15 Films Tell the History of Film at the Berkshire Museum

The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA
Oct 18 – Dec 13, 2012

The Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema is offering an in-depth look at the history of films!  The cinema will screen The Story of Film: An Odyssey in eight parts on Thursdays between October 18th and December 13th, starting with “Birth of Cinema:”

The series, which totals just over 15 hours in length, has been divided into fifteen parts – two of which will be shown each week.

Pieced together by film historian Mark Cousins, the series covers literally all of film history, beginning in Thomas Edison’s New Jersey laboratory and ending with a critical look at the multi-billion dollar, technology advanced modern film industry.  Other topics covered include early Hollywood, and the creation of the glitzy Hollywood dream; the so-called “golden age” of cinema, along with the artistry of expressionism, surrealism, and impressionism; the incorporation of sound and color into film; and the effects of changes in American culture on film, especially during eras of historical importance (post WWII, the 1970’s, etc.).

Most appropriate for older students, the film series offers lots of information, presented and narrated in a way that is easily understood.  Students can tie what they learn about film history to their own prior knowledge of American history and culture, and the development of technology.  Each screening costs $5, but passes to all eight screenings are available for $25.  There will be no screening on Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 22nd.  For more information call 413-443-7171 or visit www.berkshiremuseum.org.


October 18, 7 p.m.
Part 1: “Birth of the Cinema” (1900–1920)
Filmed in the very buildings where the first movies were made, this hour shows ideas and passion as the driving forces behind film, more so than money and marketing. It covers the very first movie stars, the close up shot, special effects, and the creation of the Hollywood myth, along with a surprise: the women who were the greatest — and best-paid — writers in these early years.
Part 2: “The Hollywood Dream” (1920s)
Star/directors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made Hollywood a glittering entertainment industry. But the gloss and fantasy was challenged by movie makers like Robert Flaherty, Eric Von Stroheim, and Carl Theodor Dreyer, who wanted films to be more serious and mature. The result of this battle for the soul of cinema: some of the greatest movies ever made.

October 25, 7 p.m.
Part 3: “Expressionism, Impressionism, and Surrealism: Golden Age of World Cinema” (1920s)
German Expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism pushed the boundaries of film as passionate new movements. Less known are the glories of Chinese and Japanese films, and the moving story of a great, now-forgotten, movie star, Ruan Lingyu.
Part 4: “The Arrival of Sound” (1930s)
Along with the advent of sound with film comes a host of new genres: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns, and musicals. Director Howard Hawks was a master of most of them. During this period, Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride and French directors become masters of mood.

November 1, 7 p.m.
Part 5: “Postwar Cinema” (1940s)
Starting in Italy, this episode moves to Hollywood to cover Orson Welles and chart the darkening of American film during the drama of the McCarthy era. Screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne discuss these years; and Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen talks about his career.
Part 6: “Sex & Melodrama” (1950s)
In the United States, it was James Dean, On The Waterfront, and glossy weepies; but movies in Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain, and Japan were also full of rage and passion. Exclusive interviews include associates of Indian master Satyajit Ray; legendary Japanese actress Kyoko Kagawa, who starred in films by Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu; and the first great African director, Youssef Chahine.

November 8, 7 p.m.
Part 7: “European New Wave”
The great movie star Claudia Cardinale talks about Federico Fellini; Lars von Trier describes his admiration for Ingmar Bergman; and Bernardo Bertolucci remembers his work with Pier Paolo Pasolini. French filmmakers plant a cinematic bomb with the New Wave that sweeps across Europe.
Part 8: “New Directors, New Forms” (1960s)
In Hollywood, legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler reveals how documentary films influenced mainstream movies. Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey signal a new era in America cinema. Also featured are Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkvosky, Nagisa Oshima, Mani Kaul, and the birth of Black (not colonialist) African cinema.

November 15, 7 p.m.
Part 9: “American Cinema of the ’70s”
Buck Henry, writer of The Graduate, reflects on movie satire. Paul Schrader talks about his existential screenplay for Taxi Driver. Robert Towne explores the dark ideas he wrote into Chinatown, and director Charles Burnett discusses Black American cinema.
Part 10: “Movies to Change the World” (1970s)
Part 10 takes a look at Wim Wenders in Germany, Ken Loach in Britain, Pasolini in Italy, and the new Australian cinema. While the most moving films in the world were being made in Japan, even bigger, bolder questions were being asked in Africa and South America. The episode culminates with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s extraordinary, psychedelic The Holy Mountain—John Lennon’s favorite film.

November 29, 7 p.m.
Part 11: “The Arrival of Multiplexes and Asian Mainstream” (1970s)
Star Wars, Jaws, and The Exorcist gave rise to the multiplex, but they were also innovative; at the same time in India, world-famous movie star Amitabh Bachchan shows how Bollywood was also doing new things. Bruce Lee’s movies kick-started the kinetic films of Hong Kong, where master Yuen Woo-ping talks about his action movies and his “wire fu” choreography for The Matrix.
Part 12: “Fight the Power: Protest in Film” (1980s)
American director John Sayles talks about the years when brave filmmakers spoke truth to power. Chinese cinema blossomed before the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In the Soviet Union, the past wells up in astonishing films, and master director Krzysztof Kieslowski emerges in Poland.
December 6, 7 p.m.
Part 13: “New Boundaries: World Cinema in Africa, Asia, Latin America”
Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami rethinks movie-making and makes it more real. In Tokyo, Shinji Tsukamoto lays the ground for a bold new Japanese horror cinema. Also included is an interview in Paris with one of the world’s greatest directors, Claire Denis, and a journey to Mexico.
Part 14: “New American Independents & the Digital Revolution” (1990s)
Highlights include an examination of what was new in Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue and the edginess of the Coen Brothers. The writer of Starship Troopers and Robocop discusses irony in those films; and in Australia, Baz Luhrmann talks about Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Then a plunge into the digital world changes movies forever.

December 13, 7 p.m.
Part 15: “Cinema Today and the Future” (2000s)
Things get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian cinema comes to the fore. David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive becomes one of the most complex dream films ever made, and Inception turns cinema into a game. In Moscow, an interview with master director Alexander Sokurov delves into his innovative works. The Story of Film moves forward to envision movies in the future.

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