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Fall 2015 Cinematheque: Now In Theaters

It goes without saying that the act of viewing in a movie theater or screening room has long been left behind as the sole means of experiencing film. With the ease of home viewing and online streaming, format-specific viewing has also altered dramatically even within the last decade. One of the most significant ways in which this has affected our viewing habits is through binge-watching – not films, but TV and episodal narratives. Many people watch episode after episode of Orange is the New Black or Breaking Bad, but claim not to have the attention span to sit through a ninety-minute film. By this logic, it would seem that seeing a film at the movie theater is now considered a feat of attention and patience. But does the act of viewing in a movie theater truly determine that we will pay attention – and did audiences of previous decades truly devote their undivided attention to the spectacle on the screen?

Movies or scenes set in theaters are often automatically self-reflexive and nostalgic. They provide a setting that has, in the last century, become integral to our lives, as well as a nod to being entranced (or trapped) by the images on the screen. At the same time, many scenes that take place in a movie theater emphasize a tension between the screen’s demand for its patrons’ attention and the outside distractions – other moviegoers, masked killers, demons, convicts – that ask them to resist the lure of the screen. In some instances, the characters don’t want to look at the screen, as in A Clockwork Orange, whereas others, such as in Diner and Amarcord, are tempted away by more immediately carnal diversions sitting in the next seat or row. In Scream 2, Anguish, and Demons, murderers and netherbeings literally trap their hostages inside the theater, whereas solid projection booth walls provide characters refuge from the apocalypse in Night of the Comet. In Sullivan’s Travels, it is the act of viewing the audience, rather than the film, that enlightens a character to the potential of film comedy. The Purple Rose of Cairo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and Les Carabiniers remind us that once it was common for movie theater patrons to come and go as they pleased. These examples suggest that the claim that our attention spans have diminished as a result of our evolving viewing habits is not entirely true. For the Fall 2015 Cinematheque series, we will watch films that toy with the attention span that goes with watching (or not watching) movies in a movie theater with a live audience (or among empty seats). To celebrate the now-vanishing format-specific experience of viewing film in a movie theater, a 16mm short will precede each feature-length film.

A tentative list of potential films, in chronological order

Sherlock, Jr. (1924) – dir. Buster Keaton

Sabotage (1936) – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – dir. Preston Sturges

Brief Encounter (1945) – dir. David Lean

Sunset Blvd. (1950) – dir. Billy Wilder

The Blob (1958) – dirs. Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and Russel S. Doughten Jr.

The Tingler (1959) – dir. William Castle

Cape Fear (1962) – dir. J. Lee Thompson

Les Carabiniers (1963) – dir. Jean-Luc Godard

Targets (1968) – dir. Peter Bogdanovich

Midnight Cowboy (1969) – dir. John Schlesinger

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – dir. Stanley Kubrick

Amarcord (1973) – dir. Federico Fellini

Taxi Driver (1976) – dir. Martin Scorsese

Annie Hall (1977) – dir. Woody Allen

Hardcore (1979) – dir. Paul Schrader

An American Werewolf in London (1981) – dir. John Landis

Diner (1982) – dir. Barry Levinson

Gremlins (1984) – dir. Joe Dante

Night of the Comet (1984) – dir. Thom Eberhardt

Demons (1985) – dir. Lamberto Bava

The Last Dragon (1985) – dir. Michael Schultz

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) – dir. Woody Allen

Tampopo (1985) – dir. Juzo Itami

Anguish (1987) – dir. Bigas Luna

Cinema Paradiso (1988) – dir. Giuseppe Tornatore

Cape Fear (1991) – dir. Martin Scorsese

Popcorn (1991) – dirs. Mark Herrier, Alan Ormsby

Last Action Hero (1993) – dir. John McTiernan

Matinee (1993) – dir. Joe Dante

True Romance (1993) – dir. Tony Scott

Léon: The Professional (1994) – dir. Luc Besson

Scream 2 (1997) – dir. Wes Craven

Fight Club (1999) – dir. David Fincher

Cecil B. Demented (2000) – dir. John Waters

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) – dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen

Amélie (2001) – dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Donnie Darko (2001) – dir. Richard Kelly

The Dreamers (2003) – dir. Bernardo Bertolucci

Inglourious Basterds (2009) – dir. Quentin Tarantino

Public Enemies (2009) – dir. Michael Mann

The Artist (2011) – dir. Michel Mazanavicius

Sinister (2012) – dir. Scott Derrickson

 

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