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Cinema Classics Seminars

BMFI at the Barnes Seminar: Grand Illusion

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

This series presents screenings of essential works of world cinema enhanced by lectures and discussions that utilize diverse critical perspectives to enrich viewers' appreciation of the films. Instructors will explore cinematic technique, artistic tradition, cultural context, and historical perspective to inform and intensify the audience's engagement with these exceptional motion pictures.

Join us for a lecture, screening, and discussion of a true masterpiece of world cinema, Grand Illusion (1937), directed by Jean Renoir. It is a war film that does not depict any scenes of battle, yet is considered one of the most haunting members of its genre, and becomes, in the words of one critic, an "oasis of subtlety, moral intelligence, and deep emotion on a cinematic landscape." Renoir creates a tragic chamber drama of prison camp life and death in World War I, in which he uses the POW encampment as a microcosm of Europe, studying the interplay of a motley group of French officers forced to live together under the eyes of their German captors.

In doing so, the filmmaker examines issues of class, race, and nationalism, and in the process celebrates the universal humanity that transcends such categories, suggesting that mankind's common experiences should prevail above political divisions, and their natural extension: war. Grand Illusion is a film that elicited the admiration of many viewers upon its American release, less than a year before the start of World War II, among them President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who declared that "all democracies in the world must see this film."

BMFI at the Barnes Seminar: Rashomon

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

This series presents screenings of essential works of world cinema enhanced by lectures and discussions that utilize diverse critical perspectives to enrich viewers’ appreciation of the films. Instructors will explore cinematic technique, artistic tradition, cultural context, and historical perspective to inform and intensify the audience’s engagement with these exceptional motion pictures.

Join us for a lecture, screening, and discussion of Rashomon (1950), Akira Kurosawa’s masterwork of post-war Japanese film that introduced that nation’s cinema—and one of its most skilled practitioners—to Western audiences. Set in feudal Japan, this tense exploration of the subjective nature of truth and the meaning of justice centers on four individuals who give differing accounts of a bandit’s attack on a married couple. Starring the iconic Toshiro Mifune and featuring ingeniously subtle editing to showcase, among other elements, cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa’s inventive use of natural light, Rashomon is an aesthetic and intellectual achievement that has inspired filmmakers, composers, and playwrights for generations.

Cinema Classics Seminar: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

Miss this seminar at BMFI? Stream it now. Rent

Stanley Kubrick's visionary science-fiction epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), divided critics at the time of its release. A young Roger Ebert praised it for “succeed(ing) magnificently on a cosmic scale,” while the influential Pauline Kael dismissed the film as “monumentally unimaginative.”

Kubrick, collaborating with science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, crafted an ambitious work about (among other things) evolution, alien contact, and the limits of technological progress. Its style is equally bold, as 2001 leaps forward thousands of years in the moment of a single jump cut, opens and closes with lengthy, largely dialogue-free sequences, and often relies on classical music and cutting-edge visual effects to propel its ambiguous narrative. These elements have sparked more than fifty years' worth of heated debates over what exactly happens in the movie: “What the **** is that Starchild all about?”

2001 not only expanded the boundaries of traditional science-fiction cinema, but it tapped into the '60s counter-culture zeitgeist, leading savvy marketers to rebrand the film as “The Ultimate Trip” on its way to becoming an unlikely box-office smash. Join us to take that ultimate trip the way it was meant to be experienced . . . on the big screen.

Just want to see the movie? Find additional showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: 8 ½

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around Federico Fellini’s visually stunning 1963 flight of cinematic fancy, 8 ½, starring Marcello Mastroianni as a director at a creative and personal impasse, exhausted by his frantic efforts to keep his life in order, yet teeming with imagination. Proclaimed by Roger Ebert to be “the best film ever made about filmmaking,” 8 ½ has inspired the likes of François Truffaut, Bob Fosse, and Woody Allen.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about a true classic of world cinema. Students receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: A Hard Day's Night (Fall 2021)

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

Made quickly on a shoestring budget because no one was sure that The Beatles’ fame would last long enough for it to make back its money, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) shattered every expectation of what a jukebox film made for teen audiences could accomplish. Not only were fans more than eager to see their idols on screen—the surprise was that the critics loved it as well.

Critic Andrew Sarris later called it “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals,” and it was nominated for two Academy Awards—not only Best Score (hardly a surprise) but also Best Screenplay. The latter is not exactly common for a film whose story is just a frame for the songs and the gags. But in this case the personalities of the four Beatles shine through, each playing slightly exaggerated versions of themselves and clearly having a good time doing it. Director Richard Lester would go on to have a long and varied career with films as disparate as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Superman II.

And then, of course, there’s the music. A Hard Day’s Night marked the transition to the rich middle period of The Beatles’ career, a four-year run in which they dramatically expanded the possibilities of what pop and rock could be. In the spring of 1964, though, that was still all ahead of them. They were simply a band grappling with incredible fame and the pressures it brought, without losing sight of their own camaraderie or the joy of singing in perfect harmony.

Just want to see the movie? See additional screening-only showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: On-site attendance for this seminar is SOLD OUT, but the Remote Classroom is still available. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

 

Cinema Classics Seminar: A Hard Day's Night (Summer 2014)

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

Grumpy, befuddled parents hoped A Hard Day's Night (1964) would mark the end of the irritant known as "Beatlemania," while their swooning daughters were thrilled at just the chance to scream at the boys on the big screen. Hardly anybody anticipated that a film project launched primarily to boost sales of the group's upcoming album would be viewed, fifty years later, as a cinematic landmark.

American director Richard Lester's brand of surreal anarchy was a perfect match for the cheeky irreverence of the mop-topped Liverpudlians whose most endearing attribute, aside from their talent, was their refusal to take their fame (or much of anything else) all that seriously. Just a few months after invading America, John, Paul, George, and Ringo conquered the silver screen; the rest of the world would soon follow. A promotional piece, a time-capsule documentary, a hilarious comedy, and a heck of a concert movie, A Hard Day's Night is the whole package. Put another way, by Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris, the film is "the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals."

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: A Night at the Opera

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

After Duck Soup (1933) failed to connect with critics, the Marx Brothers left Paramount for MGM. Would their brand of anarchic humor survive studio head Irving Thalberg's plan to anchor their zaniness with a more traditionally structured narrative and even a love story? For A Night at the Opera (1935), at least, the answer was "yes."

With Zeppo leaving the act to become an agent, the Marx Brothers were down to three (or four if you count their ever-reliable "straight man," Margaret Dumont). Groucho, Chico, and Harpo were still a force sufficient to take on the world of opera, deflating (or knocking cold) every stuck-up snob unfortunate enough to cross their paths, while also making sure two young, aspiring singers (Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones, in early roles) found both love and success along the way. From the "Sanity Clause" to the most crowded ship's stateroom in maritime history, A Night at the Opera features some of the boys' most memorable film gags and clicked in a big way with Depression-era audiences eager for a good laugh. Come spend a night with the Marx Brothers to find out why.

Cinema Classics Seminar: A Streetcar Named Desire

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

It’s one of only two movies in history to win three acting Oscars. Its source text is a longtime staple of high school English courses. It’s been widely referenced and parodied for decades by the likes of Bob Dylan, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Pedro Almodóvar (in All About My Mother), and more. All that fame can make A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) a hard film to see for what it actually is.

In this seminar, we’ll dig past the cultural hoopla to examine how this extraordinary film came into being and its complex reception between 1951 and the present day. An acting tour de force (only relative newcomer Marlon Brando didn’t win the Oscar for which he was nominated) that was adapted from a successful Broadway production, it channels the claustrophobia of the original play while letting the action breathe just enough.

Streetcar is a complex portrait of social class, gender, and violence in the mid-century South, and a story whose meanings have shifted considerably over 70 years. Director Elia Kazan was well-versed in bringing the complexities of American social relations to the screen, having already directed Gentleman’s Agreement and Pinky, which both dealt with the convolutions of discrimination and personal hatreds. Like a Shakespearean play, there is enough richness in A Streetcar Named Desire to teach us something about the period in which it was produced—and about ourselves in the process.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Alien

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology, Cabrini University

From a script originally entitled Star Beast, and influenced by such science fiction creature features as It!, The Terror from Beyond Space, and The Planet of the Vampires, Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), transcends genre boundaries to emerge as a reflection of the exploitative societal dynamics extant in the final decades of the twentieth century. The film presents a nihilistic vision of a universe dominated by corporate greed that sees a manufacturing-based economic expansion into space in order to mine planets for their commercial resources. The crew is divided across obvious class boundaries, with the lumpen proletariat confined to the bowels of the ship, there to impotently bemoan the discrepancies of income dispersals. Ruling over all is the company, whose desires are enacted without hesitation by their manufactured products, machines imbued with artificial intelligence that assert their own agenda through means overt and covert. This faceless corporate enterprise prizes the acquisition of assets for financial gain above all else, with human life becoming an expendable asset in the attainment of lucrative commercial product.

The film’s eponymous entity, designed by H.R. Giger to be both terrifying and beautiful, and reputedly inspired by a photograph of a Sudanese warrior taken by director Leni Riefenstahl, echoes the eugenics-inspired fears of America’s past, while simultaneously reflecting growing concerns over the military industrial complex sparked by the Vietnam War. It is a creature that has become one of the most iconic figures of science fiction and horror cinema.  If the screening alone doesn’t make clear why, this seminar’s lecture and discussion surely will.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Aliens

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

20th Century Fox initially had no interest in making a sequel to its lauded and lucrative science fiction/horror hybrid, Alien (1979), and being sued by some of the film’s producers didn’t help.

Enter James Cameron, a brash, Canadian writer/director who was finishing production on his own bold, new entry in the science fiction genre: The Terminator. When that film became an enormous success, James Cameron and his producing partner, Gale Ann Hurd, were given creative control over what would become Aliens (1986).

Cameron aimed to attract new audiences, along with skeptical fans of the original, by giving the sequel its own distinct feel, while maintaining a clear connection to the source material.  Awakened after decades in stasis, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is haunted by her encounter with the alien and the losses that ensued.  Manipulated into returning to its planet, she now finds herself in the role of a matriarch fiercely protective of her charges, which include a platoon of soldiers and an orphaned girl.

This scenario allows Aliens to expand upon the original film’s exploration of feminine strength confronting tremendous odds.  Yet, while Cameron makes the sequel more intimate emotionally, he also enlarges it in a visual and kinetic sense, converting the terrifying claustrophobia of Alien’s ship into the looming, open expanses of Aliens’ terraforming colony. He manages to inspire the same heart-racing trepidation as the original, while giving his subjects more literal and figurative space to roam.

During this brief study of this remarkable science fiction/action film, we will contrast Aliens with its predecessor while discovering the unique elements that set the film apart as not only as one of Hollywood’s greatest sequels, but as an exemplar of genre craftsmanship in its own right.

Cinema Classics Seminar: All About Eve

Taught by Alice Bullitt, M.A., BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. This one focuses on All About Eve, the dramatic tale of an aging star and her conniving rival, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and starring Bette Davis in what Roger Ebert calls "her greatest role."

Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: All That Heaven Allows (Fall 2019)

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Ursinus College

For many years, Douglas Sirk’s “women’s pictures” were dismissed as heavy-handed and superficial, but in the 1970s, film critics began to see how the German director’s keen insight into American culture is made manifest in his film style. His American melodramas are rich with color, full of music, and rife with symbolism, offering a glorious critique of a contemporary life that promises the purchase of happiness but actually sells sorrow. In that regard, All That Heaven Allows (1955) is among his best.

The story of a romance that crosses the lines of both age and class, the film features Jane Wyman as a country-club widow navigating suburban malaise with her two inconsiderate adult children. Once again playing Wyman’s love interest—as he did in Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession—Rock Hudson plays a young gardener under the influence of Thoreau’s Walden. He rejects the social norms of postwar America to build a cabin in the woods, live simply, and befriend wild deer.

But lest you think this is an entirely somber affair, the film also has a deliciously malicious role for veteran radio, stage, and screen actress Agnes Moorehead, and a fabulously melodramatic Christmas scene. Join us for the high drama and vivid colors, and stay to learn about Sirk’s career, the history of the Hollywood melodrama, and the representation of suburbia on American screens in the 1950s.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: All That Heaven Allows (Summer 2012)

Taught by Alice Bullitt, M.A., BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. This one focuses on All That Heaven Allows, a lush melodrama about social mores and forbidden love. It was directed by the master of the Technicolor weepie, Douglas Sirk, and stars Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman.

Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: All That Jazz

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

All That Jazz (1979) is a surreal spectacle depicting the hectic professional life, promiscuous love life, and death-infatuated fantasy life of a celebrated but insecure choreographer-filmmaker named Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider). Director/co-screenwriter Bob Fosse imbues this semi-autobiographical work with the spirit of Fellini’s , and like that Italian masterpiece, Fosse’s brilliantly stylized and kinetically riveting musical is almost two films. The first is akin to a documentary about the making of a Broadway show by an exceptionally inventive choreographer and filmmaker; the second is a thoroughly Felliniesque series of dream sequences/musical numbers in which the women in Gideon’s life castigate him in song and dance.

All That Jazz has been described as a musical film that people who don't like musicals can also enjoy. In part, this is because it contains less singing and dancing than many films in the genre; but the real reason is that the non-musical portions are so revealing of who Bob Fosse was while avoiding the clichés of the artist wholly as a raging beast or misunderstood genius. Gideon is capable of feeling deep regret and great appreciation, has people who love him, and also happens to be enormously talented. For these reasons, All That Jazz works as art and as entertainment, as a musical and as an anti-musical. Join us to explore the dichotomies at the heart of this work by—and about—a truly meteoric talent.

Cinema Classics Seminar: An American in Paris

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Ursinus College

An American in Paris (1951) was envisioned as a celebration of George Gershwin’s catalogue, which MGM purchased after the composer’s death, and particularly songs like “I Got Rhythm,” “S’Wonderful,” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.” It also showcases an elaborate concert fantasy sequence featuring real-life classical pianist Oscar Levant, and a seventeen-minute ballet featuring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in her film debut. These latter elements push the boundaries of what a screen musical can do and prompt us to think about the purpose of cinema itself.

An American in Paris challenges conventions in other ways, too. Although the film has the expected romantic plot between its co-stars, it is really more about the relationships between Kelly’s former G.I. and his male friends. Or perhaps it’s about his relationship to beauty, life, and art. The dance sequences are among Kelly’s best, and the songs, elaborate painted sets, Technicolor, and sense of optimism were a boon for the studio in the post-war era. The film garnered six Oscars, including Best Picture—a controversial choice in a year filled with serious dramas. Among other topics, this seminar will discuss the place of Paris in the American cultural imagination, the stylistic changes in US cinema at the dawn of the 1950s, and the role of producer Arthur Freed in defining the look and feel of the American film musical.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Back to the Future

Taught by Valerie Temple, M.F.A., Programming Manager, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. This one focuses on Back to the Future, the ingenious and hilarious time-travel adventure combining dazzling effects with old-fashioned fun to create a flawlessly constructed film that is at once nostalgic and new. It was co-written (with Bob Gale) and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Flight), whom, according to Roger Ebert, "shows not only a fine comic touch but also some of the lighthearted humanism of a Frank Capra," and stars Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Crispin Glover.

Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Band of Outsiders

Taught by Raymond Saraceni, Ph.D., Center for Liberal Education, Villanova University

“We barged into the cinema like cavemen into the Versailles of Louis XV,” director Jean-Luc Godard said of the radical transformation of filmmaking accomplished by the French New Wave, of which Godard himself was perhaps the most decisive and visionary member. Unleashing a radical assault upon an industry that emphasized craft over experimentation and decorous, commercial sophistication over spontaneity and verve, Band of Outsiders (1964) provides an excellent introduction to an aesthetic movement that redefined what film might accomplish and what audiences might experience.

This is a heist film where the heist itself often feels secondary, a (kind of) gangster film where the hoods operate as if inhabiting a peculiar dream of a gangster film, described by Godard as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka.” While an apparently authoritative narrative voice leads us down blind alleys, thoroughly modern and unsentimental young toughs break into spontaneous dance routines. Passion and violence might lurk within every frame of Band of Outsiders, but rarely have they been detailed and dissected with such cool yet exuberant detachment. Equal parts pulpy fun and existential meditation—defined in no small measure by Anna Karina’s tough-as-nails performance—Band of Outsiders still feels like a breath of fresh air, albeit one with a trace of bitterness. Never has the postwar moral vacuum felt so sexy and chic.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Battleship Potemkin

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around the landmark 1925 work of Soviet propaganda, Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein in true montage fashion.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Beauty and the Beast

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946) is one of the most magical of all films, but also one with a timely message.  As Roger Ebert wrote, “Cocteau . . . was not making a ‘children's film,’ but was adapting a classic French tale that he felt had a special message after the suffering of World War II: Anyone who has an unhappy childhood may grow up to be a Beast.” This adaptation of the traditional fairy tale, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and published in 1757 as part of an anthology, welcomes us into a world not of sweetness and light, but of conflict and corruption, with Belle (Josette Day) a lone island of virtue.  It is a “fallen world,” the iniquity of which is so effectively conveyed by Cocteau as to make Belle’s (and our) introduction into the Beast’s (Jean Marais) domain all the more wondrous.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Black Girl and "Borom Sarret"

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

It is difficult to identify any single person as "the father of African cinema," as Ousmane Sembene has often been called, but his influence on both African film and filmmakers throughout the world over the past half century is enormous, yet still greatly underappreciated. Born in southern Senegal in 1923, Sembene was raised as a fisherman, trained as an auto mechanic, drafted by the French army in World War II, and worked on the docks of Marseilles before publishing his first novel, The Black Docker, in 1956.

A successful literary career in hand, he then studied cinema in Moscow and produced his first short film, "Borom Sarret," in 1963. In 1966, he shot his debut feature, the crisp and devastating Black Girl (1966), the story of a young Senegalese woman (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) who moves from Dakar to France to work for a French couple. Dreaming of glamor on the Riviera, she instead finds a life of drudgery where she is seen only as "the black girl."

Both early works demonstrate Sembene's ability to balance a perceptive critique of Western colonialism with empathetic portraits of richly drawn characters in crisis. Sembene died in 2007, leaving behind a legacy matched by few directors. Come see where it all started.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration. In addition, this film screening is open to the public, and you may purchase a regular ticket for the movie (seminar not included) online or at the box office.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Black Narcissus

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

Although it began as a novel, words can only gesture toward the glorious madness that is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947). A story about nuns opening a convent in a converted brothel, of sorts, set high in the Himalayan mountains, the film’s meaning lies less in its plot (unsurprisingly, the nuns’ project is less than successful) than its imagery. Expressed in unnaturally vivid color with bold lighting schemes and shot very obviously using matte paintings at Pinewood Studios, this fantasy of nuns delusional with desire must be seen on a big screen and begs for further discussion. 

This seminar will focus on the partnership between Powell and Pressburger, who worked together on two dozen pictures. The pair employed a regular team for many of the films produced by their company, The Archers, and a reading of their output will emphasize stylistic similarities while problematizing an auteurist perspective of film interpretation. We will detail The Archers’ contributions to British cinema and highlight its thematic interests. In films like The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann, as in this one, Powell and Pressburger use color, music, and close-ups to boldly represent women’s emotional lives, the excesses of which we will situate in melodrama. 

We will also discuss the use of brownface in Black Narcissus and the orientalist lens directors have often used to represent India, considering how these negative stereotypes have shaped perceptions of the nation and interpretations of this film over time. Finally, we will talk about the contributions of Deborah Kerr, who plays Sister Clodagh in the film, pointing out how her stardom leads to particular expectations that the directors giddily undo as the film progresses. 

In 1947, the Catholic Legion of Decency (the folks who helped bring you the Hollywood Production Code) called Black Narcissus, “a perverted specimen of bad taste.” Indeed, Powell and Pressburger revel in this combination of religion and sex. Seventy-five years later, the film still has the power to shock audiences and provoke us to question the value of “taste” in the creation of film art.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Blade Runner (Spring 2015)

Taught by Benjamin Eldon Stevens, Ph.D., Department of Classical Studies,
Bryn Mawr College

First released in 1982, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner helped redefine the science fiction film by offering a vision of the future that remains influential to this day. In contrast to near-contemporary films like George Lucas's Star Wars or Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, both family-friendly epics released in 1977, Blade Runner offered a vision of a dystopic future—a world where advanced technology has failed to solve present-day problems like pollution and economic disparity, yet has succeeded in creating new ones. By focusing on working-class characters in a setting where the line between 'natural' and 'artificial' life is left deliberately unclear, the film leaves viewers wondering what it means for people to become only cogs—or perhaps, ghosts—in a machine.

Adapted from Philip K. Dick's 1968 novella "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in part through the astonishing cinematography of Jordan Cronenweth and breathtaking art direction of David L. Snyder, Blade Runner was at the forefront of a new sub-genre of science fiction: tech noir. Such movies are just as lurid and alluring, and just as dangerous and gorgeous, as any femme fatale. Join us to explore the film's vision and influence, which, over the past three decades, has hit a little too close to home.

One-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

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Dr. Stevens is co-editor of Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, published in 2014 by Oxford University Press.

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This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Blade Runner (Winter 2018)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Widely regarded as one of the most influential films of the twentieth century, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) recently celebrated its 35th anniversary as well as the arrival of a critically acclaimed sequel. In this seminar, we will explore the original classic as a conflicted meditation on postmodern notions of humanity. Cultural theorists and futurists have talked about the rise of “post-humanism” in an age of increasing fusion between ourselves and our technologies. Drawing on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the film elaborates on this theme of post-human identity with its notions of “replicants”—androids designed to look human and to be exploited for labor and military service. In asking whether and how the circle of our humanity and sentience ought to be extended to our biomechanical creations, Blade Runner remains an exemplar of dystopian filmmaking that echoes into our present moment.

It also remains a signal achievement in cinematic world-building. With a visual style emerging from music videos and advertising, Scott brought to the project a sensibility rooted in plausible imagination of a near-future Los Angeles—polyglot, multicultural, ravaged by environmental and industrial catastrophes, and corporatized to a dehumanizing extreme. Blade Runner is both a nightmarish vision of the future and a tableau whose beauty remains irresistible.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Blow-Up

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

It is London in the 1960s, and Thomas is a famous fashion photographer whose disillusionment is reflected in the drug parties he frequents, the casual sex he engages in, and the mechanical detachment he exhibits in his work. One day, he photographs a rendezvous between two lovers in a park; then, later, after developing the film, he begins to suspect that he has photographed a murder. Or has he?

Inspired by the 1959 short story “Las babas del diablo” (“The Devil's Drool”) by Julio Cortázar, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966) is a mesmerizing work about voyeurism and perception that is a murder mystery, a view into “Swinging London”, and one of the greatest films ever made about watching and making movies. It was also an international box-office success and winner of the top prize at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. Among the praise lavished upon the film, Arthur Knight wrote that Blow-Up would be “as important and seminal a film as Citizen Kane, Open City, and Hiroshima, Mon Amour—perhaps even more so.” Since its release, Blow-Up has influenced a number of directors, most notably among them Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma, whose respective works, The Conversation and Blow-Out, are directly inspired by it. Join us to learn why the first English-language film by Antonioni (L'Avventura, Red Desert) has impacted generations of artists.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Blue Velvet

Taught by Marc Lapadula, M.F.A., Film Studies Program, Yale University

David Lynch is known for his unique cinematic style and mode of storytelling in which he exhumes, and then deftly dissects, the dark underbelly of American culture. The director was in rare form when he made what many believe to be his most stunning and provocative achievement, Blue Velvet (1986), a riveting tour-de-force that, more than a quarter-century later, remains fresh and daring for its unflinching take on the nightmarish world that can lurk behind the white picket fences of suburban America.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about one of the films from David Lynch's fascinating body of cinematic work. Students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Blue Velvet

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

The films of David Lynch, one of the most interesting, unusual, and influential directors to come out of the last half of the 20th century, consistently expose the surreality that lurks within the mundanity of everyday life. Lynch’s fourth feature film, Blue Velvet (1986), is his most famous—and infamous— exposé of idealized small-town Americana and the moral depravity beneath its veneer.

The story follows college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan), whose discovery of a severed human ear in the grass draws him deep into a phantasmagoria of violence and psychosexual danger. Blue Velvet’s narrative is more linear than most of Lynch’s other films, but it is no less uncanny, due to his impeccable control of color, sound design, and direction of his actors. Starring alongside MacLachlan are Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, and an unforgettable Dennis Hopper. Building upon film noir and Hitchcockian themes such as voyeurism and obsession, Blue Velvet creates an original and frightening cinematic space situated between the deep, dark American id and our society’s façade of orderliness—a space in which viewers themselves are implicated by their own secrets.

Join us for a seminar that will dig deeper into the film director Guy Maddin described as “the last real earthquake to hit cinema.”

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Boogie Nights

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Although not his first film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore effort, Boogie Nights (1997), is undoubtedly his early-career calling card, an achievement that announced him as a creative force for decades to come. At times a playful period romp tracing the evolution and devolution of the California porn industry from the late 1970s through early 1980s, Boogie Nights is also a most unusual “family drama” about the creative families we choose and improvise, rather than those to which we are born.

Boogie Nights is also a young filmmaker’s conscious homage to the cinematic forerunners who had inspired him. One can palpably sense traces of Martin Scorsese’s almost anthropological capacity to document outsider subcultures at the margins of respectability (think Goodfellas), as well as Robert Altman’s ensemble-driven commitment to the language and social posturing that animates any line of work (think Nashville). These narrative inspirations aside, Anderson finds his own distinctive voice by dancing elegantly between a full embrace of his subjects’ humanity and a detached, almost voyeuristic accounting of their working lives in an industry decidedly off the beaten path, yet fraught with personality dynamics and rivalries like any other.

Depicting the absurdities and excesses of the so-called “Golden Age of Porn” alongside its genuine spirit of countercultural entrepreneurship, Anderson refuses the cheap tricks of caricature or condescension that would likely plague another take on the material. He fundamentally understands his fictionalized porn actors, directors, and producers—echoes as they are of real figures from the industry—as frustrated outsiders desperate to connect with like-minded souls who find American conventions of traditional family and gainful employment equally wanting. Anderson also recognizes in his characters, however self-deceiving and self-sabotaging at times, a charming, relatable aspiration to meaning, respect, and even artistry. Eschewing judgment of the porn industry per se, Anderson instead unfolds a strange yet poignant tale of how porn became corporatized during a particularly transitional era of American life at large, and how the film’s creative family is fractured and fragilely reconstituted with each dizzying change in the cultural landscape around it.

Featuring memorable ensemble work by Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Alfred Molina, and 1970s icon Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights remains as vibrant, humorous, and cautionary a tale as ever. One of the cautions being this: remember that every "golden age" is the flip side of a perilous fever dream, and every waking dream of non-conformity is an invitation to the harsh wake-up call provided by the commodification of even the edgiest desires.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Brief Encounter

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. This one focuses on Brief Encounter, David Lean's quietly poignant romance that is, in the words of The New York Times, "presented in such a delicate and affecting way—and with such complete naturalness in characterization and fidelity to middle-class detail." Based on Noël Coward's 1936 one-act play, Still Life, and adapted for the screen by him, it stars Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Summer 2014)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Along with The Wild Bunch, also released in 1969, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid marked the beginning of the end of the western in Hollywood, as the once routinely produced, reliably bankable, and thoroughly crowd-pleasing genre entered the final, "revisionist" phase of its life.

But what a way to go! Despite the middling reviews it earned, the film was highly regarded within the industry, earning four Oscar nominations, and with audiences, who made it the highest-grossing western—and one of the most successful pictures—of all time. Certainly, some this popularity can be attributed to the inaugural pairing of two of Hollywood's biggest stars, as well as to the panache of William Goldman's exceptional screenplay and the beauty of Conrad Hall's cinematography, but there are other factors at play, too. Join us to explore the significance of the film to its industry, and the ways in which it created connections to a culture in transition.

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Summer 2019)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), director George Roy Hill helped define a wave of revisionist, deconstructed westerns of the 1960s and 1970s. Ranging from Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man to Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, such films embraced seemingly contradictory aims. Seeking both to demolish and reclaim the western as a genre and as the bearer of a distinctively American identity, these revisionist westerns took upon themselves the paradoxical task of deploying a deeply traditional—yet still fluid and adaptable—cinematic mode to more contemporary ends that reflected the turmoil of their times.

Positioning itself as at once more grounded and more imaginative than its predecessors, Hill’s film occupies a special place in the larger story of the western as a uniquely American film genre that has continuously reinvented itself. In making a western to play to Woodstock-era audiences—who were increasingly alienated from the social mores and political ideas of their parents' generation—Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a "buddy picture" for an unfriendly world, where being an outlaw means accepting one’s fate as the quintessential loner exiled from conventional values. With a memorable screenplay by William Goldman and chemistry for the ages between leads Paul Newman and Robert Redford, this is a film worth revisiting in our own time of turmoil.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Cabaret

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Willkommen to the Kit Kat Klub in the bleak heart of the Weimar Republic, with your host, the satanically seductive Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey), the exuberant singer-dancer and aspiring actress Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), and the decadent partygoers of 1930s Berlin. Their story is told in Cabaret (1972), directed by Bob Fosse and loosely based on the 1966 Broadway musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, which was inspired, in turn, by Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye to Berlin (1939).

Only a few musical numbers from the stage production were used for the screen adaptation while new ones were written specifically for the film, and all but one of them take place inside the infamous Kit Kat Klub. Featuring such memorable songs as “Money, Money,” “Maybe This Time,” the chilling “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” and the title track, Fosse's film depicts a milieu of corruption, sexual ambiguity, and decay in which the false dreams of individuals—and a nation—are soon shattered by the specter of Nazism.

Opening to enthusiastic reviews and commercial success, Cabaret received eight Oscars (including Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor), and holds the record for the most Oscars earned by a film not honored for Best Picture (which went to The Godfather that year). Come, then, old chum, to the cabaret, and experience, in the words of Sally Bowles, the “divine decadence, darling” of a brilliant film musical.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2014)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

Some films linger so strongly in our collective memory that we lose sight of their original timeliness—the ways in which they are born out of particular moments of crisis and transition. In the case of Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942), we have a film shaped by the upheaval in both American cinema and in the war-torn world beyond the United States. In remembering a film that has been embraced as a star-crossed romance, and as the iconic Hollywood statement about love and loss, we too often forget how deeply political and provocative Casablanca really was—not only for its impact on American involvement in the global struggle against fascism, but also in its engagement with issues ranging from stateless refugees and immigration, to colonialism and the role of "asymmetrical warfare" in the anti-Nazi resistance movements of Europe. In this seminar, we will revisit Casablanca in an effort to feel once again its immediacy, both as an entertainment and as a document in the rhetorical battles that defined World War II nearly as much as bullets and bombs.

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2015)

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Department of Media & Communication, Muhlenberg College

No one involved in the making of Casablanca, which was filmed on the Warners lot during the summer of 1942, would have guessed that it would turn out to be among the most lasting of Hollywood classics. Made in the era of the studio system, during which movies were churned out in something like assembly-line fashion, the film earned solid box office and garnered generally positive reviews from critics when it was released in January 1943. Indeed, director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich regards what he calls the most "enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history" as "the single favorite vindication of the studio system . . . because there is no other way Casablanca could have been made and worked as well."

Today, it stands as a captivating portrait of America's reluctance to get involved in World War II, even if the bombing of Pearl Harbor had resolved our ambivalence by the time the film was made, and as a reminder that sometimes the problems of three little people do, after all, amount to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2016)

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

Many critics have described Casablanca (1942) as a film that comes as close to perfection as any in history. Attempts to recreate that perfection 'see Sydney Pollack's Havana (actually, don't)' or to 'improve' upon it (the film was infamously colorized by Ted Turner in the 1980s) have not only been poorly received by critics, but have enraged its fans the world over. As Roger Ebert often noted, there have been better films made than Casablanca, but no film is more loved than Casablanca. Even Pauline Kael 'a contrarian film critic if there ever was one' acknowledged that despite its perceived unoriginality, Casablanca has a special quality. '[It] is far from a great film,' she wrote in a review, 'but it has a special appealingly schlocky romanticism.'

Perhaps part of that 'schlocky appeal' lies in what Casablanca does possibly better than any other movie: It tells a story, albeit one that is not particularly profound or remarkably unique. After all, as the lyrics of 'As Time Goes By' cannily remind us,'it's the same old story, a fight for love and glory.' While this revisiting of familiar narrative territory was standard practice in Hollywood, what director Michael Curtiz (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Mildred Pierce) did better than most was stay out of the way of a fast-moving story. As Umberto Eco wrote, Casablanca 'unfolds with almost telluric force, the power of Narrative in its natural state, without Art intervening to discipline it.'

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2017)

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Department of Media & Communication, Muhlenberg College

No one involved in the making of Casablanca, which was filmed on the Warners lot during the summer of 1942, would have guessed that it would turn out to be among the most lasting of Hollywood classics. Made in the era of the studio system, during which movies were churned out in something like assembly-line fashion, the film earned solid box office and garnered generally positive reviews from critics when it was released in January 1943. Indeed, director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich regards what he calls the most "enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history" as "the single favorite vindication of the studio system . . . because there is no other way Casablanca could have been made and worked as well."

Today, it stands as a captivating portrait of America's reluctance to get involved in World War II, even if the bombing of Pearl Harbor had resolved our ambivalence by the time the film was made, and as a reminder that sometimes the problems of three little people do, after all, amount to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2018)

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

When Casablanca was filming on the Warner lot during the summer of 1942, no one guessed that it would turn out to be among the most lasting of Hollywood classics. Made in the era of the studio system, during which movies were churned out in something like assembly-line fashion, the film earned solid box office and garnered generally positive reviews from critics when it was released in January 1943. Indeed, director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich regards what he calls the most “enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history” as “the single favorite vindication of the studio system . . . because there is no other way Casablanca could have been made and worked as well.”

Today, it stands as a captivating portrait of America's reluctance to get involved in World War II, even if the bombing of Pearl Harbor had resolved our ambivalence by the time the film was released, and as a reminder that sometimes the problems of three little people do, after all, amount to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2019)

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

Many critics have described Casablanca (1942) as a film that comes as close to perfection as any in history. Attempts to recreate that perfection—see Sydney Pollack's Havana (actually, don't) —or to "improve" upon it (the film was infamously colorized by Ted Turner in the 1980s) have not only been poorly received by critics, but have enraged its fans the world over. As Roger Ebert often noted, there have been better films made than Casablanca, but no film is more loved than Casablanca. Even Pauline Kael—a contrarian film critic if there ever was one—acknowledged that despite its perceived unoriginality, Casablanca has a special quality. "[It] is far from a great film," she wrote in a review, "but it has a special appealingly schlocky romanticism."

Perhaps part of that "schlocky" appeal lies in what Casablanca does possibly better than any other movie: it tells a story, albeit one that is not particularly profound or remarkably unique. After all, as the lyrics of "As Time Goes By" cannily remind us, "it's the same old story, a fight for love and glory." While this revisiting of familiar narrative territory was standard practice in Hollywood, what director Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce) did better than most was stay out of the way of a fast-moving story. As Umberto Eco wrote, Casablanca "unfolds with almost telluric force, the power of Narrative in its natural state, without Art intervening to discipline it."

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2021)

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

When Casablanca was filming on the Warner Bros. lot during the summer of 1942, no one guessed that it would turn out to be among the most lasting of Hollywood classics. Made in the era of the studio system, during which movies were churned out in something like assembly-line fashion, the film earned solid box office and garnered generally positive reviews from critics when it was released in January 1943. Indeed, director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich regards what he calls the most “enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history” as “the single favorite vindication of the studio system . . . because there is no other way Casablanca could have been made and worked as well.”

Today, it stands as a captivating portrait of America's reluctance to get involved in World War II, even if the bombing of Pearl Harbor had resolved our ambivalence by the time the film was made, and as a reminder that sometimes the problems of three little people do, after all, amount to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Just want to see the movie? Find additional showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Casablanca (Summer 2022)

Taught by Amy Corbin, Ph.D., Media and Communication, Muhlenberg College

Casablanca (1942) is one of those films that moves viewers across generations, yet also offers a time capsule of a dramatic moment in world history. In this seminar, we’ll explore the narrative and stylistic choices that make Casablanca so engaging while also learning about its contribution to supporting America’s role in World War II. Casablanca epitomizes the classical Hollywood style, and a close study reveals how a simple storytelling formula is able to make such an emotional impact. We’ll examine how the dialogue and cinematography work together to make Bogart's Rick such a mysterious yet compelling character, how the film tugs at our desire to see him and Ilsa together, and how it reconciles us to their inevitable parting. 

Casablanca also offers a window into the precarious times of 1942, a year that ended with the Allies invading North Africa to wrest control of the region from the Nazi-aligned Vichy French government. The film allegorizes the role of the United States as a haven for refugees, celebrates American intervention in the war, and depicts diverse European characters uniting in opposition to the Nazis. Finally, we’ll study how the character of African-American piano player Sam was meant to demonstrate racial harmony and the impact he had on African-American audiences. Join us for a new look at a true classic.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. 

If you are unable to attend this seminar on site, you can rent and stream it in our Remote Classroom beginning a week after the event date.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

 

Cinema Classics Seminar: Cat Ballou

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

Why should you spend an evening with Cat Ballou (1965)? For starters, the movie features a winsome Jane Fonda in one of her earlier starring roles as Catherine Ballou, the prim and proper schoolteacher turned Wild West outlaw on the warpath for revenge. There's also the rousing theme song performed on-screen by the unforgettable Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye. But the showstopper is the legendary Lee Marvin as Kid Shelleen, the hard-drinking, crooked-shooting gunman hired by Cat to serve as a bodyguard against a villain played by . . . Lee Marvin!

Director Eliot Silverstein's comedic western, adapted from a more serious western novel by Roy Chanslor, did not reinvent the genre, offer deep philosophical insight into the human condition, or even take itself particularly seriously. The film did, however, pack audiences into theaters as one of the year's biggest box office hits, and netted the great Lee Marvin his only Oscar win for his dual role. It also changed the trajectory of his and Fonda's careers and inspired a cycle of western comedies in Hollywood. Big laughs, great music, (a modest) impact on the industry, and prime Fonda and Marvin join us for the whole shebang!

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Chimes at Midnight

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

In so many ways, Orson Welles is remembered and revered as the Shakespeare of American cinema—as the kind of creator who not only defines, but transforms the state of the art. And yet, Welles was also very much cut from the same cloth as one of Shakespeare's greatest characters, Falstaff, the larger-than-life, charismatic, and yet deeply flawed creature of appetites whose presence hovers over the theatrical tradition since the time of the Bard. Similarly, Welles continues to call out to us like the ghost in the machine of Hollywood itself, reminding us of both Hollywood's potential to produce genuine art and the grinding mercilessness of Hollywood's commercial imperative—the very thing that haunted the entire career of Welles from Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) on.

In this seminar, we will spend an evening with the Welles film that brought Shakespeare, Welles, and Falstaff into delirious collision: Chimes at Midnight (1965). An adaptation of material from Shakespeare's history plays and other sources on the life of King Henry V, Chimes at Midnight depicts how the price of power and leadership is often the rejection of youth and friendship. A study in mentorship and betrayal, Welles's film is both a worthy exploration of classic Shakespearean themes and a resonant commentary on his own career and image.

One-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: City Lights

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

Though City Lights (1931) began shooting in 1928, when theaters were furiously converting to sound, Charlie Chaplin never even considered making his 'Comedy Romance in Pantomime' a talkie. Self-financed at great expense, this film was an all-in bet on the enduring appeal of both silent cinema and the Little Tramp. Chaplin's gamble paid off handsomely, both for him and for generations of viewers as his virtuosic take on the simplest of premises (boy meets girl), and his deft juggling of pathos and slapstick have yet to be matched.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about a true classic of world cinema. Students receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Cléo from 5 to 7

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Agnès Varda's Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) is the second feature from the acclaimed filmmaker known as the “Godmother of the French New Wave,” and the film that solidified her international reputation. It focuses on a beautiful young chanteuse named Cléo (Corrine Marchand) as she waits in turmoil to hear the potentially devastating results of a medical test. The structural conceit of the film is such that the viewer lives each moment in real time with Cléo on this particularly charged evening, as she walks the streets of Paris, meets friends, shops, and confronts her own mortality.

Varda began her storied career as a photojournalist, and her talent as such is evident in the way she captures the bustling Parisian streetscapes with vivid detail and an eye for the unexpected. Deftly exploring female image and identity in society, Varda interrogates the divergence between public and private personas, making unique use of the mirror motif that would come to be associated with the French New Wave. Yet, for all its thematic sophistication, the film is an effortless delight to watch, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (who plays a small role in the film), and cameos by New Wave luminaries Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina. Join us to wander Paris with Cléo and discover the singular vision of Agnès Varda.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Writing and Narrative Arts, Cabrini University

By 1977, science fiction had arrived as a major creative force in American cinema, fueled by cutting-edge special effects and a seriousness of storytelling that celebrated the genre’s potential. That evolution in genre standing arguably began with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, but it was in 1977 that some of the best examples of the genre emerged as box-office smashes, critical darlings, Awards contenders, and zeitgeist changers.

Looming large in ’77, of course, was George Lucas’s Star Wars, but just as significant is Steven Spielberg’s more grounded effort, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Capitalizing on the UFO phenomenon of the early '70s, Spielberg’s film embraces the off-screen mystery of its subject in a way that Hitchcock might have appreciated. At the same time, the film retains a humanizing focus on relatable characterization, best exemplified by the existential wanderlust of its protagonist, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), whose obsession after his own close encounter fuels a quest to confirm the existence of intelligent life beyond earth.

Yet, Close Encounters is decidedly earthbound and interested in the most ordinary among us, asking what we might really be willing to sacrifice to confirm that “we are not alone,” as the film’s tagline put it. With Dreyfuss backed by Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, François Truffaut, and the Oscar-nominated Melinda Dillon, the emphasis of Close Encounters is never really on the dazzling effects of its UFOs; rather, it focuses on a nuanced depiction of how firsthand confirmation that UFOs exist might impact the human psyche, beset on all sides as it is by a host of mundane worries very much of this earth. By presenting a scenario wherein ordinary people contend with both a secretive government and the skepticism of their peers, Close Encounters is that rare piece of thoughtful sci-fi speculation about alien life that proudly wears its workaday humanity on its sleeve.

We will be screening Spielberg’s 1998 “Director’s Cut” of the film, which made some interesting course corrections from his 1980 “Special Edition,” a topic we will explore in relation to the film. Join us to examine the achievement and legacy of a cinematic milestone.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

If you are unable to attend this seminar on site, you can rent and stream it in our Remote Classroom beginning a week after the event date.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

 

 

Cinema Classics Seminar: Contempt

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Celebrated French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless) decided to experiment with making a big-budget, star-studded international production with the money of deep-pocketed American and Italian producers. He absolutely hated the experience. Yet, despite its troubled production, Contempt (1963) is one of Godard’s most human, profound and self-critical cinematic creations, as well as one of his most visually sumptuous and conventionally accessible.

It is a loose adaptation of a 1954 Alberto Moravia novel about a screenwriter tasked with scripting a modern version of The Odyssey, a job during which his marriage begins to disintegrate. Beneath the surface of the plot, as in any Godard project, there are a multitude of readings, ideas, and emotions living between the frames. Godard wove in his own struggles with making the film and incisive commentary on the current state of cinema itself, heightened by his casting of iconic German director Fritz Lang (Metropolis), playing himself as the director of the film-within-the-film. Even more personally, Godard sublimated struggles with his wife, muse, and frequent star, Anna Karina, onto the film’s central couple, played by Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot.

Join us to explore this intimate meditation on filmmaking and the unmaking of a relationship—all in exuberant Cinemascope, courtesy of Godard’s frequent cinematographer, Raoul Coutard.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Cries and Whispers

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Haunting. Poetic. Indelible. The films of Ingmar Bergman would come to define European art cinema and elevate the Swedish director to a position of prominence where he would eventually be recognized as one of the world's most important filmmakers.

As writer-director, Bergman produced dozens of films that explored the fundamental subjects of human existence: The quest for love and faith, the meaning of suffering and pain, the mystery of death, the solitary nature of being, the hell and paradise of marriage, and the struggle to find meaning in a seemingly random and capricious universe. For many, Bergman was the first to bring metaphysics—meditations on religion, death, existence—to the screen; but equally important was his ability to explore the psychology of women, and to examine the relationship between the sexes. His films, with few exceptions, are chamber pieces, paying careful attention to metaphoric detail and visual rhythm. Within this approach, his most expressive technique is his use of the facial close-up. For Bergman, the face (especially a woman's) and the hands are keys to revealing the innermost aspects of human emotion.

As such, Cries and Whispers is considered one of his greatest films, as it examines the interrelationships of four women brought together by death. The story focuses on Agnes, who has been ravaged by illness for twelve years, and attends to the last stages of her agony and death, and the days that follow. At her bedside are her sisters Maria (Liv Ullmann), "the most beautiful one," Karin (Ingrid Thulin), "the strongest one," and the family servant, Anna, "the serving one." As the film moves among the three sisters and their servant, it summons episodes from the past, and as it does, uses time, mortality, and death as revelatory moments for all the characters—all underscored by Bergman's striking, pervasive use of the color red, which informs the overall mise-en-scene, providing further, rich insight into the lives of these characters.

In both structure and sensibility, then, Cries and Whispers creates a nineteenth-century world of melancholy that has been compared to Chekhov's The Three Sisters, Ibsen's A Doll House, and Bergman's favorite writer, August Strindberg. Join us as we experience this deeply powerful film and, with it, the cinema of a director once described as a "poet with the camera."

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

There have been a lot of Hong Kong martial arts movies over the years, but few that resonated with American and international audiences the way that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) did. The highest grossing foreign-language film in US history, it was nominated for ten Oscars (winning four) and picked up a wide range of honors here and abroad.

While this might have been surprising, it was not accidental; Taiwanese-born and NYU-educated Ang Lee set out to make a film that would have appeal on both sides of the Pacific. He is at the peak of his powers here, demonstrating the directorial skill that has allowed him to build one of the most diverse bodies of work in recent memory: from indie favorites like The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, from the suburban ennui of The Ice Storm, to the reimagined West of Brokeback Mountain—with a super-hero movie thrown in for good measure.

These films were made in collaboration with screenwriter/producer James Schamus, who describes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as “Sense and Sensibility with martial arts.” The multiple storylines involve two experienced warriors with a special bond, a young woman looking for more than a high-class marriage, and a deadly assassin willing to break the rules of honor. Fight-master Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) shines here, as does Chow Yun-Fat, a star of top-shelf Hong Kong action flicks who had never made a martial arts picture before this one.

With the help of cutting-edge special effects, we end up with a wuxia movie that envelops us in historical China while also transcending genre—and even gravity—itself.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Daughters of the Dust

Taught by Amy Corbin, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

At the time of its 1991 release, American independent cinema had never seen anything like Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust. Over 25 years later, the film's poetic depiction of African American women’s history remains unique and timeless.

Set in 1902, Daughters tells a multi-generational story of the Peazant family as they prepare to leave St. Helena Island, off the coast of South Carolina, for the mainland. The journey has economic, cultural, and spiritual ramifications for its characters, who are descendants of a slave culture known as Gullah Geechee. Those who stayed on the southern Sea Islands maintained many ties to African cultures that mainland slaves lost, including religious traditions, language, and family structures. The move to the mainland promises greater economic opportunity, but a potential loss of heritage. 

Dash represents the diversity of life experiences in the extended family with a narrative structure more akin to choreography than conventional storytelling. Characters walk along the beach, climb in trees, and visit sacred places while sharing fragments of conversations and memories with each other and with us. Costumed primarily in flowing white gowns, with a variety of natural hair styles, the characters re-imagine screen images of black womanhood in a way that is still revolutionary today—and was an inspiration for Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade. To watch this film is to experience history not as fact but sensation—one can almost feel the coastal wind and taste the food—and as something that lives in future generations. 

Following the seminar lecture, actress Alva Rogers will join us for a live, in-theater conversation with Dr. Amy Corbin before the screening.

Read more about Daughters of the Dust in notes from the programmer's desk!

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Days of Heaven

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Beginning his career during the height of the New Hollywood era, Terrence Malick followed his debut, Badlands (1973), with this radiant period drama set in the early 1900s. After a scuffle ends badly, a Chicago factory worker, Bill (Richard Gere), flees westward with his lover, Abby (Brooke Adams), who pass themselves off as siblings to find work. A pensive, prosperous farmer (Sam Shepard) hires them and falls for Abby, unwittingly forming a love triangle.

While its plot is driven by romantic tension, Days of Heaven (1978) also explores the eternal conflict between man and nature, a theme that runs through much of the writer-director’s work. Known for his stunning depictions of the natural world, Malick’s second feature remains one of the most startlingly beautiful films ever made, with Oscar-winning cinematography by Néstor Almendros (Claire's Knee, Sophie's Choice).

Yet, the visual poetry on screen belies what was an arduous production process, after which the filmmaker took a two-decade break before completing his next film, The Thin Red Line (1998). Join us to experience the fruit of Malick’s labor, and explore Days of Heaven's metaphysical riches—or simply get lost in the shimmering waves of wheat. Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Diabolique

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

Since director Henri-Georges Clouzot beseeched audiences at the time of Diabolique's 1955 release to not "be devils" by spoiling the ending, we'll respect his wishes and simply mention that this internationally acclaimed suspense thriller was a significant influence on a little film called Psycho (1960) just a few years later.

Coming off the grueling white-knuckle ride of Wages of Fear (1953), Clouzot upped the ante with this tale of a villainous boarding school principal (Paul Meurisse) who torments both his students and his shrinking violet of a wife (Vera Clouzot, the director's wife). When she joins forces with her husband's former mistress (the always formidable Simone Signoret) to turn the tables on him, this immaculately paced, cold-blooded puzzler leads to... well, we promised we wouldn't be devils. You'll just have to see for yourself.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration. In addition, this film screening is open to the public, and you may purchase a regular ticket for the movie (seminar not included) online or at the box office.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Dial M for Murder (Spring 2014)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Join us to get the "411" on the film that began Alfred Hitchcock's vibrant, though short-lived, collaboration with Grace Kelly. Dial M for Murder was the only time the director worked in 3-D, yet even though only a portion of its 1954 audience saw it that way, Hitchcock still managed, in the words of Leonard Maltin, 'to squeeze every drop' of suspense out of Frederick Knott's popular stage play.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about a true classic of world cinema. Students receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Dial M for Murder (Summer 2018)

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Criminology, Cabrini University

Francois Truffaut claimed that he could watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954) over and over and enjoy it more each time. Adapted from Frederick Knott’s stage play, the film is an impartial examination of the immorality, duplicity and ultimately, criminality, which can thrive within the murky confines of the marriage pact. It is also the first of three films to benefit from the brief but sparkling collaboration between Hitchcock and Grace Kelly, who plays a wealthy socialite married to a vengeful cuckold (Ray Milland).

Originally shot in 3D, the film is a testament to Hitchcock’s particular ability to bring works created for the stage to the screen. The director transforms a seemingly comfortable apartment into a concentrated, claustrophobic environment rife with suppressed intensity, perfectly mimicking the characters’ veneers of civility and social convention, which they use to obscure the adulterous liaisons and ruthless blackmail that fester just beneath the surface. In so doing, Hitchcock, in the words of Leonard Maltin, “manages to squeeze every drop” of suspense out of this simmering “howdunit”.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Die Hard

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Ursinus College

The notion that a bloody action film about a league of murderous European thugs taking hostages in a Los Angeles commercial tower could become a Christmas classic is a curious illustration of American cultural sensibilities, to say the least. Die Hard’s (1988) status as a Christmas film rests initially in its setting—an office Christmas party—then largely in its score, which turns Beethoven’s 9th symphony into a holiday tune.

But Die Hard’s ultimate success lies in the way it pits the wry humor of a New York cop (Bruce Willis) against the sly cleverness of a brilliant German criminal (Alan Rickman). Yet this battle of wits and weaponry is mere background for the film’s most important relationship: a friendship between two very different police officers—one from the West Coast, the other from the East; one black, the other white—who bond over the airwaves of a handheld radio. This seminar will focus on the “buddy film” as a Hollywood genre, which in the 1980s posited itself as a solution to racial conflict. It will also discuss the history of the American cinema’s representation of heroic masculinity and the domestic anxieties of the 1980s, all of which work together to make Die Hard not only a fabulously fun film, but also an insightful social commentary.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Dirty Harry

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

If you have an image of a “classic cop movie” in your head, odds are it comes at least in part from Dirty Harry (1971), a film that not only inspired four sequels, but an entire genre of tough-guy cops in the decades that followed. At times cheerfully fascist and at others oddly sensitive to the diversity of San Francisco, Dirty Harry is a time capsule of early ‘70s America and its conflicts about justice, morality, and public order.  

Harry is chasing Scorpio, a murderer loosely based on the Zodiac Killer, but in this film, he is explicitly connected to the hippies, with his flowy clothes and peace-sign belt buckle. Chillingly portrayed by then-newcomer Andrew Robinson, he represents every middle-American nightmare about “the kids these days.” 

It seems unbelievable now that Eastwood was not the first choice for this role. As Harry Callahan, he embodies a hard-nosed morality on the city streets and gets assigned to all the dirty jobs that no one else wants. For better or worse, Harry makes these dirty jobs look good, and it’s hard to resist the satisfaction of the urban (frontier) justice he is doling out. 

Director Don Siegel won an Oscar in 1946 for his debut film, the short “Star in the Night,” a modern take on the Nativity story. He went on to direct Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and a lot of television before hitting his stride in the late ‘60s as a director of westerns and police films, several of which starred Clint Eastwood. In Dirty Harry, director and star were perfectly matched, and they created the template for the catchphrase-spitting action stars that have thrilled audiences ever since.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Divorce Italian Style

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Infidelity. Divorce. Murder: All the elements for a comedy? Yes, and a brilliant one at that. Divorce Italian Style (1962), directed by Pietro Germi, is a devastating satire about Sicily's male-dominated culture that also ridicules Italy's hypocritical judicial system, which could forgive violent crimes of passion but not divorce. Marcello Mastroianni is Fefe, a faded nobleman infatuated with his sixteen-year-old cousin, whom he intends to wed. But Fefe is already married, and since the Vatican doesn't condone divorce, he comes up with an ingenious plan—manipulate his wife into an affair with her former admirer, Carmelo, catch them in a compromising situation, and kill them in a burst of passion, which would free Fefe while only earning him a light prison sentence.

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times offered high praise when he wrote: "Not since Charlie Chaplin's beguiling Verdoux have we seen a deliberate wife killer so elegant and suave, so condescending in his boredom, so thoroughly and pathetically enmeshed in the suffocating toils of a woman." Join us to learn why it's so deserved.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration. In addition, this film screening is open to the public, and you may purchase a regular ticket for the movie (seminar not included) online or at the box office.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Do the Right Thing

Taught by Usame Tunagur, Communication Department, Cabrini University

Taking place on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989) artfully depicts, with equal parts frankness and fondness, the black experience in urban America. An ensemble comprised primarily of then-unknowns, including Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Rosie Perez, John Turturro, and Lee himself, not only accentuates the you-are-there aesthetic of the film's most incendiary moments, but also humanizes the panoply of neighborhood characters, each of whom is essential to the film's engagement with matters of representation, authenticity, and methods of resistance. While this subject matter is a key ingredient of Lee's authorship, so are the film's bold aesthetics, like the inspired and aggressive direct-to-camera monologues.

But for all of Lee's innovation and experimentation, Do the Right Thing is also influenced by the American cinematic tradition, to which the writer-director-producer-actor was undoubtedly exposed during his time at NYU. This lineage is evident in his casting of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in small but pivotal roles, and in the homage to Night of the Hunter (1955) found in Radio Raheem's memorable monologue, which hints at the constant oscillation between love and hate at the film’s heart.

Join us to learn about and from the film of which Roger Ebert wrote: "Spike Lee [did] an almost impossible thing. [He] made a movie about race in America that empathized with all the participants. He didn't draw lines or take sides but simply looked with sadness at one racial flashpoint that stood for many others."

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Don't Look Now

Taught by Mandy Gutmann-Gonzalez, M.F.A., College of Liberal Arts, Temple University

Still grappling with the loss of their daughter in a drowning accident outside their English home, Laura and John Baxter move to Venice to work on a church restoration project. There they meet two elderly women, one of whom claims to be clairvoyant and declares that their dead daughter is trying to communicate an impending danger. John dismisses these warnings but soon starts seeing strange visions himself.

Based on a story by gothic writer Daphne du Maurier (author of Rebecca and “The Birds”), Don’t Look Now (1973) is hard to classify under one genre. Is it a drama, a horror story, or a psychological thriller? While the film deals with the occult and adopts some horror conventions, director Nicolas Roeg wanted to make “grief into the sole thrust of the film” in order to explore how “grief can separate people . . . Even the closest, healthiest relationship can come undone through grief.” To do so, Roeg uses editing to fracture time such that present, past, and future appear to converge in the film’s critical moments.

In this seminar, we will discuss adaptation by comparing the film to its source material while analyzing the techniques that make Don’t Look Now unforgettable: visual and aural divergence, aural match cuts, unsynchronized sound, montage images, and the surprisingly creepy use of the color red, which makes us wonder if we’re starting to see things, too.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Dont Look Back

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

When D.A. Pennebaker (1925–2019) filmed 23-year-old Bob Dylan on tour in England during the spring of 1965, he didn't yet know what kind of movie he was making. As it turned out, Pennebaker was making history.

He had honed his craft as a member of Drew Associates, a group of young documentarians who produced a series of remarkable features in the early '60s. They exploited newer technologies to capture events “on the fly” where and as they happened, with smaller crews able to react to the unexpected—essentially defining what would come to be known as Direct Cinema. Documentaries such as Primary (1960), about the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic primary, provided viewers with a degree of behind-the-scenes access they had seldom experienced before.

With Dont Look Back (1965), Pennebaker employed the techniques he had pioneered to produce a rock documentary like none that preceded it. From its groundbreaking opening alleyway scene (often quoted and parodied) to its closing concert, the film connects viewers to an artist on stage and backstage, seen at both his most charming and his most cantankerous as he works, relaxes, and opines. The result is a documentary powered by a sense of immediacy and intimacy that continues to overwhelm audiences in all its grainy, black-and-white glory. Dont Look Back is frequently cited as the greatest rock documentary ever made and, indeed, one of the greatest documentaries of any kind. Join us to find out why.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Double Indemnity

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

During and after World War II, a literal and figurative darkness crept into Hollywood by way of directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers channeling American disillusionment, fear, and anxiety into a distinct cycle of crime pictures that would come to be known as film noir. Many filmmakers who contributed to this movement were European expats, and among them was the legendary Billy Wilder, who left the Continent for Hollywood following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

One of the most influential and enduring works of Wilder’s celebrated filmography as a co-writer/director is Double Indemnity (1944), adapted from a novel by James M. Cain (Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice). The story of an insurance agent seduced into a murder plot first made the Hollywood rounds in the mid-1930s, but its “general low tone and sordid flavor” rendered it unfilmable, according to the industry’s top censor. When it finally got to Wilder, he worked with hardboiled author Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) to produce a screenplay that—with some key changes—a studio could actually make.

In so doing, Wilder created a seminal noir masterwork. Double Indemnity was not the first noir, but it is perhaps the most noir, codifying the style’s recurring visual and thematic traits, as well as its stock characters. Fred MacMurray, playing the corruptible everyman Walter Neff, and Barbara Stanwyck, as the femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, are the ne plus ultras of their respective types. Join us to explore the indelible noir attributes of this iconic film.

Just want to see the movie? Find additional showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Easy Rider

Taught by Amy Corbin, Ph.D., Media and Communication, Muhlenberg College

Easy Rider (1969) is among the most vivid of cinematic time capsules. Its road-trip narrative veers wildly between defiant sarcasm, drug-induced calm, and eerie violence—yet somehow it all makes sense as a portrait of 1960s American counterculture. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda teamed up to co-star, co-write, and direct (Hopper) or produce (Fonda) this low-budget film that became a box-office hit and cultural touchstone. Jack Nicholson joins Hopper and Fonda part way through the film, playing an alcoholic lawyer from a small New Mexico town who has his own eccentric ways of rebelling against conservative values. 

In this seminar, we’ll discuss the historical context of the film and how the story of two motorcyclists traveling from Los Angeles to New Orleans became a metaphor for the ideals of the counterculture, and their tragic ending a suggestion that such idealism would prove too weak to transform American society. Through the motorcyclists’ journey, we visit locations that symbolize factions in American society at the time, from the small-town Louisiana residents who believe the men’s long hair is a threat to their way of life, to the commune dwellers who aspire to live outside a capitalist economy and conventional notions of the nuclear family. Additionally, we’ll study how the film’s imagery, cinematographic style, and ways of using period music established a template for the road-movie genre in the decades that followed. 

Easy Rider demonstrates what the road movie inherited from the Hollywood western, so our discussion of the film will also consider key themes shared by those genres, including travel as a psychological quest and the open road as a space that aspires to be “outside” society.  “Get your motor runnin’” and join us to revisit an American classic. 

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Elevator to the Gallows

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

After plunging under the ocean with Jacques Cousteau on the Oscar-winning documentary The Silent World (1956), twenty-six-year-old director Louis Malle rode the Elevator to the Gallows (1958) in a solo feature debut that would kick off one of the most remarkable and eclectic careers in French cinema.

Adapting a pulp novel by Noel Calef, Malle and his team relate a noir-ish crime story involving murder, stolen cars, and illicit love affairs. Military veteran-turned-businessman Julien (Maurice Ronet) will do anything to be with his lover Florence (Jeanne Moreau), who just happens to be the wife of his shady industrialist boss. A simple crime soon splinters into multiple narrative strands, contrasting the tense, claustrophobic action of Julien's attempts to escape a stuck elevator with Florence's trek through the rainy streets of nighttime Paris. Brilliantly shot in grainy black-and-white footage by veteran cinematographer Henri Decae, their stories are set to the now-legendary score by jazz titan Miles Davis.

Ronet is riveting and Davis's score still thrills, but the singular Jeanne Moreau winds up being the main attraction. Some critics credit this as the film that made Moreau a star; let's think of it instead as the film where everyone finally realized she had been a star all along.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: From Here to Eternity

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then our Cinema Classics Seminars are for you. Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

About the Film: One of the most popular and critically lauded films about the military, From Here to Eternity compassionately depicts the complicated lives of soldiers stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Based on James Jones's acclaimed 1951 debut novel, the film was characterized in The New York Times as nearly "as towering and persuasive as its source . . . a portrait etched in truth." Known today as grist for (untrue) rumors about Frank Sinatra, this picture should be appreciated for its moving performances (especially Sinatra's), the skilled direction, by Fred Zinnemann (High Noon), that guided them, and Daniel Taradash's insightful script.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Gaslight

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Join us for a one-night seminar on Gaslight (1944), George Cukor's utterly unnerving portrayal of a young wife wrestling with childhood trauma and assiduously led to the precipice of insanity by her scheming husband. Ingrid Bergman won her first Academy Award for her magnificent turn in this second of two big-screen adaptions of the 1938 play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton (Rope).

Gaslight—so indelible that it entered the cultural lexicon as a verb—does, in some respects, gel with the 1940s film noir movement, where the human capacity for malevolence and manipulation runs deep, and deception seeps into intimate sources of ostensible safety, such as the home, the people and things that fill it, and the bond between spouses. Bergman's exquisite descent into addled paranoia by her husband's hand is perfectly heightened by the film's incrementally stifling set design, and highly controlled, yet emotionally expressive, cinematography. Come for the rich opportunities to mine the formal elements and psychological layers of this film, and stay for young Angela Lansbury's film debut as a deliciously cheeky Cockney maid.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Criminology, Cabrini University

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is a delightful musical comedy featuring two of the most iconic screen personalities of ‘50s Hollywood—Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe—yet, beneath the surface, it is also concerned with the era’s evolving gender dynamics. In addition to touching upon the film’s production history, visual style, and initial reception, this seminar will examine the complex depiction of the “vamp” within Howard Hawks’s adaptation of the 1949 Broadway musical. Based on the nineteenth-century Gothic depiction of the female vampire, the vamp has become a popular archetype of Western cinema, combining Biblical conceptions of the feminine (e.g., Eve, Delilah, and Salome), among other elements, to present a character driven by greed and steeped in sexual deception, who ultimately destroys the males that succumb to her.

But Howard Hawks (Scarface, His Girl Friday, Red River) never met a Hollywood trope head-on. By utilizing a comedic approach, along with musical elements, the film transcends the morality-tale formula typically associated with vamp characters. Although the dominant female still preys on the subordinate male, the use of humor obviates the necessity for judgment, therefore enabling Gentlemen to offer a more sophisticated examination of sexual politics. Such a perspective suggests an interesting comparison of Russell’s Dorothy Shaw and Monroe’s Lorelei Lee to some of Hawks’s more commanding male characters, epitomized by Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne in The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo, respectively. We know this is pretty weighty stuff for a ‘50s Technicolor musical, but don’t worry—there will still be plenty of time to discuss “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Gimme Shelter

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

After the Rolling Stones saw what they missed by not being invited to Woodstock, the band was eager to take center stage at a free concert that was coming together on the West Coast. It seemed like the natural place to end their 1969 US tour, which was being documented by filmmakers Albert and David Maysles (Grey Gardens, 1976), and Charlotte Zwerin, who collaborated with the brothers on Salesman (1969) and Running Fence (1978). Little did anyone know that this endeavor would end in tragedy, and leave an indelible mark on film history.

Join us to learn how Gimme Shelter (1970) took shape, and about its specific form of documentary filmmaking, direct cinema, of which the Maysles are among the most prominent and skilled practitioners. This movement, which relies on hand-held camera work and thoughtful editing to achieve its purely observational tone and aesthetic of spontaneity, would be put to its ultimate test during one fateful autumn night at the Altamont Speedway.

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Godzilla (1954)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Director Ishirō Honda was used to being overshadowed. He never achieved the acclaim of his contemporaries in postwar Japanese cinema—men with names like Ozu, Mizoguchi, and Kurosawa. Indeed, Honda served as the latter’s apprentice, helmed the second unit on films such as Stray Dog, and continued to work with the great master in one capacity or another until Kurosawa’s death. Yet, Honda was most thoroughly eclipsed by his own most famous creation: the iconic Godzilla, king of all the kaiju—those giant cinematic monsters that have terrified and razed onscreen cities since the 1950s.

Honda’s legacy is not merely Godzilla the character, that paradoxical hybrid of global menace and oddly sympathetic protagonist; it is also the kaiju genre as a cinematic form, which is still very much alive. From Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim to more recent reboots of the Godzilla franchise, the kaiju are still with us, and Godzilla—both the monster and Honda’s original 1954 film—remains king. And like the best science-fiction films of the 1950s (or any era), Godzilla is an entertainment that uses its genre to smuggle in some serious issues. Many know how Godzilla trades on Cold War-era anxieties about nuclear weaponry, but fewer notice the film’s exploration of Japan’s post-defeat identity as a country hesitantly rejoining the community of nations.

So, join us for a celebration of Godzilla’s enduring power to enchant and unnerve, and also for a reconsideration of Godzilla as a film of ideas.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Goodfellas

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." Ray Liotta endows Henry Hill's voiceover with a mundanity that punctuates the grisly pre-credits sequence of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Equally indelible is Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito: "I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?" The histrionic bluster playfully masks and confirms an even more irrational and impulsive menace. Completing the trio is Robert De Niro's coldly calculating Jimmy Conway: "Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut."

Goodfellas grows in stature every year, rife as it is with dynamic cinematography, spirited editing, and an infectious gallows-humor. In making a film as artful as it is anarchic, Scorsese embraced a studied detachment that screams contempt for the implicit social commentary of the time-honored gangster genre that he had inherited. Join us for a screening and in-depth discussion of this modern masterpiece.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Harold and Maude

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

Originally released to lackluster reviews, Harold and Maude has become something of a cult classic and is arguably more relevant now than it was 44 years ago. After all, Harold is as much an embodiment of today's "boomerang generation" as any cinematic character before or since, living at home under the security blanket of his overbearing mother while indulging in his odd obsession with death until he bonds with an iconoclastic woman more than 50 years his senior. It is the juxtaposition of these otherwise incongruous characters that makes Harold and Maude so impactful. Harold's morose search for meaning stands in stark contrast to Maude's effervescent optimism, an outlook she maintains despite having experienced things far worse than Harold can even imagine. In a time when the Vietnam War was dividing the generations, this film endeavors to bridge this gap through its story of an unlikely, yet powerful, connection.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: I Confess

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

In Alfred Hitchcock's I Confess (1953), Montgomery Clift plays Father Logan, a priest who becomes suspect number one in a murder case because he is sealed by the sanctity of the confessional from divulging the true identity of the killer. Unable to reveal evidence that would absolve him from suspicion, Clift uses the palette of his deeply expressive face to convey the inner turmoil within.

Shot on location in Quebec City, the film is imbued with noir-like elements and is one of the ultimate cinematic crystallizations of some of Hitchcock's pet themes and archetypes, particularly the transference of guilt and the "wrong man." The film also reverberates with what was happening outside of American cinemas in the early '50s, the height of the Hollywood Blacklist era, when many in the film industry were wrestling with moral quandaries regarding confession. Join us for this seminar on I Confess to explore one of the more personal films in Hitchcock's oeuvre.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Imitation of Life

Taught by Alice Bullitt, M.A., Programming, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

About the Film: Questions of race and class are woven throughout Douglas Sirk's expertly crafted melodrama, which follows an aspiring actress and her housekeeper as they achieve upward mobility, but suffer from personal struggles with their daughters.

Cinema Classics Seminar: In a Lonely Place

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Director Nicholas Ray’s Hollywood career spanned a panorama of genres—western, melodrama, film noir—and was decidedly non-conformist in its approach to form and content. Yet it demonstrated a strong auteurist through line: critical empathy for the outsider—even if, as in the case of Ray’s haunting 1950 masterpiece, In a Lonely Place, that outsider is ostensibly a Hollywood insider. 

The film tells the story of a Tinseltown screenwriter (Humphrey Bogart) who becomes the prime suspect in a brutal murder while falling in love with the woman who provides him an alibi (Gloria Grahame). The picture’s Hollywood commentary is multivalent, including a compelling deconstruction of one of cinema’s most legendary masculine icons: Humphrey Bogart himself, a public persona inextricable from the brooding, world-weary hero he embodied in earlier films like Casablanca and The Big Sleep. Bogart and Ray produced In a Lonely Place independently through Bogart’s own production company, resulting in a professional—and personal—investment in this film for both men. During production, Ray’s marriage to the film’s female star, Gloria Grahame, was falling apart, adding another interesting layer of self-examination to the mix. 

Broadening from the film’s self-reflexive explorations, In a Lonely Place also endures as an exceptionally sophisticated film noir, one of the most incisive depictions of the post-war violence, anger, and paranoia simmering in the American soul that Hollywood ever produced. Join us to delve into this iconoclastic, complex film and the societal milieu that informed it. 

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. In addition, this seminar is being offered on a VacCinema day at BMFI, when only fully vaccinated students may attend on site. Each individual will be asked to show proof of vaccination by presenting their vaccination card or a clear photo of it, as well as photo ID, prior to entering BMFI. Please arrive early to allow adequate time for this process. You may visit the VacCinema page for further information. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Taught by David Greenberg, University of the Arts

With no less than four remakes and, reportedly, another one on the way, the enduring appeal of director Don Siegel’s 1956 masterpiece, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is easy to identify at first glance. Sure, it’s a really scary movie, but it is also one that lends itself to surprisingly complex readings. Though widely interpreted as a Cold War allegory, the film can also be seen as having roots in something much deeper and more universal than the Red Scare.

Mystery novelist Jim Thompson once said, “There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot—things are not as they seem”—an especially apt principle when considering Invasion of the Body Snatchers. After all, its seemingly bland premise has all of the characters reporting that their loved ones suddenly do not seem to be themselves. Yet, by employing elements of horror, science-fiction, and even film noir, the movie expertly and insidiously taps into some of our darkest, most primal fears.

Something happens to a film once it leaves the filmmakers’ hands and then is “consumed” by the public and interpreted by critics, and this film is a particularly interesting case. Invasion, which set the stage for future paranoid thrillers from The Manchurian Candidate to The Conversation, is a rich source for an insightful discussion, but you might leave this seminar looking over your shoulder.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: It's a Wonderful Life

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

When Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life premiered near the end of 1946, audiences weren’t particularly interested in the tale of a small-town building-and-loan man brought back from the brink of self-destruction by a second-class angel. Whether the reason for the film’s lackluster performance at the box office was the timing of its release during a particularly strong year for the movies or post-war exhaustion with stories of struggle, Hollywood’s faith in Capra dwindled alongside George Bailey’s belief in the American spirit. Yet perceptions of the film have changed radically over the past 75 years, such that It’s a Wonderful Life now often appears near the top of critics’ surveys and public polls for best and most inspirational films. What happened to transform this movie into a quintessential holiday classic?

It’s a Wonderful Life is so much a part of our public consciousness that even people who have never sat through a screening can quote it. This seminar discusses the film’s relevance in American life since 1946, paying special attention to the details of its production, the history of its distribution in theaters and on television, and the significance of Frank Capra’s sentimental storytelling. Originally intended as a vehicle for Cary Grant, the film began its life at RKO before executives there sold the rights to Capra’s own production company. Several members of the cast were familiar to Capra fans, as were many of the themes. Indeed, the film fits well into his vision of the nation, in which Bedford Falls stands as the ideal setting, George Bailey is its model citizen, and romance heals class conflict.

Join us to consider how Capra in general, and this film in particular, contributed to Hollywood’s construction of American identity at home and abroad. How well does the film’s opposition of Bedford Falls and Pottersville represent our hopes and fears for America today? Whatever the answer, one thing is clear: this film, based on a short story that itself echoes the self-discovery in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, continues to inspire viewers to be thankful and, possibly, to change.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? See additional showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: On-site attendance for this seminar is SOLD OUT, but the Remote Classroom is still available. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Jaws (Summer 2011)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

About the Film: When a man-eating great white shark terrorizes a beach town, its police chief, an oceanographer, and a grizzled fisherman join forces to hunt the beast in Steven Spielberg's sophomore feature. Considered the first blockbuster, Jaws features an iconic, Oscar-winning score by John Williams.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Jaws (Summer 2021)

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

It’s hard to think of a movie with a simpler plot yet more elaborate interpretative palette than Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic, Jaws. Variously described over the years as a metaphor for environmental collapse, the Watergate scandal, and even political responses to the pandemic, Jaws is nonetheless the textbook definition of a Hollywood “high-concept” film: giant shark attacks tourist town on the Fourth of July. Yet the novel’s author, Peter Benchley, says he never set out to write a “one-note horror story,” nor did Spielberg create one for the screen (indeed, the film’s famous leitmotif consists of two notes!).

This seminar dives deep into the film’s history, addressing industry folklore about technological mishaps, casting near-misses, and marketing mayhem. We will talk about its influence on the American blockbuster in terms of both style and strategy, and the sequels it spawned. But we will also provide some of the roadmaps developed by film scholars so that those of us watching Jaws for the second, third, or . . . fourteenth time might get something more out of the experience. For instance, what changes when we read Jaws as a buddy film rather than a monster movie? What do the film’s three male adventurers reveal about conceptions of American masculinity? What might the collaboration between Spielberg and John Williams (one that has persisted for decades beyond Jaws) tell us about creative working relationships? How do the film’s innovative editing and sound design contribute to its suspense? Whatever lens you select for this viewing, it’s sure to be a scream watching and discussing Jaws in the theater, together again.

Just want to see the movie? See additional screening-only showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: On-site attendance for this seminar is SOLD OUT, but the Remote Classroom is still available. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Killer of Sheep

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D.

Made during the malaise-filled time between the soaring rhetoric and grand plans of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America,” Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1978) refutes such simplistic and sentimental perspectives by presenting an unflinching analysis of the realities of these worldviews. The promise of racial equality, tantalizingly glimpsed with the signing of the Civil Rights Act (1964), had been consumed in the fires of anger and despair emerging from urban chaos of Watts in 1965. The Vietnam War had bitterly divided the nation politically, while, economically, manufacturing—long a prime source of employment—continued to erode. The existence of those anonymous millions trapped between these rocks and hard places is the subject of Burnett’s film, a work that epitomizes W.E.B. Dubois’s dictum that the artist must become the propagandist, to dare to demonstrate the realities that the ruling powers would seek to hide.

In this seminar, we will examine the artistry of Burnett’s film in relation to the arguments of Dubois, Orwell, and Marx, while also considering the film’s renewed relevance in the early 21st century as America struggles with rising levels of economic marginalization, student debt, and the repercussions of the war on drugs, among other issues.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included. 

Cinema Classics Seminar: L'Atalante

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Completed by 29-year-old Jean Vigo shortly before his tragic death from leukemia, L'Atalante (1934) is an expression of lyric sensuality. Jean (Jean Dasté) is the captain of a barge—L’Atalante—who marries Juliette (Dita Parlo), a country girl, and brings her on board to live with him, alongside a crew that includes a rambunctious ex-sailor (Michel Simon), a practically mute cabin boy, and a gaggle of cats. Their journey becomes a symbol for the mysterious intimacy of marriage, as the shy bride and the inarticulate young husband struggle to recognize their true need for each other. Vigo reveals an intense romanticism in L'Atalante, an eroticism that co-exists with a gentleness he displays in his depiction of the young newlyweds, who are rendered in a series of unforgettable, dream-like images by cinematographer Boris Kaufman (On the Waterfront).

Vigo's untimely death meant that the world never saw the film as he intended it. His producers were horrified by Vigo’s finished work and proceeded to brutally re-edit it, but it was still seen as a failure. However, over the years, L'Atalante was restored in various forms, with the most complete version realized in 2001. L'Atalante, like all of Vigo's films (four in total), was mostly forgotten by the late 1930s, but his work began to be rediscovered after WWII. It exerted a profound influence on the French New Wave, especially Francois Truffaut, who, after seeing L'Atalante, was “incredibly overwhelmed with wild enthusiasm for [Vigo's] work.”

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Lost Highway

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Instructor, BMFI

Rolling Stone critic Mikal Gilmore wrote, “...there is nothing else like Lost Highway out there, and there is no easy way to prepare an audience for its experience.” Ostensibly, Lost Highway (1997) is an enigmatic neo-noir, with a bifurcated story in which a musician (Bill Pullman) is accused of killing his wife (Patricia Arquette), and a young man (Balthazar Getty) is drawn into a dangerous web of gangsters by a femme fatale—also played by Arquette.

The film presented a sort of cinematic pivot point for Lynch; his previous two films, Wild at Heart and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, had not been critically or commercially successful. Lost Highway was also met by bemused critics and (scant) audiences but has since seen a significant reappraisal. While most of Lynch’s prior work was grounded (more or less) in straightforward plot structure, in Lost Highway, he dove explicitly into a nonlinear, surrealist narrative to explore the self-deceptive nature of identity and memory, among other heady topics. The film’s shuffled narrative, themes, and style would resonate strongly in his last two features (for now), Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.

Whether you have “traveled down” Lost Highway before, or this is your first “trip,” join us to learn more about this mysterious and darkly beguiling film. In either case, you’ll see why, even 25 years later, there’s still nothing else quite like Lost Highway out there.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Marathon Man

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

While perhaps not as recognized as some other entries in the Watergate-era cycle of political-paranoia films (e.g., The Conversation, All the Presidents Men), Marathon Man (1976) runs second to none in terms of cultural relevance, moral complexity, and cinematic technique. Directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), written by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), produced by Robert Evans (Chinatown), shot by Conrad Hall (Cool Hand Luke), and starring Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate) and Roy Scheider (The French Connection), the film has undeniable New Hollywood bona fides. Yet, it also has an indelible touch of the studio era through Laurence Olivier’s Oscar-nominated performance, as well as an eye toward the future of filmmaking, since Marathon Man was the first film to be released that utilized the tremendously innovative Steadicam.

In the film, based on Goldman’s 1974 novel, a graduate student, Thomas “Babe” Levy (Hoffman), becomes embroiled in a plot involving his own brother, “Doc” (Scheider), a shadowy government agency, and a Nazi war criminal, Dr. Christian Szell (Olivier). Built on this premise, and guided by the exceptional characterization of Levy, the filmmakers weave a complex web of themes and conflicts—familial, historical, political—that are brought to life through a series of escalating, and, at times, harrowing, confrontations. Certainly, it is safe to say Marathon Man warrants further consideration.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Marnie

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

Marnie (1964) has long proven to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's more divisive films, and it is certainly one of the most disturbing. It is viewed by detractors as the beginning of a late-career decline, and by boosters as one of his most intensely personal and unfairly maligned masterworks.

Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a slick con artist who enjoys ripping off her employers (a series of men who fail to take her seriously) and scampering off to find her next mark. Unfortunately, her next mark turns out be Mark (Sean Connery), a Philadelphia publisher who isn't quite the fool Marnie takes him to be. As Mark and Marnie forge a tentative, unstable life together, each pursuing separate and mysterious agendas, the film delves into some of the darkest psychological territory in the entire Hitchcock canon.

Is Marnie a noble failure, a flawed masterpiece, or perhaps even the creepiest Hitchcock film you haven't yet seen? Find the answer to this complex question by joining us for this thought-provoking seminar.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Metropolis

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening? If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around a newly restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the groundbreaking science-fiction classic.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Modern Times

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

About the Film: One of Chaplin’s masterpieces, Modern Times is a direct assault on the modern age. Chaplin plays a factory worker who goes crazy from his repetitious job and its demand for ever greater speed. This was the last of the filmmaker’s silent films, made well after the advent of sound, and it features Chaplin’s own musical score and sound effects.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Mulholland Dr. (Fall 2014)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

Segments of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive were shot as early as 1999, back when the project was still envisioned as a television pilot for a series that would have been a kind of spiritual follow-up to Lynch's iconic Twin Peaks (1990-91). When the pilot and series were rejected, Lynch proceeded to complete the project as a fully realized film, thereby bringing to life one of the most evocative, erotic, and Freudian dreamscapes in contemporary American cinema.

Ever since, Mulholland Drive has had its share of detractors and champions, but as the 2000s came to a close, numerous film critics and journals from Cahiers du Cinema to Time Out New York embraced it as the film of the decade. J. Hoberman of The Village Voice famously and glowingly called the film 'a poisonous love letter to Hollywood' in the tradition of Sunset Boulevard (1950). By riffing on archetypes from the ingenue to the femme fatale and the embattled director, the film transcends these archetypes to build a new postmodern aesthetic for the Hollywood dream factory and its often nightmarish demimonde.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about one of the films from David Lynch's fascinating body of cinematic work. Students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Mulholland Dr. (Fall 2021)

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Few directors have such a well-honed style and perspective that their oeuvre spawns a roundly recognized adjective. There’s the Hitchcockian, the Bergmanesque . . . and the Lynchian. Films directed by David Lynch often contain a blend of film noir trappings, fragmented narrative, mutable identities, surreal imagery, and explorations of innocence lost in the face of social dysfunction and evil. This concoction manifests perhaps most potently in Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001).

Birthed from a doomed television pilot for ABC, Mulholland Dr. stars Naomi Watts as Betty, an aspiring starlet who arrives in Los Angeles and becomes entangled with Rita (Laura Harring), an enigmatic woman suffering from amnesia after a car crash in the Hollywood Hills. The film’s action unfurls unpredictably, subverting not just genre conventions but the rules of cinematic grammar itself, as the film’s reality blurs into an abstract world—albeit one rooted in very acute emotions and fears, and horrifyingly high stakes for its characters.

As in earlier works Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and Wild at Heart, Lynch plays with a juxtaposition of post-war, small-town Americana and safe, cozy optimism while revealing the moral and societal rot below the surface. Join us to engage in unfiltered contact with the dark subconscious driving the Hollywood dream factory, and those who gravitate to it.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! See additional screening dates and showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Murder on the Orient Express

Taught by Gary M. Kramer, Film Critic and Author

Join us, and an all-star cast, for a stand-alone class built around Sidney Lumet's 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie's sparkling whodunit, Murder on the Orient Express. This first filmed version of the classic Hercule Poirot mystery has since been joined by a 1992 radio play, a 2001 made-for-TV movie, an episode of the television series Poirot, and another feature film to be released next year. What is it that makes this cold-blooded tale of murder aboard the title train so appealing?

It is more than just the complex plot of revenge and subterfuge. Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express is a faithful adaptation, deemed one of the best based on Christie's work, as well as a handsomely staged period piece, beautifully paced and superbly acted. Albert Finney earned an Oscar nomination for his turn as Poirot, and Ingrid Bergman received the Best Supporting Actress prize for her work as Miss Greta Ohlsson, a Swedish missionary.

For those new to Murder on the Orient Express, this intriguing film will keep armchair detectives guessing right up to the end. For fans already familiar with the story, we will investigate the construction and adaptation of the Christie novel, as well as the various elements that make this diabolical thriller so evergreen.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: North by Northwest

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Lebanon Valley College

French New Wave filmmaker and Hitchcock devotee François Truffaut described North by Northwest (1959) as a perfect compendium of the director’s American movies, just as The 39 Steps is the synthesis of his British work. The two films have even more in common, not the least of which is the abundant Hitchcockian trait of depicting menace in everyday places. As described by The New Yorker upon its release, North by Northwest has “Hitchcock’s love of planting the grotesque in a commonplace setting, as if he were dropping water bombs out of a hotel window on a crowded sidewalk”—the perfect mechanism for generating the director’s unique combination of tension, shock, and comedy.

North by Northwest affords us a wonderful opportunity to examine the intrinsic components of the Hitchcock narrative, the essential qualities of his leading actors, and his incomparable cinematic technique. We will consider his irreverence for the political film, made so plain by his use of the Cold War climate as window dressing and his relegation of the struggle against enemy spies to the status of a MacGuffin. Learn about this essential Hitchcock storytelling tool, and so much more, when you join us for what Hitch himself called “a holiday fun trip . . . (with) a tasteful little murder.”

 

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: On-site attendance for this seminar is SOLD OUT, but the Remote Classroom is still available. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

The Coen Brothers have for decades now been impish yet masterful improvisers who thrive on cross-pollinating film genres and narrative inspirations, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) is one of their crowning achievements. While the plot centers on Ulysses Everett McGill (a Clark Gable-esque George Clooney) escaping from a Depression-era Mississippi chain gang to reunite with his estranged wife (Holly Hunter) and children, the film also frames itself as a re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey that is more of a postmodern riff than strict adaptation. For every detour that Clooney’s Ulysses takes on his way back to Hunter’s Penelope stand-in, he confronts and navigates the American South’s own tortured history and cultural tapestry—which proves as rich as anything in the Greek classics.

This is nowhere more evident than in the Grammy-winning soundtrack of outstanding period music that is as much a character as any in the film. With glorious cinematography by Oscar-winner and frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins, the film manages to look, sound, and feel at once like the product of an older time and place, and also timeless in its capacity for mythmaking. As Ulysses reflects about the changing South, the promise and perils of “a brave new world where they run everybody a wire and hook us all up to a grid” are urgent, contemporary concerns that transcend the film’s period setting—and inscribe O Brother in our own anxious moment.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: On the Waterfront (Summer 2010, Winter 2015)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Join us for a stand-alone class built around Elia Kazan's powerful 1954 drama, On the Waterfront. Inspired by journalist Malcolm Johnson's Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the corruption that permeated New York's port, Budd Schulberg (The Harder They Fall, A Face in the Crowd) crafted a memorable screenplay that Kazan (Gentleman's Agreement, A Streetcar Named Desire) brought to life through such 'Method' acting stalwarts as Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, and Eva Marie Saint, in her film debut, and with the artful technique of cinematographer Boris Kaufman (12 Angry Men, The Pawnbroker) and Leonard Bernstein, composing his only score for a non-musical film.

But even beyond these unimpeachable cinematic bona fides, On the Waterfront is an essential cultural text of the post-World War II era as an allegory for its director's involvement with HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities), and as something of a response to one-time friend and collaborator Arthur Miller's own take on the period, The Crucible (1953).

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the screening. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

On July 14, 2010, BMFI offered the Summer Classics Seminar: On the Waterfront, and our first one-night class filled to capacity. Since then, BMFI has presented more than 40 such seminars, and for BMFI's 10th anniversary, we are bringing back this initial foray to celebrate all the classic films--and all the great film fans (that's you)--that have made this format so popular.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Othello

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

The vast majority of Orson Welles’s films tend to be as notable for their production troubles and post-release controversies as they are for their baroque storytelling and bold aesthetics, and his provocative take on Shakespeare’s indelible tragedy, Othello, is no exception. Filmed beginning in 1949 over the course of an inordinately long production cycle in Morocco and Italy, the picture eventually premiered in 1951 and was given a European release in 1952, shortly after garnering the Gran Prix du Festival at Cannes. In 1955, Welles issued yet another, slightly longer version, which included the addition of Welles as a narrator and was primarily intended for a US release. Then, in 1992, seven years after his death, Welles’s daughter, Beatrice, released a putative “restoration” of the film that divided film critics and scholars for the alterations it contained, which some viewed as unfaithful to the director’s vision. (The seminar screening is a 2014 digital remaster of this version of the film.)

In this seminar, we will discuss Othello’s cinematic qualities and legacy, as well as its tortured production and release history. Yet, above all, we will honor Welles best by keeping squarely in sight the brilliant, racially charged, Shakespearean original—a tale of jealousy gone mad—that inspired Welles as both director and lead actor. The complex gender and racial politics of Shakespeare’s source material will be considered, as will the film’s depiction of Desdemona and Welles’s choice to portray Othello the Moor in something approaching “bronze-face,” a move that would no doubt create a storm of contention were it to be adopted today. As a remarkably economical adaptation of a lengthy, challenging, and controversial play, Othello remains a signal achievement in Welles’s filmmaking career and a milestone in the larger history of Shakespeare’s reinterpretation and reinvention through the ages and across diverse media.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Paths of Glory

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

Join us for a stand-alone class built around Stanley Kubrick's timeless 1957 film, Paths of Glory, an adaptation of the 1935 novel of the same name, which itself was based loosely on actual events that befell a group of French soldiers during World War I. With its roving, deep-focus cinematography, uncompromising anti-war message, and a powerful, barely restrained performance by Kirk Douglas, Kubrick's stark, unsentimental work condemns, with brutal efficiency, the injustice one sees unfolding on screen. As Roger Ebert wrote, "Paths of Glory was the film by which Stanley Kubrick entered the ranks of great directors, never to leave them."

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Pierrot le Fou

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

In what is perhaps the perfect distillation of Jean-Luc Godard’s polarizing charms, the French New Wave legend paired his two most iconic leads, Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo, in Pierrot le Fou (1965). A rollicking road picture that is part crime film, part romance, part musical, and part improvisational montage, the film is also, inescapably, a raw, painful eulogy for the recent breakup of Godard’s marriage to the film’s star. Pierrot le Fou also stands as a bombastic pivot point at which the director’s work largely shifted from creative homages to classic Hollywood cinema, to the fervently political filmmaking that would characterize the next stage of his career. In fact, while making Pierrot, Godard felt as if he was making his “first film.”

Adapted from the Lionel White crime novel Obsession, it follows bourgeois Ferdinand and the mysterious Marianne, two lovers on the lam from the law and shady criminal elements, travelling south through France in a stolen car. If that sounds like a linear plot, bear in mind that a Godard film can rarely be described as straightforward. Stunning pop-art flourishes and unexpected diversions abound in one of the most stylish and daring features ever made. Join us to explore the cultural, artistic, intellectual, and personal palimpsest that is Pierrot le Fou.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Psycho

Taught by Mandy Gutmann-Gonzalez, M.F.A., College of Liberal Arts, Temple University

Psycho (1960), the film for which Alfred Hitchcock is best known, plainly contains his most notable cinematic trademarks: a blonde woman in trouble, danger in everyday places, a Machiavellian matron, and, of course, an iconic cameo. But it also contains a more important and implicit element that had been missing from his films for years, possibly decades: subversion. In making this film as he made it, Hitchcock defied his studio (Paramount), trusted colleagues (including longtime collaborator Joan Harrison), narrative convention (its confounding story structure), and industry standards (for violence and “nudity”).

Psycho transferred the site of horror from the dank haunted house to the sanitary, bright bathroom, blurring the line between order and chaos, the mundane and the psychotic. With this film, the Master of Suspense created a visceral, kinetic, “counterpoint” cinema, explaining, “the point is to draw the audience right inside the situation instead of leaving them to watch it from outside, from a distance.” In this seminar, we will look at how Hitchcock did this in one of cinema’s most memorable scenes through a rhythmic montage of rapid cuts, a daring soundtrack, and an outrageous transference of point of view. We will also discuss how the film amplifies suspense, playfully navigates between genres, utilizes a voyeuristic camera, and leads viewers down strange, but satisfying, dead ends.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here

Cinema Classics Seminar: Pulp Fiction

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

MIA: Marsellus throwing Tony out of a four-story window for giving me a foot massage seemed reasonable? VINCENT: No, it seemed excessive. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

— Pulp Fiction (1994)

As this excerpt from Quentin Tarantino's Palme d'Or winner reminds us, the themes of violent excess and subjective reality have never been far from the writer/director's restless and inventive mind—one seemingly hard-wired for cross-pollinating cinematic genres, themes, and techniques. Tarantino also embodies and champions—as the now legendary account of his cinematic education as a video store clerk attests—the aesthetic of the first truly post-film-school wave of directors in the American tradition. In an interview with the BBC, he famously offered: "When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, 'No, I went to films.' "

In this seminar dedicated to a close reading of Tarantino's most influential film, we will pay special attention to the complex matrix of cultural influences that found their way into the cinematic DNA of Tarantino's signature effort. These influences include, among many others, the French New Wave, exploitation films, film noir, television, pop music, the Bible, and the important literary traditions of pulp novels that gave rise to the underworld charmers whom Tarantino revived and reinvented so memorably in this contemporary classic.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), arguably the finest action-adventure film ever made, celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. To mark it, we invite you to join us for an engaging seminar on the alchemy that turned a playful homage to Hollywood serials and Saturday-matinee cliffhangers into a new kind of film that redefined action cinema for decades to come.

In addition to Spielberg, then at the absolute top of his blockbuster game, the other talents behind the genesis of Raiders were individually responsible for some of the most important films of the 1970s and beyond. It comes to life with action set-pieces and a story that percolated for years in the mind of George Lucas (American Graffiti, Star Wars), and was given narrative focus with the brilliant addition of the Ark of the Covenant by Philip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff). Raiders also outshines lesser action films for being a beautifully written character study thanks to the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Body Heat). Star Harrison Ford, hot off his work as Han Solo, turns in a career-defining performance—never has there been a better match of character and actor sensibility.

Four decades on, this nostalgic tribute to the cinematic thrills its creators enjoyed when they were young may, itself, seem like an artifact from a bygone era. Yet, when one recalls how Raiders so deftly blends the sharpest and most economical delineation of character with go-for-broke action, bold stunt work, and striking special effects used sparingly and to best purpose, it is easy to see why it remains the gold standard of the modern adventure film.

Just want to see the movie? Find additional showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rashomon

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Kurosawa has said of perhaps his most famous film, Rashomon (1950), that the story on which it is based “goes into the depths of the human heart as if with a surgeon’s scalpel, laying bare its dark complexities and bizarre twists.” A tale of a brutal (yet hotly disputed) rape and murder in the wild, the film explores the conflicting and self-serving memories of participants and witnesses alike—to the point where the boundaries between truth and reinvention blur.

Rashomon represented a watershed moment in global cinema. Its critical and commercial success trumpeted the arrival of Japanese cinema on the world stage as a major creative force to rival those of Western Europe. Released a mere five years after the conclusion of World War II, which saw Occupied Japan humiliated, in ruins, and administered by General Douglas MacArthur, Rashomon heralded the nation’s return to the company of its former enemies as an emerging stakeholder in a globalizing culture industry. Over the decades, Rashomon has inspired everything from a 1959 Broadway play, to a 1964 western (Martin Ritt’s The Outrage), to a 1996 opera. For years, psychologists have spoken of the “Rashomon Effect” when discussing the subjectivity and fallibility of perception and memory. The legacy of the film is rich and complex, and it will be as much a subject of discussion as Rashomon itself. Join us for a lively exploration of the enduring achievements of this film.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rear Window (Fall 2014)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Inaugurating the ten-year period during which Alfred Hitchcock would make his most enduring American films, Rear Window has everything one would expect from a movie by the Master of Suspense: a leading man (James Stewart) in a bind, an impossibly beautiful blonde (Grace Kelly) in danger, and plenty of . . . well, suspense. But there is more to Rear Window than a rollicking good time, though it certainly is that. Join us to learn about the making of the film, specific aspects of the auteur's technique, and some of the more substantial themes that run through this Hitchcock masterpiece.

One-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rear Window (Summer 2018)

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

Hitchcock once said, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” Indeed, for all their glamorous stars and stunning set pieces, the suspense of a Hitchcock film can feel almost unbearable. So, too, is he merciless with his characters, laying bare their deepest motives and drives, be they fear, guilt, voyeurism, or obsession.

The protagonist of Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece, Rear Window, L. B. Jefferies (James Stewart), is an accomplished photojournalist for whom the most honest, intimate moments of others are his stock-in-trade. Debilitated by a broken leg, he cannot stop watching his neighbors, despite the pleas of his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and his girlfriend (Grace Kelly). As Jefferies becomes increasingly fixated on the malfeasance that may or may not be taking place outside his window, his peeping-tom tendencies are exposed and dissected while we, the rapt viewers, are made complicit in his voyeurism. Just as Jefferies is powerless to stop or solve the crimes that may be taking place outside his window, the audience is powerless to look away.

Through our exploration of this essential film, we will come to suffer along with Jefferies, and also consider our own inability to look away from the silver screen.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rebecca (Summer 2017)

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

After suspenseful hits like The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), director Alfred Hitchcock was already known as "Alfred the Great" in his native England, but he had yet to solve at least one great mystery: Could the Master of Suspense master Hollywood as well?

Hitchcock certainly had plenty of support for his American debut, including the financial backing of super-producer David O. Selznick and the good fortune of working from Daphne du Maurier's brilliant gothic mystery novel. The relatively faithful 1940 film adaptation features Joan Fontaine as the young bride of Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), a stylish but morose widower whose first wife (the title character) has recently died in a tragic accident . . . or did she?

Fontaine finds being "the second Mrs. de Winter" increasingly difficult as she tries to create a home at Manderley, her husband's sprawling estate. Met with considerable resistance from housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), who makes it abundantly clear that she preferred the first Mrs. de Winter, our heroine begins to suspect that precisely nothing in her new life is as it seems.

Rebecca earned eleven Oscar nominations, including Hitchcock's first for directing, and a win for Best Picture: not too bad for a Hollywood debut. Join us to learn why the film was so well received in its time, and to discuss its lasting impact.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rebecca (Summer 2022)

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

This seminar is being offered on a VacCinema day at BMFI, when only fully vaccinated students may attend on site. Each individual will be asked to show proof of vaccination by presenting their vaccination card or a clear photo of it, as well as photo ID, prior to entering BMFI. Please arrive early to allow adequate time for this process. You may visit the VacCinema page for further information.

The narrator of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca, famously has no name. One might, then, think her an ideal prototype for Hitchcock’s famous blondes, except that rather than being sophisticated and scheming, she’s naïve—a quality perfectly captured by leading actress Joan Fontaine. In the film, she wanders through her new home, Manderley, a mansion full of rooms preserved in memory of the eponymous Rebecca, the beautiful late wife of the wealthy Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier).

Rather than giving audiences evidence of Rebecca’s ghostly presence, Hitchcock embodies her power in the creepy brilliance of the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), whose obsession with her former mistress led to Rebecca’s inclusion in a canon of classical Hollywood films with widely accepted queer interpretations. As the story lives in a murky boundary between past and present, so, too, does the film itself straddle two worlds: Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, although he considered it neither very American nor particularly Hitchcockian. Perhaps these traits have something to do with Rebecca earning eleven Academy Award nominations and winning for Best (Black-and White) Cinematography and Best Picture—making it the only Hitchcock film to win the top prize.

This seminar will address how Hitchcock’s adaptation sustains the gothic mystique of the novel, paying special attention to camerawork and music. We will talk about producer David O. Selznick’s contribution to Hitchcock’s career and, more broadly, to the American cinema during this period. Finally, we will discuss the influence of the Production Code on Hitchcock’s decisions and the effects of the film’s popularity on the careers of its actors. Join us for this seminar and go to Manderley again.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Rebel Without a Cause

Taught by Mabel Rosenheck, Ph.D., Wagner Free Institute of Science

After World War II, Hollywood once again had the luxury of taking on social issues, and with the release of both Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause, 1955 was the year of the juvenile-delinquency film. While Blackboard focused on an inner-city high school and depicted some truly shocking behavior by its students, Rebel was, in many ways, the bolder of the two films. Aesthetically, its vibrant colors and CinemaScope frame were unusual choices for a social-problem film, and its story was told from the perspective of Jim Stark (James Dean), an angst-ridden teen from an affluent, yet troubled, home. With his pompadour, red jacket, white t-shirt, and blue jeans, Dean's Stark defined the image of the American teenager in the 1950s, yet, because that image has become so iconic, it has long since lost the sense of alienation and inner turmoil that permeates the film.

This seminar will, in part, discuss the character of Jim Stark and James Dean's star text to focus on the emergence of the category of teenager in the post-World War II era. Though the image of the dangerous, drag-racing teen with a death wish originated in Rebel Without a Cause, this archetype can best be understood in contrast to the larger, less defiant trends—the economic boom, suburban growth, and reaffirmation of the traditional nuclear family—that structured American society at mid-century. Put another way, join us to learn what caused Jim Stark to rebel.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Red River

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Ursinus College

The Hollywood western mythologizes America’s perceived threats and virtues through sweeping landscapes and music that underscores the struggles and triumphs of the characters. On these fronts, Red River (1948) is exceptional. The film follows Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) and Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift) on an arduous journey from Texas to Missouri to sell 10,000 head of cattle after the fall of the South in the Civil War. Shot by veteran cinematographer Russell Harlan (who cut his teeth on Hopalong Cassidy films and would go on to earn six Oscar nominations), the film is accompanied by a lush Dimitri Tiomkin score that features a traditional western chorus. Together, the elements of Red River articulate a battle for control over the land, the future, and what it means to be a man.

The seminar will address the production of Red River, contextualizing its contribution to the western as well as its place in the oeuvre of the film’s incredibly versatile director, Howard Hawks. Although he was wildly creative in his manipulation of genre form, working in the gangster, screwball comedy, film noir, and western, Hawks’s films show a sustained interest in gender types. His men display a surprising array of vulnerabilities, while the women of Red River, limited though their roles may be, nonetheless harken back to the moral fortitude and level-headedness of Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. Although it is a key entry in a genre typically associated with masculinity, Red River is as much about relationships as it is about conquest.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Reservoir Dogs

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

MR. BLONDE: You kids don't play so rough. Somebody's gonna start crying.

—Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Cultural critic Todd Gitlin once observed of Quentin Tarantino: "His open secret is attitude. His funkiness is stylishly anti-stylish. Offhand cruelty is his route to the absurd." In this special seminar celebrating the 25th anniversary of Tarantino's controversial and explosive directorial debut, we revisit the film that introduced a distinctive new voice in American cinema. Tarantino's was an approach born of influences ranging from European arthouse films to Asian action vehicles to American grindhouse cinema. This grisly masterpiece of murderous thieves with and without honor established the director's signature and oft-imitated style. Reservoir Dogs remains an intoxicating achievement of violent spectacle and narrative improvisation—with a script and a stellar cast in love with the rhythms and cadences of artful vulgarity—that, to the delight and consternation of many, created the template for an entire era of filmmaking that followed in its wake.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rocky

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

This seminar is being offered on a VacCinema day at BMFI, when only fully vaccinated students may attend on site. Each individual will be asked to show proof of vaccination by presenting their vaccination card or a clear photo of it, as well as photo ID, prior to entering BMFI. Please arrive early to allow adequate time for this process. You may visit the VacCinema page for further information.

 

Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky established the archetype for the quintessential Philadelphia hero: the passionate underdog with a will to survive and no need for glory. How did Rocky (1976) become the classic Philadelphia story? We will talk about how the film’s scrappy origins—Stallone’s screenplay and casting demands—mirror the story of the film itself, which went on to win three Academy Awards.

Despite its low cost, the value of Bill Conti’s score is not to be overlooked in the film’s success, and we will analyze the way the music contributes to an interpretation of Rocky’s motivation. We will touch on the real fight that inspired the film and the history of boxing films, which played a major role in early cinema. We will also discuss the representation of race, class, and gender in the film, all of which are complicated through the lens of the 21st century, but all of which helped construct a particular image of America at its bicentennial.

Although the locations selected for shooting are often gritty, Rocky is a stunningly beautiful film, made even more striking by the use of the then-new Steadicam in Rocky’s training scenes. We will discuss how Rocky characterizes the city of Philadelphia, how particular sites were transformed into iconic landmarks, and how the city has responded to the legacy of this film about which Roger Ebert wrote, “It's a legend, it's about little people, but it's bigger than life.”

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Rome, Open City

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program,
Temple University

"All roads lead to Rome, Open City," Jean-Luc Godard once said, playing on the old Italian proverb, and meaning that when thinking about modern cinema, one always has to come to terms with Roberto Rossellini's seminal film. Indeed, Rome, Open City is not just a milestone in the history of Italian Cinema, it is also one of the most influential and symbolic films of its age, a work about 'reality' that has left a trace on countless cinematic movements since its release in 1945.

The film, which unfolds over several days during the Nazi occupation, was shot with electrifying urgency months after the city's liberation using non-professionals, as well as trained actors, with scavenged film stock, partly on location in tenements and ruined streets. The action is set over the winter of 1943-1944; Rome is an "open" city because this was the wartime status conferred on it. In return for the cessation of bombing, the authorities would abandon its military defense. This was a concession to the Allies, but Rossellini's irony is that Rome is "open" to Italy's occupier—Germany.

The former stronghold of an empire is unprotected, vulnerable to the forces of histor, and to a new kind of filmmaker. The visceral cinematography blends the grit of a documentary with the heart and soul of a drama (Federico Fellini collaborated on the screenplay) as the people of Rome wrestle with the constraints, compromises, and collusions of life during wartime. The first film in Rossellini's powerful war trilogy—he followed with Paisa (1946) and Germany, Year Zero (1948)—Rome, Open City became a cinematic landmark for bringing Italian neorealism to worldwide attention, a development described by Martin Scorsese as "the most precious moment of film history."

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the screening. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., one of our most popular instructors, first taught at BMFI in the fall of 2006. His inaugural class was an introduction to Italian film, so it's only fitting that Maurizio helps celebrate BMFI's 10th anniversary by offering a seminar on—and introducing a screening of—one of that nation's true cinematic gems, Rome, Open City.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Rope

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Criminology, Cabrini University

Alfred Hitchcock undertook the making of Rope (1948) as a stunt of sorts. Adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s play about two smart, affluent college students fascinated with murder (modeled after the notorious Leopold and Loeb case), Hitchcock designed the film to play out in real time, unfolding almost entirely in (what appears to be) a single, uninterrupted shot.

Beyond the enormous technical challenges, the project gave Hitchcock the opportunity to peel back the complacent covers of decorum and polite discourse to reveal the darkness of human motivation and scientific exploration. Released during the early years of the Cold War, as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. grappled with the limits of science and the boundaries of ethics in their race for nuclear superiority, Hitchcock’s film is arguably more relevant to its historical moment than a potent anti-war classic like Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). The first of the director’s four collaborations with James Stewart, Rope, as Hitchcock fans might expect, leaves the audience uneasy and complicit in the aftermath of its inquiry into the science of destruction conducted without the hindrance of conventional moral sensibilities. Decades after its release, it remains, in the words of Roger Ebert, “one of the most interesting experiments ever attempted by a major director working with big box-office names.”

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Saturday Night Fever

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Criminology, Cabrini University

While best remembered for its dance sequences, music, and costumes, John Badham’s exploration of the late-1970s disco culture is far more than these easily (and frequently) parodied elements. As the director’s Cold War thriller WarGames (1983) would do so effectively for the Reagan era, Saturday Night Fever (1977) captured the zeitgeist of the post-Watergate malaise while examining the promise of individualism as an escape from social obscurity within American society. Not unlike the ring in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2008), the dance floor becomes an alternate social reality in which the film’s young protagonist, Tony Manero (John Travolta), can transcend the encroaching fatalism of working-class, Italian-American life in Brooklyn, and achieve a level of celebrity that, in its transformative potential, resembles the promise of the American Dream.

And the film connects on a related, yet more personal, level as well, best articulated by Roger Ebert, who wrote: “We all have a powerful memory of the person we were at that moment when we formed a vision for our lives. Tony Manero stands poised precisely at that moment. He makes mistakes, he fumbles, he says the wrong things, but when he does what he loves, he feels a special grace.”

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Shadow of a Doubt (Summer 2019)

Taught by Raymond Saraceni, Ph.D., Center for Liberal Education, Villanova University

When Alfred Hitchcock left England for the American studio system, which offered him more generous financing, a larger technical toolbox, and a bigger stable of stars to choose from, some people wondered how he would adapt to his new creative environment. Would the master of the British chase melodrama—with his macabre and mischievous wit, his enthusiasm for the shadows and menace of German expressionism, his dark view of human nature, and his voyeuristic gaze—survive the transition to sunny Hollywood? Would Hitchcock succeed in making Hitchcock films in the United States?

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) provides an answer in the affirmative. Set in Santa Rosa, California, the film explores an archetypal collision between innocence and (murderous) experience, when the apparently idyllic life of a supposedly average American family is suddenly upended with the arrival of the charismatic but sinister Uncle Charlie (an unsettlingly malevolent Joseph Cotten). He seems to be running from the law, but Charlie may have other motives for dropping in on his sister’s family—most intriguingly, a fascination with and affinity for his young niece, also nicknamed Charlie (Teresa Wright), who clearly feels drawn to her uncle in mysterious ways. A tale of repressed desire and pathological violence—and of doppelgangers, caprice, and innocence unmasked—Shadow of a Doubt, as Hitchcock himself liked to say, brings “murder back into the home, where it belongs.”

Cinema Classics Seminar: Shadow of a Doubt (Summer 2022)

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

Please note: Due to a family emergency, Dr. Fleeger will be conducting this seminar from a remote location. Students will still attend at BMFI as usual, but Dr. Fleeger will be presenting her lecture and moderating the post-screening discussion from off-site, on the big screen.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) is one of Hitchcock’s most disturbing pictures because it confirms that our darkest fantasies may, in fact, be true. Thus, it’s not surprising that Hitchcock thought it one of his most believable plots, even if several critics did not. The story concerns two Charlies, one played by Joseph Cotten, and the other, his niece, by Teresa Wright. The closeness of their relationship is put to the test when young Charlie begins to suspect her uncle of terrible crimes.

How does suspicion seep into the atmosphere of an ideal American town? Camera placement and lighting begin to take on young Charlie’s apprehension as the film proceeds, a fear Hitchcock places within the home by staging key moments around a staircase, one of his favorite settings. We will talk about the history of the staircase for the director and the use of angles and shadows in his work. We will also discuss the story’s origins and the contributions to its screenplay by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Thornton Wilder, as well as the influence of World War II on its production.

Hitchcock’s interest in the double plays a big role in this film (as it does in Vertigo, among others), and as such, demands our attention. Lastly, we will address the way Hitchcock signals danger with sound by making use of Franz Lehár’s airy “Merry Widow Waltz,” and a score by the legendary Dimitri Tiomkin. Join us to learn about the Hitchcock film that Hitchcock himself identified as his favorite.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Singin' in the Rain

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

A cheerful, lavish Technicolor love story about the coming of sound, this classic MGM film deserves its status at the top of the AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals list. But what’s the story behind Hollywood’s best-loved backstory? What prompted the famed screenwriting team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden to create a film full of silent-cinema references and whimsical allusions to popular culture in the 1920s? What real people and events inspired the singing in Singin’?

This seminar offers a brief history of Hollywood musical history as told through the lens of this film. We will discuss how the stage-musical sub-genre evolved from the period depicted in the film to the time of Singin’ itself, and how the songs, co-written by producer Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown decades earlier, amplify particular aspects of that progression. We will also talk about Hollywood’s emerging preference for the “dream ballet”; like An American in Paris and Oklahoma!, Singin’ in the Rain features a long fantasy sequence about a young man’s desire to dance, featuring Cyd Charisse, who appears nowhere else in the film. In the process, we will touch on Gene Kelly’s rehearsal practice, Jean Hagen’s real voice, the (not-so) secret dubbing of Debbie Reynolds, and the question of what really happened when Hollywood learned to talk.

Just want to see the movie? See additional screening-only showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Some Like It Hot (Fall 2019)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

An émigré who fled the rising tide of Nazism, Austrian-born Billy Wilder became one of Hollywood’s foremost screenwriter-directors, innovating relentlessly across a range of classic genres and idioms. He left his indelible mark on film noir in sharply written and brutally unsentimental films such as Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, and also proved that he could bring home Oscar glory with high dramas like The Lost Weekend.

Yet, Wilder will also forever be associated with the madcap splendor of comedies elevated by his signature humanity and wit—none more so than Some Like It Hot (1959). Its premise would be a mere gimmick in other hands, but Wilder transforms it into a sublime example of comedic craft. Jazz musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) inadvertently witness a gangland massacre and are forced to go on the run, infiltrating an all-female band in drag. Curtis and Lemmon are backed by a terrific supporting cast that includes the menacing George Raft and the hilarious Joe E. Brown. The last piece of the puzzle arrives via a career-defining turn by Marilyn Monroe as band-leader and love interest Sugar Kane, and her performance is unforgettably funny and vulnerable.

But beyond even these notable traits, Some Like It Hot is also a landmark film for its defiance of industry censorship, having been released—and becoming a huge hit—without the imprimatur of Hollywood’s Production Code. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Some Like It Hot (Fall 2022)

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

Billy Wilder’s hilarious gangster-themed musical comedy, Some Like It Hot (1959), is famous for what it lacks: a Production Code seal of approval. The film flamboyantly resists the self-regulation of the era by dressing Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as women and letting them play the parts with defiant enthusiasm. When paired with Marilyn Monroe’s performance as Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk, in which she perfectly balances naiveté and innuendo, we have a film that revels in breaking the rules. In fact, the National Legion of Decency wrote that the film was “seriously offensive to Christian and traditional standards of morality and decency.” This seminar will talk about those standards, their official place within the studio system, and what it meant to Hollywood that Wilder’s film not only got distribution, but also received six Academy Award nominations.

Among other topics, we will discuss the reason for one of those nominations: costume design. Some Like It Hot has a fantastic backstory related to the wardrobe for Curtis and Lemmon. We will reveal this story and place it within the context of films that play with gender conventions, as well as uncover how Wilder got all those women to fit in a single train berth! We will also explore how Wilder tells stories about Hollywood itself, tracing the references in Some Like It Hot and linking them to the director’s vision of movie history in films like The Seven Year Itch and Sunset Boulevard. Finally, we’ll discuss the film’s music, pointing to how the song performances update the sound of jazz in the 1920s.

Some Like It Hot may boast the greatest last line in the history of Hollywood, but there’s a lot more to say about this comedy classic.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Some Like It Hot (Spring 2011)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around the iconic 1959 comedy, Some Like It Hot, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.

Students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Sullivan's Travels

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Ursinus College

A very funny social satire on the value of comedy and the hazards of good intentions, Sullivan’s Travels (1941) follows the exploits of John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), a Hollywood director who, over the strong objections of his studio’s honchos, puts his successful career on hold to travel the country disguised as a hobo to prepare for his next picture. Although he had planned for his journey to provide the basis for a well-researched social problem film, Mr. Sullivan gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself in dire straits and unable to convince anyone of his true identity. The ensuing adventure provides moments of poignant realization, along with several classical examples of misrecognition, the most memorable being Sullivan’s encounter with a character known only as “The Girl,” played by Veronica Lake in one of her earliest roles.

As one of sound-era Hollywood’s first screenwriter-directors, Sturges revitalized the screwball comedy with Sullivan’s Travels, as well as the Oscar-winning The Great McGinty (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), and The Palm Beach Story (1942). This seminar will consider his role as a film author, noting some of the preoccupations that crop up across his work, and examine what this film has to say about the value and meaning of entertainment.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Sunset Blvd.

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

The quintessential writer-director in the classic Hollywood idiom, Billy Wilder was a master of so many genres that it is easy to forget just how much genre formulas annoyed him. Wilder did not so much embrace genre as interrogate and redefine it at every turn. When one recalls his many masterpieces over a mere sixteen years from 1944 to 1960, they include films running the genre gamut from Double Indemnity to The Lost Weekend, Stalag 17, Sabrina, Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment. Two things these otherwise very different films invariably have in common are Wilder’s biting wit and penchant for transgressive subjects for which Hollywood never quite seemed ready—until Billy got to them in his inimitable way.

The film many consider Wilder’s crowning achievement, Sunset Blvd. (1950), is no exception. It endures as an intoxicating blend of genre tropes that lesser films struggle to do well individually, let alone in this hard-hitting cocktail. It features a career-defining performance by William Holden as Joe Gillis, a screenwriter on his way down who decides to ingratiate himself to an already fallen starlet of the silent era, the iconic Norma Desmond, portrayed so memorably by Gloria Swanson. In this vein, Sunset Blvd. is one of the finest films noir ever made, reversing the usual dynamics of noir seduction, with Holden as a self-assured homme fatale using his sexuality to manipulate a vulnerable, vain woman consigned to a madness in part self-imposed—only to find himself dependent on and hostage to her in ways he never anticipated.

At the same time, Sunset Blvd. is also a mesmerizing yet poignant satire, a meta-commentary on the self-importance of a Hollywood that blissfully commodifies, then ruthlessly disposes of, its own past. One legendary tale of Hollywood’s response to the film has Louis B. Mayer publicly chastising Wilder for biting the industry hand that fed him; still, one is hard-pressed to find any movie more in love with filmmaking and the colorful people committed to it. Sunset Blvd. simultaneously embodied the classic Hollywood style that Wilder inherited while at the same time changing that style forever, pointing a way forward to serious themes and innovative storytelling that would inspire generations of future filmmakers. Norma famously reminds Joe that in the silent era, “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!” The film sincerely respects those faces and that silent era tradition, while also clearly being in love with the modern dialogue so carefully crafted by Wilder in collaboration with Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman, Jr. To punctuate Wilder’s homage to the silent era and his indictment of Hollywood’s tendency to amnesia, he brilliantly cast silent-era director Erich von Stroheim as Norma’s butler and former director, Max, a character much like Stroheim himself—both a genius and a casualty of that bygone era. Of all the tongue-in-cheek, “insider” films about the realities of Hollywood ever made, none is more inviting to everyone who appreciates the spell cast by truly great cinema than Sunset Blvd.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! See additional screening dates and showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar:

On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Taxi Driver

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around Martin Scorsese’s definitive tale of urban desolation, Taxi Driver, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.

Just like our regular courses, students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) is the rare movie sequel that rivals, if not surpasses, the original film. It shifts ground from the improvised, insurgent aesthetic of its predecessor to create a mainstream box-office entertainment that is both more crowd pleasing and more unsettlingly dystopian in its depiction of a world blithely ignoring its own self-imposed technological doom.

T2 raises the stakes thematically, as well. The first film depicts Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as a vulnerable, reactive young woman who is largely a passenger on her own journey to survival, while the sequel presents an authoritative, physically imposing, and unapologetically violent Connor cut from the same cloth as Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, who defined the action heroine in Cameron’s 1986 Aliens. Connor takes the lead in protecting her son, John, devises a plan to stave off Judgment Day, and, despite being wary of Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800, chooses to at first tolerate, and later encourage, the burgeoning father-son relationship between the cyborg and John. This family unit lets Cameron revisit the theme of parenthood—present in four of his films—and allows for new dimensions of humor and pathos in the sequel, as well as a reimagining of the cyborg archetype.

Join us to learn more about the only science-fiction/action movie featuring two cyborgs to ever be referred to—by Roger Ebert, no less—as "a human drama—and a human comedy, too."

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Apartment

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining, engaging, and comfortable way to spend a hot summer evening?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then our Summer Classics Seminars are for you. This one focuses on The Apartment, the sardonic tale of isolation and infidelity that strikes, in the words of Roger Ebert, "a precise balance between farce and sadness". It was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, and stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray.

Just like our regular courses, each class will offer students a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see the film on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Apartment (Fall 2022)

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

Austrian screenwriter/director Billy Wilder first arrived in America in 1933, escaping the rise of fascism in Europe. Throughout his Hollywood career, Wilder's gimlet-eyed, outsider’s view of American culture produced one of the most legendary filmographies of the 20th century, and he proved to be a master of myriad genres and styles including comedy, satire, romance, and noir. This adroit versatility manifests most memorably in Wilder’s landmark 1960 masterpiece, The Apartment.

The story centers on C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), a corporate drone who loans out his apartment on-demand to superiors conducting illicit affairs in a bid to climb the career ladder up to the executive suite. The film is at once a charming romantic comedy, barbed social commentary, and something much darker and more melancholy. Following Lemmon’s uproarious turn in Some Like It Hot, Wilder and writing partner I.A.L. Diamond penned the part of C.C. Baxter with the actor in mind, and Lemmon received back-to-back Oscar nominations for these films. The Apartment was also a career landmark for Shirley MacLaine, nominated, as well, for her performance as Fran, an elevator operator at Baxter’s corporate office and the complicated object of his affection.

Join us to explore The Apartment’s rich assessments of transactional relationships, moral ambiguity, and corporate America, all of which still resonate sharply today.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The Battle of Algiers

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Banned in France for years after its 1966 release, Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers remains not only one of cinema's greatest achievements, but also ranks among its most timely and resonant. Building on the traditions of Italian neorealism and then complicating them with an urgency born out of post-colonial turmoil, the film depicts three crucial years in the Algerian war of independence against French domination (1954-62).

Pontecorvo's effort at times adopts the style and ethos of documentary; yet, at key moments, it is unapologetically passionate about the carnage it captures. The film throughout is resolutely clinical in its dissection of the escalating conflict as a bloody chess match between increasingly radicalized Algerian insurgents and the increasingly reactionary counter-insurgency of the French military. Ingeniously edited, the film features a mostly non-professional cast of Algerian actors, including actual participants in the struggle. Its score, by legendary composer Ennio Morricone, blends orchestral and indigenous music. The film's treatment of the realities and costs of insurgency and counter-insurgency has remained so powerful that it was screened at the Pentagon in advance of American involvement in Iraq, and it continues to be a touchstone for both aspiring filmmakers and policymakers around the globe.Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Big Sleep

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Based on Raymond Chandler’s 1939 “hard-boiled” crime novel, Howard Hawks’s inventive adaptation of The Big Sleep (1946) perfectly embodies the distinctively American genre of film noir, while also serving as a cultural touchstone for an increasingly anxious postwar America. Production on the film began in October of 1944, so The Big Sleep is both a product of the late-war years and an unnerving foreshadowing of the postwar America into which the film was finally released in August 1946.

Featuring Humphrey Bogart—in one of his career-defining roles—as cynical detective Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep casts its private-eye protagonist into a demimonde of seedy characters and shady double-crosses. Marlowe's is an underground America that stands in stark contrast to the conventional postwar mood of triumph; it is a place where clear heroes are seemingly in short supply and morally compromised manipulators abound. With the undeniable chemistry of Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who married a few months after production ended, The Big Sleep is a film of overwrought personalities and overpowering mood. Often criticized as being an inscrutable and incoherent narrative (despite or because of the writing contributions of a troubled William Faulkner), The Big Sleep is perhaps best appreciated when one fixates less on unraveling the plot and more on downing the film’s potent cocktail of style and attitude. In the Los Angeles of The Big Sleep, the wages of sin and malaise are never far from being collected.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Birdcage

Taught by Gary M. Kramer, Author and Film Critic

Join us for a stand-alone class built around Mike Nichols's hilarious 1996 comedy The Birdcage. An Americanized version of Edouard Molinaro's 1978 French farce La Cage aux Folles, which was also the source for the 1983 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, its screenplay was written by Nichols's longtime collaborator, Elaine May. The director's comic touch is—pardon the pun—light as a feather, especially when applied to veteran performers Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, who star as (personal and professional) partners Armand and Albert, respectively.

The film plays up gay stereotypes as the flamboyant South Beach couple must repress their sexuality—and contain their sassy Latino houseboy, Agador (Hank Azaria)—when Armand's son (Dan Futterman) gets engaged to the daughter (Calista Flockhart) of a conservative senator (Gene Hackman) embroiled in a scandal. Can "traditional family values" exist when the in-laws visit a household where drag is the order of the day? We open The Birdcage to explore issues of gender, sexuality, and morality, why drag queens make for good comedy, and how things have changed in this era of marriage equality.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Birds

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

Is The Birds (1963) an allegory about the end of the world? A dire environmental warning? Possibly a cautionary tale about the explosive dangers of repressed sexual desire? Perhaps it is all of the above. Or maybe none. Few of Alfred Hitchcock's films have lent themselves to so much open-ended interpretation—pick your favorite reading and you can surely find the evidence to support it. Not surprisingly, the director claimed far more innocent motives: “I hope to make you all aware of our good friends, the birds. Theirs is a noble history.” So there you have it, unless you suspect Hitchcock wasn't being entirely forthright . . .

Adapted loosely from the Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) short story, The Birds takes us to the entirely normal and perfectly pleasant California town of Bodega Bay, where socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren, in her unforgettable film debut) intends to surprise attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) with a pair of lovebirds. She initially does it on a lark, but love is indeed in the air. And so are the birds, first by the hundreds, then by the thousands. They are swooping, clawing, and killing—but why? Perhaps the scariest possibility is that the birds are attacking for no reason at all—just because they can, or, more accurately, just because Hitchcock can. After all, when asked to explain the underlying logic of his movies, Hitchcock replied, “to put the audience through it.” Interested?

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Birth of a Nation

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Department of Media & Communication, Muhlenberg College

"The Birth of a Nation is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl's The Triumph of the Will, it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil." —Roger Ebert

D.W. Griffith's 1915 racist epic The Birth of a Nation is easily the most controversial film in the history of American cinema. In the 100 years since it was released, it has been attacked, vilified, celebrated, and re-evaluated nearly continuously, and has been the troublesome example everyone has been forced to confront in order to talk about cinema as an art form.

Griffith was already the leading American director of his day when he began his adaptation of Thomas Dixon's popular novel and stage play, The Clansman. Much more ambitious than any previous American film, this project was a culmination of everything Griffith learned in his years making one- and two-reel films. Birth was critically acclaimed and earned the filmmaker a fortune, most of which he sank into his next picture, Intolerance.

Griffith never accepted that The Birth of a Nation was racist or apologized for it in any way. A century later, this seems inconceivable to nearly all viewers. Nevertheless, the film is crucial for understanding the intertwined histories of race, cinema, and art in America. Join us to learn about (and through) the work that, in the words of film scholar David Bordwell, "is often considered cinema's first masterpiece."

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Conformist

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

The Conformist is not only one of the great films of the 1970s—and of post-World War II Italian cinema—it is also a work that had a profound influence on the directors of New Hollywood, among them Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Bernardo Bertolucci's film may be seen as a parable of what happens when an individual, and by extension an entire populace, abdicates responsibility for its moral condition.

Loosely based on the novel by Alberto Moravia, The Conformist follows the quest for bourgeois normality by an upper-class intellectual named Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who joins the Italian Fascist Party in 1938 Rome as a result of his painful isolation from family and colleagues. Determined to prove his allegiance, Marcello gets his chance when party operatives order him to establish contact with—and eventually kill—a former professor, now an anti-fascist living in Paris.

Bertolucci draws upon the influences of Josef Von Sternberg, Max Ophüls, and Orson Welles, synthesizing expressionism, a complex narrative structure, and "fascist" film aesthetic. His cinematic style is complemented by the sublime cinematography of Vittorio Storaro, who uses rich colors, light and shadow, and camera angles and movement to emphasize Marcello's conformity and bourgeois entrapment. Thematically, it is a film in which politics, Freud, sex, and philosophy combine in a spirit of aesthetic exuberance and daring. The Conformist is not merely an indictment of fascism, but also a profound personal tragedy.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Conversation

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

From Edison’s earliest experiments synchronizing film strips with wax cylinder records to the latest in Dolby Atmos audio technology, if the history of film sound tells us anything, it’s that we can’t rely on our senses to accurately tell us what happened. Yet, it’s a lesson surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) seems not to have learned in The Conversation (1974), Francis Ford Coppola’s thriller about a man hired to record a conversation between two people in a busy San Francisco park.

Does the conversation lead to murder? Is Harry culpable? Often cited as a companion to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, a film about a photographer who accidentally captures a murder on camera, The Conversation asks more questions than it answers, but the questions it poses remain relevant in our contemporary world full of technology and those who might misuse it. We will talk about Coppola’s interest in the central moral dilemma, as well as the influence of European art cinema on New Hollywood. We will also address the film’s reception, which is impossible to separate from the Watergate scandal, given that the impeachment hearings began a month after its release.

The Conversation benefits greatly from a complex soundtrack constructed by famed sound designer Walter Murch, who also received an editing credit. The music—a piano score by David Shire and saxophone performances played by Gene Hackman himself—initially seems simplistic, but upon closer examination, is revealed to loop back into The Conversation’s theme of how easily sound can be made to reflect what we wish were true. Join us for a rich and rewarding seminar on a film that is important to see—and essential to hear.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

If you are unable to attend this seminar on site, you can rent and stream it in our Remote Classroom beginning a week after the event date.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

 

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Elephant Man

Taught by Louise Krasniewicz, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology,
University of Pennsylvania

David Lynch's remarkable 1980 film, The Elephant Man, has been discussed as a tale about voyeurism, a type of horror film, and as one of the director's more accessible productions. Still another way to approach it is suggested by the title character himself in the movie's most famous scene, in which he proclaims to a hostile crowd, 'I am not an animal! I am a human being!' The movie asks viewers to contemplate what makes a being human, how we maintain our humanity in the face of challenges to it, and other existential questions. John Merrick's dignified and heartbreaking struggle to prove his own humanity provides a rich starting point for such considerations.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about one of the films from David Lynch's fascinating body of cinematic work. Students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Exorcist

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

Join us for a stand-alone class built around this landmark horror film. William Friedkin's adaptation of William Peter Blatty's popular novel transgressed and shocked in equal measure when it burst onto the scene in 1973. In this seminar, we will explore the movie's enduring capacity to unnerve, its production history, and its unique blending of post-1960s angst and insurgent 1970s filmmaking.

This one-night seminar offers an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about a true classic of world cinema. Students receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Exorcist

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Lebanon Valley College

“I can assure you of one thing: The case in which I was involved was the real thing. I had no doubt about it then, and I have no doubts about it now,” wrote Father William Bowdern to author William Peter Blatty in a letter dated October 17, 1968. The priest was referring to the exorcism of a Maryland boy in 1949, which Blatty had read an account of in The Washington Post. It would serve as the inspiration for the author’s 1971 novel and the 1973 film based on it: The Exorcist.

In William Friedkin’s hands, this supernatural story was infused with the realism that epitomized the director’s previous work, The French Connection, heralding the birth of the modern horror film. Yet, despite its box office success and critical recognition, The Exorcist divided American culture. Some vilified the film, launching censorship campaigns that labeled it both blasphemous and dangerous, accusing its creators of weakening the moral fabric of society. Others praised it, either as a landmark motion picture that, in the words of one critic, “[did] for the horror film what 2001 did for science fiction,” or, as a work that examines the concept of love through the ideal of self-sacrifice.

Among other topics, this seminar will explore the author’s intent in crafting The Exorcist: to offer a work that stood in contradiction to the contemporaneous nihilism, greed, and political corruption that characterized American culture at the time of its creation.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The French Connection

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Forty-five years after its release to critical and popular acclaim, William Friedkin's Oscar-winning masterpiece, The French Connection (1971), remains as bracing and influential as ever. While the film is usually remembered for its dangerously executed, spectacularly kinetic car chase under the elevated tracks of Brooklyn, it is also a case study in artfully sustained tension and the slow burn of the crime film genre at its best.

With its cat-and-mouse confrontation between Gene Hackman's obsessive narcotics detective and Fernando Rey's suave European drug kingpin, The French Connection boasts iconic performances. As a key artifact of American cinema's most recent "golden age," the movie also oozes 1970s-era angst about institutions and urban decay—preoccupations that resonate with the disquiet of our own troubled times, and throw into sharp relief both a film industry in transition and a culture in crisis.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Godfather (I & II)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI & Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

On most lists of the best American films, be they made by critics, fans, or those in the industry, Citizen Kane and The Godfather (1972) reliably take the top two spots (in varying order), with The Godfather Part II (1974) usually not too far behind.  This is hardly surprising, as the three films have a fair amount in common.  Each was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture (though Kane did not win the top prize); each is considered to be a sterling exemplar of cinematic storytelling and a compendium of finely executed film techniques; each evoked the ire of its (perceived) real-world inspirations—William Randolph Hearst in the case of Kane and certain Italian Americans for The Godfather films; and each tells a uniquely American tale of Shakespearean grandeur while painting a revealing portrait of our nation, flaws and all, complete with fleeting moments of earnest nostalgia.

Yet, unlike Orson Welles’s masterpiece, co-screenwriter/director Francis Ford Coppola’s indelible saga (the first two-thirds of it, at least) was incredibly popular upon its release, and retains its audience appeal across demographic boundaries after more than forty years.  In adapting the original novel by co-screenwriter Mario Puzo, one of Coppola’s guiding instincts was to transmute the material from its pulp origins into a kind of King Lear analog with the trappings of an organized crime tale.  The result is at once a paragon of genre excellence, a cultural touchstone, and a withering commentary on the American family under capitalism. Prime examples of the “New Hollywood” movement, Coppola’s films realized the potential of Hollywood cinema to be genuine yet unapologetically popular art.

In dialogue with one another and with students, the instructors will explore the epic’s cinematic, historical, and cultural significance by moving from the early days of the troubled production to the films’ uniquely enduring cultural legacy.  Join us, for we’ve surely made you an offer you can’t refuse.

Please note: Enrollment in this seminar does not include tickets to the films or refreshments.  While we encourage everyone taking the seminar to attend the screenings at BMFI on August 15 & 16, we realize that many people have seen these films numerous times, and therefore may choose to forego them, while still participating in the seminar.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Godfather (Summer 2022)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Writing and Narrative Arts, Cabrini University

On most lists of the best American films, be they made by critics, fans, or those in the industry, Citizen Kane and The Godfather (1972) reliably take two of the top spots. This is hardly surprising, as the films have a fair amount in common.  Each was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture (though Kane did not win the top prize); each is considered to be a sterling exemplar of cinematic storytelling and a compendium of finely executed film techniques; each evoked the ire of its (perceived) real-world inspirations—William Randolph Hearst in the case of Kane and certain Italian Americans for The Godfather; and each tells a uniquely American tale of Shakespearean grandeur while painting a revealing portrait of our nation, flaws and all, complete with fleeting moments of earnest nostalgia.

Yet, unlike Orson Welles’s masterpiece, co-screenwriter/director Francis Ford Coppola’s indelible film was incredibly popular upon its release, and retains its audience appeal across demographic boundaries after 50 years.  In adapting the original novel by co-screenwriter Mario Puzo, one of Coppola’s guiding instincts was to transmute the material from its pulp origins into a kind of King Lear analog with the trappings of an organized-crime tale.  The result is at once a paragon of genre excellence, a cultural touchstone, and a withering commentary on the American family under capitalism. A prime example of the “New Hollywood” movement, Coppola’s film realized the potential of Hollywood cinema to be genuine yet unapologetically popular art.

This seminar will explore the epic’s cinematic, historical, and cultural significance by moving from the early days of the troubled production to the film's uniquely enduring cultural legacy.  Join us, for we’ve surely made you an offer you can’t refuse.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The Graduate

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

Mike Nichols's 1967 masterpiece is a film of brutal honesty. As the story unfolds, the director—working from a sharp screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry—holds nothing back in depicting the struggles of maturation faced by young Benjamin, the troubles at home confronting Mrs. Robinson, and the . . . complicated relationship between them. But the film is about so much more than a proto-cougar and her youthful conquest. It is about an era that was arguably our nation's most tumultuous and the generation that was facing it head on. Indeed, at times, The Graduate is a painful film to watch, and it so by design.

Through Nichols's masterful direction, the indelible songs by Simon & Garfunkel, and the revelatory freshness of 60-year-old Robert Surtees's cinematography, what unfolds before us is not so much the story of one young man frantically worrying about his future, as it is an allegory for an entire generation desperately struggling to avoid the past.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Hidden Fortress

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

This seminar features a stand-alone class built around this masterful work by Akira Kurosawa.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Innocents

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

"All I want to do is save the children... not destroy them. More than anything, I love children."

Join us for a one-night seminar on Jack Clayton's luminous and relentlessly spooky psychological horror classic, The Innocents (1961). Based on Henry James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, it tells the tale of a sheltered spinster (played masterfully by Deborah Kerr) who is hired to be a governess for two orphaned children by their emotionally and geographically distant bachelor uncle. Kerr's Miss Giddens is initially charmed by the uncle's august estate and by her two charges, but as time passes, she becomes convinced that snaking through this Eden is a sinister presence, threatening to corrupt the innocence of the children.

The film trades Henry James's opulent prose for a ravishing black and white visual palette, courtesy of cinematographer Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, Sons and Lovers), through whose lens it seems as if there's always a palpable malevolence lurking in the farthest corner of the eye. Truman Capote, who largely wrote the film's script along with playwright William Archibald, is credited for weaving an encroaching Freudian subtext and rich strains of Southern Gothic into this Victorian-set drama. Stir in a heady thematic cocktail of isolation, decadence, and contaminated purity, and you have an unforgettable movie-going experience—one with an ending you'll be dying to discuss.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Lady Eve

Taught by Ian Abrams, College of Media Art and Design, Drexel University

This seminar features a stand-alone class built around this masterful work by writer/director Preston Sturges.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Lady Vanishes (Summer 2018)

Taught by Andrew Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Alfred Hitchcock did not simply emerge from the primordial cinematic ooze a fully formed filmmaker, in the mid-1950s, to create classics like Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959). Indeed, by that time, Hitch had been directing pictures in Europe and the U.S. for nearly thirty years, during which time he developed his signature style and formulated his thematic approach to filmmaking.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) was an essential film in this development for a number of reasons. After three forgettable misfires, it was Hitchcock’s first hit since The 39 Steps (1935), and it reached a new level of critical and commercial success in Britain and abroad. This not only allowed him to regain his crown as Britain’s top director, but it also earned Hitchcock a ticket to Hollywood in the form of a lucrative (though ultimately stifling) contract from iconoclastic producer David O. Selznick. The film is rivaled only by North by Northwest for its success in balancing the suspense, romance, and comedy in the director’s unique cinematic cocktail, and it presents an early and thorough exploration of a significant Hitchcock motif: the doppelganger.

But these elements aside, The Lady Vanishes remains a classic from the Master of Suspense, which means you can count on seeing a woman in trouble, danger on a train, and, of course, a trademark cameo. Join us to learn more about a formative film in the career of a cinematic giant.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Lady Vanishes (Summer 2022)

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Senior Director of Education, BMFI

Alfred Hitchcock did not simply emerge from the primordial cinematic ooze a fully formed filmmaker to create 1950s classics like Rear Window, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. Indeed, by that time Hitch had been directing pictures in Europe and the U.S. for nearly thirty years, over the course of which he developed his signature style and formulated his thematic approach to filmmaking.

Hitchcock began his directing career in relative obscurity in Germany, achieved success and fame in England, and then took off for America (like The Beatles). The biggest hit of his British period and the film that earned him a first-class ticket to Hollywood is The Lady Vanishes (1938). It was the highest grossing English movie to that point and remains on critics’ lists of the best films from that country to this day.

The Lady Vanishes is also notable for the ways in which it is uncharacteristic of Hitchcock’s larger body of work. It is a film that clearly takes a position on one of the era’s most important political questions; it features a matronly figure who is admirable, not diabolical; and instead of a troubled blonde as its main character, it has a spirited brunette (Margaret Lockwood). Yet this early picture also contains some of the elements for which Hitch would later become famous: the hazards of everyday places, dastardly doubles, the perfect cocktail of danger, humor, and sexiness, and, of course, an iconic cameo despite being made by the Master of Suspense when he was but a craftsman.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The Last Picture Show

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

The Last Picture Show (1971) is an evocative, bittersweet film, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, which tells a series of interlocking stories of love and loss in small-town Texas in the early 1950s from the point-of-view of eighteen-year-old Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms). The film chronicles how changes in the world, personal rites of passage, and the closing of the forlorn town's only movie theater mark the passing-by of the economically battered community, and the passing of an earlier era.

Director Peter Bogdanovich saw the story as “a Texas version of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, which was about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of the automobile. This [film] was about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of television.” And it is a film that is touched by both its past and present. On the one hand, the picture is elegiac, with references to John Ford and Howard Hawks; on the other hand, it embraces New Hollywood through its expressive, high-contrast cinematography by Robert Surtees (The Graduate) and the director/co-screenwriter’s personal interpretation of the source material.

Bogdanovich created an authentic small-town milieu by paying minute attention to the sense of place, and to the idiosyncrasies, dress, and hairstyles of his characters. He was equally adept at establishing complex relationships between the various troubled souls. In so doing, the director thoughtfully dramatized the lives of two generations of aimless people who cling to their dying town, looking for solace and escape in drinking, dreaming, sex, and the local movie theater. The Last Picture Show poignantly depicts loss, to be sure, but its exceptionalism lies in the film’s fleeting moments of happiness captured in small intimacies.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Man Who Fell to Earth

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

The most straightforward aspect of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) is that David Bowie plays an alien. That's practically typecasting. In virtually every other fashion, director Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now) presents an immensely strange, often perplexing, and endlessly fascinating adaptation of the science-fiction novel by Walter Tevis (author of The Hustler and its sequel, The Color Of Money) that defies easy description.

Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie) is a rail thin, orange-haired man on a mission, though the exact nature of that mission doesn't become apparent for some time, if at all. Enlisting the assistance (and sometimes hindrance) of a patent attorney (Buck Henry), a womanizing former professor (Rip Torn), and a hotel maid (Candy Clarke), Newton builds a multinational technological corporation with designs on . . . well, no spoilers here. Shot mostly in New Mexico and edited in Roeg's signature elliptical style, the film suggests that the strangest aliens of all are right here on Earth, and that of all the fates that might befall Newton, the most tragic would be to become all too human. After all, when Thomas Jerome Newton fell to Earth, he fell a long, long way.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Director of Film Studies, Muhlenberg College

By the mid-1950s, Alfred Hitchcock already had 25 years of hit films to his name, but in fact was just hitting his stride, with classics like Vertigo and Psycho still ahead. Coming off Rear Window in 1954, he made the unusual decision to remake one of his films from 20 years earlier, but with a substantially updated plot. For this version, James Stewart is an American doctor vacationing in Morocco with his son and wife, played by Doris Day in one of her most serious film turns. Since no one in a Hitchcock film is likely to enjoy a relaxing vacation, the couple and their child are soon embroiled in an international assassination plot that takes them from Marrakesh to London, with a race toward the famed Albert Hall.

The film is full of twists and turns, and, of course, no one is who they seem to be. It is the perfect movie to illustrate the core of Hitchcock’s form, and in this seminar we will discuss it in the context of some of his more famous films and in comparison to the 1934 original, which featured Peter Lorre in his first English-speaking role. Hitchcock’s masterpieces are so ubiquitous that it can be hard to see the essence of his films clearly, but The Man Who Knew Too Much might be the ideal film to help us understand “typical” Hitchcock, which managed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats for decades. How did he do it? What were his secrets? If we go digging, what might we find?

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Manchurian Candidate

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Writing and Narrative Arts, Cabrini University

John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962), based on Richard Condon’s 1959 novel of the same name, remains as inventive, chilling, and resonant as ever. But it is easy to forget how daring an experiment it really was, boldly hybridizing film noir, psychological studies of figures compromised by their memories (à la Hitchcock films like Spellbound and Psycho), and the emerging conspiracy thriller (e.g., Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man), which would come to dominate the 1970s.

Far more than the sum of these parts, The Manchurian Candidate arguably defined a subgenre all its own: the postmodern, through-the-looking-glass, nigh-satirical political thriller in which ideologies are at last reduced to convenient smokescreens for the raw exercise of power by those who pull the strings (e.g., The Parallax View and Network). The conspiracy animating this tale—the assassination of a presidential candidate by a man brainwashed by communist enemies of the United States—surely made a splash when it was released amidst the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Yet for all this Cold War context, the film itself is far less interested in the ideologies at play than the tormented characters who, genuinely or not, claim to embody them. The center of this film is not so much our dogged lead, Frank Sinatra’s Major Marco, as it is the uniquely unlikable protagonist, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey); the film dares you not to empathize with this unapologetically self-centered patrician. And matching Harvey every step of the way is Angela Lansbury as Shaw’s driven mother. The Manchurian Candidate is in many ways far more fascinated with the Shakespearean and Freudian dimensions of this mother-son relationship than with the conspiracy itself, and in this way, it highlights the exploitable fragility and narcissism of the human psyche as something incapable of being shielded by even the most deep-seated ideology.

Viewed through this lens, The Manchurian Candidate is less a film about threats from abroad than those inexplicable dissonances within each of us. And it is this exceptionally human side of the tale that has kept the film alive in our cultural imagination for six decades and counting.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The Night of the Hunter

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn't commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening?

If you answered 'yes' to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around the only film directed by acclaimed actor Charles Laughton (Witness for the Prosecution), The Night of the Hunter (1955), starring Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear) as an iniquitous reverend, Shelley Winters (Lolita) as the naïve woman he marries, and Lillian Gish (Intolerance) as the elderly, Bible-fearing lady who sees through the preacher's charm. Shot in a boldly expressionistic style by cinematographer Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons) and written by critic James Agee (The African Queen), Roger Ebert considered this innovative and influential work to be "one of the greatest of all American films . . . compelling, frightening, and beautiful."

Just like our regular courses, students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to the in-theater screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Philadelphia Story

Taught by Alice Bullitt, M.A., Board Member, BMFI

Adapted from Philip Barry’s 1939 Broadway play of the same name, The Philadelphia Story is an effervescent romantic comedy based on the life of Main Line socialite Helen Hope Montgomery Scott.  Katharine Hepburn delivers a career-defining performance playing Tracy Lord, a recently divorced woman whose plans to remarry are hilariously stymied by complications with her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) and tabloid journalist Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart).

The film earned six Academy Award nominations and two Oscars (Best Actor for James Stewart and Best Screenplay for Donald Ogden Stewart), and revitalized Hepburn’s flagging career. It’s a prime example of “the remarriage comedy,” a subgenre of the screwball comedy, wherein the protagonists divorced, flirted with new potential partners, realized the error of their ways, and then reunited.  Join us for fun and engaging foray into this winning film that holds a special place in the annals of Hollywood, as well as in the history of our region.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Princess Bride

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

After achieving cult success with This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and touching mainstream audiences with his coming-of-age tale, Stand by Me (1986), Rob Reiner would try his hand at directing an adaptation William Goldman's beloved fantasy-romance fable, The Princess Bride (1987). In so doing, he combines the film the comedic genius he demonstrated in his debut film with the sheer humanity on display in his adaptation of Stephen King's story to create one of the most indelible screen romances of any era.

With its beautiful scenery and rousing score, The Princess Bride takes viewers on an unforgettable journey, one that is cleverly bookended by a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story on which the film is based to his precocious grandson (Fred Savage). The result is a movie that wins over audiences, just as it does the cynical child.

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Red Shoes

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

There is no red like Technicolor red, and no Technicolor spectacle quite as sumptuous as The Red Shoes (1948). In one of the best-loved of their numerous collaborations, writer-directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, loosely inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, relate a hyper-charged backstage drama set in the world of professional ballet.

Dancer Moira Shearer, making her feature-film debut, plays Vicky Page, an aspiring ballerina driven to excellence and, perhaps, to her destruction in the quest for perfection. What will she be willing to sacrifice for the sake of art? A hint comes in one of the film's most famous exchanges. When the tyrannical ballet impresario Lermontov (a fierce Anton Walbrook) asks Vicky, “Why do you want to dance?”, she snaps back, “Why do you want to live?” This might not end well.

A celebration of super-saturated color and kinetic elegance, The Red Shoes rejects realism in its pursuit of ecstatic beauty. The film's extended central dance sequence is a fever-dream fantasia unsurpassed in film before or since. It intoxicated post-war viewers at the time and still exerts an influence today on audiences and on admiring filmmakers striving to reach its giddy heights.

Vicky might have to suffer for her art, but you can just revel in the Technicolor glory of Powell and Pressburger's dance film par excellence.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The Seventh Seal

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman is often parodied for his gloom, and at the expense of this film in particular. It’s true that The Seventh Seal (1957), which asks serious questions about the meaning of existence, is set during the Crusades and features both a witch-burning and the black-clad figure of Death playing the ultimate game of chess. Yet, every frame of Bergman’s picture teems with life, from the birds in the skies to the light piercing the bars of a medieval church to a touching scene of an ersatz holy family feasting on strawberries and milk. This story of a knight questioning his faith has been a staple of art cinema for 65 years yet seems newly relevant in a world still struggling with the effects of a global pandemic.

Our seminar will address Bergman’s style and philosophy, both of which were introduced to a global audience when The Seventh Seal won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1957. We will discuss the origins of the story in Bergman’s play Wood Painting and his other inspirations, as well as Gunnar Fischer’s glorious cinematography and its influence on world cinema. We will unpack some of the film’s most famous imagery—the dance of death and the game of chess—without neglecting the story’s religious themes. And we can’t not detail the career of the magnificent Max Von Sydow. Join us to understand the history of The Seventh Seal while gaining a framework for interpreting the film in the present.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: The Silence of the Lambs

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology, Cabrini University

Based on Thomas Harris’s novel of the same name, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991) introduced audiences to a relatively new form of cannibal in the character of Hannibal Lecter. Rather than an atavistic psychopath living in isolation, or a member of a distant tribe whose savagery is awakened by ruthless corporate encroachment, Lecter is a sophisticated gourmet who selects his victims, as well as the recipes in which they are featured, with meticulous precision. Indeed, his gastronomic proclivities, in combination with his obvious education, intelligence, and urbane charm, stand in stark contrast to the fast-food, mass-market, convenience-first culture he inhabits.

Within this consumerist purgatory, serial killers like Lecter, or the film’s other monster, Buffalo Bill, often seem to be free of the cultural confines that restrain the rest of us—a potentially enviable state of existence. Into their world steps the lamb, in the form of FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who approaches Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) for insight on a case and encounters a Promethean figure who would share a delight that the gods would rather keep for themselves. In this Academy Award-winning thriller, director Jonathan Demme creates a hypnotic sense of evil that seeks to entrap the unwary audience, enticing them with the opportunity to be free of their repressive social existence.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Terminator

Taught by Andrew Owen, Ph.D.

Special-effects pioneer Stan Winston once admitted that, prior to reading James Cameron’s script for The Terminator (1984), he had simply categorized it as a “little low budget film.” Later, he would describe it as “one of the most fantastic scripts I’ve ever read.” What Winston saw in James Cameron’s Hollywood debut was a thematically complex, politically relevant film hiding inside a genre-spanning crowd-pleaser that effortlessly blended the chase-driven action movie with elements of science fiction and horror. With the figure of the Terminator, Cameron presents the ultimate vision of Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex infused with neo-liberal philosophy, as well as an incarnation of Marx’s warning that capitalism would inevitably lead to the replacement of humans by machines. Then, he places this character in a story that incorporates references to the Holocaust, the Cold War, and second-wave feminism.

In addition to the film’s revolutionary aesthetic and insightful socio-political content, this seminar will consider the impact of The Terminator on the development of special make-up effects, with a focus on the work of Stan Winston. This film heralded the initial creation of full-scale, live-action animatronics, which were developed for the Terminator’s endoskeleton. Winston would later improve upon this early effort for films like Cameron's own Aliens (1986) and Jurassic Park (1993) —each of which earned him an Academy Award.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online here.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Third Man

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

This seminar features a stand-alone class built around this masterful work directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) opens on a charming note: the camera tilts down onto the Cherbourg waterfront as a light rain begins and pastel umbrellas seen from above begin a dance that ends with them filling the screen. This moment suggests that director Jacques Demy has more in common with the directors of classic Hollywood musicals such as Stanley Donen and Vincente Minnelli than he does with his peers in the French New Wave; yet, the opposite is true. For this reason, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg represents a milestone in cinema. It is, as Demy described it, “a film in song,” incorporating elements of past screen musicals, as well as staged operettas, all set to the rich, evocative score by Michel Legrand.

But in true French New Wave fashion, it also reimagines the notion of what a musical should be. It depicts the uplifting young love between Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) and Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) while examining loss and fallibility. Demy's painterly vision of the seaside town is a loving tribute to Hollywood musicals, but Cherbourg also addresses issues of real consequence, including unexpected pregnancy, class divides, and the Algerian War. With this film, Demy creates the perfect synthesis: camera movement, color, and song combine to create a Hollywood musical aesthetic that depicts a grounded, contemporary love story—the influence of which lives on in the films of Wes Anderson, Barry Jenkins, and Damien Chazelle.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Wicker Man

Taught by William Tortorelli, Ph.D., Department of Classics, Haverford College

Join us for a stand-alone class built around Robin Hardy's 1973 British film, The Wicker Man, a movie that defies easy allocation to any single genre. It has elements of horror, comedy, crime drama, psychological thriller, and morality play, and it might best be described as a Classical tragedy. It borrows heavily from Euripides' Bacchae, the story of the coming of Dionysus to the Greek world, and explores the same themes we find at the core of every Greek tragedy: a world in which questions of cause and effect, and right and wrong, never have simple answers.

By transporting the story to a remote Scottish isle in the 20th century, writer Anthony Shaffer crafts these ancient mythographic elements into a baffling scenario with a missing young girl, ancient gods, and the tensions that run beneath the surface of what we call "civilized society." Through the film, we will explore the deepest roots of myth and religion as ritual plays itself out in a meeting of dueling polarities that hints at a fundamental schism in human nature itself.

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the screening. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: The Wrong Man

Taught by Gary M. Kramer, Author and Film Critic

Influenced by Hitchcock's own experience of having being sent to jail (briefly, by his father) as a child, this suspenseful drama—based on actual events—follows one of Hitchcock's favorite themes: an innocent man wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit. A perfectly cast Henry Fonda plays Manny Balestrero, a jazz musician who is identified as a suspect in a series of neighborhood hold-ups and, despite vehement protests and claims of innocence, is seen as guilty by the authorities and sent to jail. Though Manny harbors a secret, he is hopeful that the truth will set him free. Meanwhile, his wife (Vera Miles, in a remarkable performance) starts to lose her mind in despair.

Hitchcock said he created "absolute authenticity" by shooting on locations where the real events took place, including an empty jail cell, and by casting real doctors to play psychiatrists. The result is a thriller with a compelling, documentary-like aesthetic, heightened by the auteur's patented sensibility. One of Hitchcock's most restrained and cerebral films, The Wrong Man is an underrated gem worthy of exploration. Join us to learn why.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Thelma & Louise (Spring 2018)

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

Twenty-seven years removed from its release, Thelma & Louise (1991) remains a crucial milestone in American cinema’s portrayal of women and their experiences in both the private sphere of the home and in the public square. Boasting an Oscar-winning screenplay by Callie Khouri and Oscar-nominated direction by Ridley Scott, the film is also an acting showcase for Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, who give career-defining performances that elevated one another to the status of enduring screen icons and feminist touchstones.

Thelma & Louise is a film more alive and urgent than ever given our ongoing cultural conversation about gender equality, salary equity, and sexual harassment and assault. In addition to considering the film in light of this moment, the seminar will touch upon its production history, aesthetic innovations, and its initial reception. In the wake of last year’s revelations about the misconduct and abuses perpetrated against women in Hollywood by producer Harvey Weinstein and others—followed by a stream of accusations leveled against numerous men in politics, the music world, broadcasting, and other industries—it is a particularly powerful moment for a thoughtful reconsideration of this essential film.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Thelma & Louise (Spring 2022)

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

When Thelma & Louise was released in 1991, it enraged some reviewers, several of whom lambasted its violence. One pronounced it, “degrading to men,” while another lamented, “all males in this movie exist only to betray, ignore, sideswipe, penetrate, or arrest our heroines.” In other words, exactly the things that spoke to an entire generation of women viewers. An anthem of female independence, a glorious monument to patriarchy torn asunder, the film also demanded a seismic shift in women’s representation both in front of and behind the camera. More than characters on a road trip, Thelma and Louise were a call to action. Has Hollywood responded? How did it come to pass that Ridley Scott, known for sci-fi films, directed the feminist epic of the 1990s?

This seminar addresses Thelma & Louise as a cultural phenomenon, an entry in the road-picture genre, and an example of feminist expression. We will discuss the history of the film’s production, paying particular attention to the role of women in the cast and crew. When Callie Khouri won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this film she declared, “for everyone who wanted to see a happy ending . . . this is it.” We will talk about how things have changed for women in Hollywood in the decades since Khouri spoke those words and how efforts by organizations like the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media have influenced the creation of new images of and agency for women and girls. We will trace the history of the road picture, noting how this film harnesses the scenic views and spontaneous action of the genre while making important changes that alter how we see the landscape. Finally, we will address what it means to craft a feminist story and how telling one might require particular approaches to image and sound. In all of this, like Thelma and Louise, we are sure to have a wild ride.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar: On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

Please email BMFI Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: This Is Spinal Tap

Taught by Andrew M. Karasik, Film Producer, 30th Street Entertainment

Perhaps no film better epitomizes the mockumentary genre than Rob Reiner's directorial debut, This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Bringing together some of the most influential comic talents of its time, Spinal Tap brilliantly satirizes the outlandish personas and wild penchants of the heavy metal bands that ruled the rock 'n' roll roost in the 1980s.

But just as important, the film lampoons the techniques and motifs of the era's rockumentaries, such as Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz (1978) and Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense (1984), and in so doing, raises an interesting question: Is the mockumentary its own creative form or just a derisive jab at the efforts of serious documentarians? Well, in addition to referring to it as "one of the funniest movies ever made," Roger Ebert praised Spinal Tap's humanity. He considered it the film's strongest asset, perhaps thereby suggesting an answer.

These one-night seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: To Kill a Mockingbird

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Film Critic and Author

While nobody could top writer Harper Lee's groundbreaking accomplishment, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) is the rare case of a landmark film adapted from a landmark novel. The credit belongs to many collaborators (including director Robert Mulligan and screenwriter Horton Foote), but the film's success begins with star Gregory Peck, whose heroic small-town Alabama lawyer, Atticus Finch, was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest movie hero of all-time. Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, and gamely takes on a case virtually doomed to failure by the racism embedded deeply in the legal system and the townsfolk.

The central focus, however, is on Atticus's children, Scout and Jem, in a story that combines the tropes of the courtroom drama and the coming-of-age story into an angry, sweeping indictment of prejudice that still moves audiences half a century later. Add in the opportunity to see Robert Duvall in his first big screen role, and you have all the reasons you need to join us to learn more about one of the most influential and critically acclaimed American films ever made.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Tokyo Story

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini College

Have you wanted to take a film class at BMFI but couldn’t commit to multiple sessions? Are you interested in learning more about a particular classic film? Do you want an entertaining and engaging way to spend an evening?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then this Cinema Classics Seminar is for you. It features a stand-alone class built around Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 landmark of Japanese cinema, Tokyo Story, a subtly moving tale of kinship and grief that continuously occupies the top spots on critics’ and filmmakers’ lists of the world’s best films. A prime example of the shomingeki (home drama) genre for which Ozu is renowned, this film’s long takes and restrained cinematography present a contrasting—and some would say more authentic—take on Japanese cinema than Akira Kurosawa’s widely exported work (e.g., Rashomon) from the same era.

Students will receive a reading about the film, an introductory lecture before the film, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Tombstone and the Western in the 1990s

Taught by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI

Sometimes a film on the BMFI schedule affords the perfect opportunity to discuss a specific topic in cinema. The picture itself may be emblematic of a certain genre or movement, or may serve as an example of a particular trend in the film industry, and as a result, it generates a stand-alone class.

This seminar considers the fragile state of that durable and uniquely American genre—the western—at the end of the twentieth century. Our discussion will focus on the vibrant and rousing Tombstone (1993), one of the more conventional westerns made during a time when most of Hollywood had a rather tenuous grasp of the genre, and a film that Variety described as “entertaining in a sprawling, old-fashioned manner.”

Just like our regular courses, students will receive a reading, an introductory lecture before the screening, and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see Tombstone on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Unforgiven

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of English, Cabrini University

As an acting icon whose work redefined both the western and action genres, Clint Eastwood nonetheless always thought of himself as a director-in-training, even from his earliest days in television. Eastwood learned from all the filmmakers with whom he worked, but none more so than Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) and Don Siegel (Dirty Harry). It was to these two genre pioneers that Eastwood dedicated Unforgiven (1992), arguably his signature achievement as a filmmaker.

In this seminar, we assess the beauty and legacy of Unforgiven a quarter-century after its Oscar-winning release. As much as the film owes to Leone and Siegel, it also consciously breaks with Eastwood’s mentors. Meditating on the cost and uncanny horror of violence against both men and women, Unforgiven depicts a world unlike that of the “spaghetti westerns” and “Dirty” Harry Callahan—a world where violence, even when seemingly warranted, reverberates tragically, implicating all of us not only as participants or witnesses, but also as consumers. Executed with visual subtlety and a cast for the ages (including Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman at their heights), Unforgiven remains the benchmark for the western genre in its latter stages of revision, but also an essential American film from the closing decade of the cinema’s first century.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Vertigo

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College
Amy Corbin, Ph.D., Media and Communication, Muhlenberg College

Please note: Due to a family emergency, Dr. Fleeger is unable to teach this seminar. Dr. Amy Corbin will be teaching it in her place, and there may be some minor variations in the specific topics covered as a result.

Ten years ago, Vertigo (1958) surpassed Citizen Kane to claim the top spot on the Sight & Sound critics’ poll of the greatest films of all time. Yet, it was not a hit when first released, probably because it tells an uncomfortable story of obsession and features beloved actor James Stewart in an uncharacteristic role.

In typical Hitchcock fashion, the themes of the film lie both unashamedly on the surface and hidden beneath layers of Freudian wrapping, and we’ll explore them by turning to Hitchcock’s own obsessions: mothers, blondes, voyeurism, and control. We will also consider how Vertigo’s split structure and staging of a slow-motion chase make it rather unique among the Hitchcock classics, and the ways in which its emphasis on the city of San Francisco builds on the importance of setting in some of his other films.

In terms of form, Vertigo is best known for its infamous “dolly zoom,” the shot Hitchcock developed to inflict on audiences the sense of dizziness experienced by its main character—a technique we will discuss alongside the film’s other innovative cinematographic choices, including its animated dream sequence, fog filter, and green lighting. We will also talk about the importance of Bernard Herrmann’s music in Hitchcock’s work, detailing how he uses a leitmotif to represent the “dolly zoom” with sound. Finally, no discussion of Vertigo is complete without considering Kim Novak’s role as Hitchcock’s most famous double. Join us for a seminar that will bring some balance to your appreciation of Vertigo.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Wait Until Dark

Taught by Gary M. Kramer, Author and Film Critic

There have been many stage and screen versions of Frederick Knott's tense and terrific play Wait Until Dark, but arguably the best is Terence Young's 1967 adaptation. Susy (Audrey Hepburn) is a blind woman who is threatened by three brutish criminals (Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, and Jack Weston) who enter her apartment in search of a doll filled with heroin. The film crackles with tension as Susy is alternately conned and stalked by the hoods before the film's breathtaking "blackout" climax. Learn why Wait Until Dark remains a classic thriller with this informative seminar that will discuss the adaptation of the play for the screen, how director Young (Dr. No), sound man Everett Hughes, and legendary cinematographer Charles Lang (The Big Heat, Some Like It Hot) use sound and light to create drama, as well as Hepburn's gift for playing steely vulnerability, which earned her an Oscar nomination for the very challenging role.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Walkabout

Taught by Christopher Long, M.A., Author and Film Critic

Director Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971) straddles multiple borders: both the space separating urban Australia and the outback, and the perilous line between adolescence and adulthood. Loosely adapted by British playwright Edward Bond from a James Vance Marshall novel, the film tells the story of two white, city-raised Australian children—a teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her little brother (Lucien John)—who are abandoned in the outback, and the Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who befriends them while on his rite-of-passage journey known as a “walkabout.”

Roeg had already honed his craft as a cinematographer for esteemed filmmakers such as Francois Truffaut and Richard Lester, but his first solo outing as a director announced him as an artist with a bold and unique vision. Often described as a visual stylist, Roeg employed elliptical editing, fracturing space and time to create emotional and textural associations rather than simply to advance a linear narrative. While his subsequent masterpieces Don't Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) challenged conventional film grammar even more aggressively, Walkabout marks the birth of his intoxicating and sometimes disorienting aesthetic, while also telling a harrowing coming-of-age tale. Both a thrilling adventure and a meditation on the perils of cross-cultural communication, Walkabout also just happens to be one of the most beautifully photographed movies of its era.

Walkabout contains scenes of violence towards animals. Viewer discretion is advised.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Wanda

Taught by Lisa DeNight, Discussion Moderator, BMFI

The early 1970s was the heyday of New Hollywood, which saw a wave of younger, often first-time directors getting their starts in the industry and exploding conventions of narrative filmmaking by engaging in experimentation and personal expression. A part of this movement, and also apart from it, is Wanda (1970), one of the most fiercely independent and uncompromising films of the era.

It is a study of the eponymous character—an impoverished, shiftless woman living in rural Pennsylvania—who, after abandoning her family, takes up with a criminal, Mr. Dennis (Michael Higgins). Shot on 16mm film at a cost of $115,000 by a crew of four—led by the film's writer/director/star, Barbara Loden—this female-driven production was a true rarity. Loden was inspired to make the film after reading about the case of Alma Malone, a woman convicted of being an accomplice in a bank robbery who, at her sentencing, thanked the judge for sending her to prison. She also drew inspiration from her own hardscrabble upbringing and experiences of being marginalized by the men in her life.

Loden rose to fame in the early ‘60s, acting in Wild River and Splendor in the Grass, and winning a Tony award for her role in Arthur Miller's After the Fall—all directed by her lover and future husband, Elia Kazan. Despite this success, and the fact that Wanda has languished in semi-obscurity for decades, it is Loden’s only directorial effort that has come to define her legacy. Thanks to its champions, including actress Isabelle Huppert and French director/writer/intellectual Marguerite Duras, and its recent restoration, which showcases the film's gritty visual lyricism and singular cinematic vision, Wanda is beginning to receive the wider admiration it has long deserved. Join us to explore this deeply personal and incredibly rich film.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Taught by Alice Bullitt, M.A., Board Member, BMFI

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, no celebrity feud was more epic than that between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Allegedly stemming from Crawford’s marriage to Franchot Tone, with whom Bette Davis had become enamored while filming 1935's Dangerous, this initial rift gave way to a lifelong professional and personal rivalry, with the actresses exchanging the thorniest of barbs at every turn. Davis famously said of Crawford, “I wouldn’t p**s on her if she was on fire,” while Crawford said of Davis, “Poor Bette! She looks like she’s never had a happy day—or night—in her life!”

Perhaps the only thing that these legendary actresses despised more than each other was being out of the spotlight, and by 1962, they pretty much were, owing to Hollywood’s paucity of roles for women of a certain age. So, when producer/director Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen) came calling, they grudgingly agreed to co-star in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, based on Henry Farrell’s 1960 Gothic novel.

Using their bitter rivalry as subtext for this tale of viciously resentful sisters whose separate showbiz careers had long since ended, Baby Jane drew big audiences and garnered five Academy Award nominations. Join us to learn more about the film that gave birth to the “psycho-biddy” subgenre that would soon also count Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, Tallulah Bankhead, and Debbie Reynolds among its stars.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? That’s easy! Just come to the box office or buy a ticket online.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Wild Strawberries

Taught by Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

On one level, Wild Strawberries takes place in a single day, as retired professor Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström) returns to his university town to receive an award for a life full of achievement. But on another, the film reveals a lifetime of regret, for as Borg travels through the villages where he spent his youth, his memories are brought to life by Bergman’s camera. The film’s power lies in this overlapping temporality, in the promising suggestion that we can return to our past, and the haunting realization that time moves relentlessly forward. Bergman reunites the professor with his childhood self through a series of vignettes motivated by dreams, sensory intrusions, and chance encounters. These brief but connected events are rooted in silent film traditions that Bergman evokes through the structure of the story and the way the film is shot. Blending realism, naturalism, and gothic lighting traditions, Wild Strawberries resurrects the cinema’s past while offering the sense of a new form. 

The seminar will discuss the place of the film in Bergman’s oeuvre, noting the importance the director places on nostalgia and the ways he uses the cinema to ask questions about life’s meaning. Because Bergman’s films—Wild Strawberries in particular—served as important vehicles for increasing the distribution of European art cinema, we will discuss the attraction of these themes to audiences in the 1950s and 1960s. We will also talk about the influence of Victor Sjöström’s work on Bergman, considering how the film condenses not only the experiences of the character he plays, but also the films Sjöström himself directed, both in Sweden and the United States. Can a film “remember” other films, and if so, how do these cinematic memories affect our perception of older movies? 

Finally, Wild Strawberries features actors that appeared frequently in Bergman’s company (Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Max von Sydow). How might their presence contribute to an interpretation of this deceptively simple story? Wild Strawberries is simultaneously a highly personal example of an Ingmar Bergman film and a work of art that asks universal questions about the human experience.

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Cinema Classics Seminar: Working Girl

Taught by Alice Bullitt, M.A., BMFI Board Member

This 1988 Cinderella story set on Wall Street tells the tale of Tess McGill (Oscar-nominated Melanie Griffith), a smart and ambitious Staten Island native working as a secretary in Manhattan, who climbs the corporate ladder through a combination of deception, charm, and ingenuity. Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford depict denizens of the executive suite as Tess's polished but underhanded boss, and her business partner and potential paramour, respectively, while Joan Cusack steals scenes playing her supportive friend and working-class conscience. We will discuss Working Girl as a film that—in true Mike Nichols fashion—expertly balances humor and deft social commentary, and as one of several Reagan-era comedies to explore the world of high finance with wit, ambivalence, and more than a touch of cynicism (e.g. Baby Boom, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and The Secret of My Success).

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the exceptional works of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.

This seminar is sponsored in honor of philosopher, educator, author, and filmmaker Jose Ferrater-Mora.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Yellow Submarine

Taught by Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Film Studies Program, Muhlenberg College

After two live-action movies, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, the Beatles’ third feature film was an animated trip to Pepperland, which is under siege from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who can only be stopped by the vibrant musical positivity of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Like the previous releases, Yellow Submarine (1968) is less a plot-driven film than it is a vehicle for wonderful songs, and the switch to animation is a perfect reflection of the Beatles’ dreamy psychedelic period, capturing their optimism and sense of experimentation.

While there was a sizable and diverse creative team behind the film (including Love Story author Erich Segal), the iconic visual style of Yellow Submarine—not to mention the essential story elements derived from it—was the work of German graphic designer Heinz Edelmann, credited as the film’s art director. His whimsical combination of conventional photography, simple animation, and rotoscoping, among other techniques, helped turn what started out as an exercise in contract fulfillment for the Beatles into what Roger Ebert called “pure charm, expressed in fantastical imagery.” The film’s 50th anniversary is the perfect time to revisit a crucial moment in Beatles history and consider the impact of their cinematic and musical achievements.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Zodiac

Taught by Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of Writing and Narrative Arts, Cabrini University

The late film critic Roger Ebert once called David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) “the All the President’s Men of serial killer movies, with Woodward and Bernstein played by a cop and a cartoonist.” In contrast to the trappings of the violent thriller genre (played to by Fincher himself in works like Seven and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Ebert speculated that Fincher seemed “to be in reaction against the slice-and-dice style of modern crime movies.”

Instead, Zodiac is laser-focused on the indispensable yet frustratingly incremental process of accountability for the worst things that people do. Zodiac is a hunt for a real-life serial killer responsible for one of the most infamous murder sprees in American crime lore, but the film offers little in the way of tidy satisfaction. Nor does it gin up action set-pieces or revel gratuitously in the crimes themselves. In lieu of comforting, dumbed-down solutions, Zodiac is instead a love letter to the daily, decidedly unglamorous grind of investigators piecing together an unthinkable résumé of evil.

And yet, Zodiac never fails to unnerve, nor does it falter in bringing home the enormity of these crimes, as well as how profoundly bound up they were with the nation’s tortured transition from the 1960s to the early 1970s—a period Fincher spent growing up in the Bay Area.

Featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as cartoonist Robert Graysmith, whose books on the subject would inform the film, and Mark Ruffalo as Inspector Dave Toschi, a source of inspiration for both Bullitt and Dirty Harry, Zodiac sends prodigious backup to its leads with a top-notch cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, and more. A film that has only grown in stature in the years since its release, Zodiac is both exemplar and cautionary tale for the genre that it inherited.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Additional showtimes can be found here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. Please note: There are two ways to attend in this seminar: On site, at BMFI, in one of our theaters: Registration and seat selection must be done in advance, online, via the “ON SITE” button under the “Course Information” heading. There will be no walk-up registrations for this seminar. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

Please email BMFI Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Cinema Classics Seminar: Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet

Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

Roger Ebert proclaimed that Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968) is the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made: "Not because it is greater drama than Laurence Olivier's Henry V, because it is not. Nor is it greater cinema than [Orson] Welles' Falstaff. But it is greater Shakespeare than either because it has the passion, the sweat, the violence, the poetry, the love and the tragedy in the most immediate terms I can imagine." Ebert and countless others—both young (especially so) and the young at heart—have felt this way for generations, because Zeffirelli's adaptation broke new ground, for the movie was less concerned with translating a stage adaptation to a film set, but rather drawing upon cinematic realism for its impact.

For example, the casting broke with the tradition of having the roles played by adults, rather than, faithfully to the text, by teenagers, which leads Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey both were. Another instance of this cinematic realism involved the climactic duel between Tybalt and Mercutio, which forms the centerpiece of the play and film. It is not done in a flamboyant, swashbuckling style, but instead with a great deal of loose fencing amidst a crowd of hooting young men, allowing Zeffirelli, over the course of several minutes, to delicately transform the scene from one filled with light banter to one that subtly progresses toward its inevitably disastrous conclusion.

The location shooting in Italy (in such places as Artena, Tuscania, Pienza, Gubbio, and Montagnana), the brief, beautiful nude scene, and the lavish costumes provide yet other rich dimensions, all rendered in colors both specific and vivid: Everything is red and brown and yellow, dusty and sunlit, except for the fresh green of the garden during the balcony scene and the darkness of the tomb. All of these elements are photographed with great beauty and intensity (including the use of a hand-held camera for the dueling scenes), giving the film its poignancy and power.

The evocative musical score by composer Nino Rota (The Godfather) features the "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet," of which various versions have been recorded and released, including a hugely successful one by Henry Mancini, whose instrumental rendition was a chart-topping success in the United States during June 1969. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design—winning in the latter two categories. For all these reasons and more, Zeffirelli's film remains important, for it establishes a bridge between earlier Shakespearean films, such as Olivier's Richard III, and the more realistic interpretations of the Bard, such as Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. As Ebert noted, and audiences have echoed, "[Romeo and Juliet] is a deeply moving piece of entertainment, and that is possibly what Shakespeare would have preferred."

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.


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