2011 Labor Film Series
All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue.
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Friday, September 2, 8 p.m
Sunday, September 4, 7 p.m
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (Ernst Lubitsch, US 1940, 99 min.) James Stewart wants a cultured pen pal as a cheap alternative to an encyclopedia and Margaret Sullavan wants a correspondent with an intellect higher than a broken cigarette lighter. They definitely don’t want each other, since they fight every day as clerks at a Budapest leather goods shop over the proper sales pitch for a musical candy box. Unbeknownst to one another, they are, in fact, lovers-by-mail. In this gentle and effortless comedy, Lubitsch teaches us about recognizing solidarity in romance and in the workplace.
Friday, September 9, 8 p.m
THE GLEANERS AND I (LES GLANEURS ET LA GLANEUSE) (Agnes Varda, France 2000, 82 min., French with subtitles) In France, even the scavengers have rights, we learn in Varda’s multi- faceted and exuberant essay-documentary. Talking with provincial vagrants and aged jurists, urban dumpster divers, bohemian collagists, amateur vintners and others, Varda contemplates the roots and causes of modern-day gleaning as the raw materials of a rich social panorama. Armed with a digital camera and boundless curiosity, Varda proves to be the biggest gleaner of them all.
Friday, September 16, 8 p.m
BIG CITY (MAHANAGAR) (Satyajit Ray, India 1964, 131 min., English and Bengali with subtitles) After her husband loses his job, Arati, a lower middle-class house-wife, finds herself in a personal and economic crisis. Though cultural expectations dictate that she stay at home, she defies her family and ventures into Calcutta selling sewing machines door-to-door. Master filmmaker Ray (The Apu Trilogy) presents this new world as a mysterious, near-mythic emblem of complex modernity.
Friday, September 23, 8 p.m
SING ME A LOVE SONG (Ray Enright, US 1936, 75 min.) Department store heir Jerry Haines (Metropolitan Opera star James Melton in a rare film role) goes undercover at the family business, befriending an elevator operator and two girls in the music department (Patricia Ellis and ZaSu Pitts) to get the straight dope on the store. He discovers managerial malfeasance and sabotage, but not before crooning a few songs. A tuneful, casually proletarian musical comedy that displays the characteristic strengths of 1930’s Warner Bros. productions.
Friday, September 30, 8 p.m
TIMBER GANG (MU BANG) (Yu Guangyi, China 2007, 90 min., Mandarin with subtitles) One of the most affecting in the profusion of recent Chinese documentaries, Yu’s film follows a band of lumberjacks in the wintry Heilongjiang Province as they practice a trade that has essentially passed unchanged across generations. Appeasing mountain gods one moment and confronting the consequences of deforestation the next, the woodcutters share hardship and fellowship as they face challenges that mark their lives as distinctly and hauntingly outside time. Yu, making a digital record of contemporary pre-industrial labor patterns, likewise straddles eras.
Friday, October 7, 8 p.m
Sunday, October 9, 7 p.m
A SCREAMING MAN (UN HOMME QUI CRIE) (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, France/Belgium/Chad 2010, 92 min., French and Arabic with subtitles) Adam, a former champion swimmer, enjoys his position as pool manager at a posh hotel until restructuring reduces him to the humiliating role of gate-keeper. Although his own son takes over pool duties, post-colonial Chad's ongoing civil war creeps closer to home, with tragic consequences. A reflective and quietly moving film from one of world cinema’s unheralded voices.
Friday, October 14, 8 p.m
EVEN THE RAIN (TAMBIEN LA LLUVIA) (Icíar Bollain, Spain/Mexico 2011, 103 min., Spanish with subtitles) Gael García Bernal plays a cocky young director whose political sympathies run a distant second to his all-consuming passion for filmmaking. Shooting a revisionist account of Columbus’s conquest of the Americas in the cheap-labor mecca of Bolivia, Bernal soon learns that history isn’t the only thing that needs revising: the film becomes instead the story of farmer and worker resistance to corporate theft of local water resources. As such, the film offers a critique not only of colonialism and global capitalism but of the movie industry invading the third world.
Friday, October 21, 8 p.m
THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE (Melvin Frank, US 1975, 98 min.) A garbage strike, lousy neighbors, and a burglary. As if Mel Edison (Jack Lemmon) didn’t have enough reasons to hate New York, he’s fired from his cushy advertising job and barely able to leave the apartment while his wife (Anne Bancroft) tries to make ends meet until she herself is laid off. Neil Simon’s portrait of middle-class life unraveling could have been written today: "I'm not through with my life yet... I still have value, I still have worth."
Friday, October 28, 8 p.m
MADE IN DAGENHAM (Nigel Cole, UK 2010, 113 min.) Reminiscent of Norma Rae, this film chronicles an historic 1968 strike at a British Ford factory. Led by spunky Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), the women walk out when they learn that management has classified them as unskilled workers and substantially capped their wages. Dealing with issues still very much with us — the pay gap, collusion between bosses and union reps, global corporate power and the surprising sexism of supposed liberal allies — Made in Dagenham is inspiring entertainment.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19 8 p.m.
SUNDAY, MARCH 20 7 p.m.
CLUNY BROWN (Ernst Lubitsch, US 1946, 100 min.) Jennifer Jones stars as the niece of a London plumber with a compulsion to attend to leaky pipes. On the basis of shared incomprehension of the English social order she develops a comradeship a sophisticated Czech refugee, played by Charles Boyer. Lubitsch’ last film, Cluny Brown is a zany satire on class relations, loaded with innuendo and plumbing metaphors.
Tuesday, September 20, 8 p.m.
Two early silent films examining the relationship between labor and capital. Shot on location in actual factories, both realistically portray working conditions to call attention to them.
THE WHISTLE (Lambert Hillyer, US 1921, 70 min.) The life of a New England textile mill worker is tragically redirected after a violent accident. The film is a shocking and powerful indictment of unsafe working conditions in American factories of the early 1900s.
THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN (George O. Nichols, US 1912, 29 min.) Structured on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's social protest poem of 1843 and produced during the great Lawrence textile strike of 1912, this impassioned plea against child labor furthered debate and helped pave the way for reform. Live piano accompaniment by Philip C. Carli.
Saturday, November 5, 8 p.m.
NOTE BY NOTE: The Making of Steinway L1307 (Ben Niles, US 2007, 81 min.) This documentary follows the making of a Steinway piano at this 150-year-old company, one of the last outposts of hand craftsmanship in a machine-dominated industry. It takes 450 union craftsmen nearly a year to make and assemble the 12,000 parts of this concert grand piano — Steinway L1307. Director Niles will participate in the post-screening Q&A.