larger parallels from them” (Kenneth Turan).

Mar. 01Miller’s Crossing

(USA, 1990) 115 minutes. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Introduced by Troy Jollimore, Philosophy.

The Coen Brothers’ final collaboration with cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (who went on to direct films including Men in Black and Get Shorty) is a dark, brooding, and immensely stylish “neo-noir black comedy gangster film" whose inscrutable anti-hero, the Irish mobster Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), tries to navigate a complex landscape of conflicting loyalties and deadly betrayals in an unnamed Prohibition-era American city. “Miller's Crossing is as disturbing and densely beautiful as its opening image, a lofty forest that dwarfs the gangsters as they laugh over their kill. There is an uncompromising magic about this primeval setting, until it comes over you like a wolf's shadow that this is where the brutal truly belong.” (Rita Kempley)

Mar. 08Pan’s Labyrinth

(Mexico/Spain, 2006) 119 minutes. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Introduced by Hannah Burdette, International Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Set in Spain in 1944, shortly after the Spanish Civil War and during the Francoist period, Pan’s Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, cleverly weaving the real world with the magical creatures of a mythical world found through an ancient labyrinth.  While Ofelia’s cruel stepfather hunts down rebels and her pregnant mother grows sick, the young girl comes to believe that she is the incarnation of Queen Moanna, daughter of the king of the underworld.  The film compellingly “balances its own magical thinking with the knowledge that not everyone lives happily ever after” (A. O. Scott).

Mar. 22Hope and Glory

(UK, 1987) 113 minutes. Directed by John Boorman. Introduced by Jason Nice, History.

Based on Boorman’s own childhood experiences during World War II, Hope and Glory follows young Billy Rohan as he grows up in London during the Blitz, with food rationing and almost nightly Luftwaffe airstrikes.  Boorman “is not concerned in this film about the tragedy of war, or the meaning of war, but only with the specific experience of war for a grade-school boy” (Roger Ebert).

Mar. 29Decasia

(USA, 2002) 67 minutes. Directed by Bill Morrison. Introduced by Corey Sparks, English and Humanities.

Decasia is a found footage film by Bill Morrison with an original score by Michael Gordon. Early nitrate film footage, prone to rotting, is turned into a rumination on the nature of filmmaking and what we value versus what we abandon and allow to decay. In 2013, Decasia was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, the first twenty-first-century film to be selected. Ultimately it “makes you feel that the art, as opposed to the business, of cinema does have a future – even if it has to be found deep in the past” (Jonathan Jones).