Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fly Girls and Gorillas in the Mist - 2 more videos for Women's History Month

The theme of Women's History continues for two more weeks at the Library's Thursday Noon large-screen video series in the Koret Auditorium.

image source: American Experience

Thursday, March 22, 2012, at noon

Fly Girls (1999, 56 minutes)

During World War II more than a thousand women signed up to fly with the U.S. military. Wives, mothers, actresses and debutantes who joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) test-piloted aircraft, ferried planes and logged 60 million miles in the air. Thirty-eight women died in service. But the opportunity to play a critical role in the war effort was abruptly canceled by politics and resentment, and it would be 30 years before women would again break the sex barrier in the skies.

LinkFly Girls is a documentary produced by PBS for their American Experience Series.

Thursday, March 29, 2012, at noon

Gorillas in the Mist (1988, 129 minutes)

Dian Fossey convinced Louis Leakey, the guru of African anthropologists, to allow her to set up a jungle camp in Rwanda and conduct a census of the gorillas. Over the years she grew into one of the great experts on these animals, learning to imitate their behavior so well that they accepted her in their midst. What comes through in this treatment is her fierce protectiveness of these animals – a woman who spoke her mind, for those that couldn’t. Though ultimately this strong stance cost her life, this film celebrates the bond that she shared with the gorillas.

Sigourney Weaver stars as Dian Fossey.

This series receives support from the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. All library programs are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Frida - Thursday noon video for Women's History Month

This weeks Thursday noon video will be Frida (2002), directed by Julie Traynor.

This biographic picture, based on Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera, chronicles the life of Frida Kahlo and unflinchingly shows her marriage to Diego Rivera. From her complex and enduring relationship with her mentor and husband to her illicit and controversial affair with Leon Trotsky, to her provocative and romantic entanglements with women, Frida Kahlo lived a bold and uncompromising life as a political, artistic, and sexual revolutionary.

Frida stars Salma Hayak as Frida Kahlo, Alfred Molina as her husband Diego Rivera, and Geoffrey Rush as Leon Trotsky.

This 123 minute video will be screened at 12 noon on Thursday, March 15, 2012 in the Koret Auditorium. This series receives support from the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. All Library programs are free and open to the public.

Related reading:

Frida, A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera (Perennial, 1983).

Frida: Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life and Art to Film, foreword by Hayden Herrera; introductions by Julie Taymor and Salma Hayek; based on the book by Hayden Herrera (Newmarket Press, 2002).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Atomic Mom - Thursday noon video program for Women's History Month

The second Thursday noon large screen video program for Women's History Month will be the documentary film Atomic Mom, directed by M.T. Silvia.

Atomic Mom weaves an intimate portrait of a complex mother-daughter relationship within an obscure – but important – moment in American history. As the only female scientist present during atomic detonations in the Nevada desert, Pauline Silvia, the filmmaker’s mother, undergoes a crisis of conscience. After a long silence and prompted by her daughter, she finally reveals grim secrets of working in the U.S. atomic testing program.

In our present moment of Wikileaks, Pauline is a similar whistle-blower having been cowed by the silencing machine of the US military for decades. In an attempt to reconcile with her own mother’s past, her daughter, filmmaker M.T. Silvia, meets Emiko Okada, a Hiroshima survivor trying to resolve her own history in Japan. The film follows these survivors, each on a different end of atomic warfare, as they “meet” through the filmmaking process, and as they, with startling honestly, attempt to understand the other.

Atomic Mom will be shown at 12:00 on March 8, 2012 in the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library. This 80 minute screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

This program is supported by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. All programs at the San Francisco Public Library are free and open to the public.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The French New Wave Cinema

There is currently a display in the Art, Music and Recreation featuring images and writings about French New Wave Cinema.

French New Wave is considered by serious film devotees to be one of the most exciting and influential of film movements. Its origin can be traced back to an important essay penned by Andre Bazin in 1945: “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” His belief that films should present a director's personal vision has greatly influenced the auteur theory according to which the director is viewed as the major creative force in a motion picture. It holds that the director, who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture, is more to be considered the “author” of the movie than is the writer of the screenplay. In other words, such fundamental visual elements as camera placement, blocking, lighting, and scene length, rather than plot line, convey the message of the film. Soon after Alexandre Astruc would develop the idea of camera-stylo which suggests that camera is like a pen in the hands of the director.

1951 Bazin founded Cahiers du Cinema, an influential film magazine, where these ideas were further developed. The magazine would provide an intellectual platform to young cinephiles who would critique the stagnant state of French cinema by referring it to as Le cinema du papa. By consensus the creative highpoint of this movement falls between 1958 - 1962. François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, all critics at the Cahiers, have been acknowledged as the heart of the movement, and are known as the Young Turks of the New Wave. Loosely speaking, they advocated objective continuity and mise en scène over experiments in editing and visual effects. In general, they also showed preference for Italian neo-realism over Hollywood's artificial reality, its studio system and big budgets. Though Chabrol was the first one to make a professional breakthrough with Le Beau Serg in 1958 and Les Cousins in 1959, it was Truffaut's 400 Blows that announced the arrival of the wave along with Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, both stealing awards at Cannes. This event was followed by another major event in the history of the wave: the arrival of Godard's Breathless in 1960 that enchanted the movie lovers everywhere.

Another group of directors from across the Seine were more ambiguously connected to the Wave. Known as the Left Bank Group, its most important directors included Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, and Alain Resnais. Yet there are those who claim that it was Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman and the way Bridget Bardot's sexuality exploded on the cinema screen that made the wave possible. Bardot made the wave happen. Nevertheless it is Jeanne Moreau's cinematic persona that has become synonymous with the French New Wave. And this wouldn’t have been possible without Louis Malle’s iconic Les Amants in 1959.

Related reading

Cahiers du cinéma, edited by Jim Hillier (Harvard University Press, 1985-)

Cahiers du cinéma. Table of contents (AMS Press, 1971).

French New Wave by Jean Douchet; in collaboration with Caedric Anger; translated by Robert Bonnon (D.A.P. in association with Editions Hazan / Cinematheque Française, 1998).

What is Cinema? Essays
, selected and translated by Hugh Gray (University of California Press, 1971) [vol. 2]