Published January 18, 2017
“Dr. Strangelove,” Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy satirizing the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, is among the offerings in the spring 2017 edition of the Buffalo Film Seminars.
The popular, semester-long series of film screenings and discussions is hosted by UB faculty members Diane Christian and Bruce Jackson. Each session begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 31 and running through May 9, in the Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St. in the University Plaza, directly across the street from the South Campus.
Christian, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of English, and Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture in the Department of English, will introduce each film. Following a short break at the end of each film, they will lead a discussion of the film. The screenings are part of “Film Directors” (Eng 381), an undergraduate course being taught by the pair. Students enrolled in the course are admitted free; others may attend at the theater’s regular admission prices of $9.50 for adults, $8 for students and $7.25 for seniors. Season tickets are available any time at a 15 percent reduction for the cost of the remaining films.
“Goldenrod handouts” — featuring production details, anecdotes and critical comments about each week’s film — are available in the theater lobby 45 minutes before each session. The handouts also are posted online one day before each screening.
The 34th edition of the series opens on Jan. 31 with Buster Keaton’s 1926 film “The General,” Regarded as one of the greatest silent films of all time — and arguably Keaton's best performance — the film had a huge budget for its time: $750,000. But it received bad reviews from critics and had poor results at the box office, and did not gain recognition until many years later.
Set during the Civil War, Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, an engineer whose two loves are his train, the General, and Annabelle Lee. When Union spies capture the General, with Annabelle Lee on board, Gray must rescue both of his loves.
The remainder of the schedule, with descriptions culled from IMDb and other sources:
Feb. 7: “Ninotchka,” 1939, directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Greta Garbo’s last great film, a sophisticated romantic comedy copied in at least four subsequent films —none of them nearly as good — and in one terrific Broadway musical, “Silk Stockings,” with Cyd Charisse in Garbo’s role.
Feb. 14: “The Red Shoes,” 1948, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A ballerina is torn between the demands of the company and those of her heart.
Feb. 21: “The Misfits,” 1961, directed by John Huston. Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach star in this romance/drama. This film turned out to be Gable’s last performance — he suffered a massive heart attack the day after filming ended and died 11 days later.
Feb. 28: “Dr Strangelove,” 1964, directed by Stanley Kubrick. An unhinged U.S. Air Force general orders a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The president, his advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Royal Air Force officer try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse.
March 7: “Au Hazard Balthazar,” 1966, directed by Robert Bresson. The story of Balthazar, a mistreated donkey whose life is paralleled with that of the girl who named him. “A study on saintliness,” according to IMDb.
March 14: “Downpour/Ragbar,” 1972, directed by Bahram Beizai. A teacher in the poor southern part of Tehran falls in love with the sister of one of his students, but is reluctant to approach her after he learns her hand has been promised to a butcher. Beizai creates a powerful sense of a closed community still ruled by tradition, where custom always trumps individual desire.
March 21: Spring break; no screening.
March 28: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” 1975, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. If you know the Pythons, then no words are necessary here; if you don't, words will not suffice. In no other film will you learn all you need to know about The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch or see a cow used as a defensive weapon.
April 4: “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” 1976, directed by Nicolas Roeg. A controversial, bizarre, science fiction film about a fragile but intelligent earthbound alien — the late rock star David Bowie in his feature film debut.
April 11: “Once Upon a Time in America,” 1984, directed by Sergio Leone. A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to Brooklyn more than 30 years later where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life. Leone made six important films during his career, five of which were westerns. The exception was “Once Upon a Time in America,” his final film, which instead explored the cinematic mythology of American organized crime.
April 18: “Double Life of Veronique,” 1991, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. This film is about two young women, both played by Irene Jacob. Veronique lives in France; Veronika lives in Poland. They never meet, although their paths almost cross one day. They were born on the same day. They have identical heart problems. They are both wonderful singers. When Veronika dies, Veronique’s life takes a turn.
April 25: “In the Mood for Love,” 2000, directed by Wong Kar-wai. Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect their spouses are involved in extramarital activities. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.
May 2: “Fury,” 2014, directed by David Ayer. A grizzled tank commander makes tough decisions as he and his crew fight their way across Germany in April 1945.
May 9: “Topsy Turvy,” 1999, directed by Mike Leigh. This film explores the creative process and conflict between a playwright and composer whose last comic opera was poorly received. Despite the setback, the duo decides to continue its partnership, paving the way for a resounding success.
I think all the films are very good choices. Thank you.