1996 Labor Film Series
All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue
Friday, October 4
ROGER AND ME (Michael Moore, US, 1989, 87 min.)
The ostensible goal of this hilarious film seems modest enough: trapping General Motors Chairman Roger Smith into a spontaneous reckoning of the disastrous human effects of his managerial malfeasance. Moore weaves a savage chronicle of how the unimpeded pursuit of profits by corporate America has under-cut working people not only in his home town of Flint, Michigan but across the country.
Saturday, October 5 Special Film Series Event
LABOR FILM SYMPOSIUM (2-4 P.M. Curtis Theatre, George Eastman House Labor film scholar Tom Zaniello, Eastman House film curator Paolo Cherchi Usai, film critic Jack Garner, and labor historian Jon Garlock will address the question, “What Are Labor Films?” The audience is invited to participate. Post-discussion screening: PETS OR MEAT: THE RETURN TO FLINT (US, 1992, 23 min.) Michael Moore’s sequel to Roger and Me. Free Admission
Friday, October 11
THE PAJAMA GAME (George Abbott and Stanley Donen, US, 1957, 101 min.)
This movie musical is also a rare Hollywood foray into a labor milieu, with factory scenes shot on the premises of the Weldon Pajama Co. and Doris Day heading up a grievance committee to protest working conditions and low pay. Labor union rallies and the factory floor serve as background for energetic Bob Fosse choreography, with Day falling in love with the shop superintendent and engaging in action decidedly not collective.
Friday, October 18
THE BICYCLE THIEF (Vittorio Dc Sica, Italy, 1948, 90 min. Italian with subtitles.)
In this De Sica classic, a worker gets a job as a bill-poster on the condition that he own a bicycle. When the bicycle is stolen, the man and his son embark on an odyssey of despair. Not an exploration of political or collective struggle but of personal hardship, The Bicycle Thief nonetheless suggests a universe inextricably bound by perverse economic ties. Lead actor Lamberto Maggiorani, a steel-worker, found himself unemployed soon after the film was completed.
Friday, October 25
NINE TO FIVE (Colin Higgins, US, 1980, 110 min.)
Jane Fonda is a divorcee who takes a secretarial job and is soon befriended by co-workers Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Constantly harassed by their male chauvinist boss, the trio plots a cabal in the interest of women’s rights and office efficiency. Fonda’s own company produced this comedy, which was released just as the 1980s backlash against career-oriented women was gaining speed.
Friday, November 1
STRIKE (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1924, 73 min. Silent with intertitles; live piano accompaniment by Philip C. Carli.) Although the official purpose of this government-sponsored project was to inform the masses, director Eisenstein believed that films should impart not merely information but sensation and impression as well. The place of story is thus taken by images of collective action, which allow the camera the greatest virtuosity and put into play Eisenstein’s brilliant “montage of attractions.” The environment of the workers is depicted as an integral part of their lives and the film as a whole becomes something of a perpetual motion machine, with each action or movement yielding its force to a subsequent one, all towards the utopian goal of worker solidarity and emancipation.
Friday, November 8
BREAD AND CHOCOLATE (Franco Brusati, Italy, 1974, 111 min. Italian with subtitles.) Nino Manfredi leaves Sicily for parts North, hoping to find a better standard of living. He ends up in the lower stratum of Swiss society, and his status is hilariously contrasted with that of several other Gastarbeiter (guest workers) resident in the cantons of Switzerland. This award-winning (yet rarely seen) bittersweet comedy of loneliness and exploitation is fashioned around a growing postwar dilemma: the plight of laborers from Southern Europe in their Northern neighbors’ more prosperous and modernized lands.
Friday, November 15
BLACK FURY (Michael Curtiz, US, 1935, 92 min.)
This historic profile of early unions struggling to provide safety and decent wages for their workers was banned by the State of Pennsylvania because of its uncompromising profile of a mining city that could be none other than Pittsburgh. Taken from a story about a rebellious miner killed by three company cops in 1929, Black Fury received a top budget and high production values: it was shot at the Warner Bros. ranch, where intricate mine shafts and heavy equipment were installed, and it stars the studio’s then-biggest draw, Paul Muni.
Friday, November 22
Rochester Premiere LAND AND FREEDOM (Ken Loach, UK, 1995, 109 min.)
In 1936, concerned citizens from around the world poured into Spain to help defend the country’s Socialist government from Franco’s Fascist takeover. Loach’s powerful new film centers on a young Liverpool worker who is drawn into the conflict, rubbing shoulders with strong-willed amateur freedom fighters and coping with inadequate arms and fragmented organization. This impassioned examination of political idealism confronting a ruthless enemy offers a mixture of love and death, triumph and tragedy.