Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Rashomon, which officially introduced Japanese cinema to the world at large, will be the next film presented as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ series “Monday Nights with Oscar.” The East Coast premiere of the new digitally restored print of Rashomon will take place on Monday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy Theater in New York City.
Though it revolves around the rape of a woman and the murder of her Samurai husband, Rashomon, co-adapted by Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto from Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s stories “Rashomon” and “In a Grove,” is less a crime drama than an examination of the mind-boggling nature of truth. Set in feudal Japan, the film depicts the incidents from four different – and contradictory – points of view: that of the alleged rapist/bandit (Toshiro Mifune); the Samurai’s widow (Machiko Kyo, delivering the film’s strongest, least mannered performance); a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who claims to have witnessed the crime; and, via a medium, the ghost of the unfortunate Samurai (Masayuki Mori).
I should add that Rashomon boasts excellent black-and-white cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa. The film’s title, by the way, refers to the gatehouse in front of which the woodcutter, hiding from heavy rainfall, narrates the various tales to a boisterous commoner.
In Hollywood, Rashomon was remade as The Outrage (1964), a generally panned Western directed by Martin Ritt, and starring Paul Newman, Claire Bloom, Rod Steiger, and Edward G. Robinson. Kurosawa’s film has also influenced numerous other productions, among them The Usual Suspects (1995), Courage Under Fire (1996), Where the Truth Lies (2005), and the recent sleeper hit Vantage Point (2008).
The Golden Lion winner at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, Rashomon also won the 1953 Honorary Foreign Language Film Award for former World War II enemy Japan (the best foreign-language film Academy Award category was established in 1956) and was nominated for its black-and-white art direction (Takashi Matsuyama, H. Matsumoto). Additionally, the film earned Akira Kurosawa a Directors Guild of America nomination and a National Board of Review win, while also receiving that organization’s best foreign film prize.
This Rashomon screening will feature the new restoration from the Academy Film Archive in association with the Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation and The Film Foundation.
Tickets for Rashomon are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. The Academy Theater is located at 111 East 59th Street in New York City. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.
For additional information call (212) 821-9251 or visit www.oscars.org/events.
Rashomon images: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library.
“A Century Ago: The Films of 1908” will be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. The program will be repeated on Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m. at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California.
“A Century Ago” will feature a number of 1908 shorts, among them Edison’s Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (above, lower photo), featuring a performance by none other than D.W. Griffith (right); Biograph’s After Many Years, starring the Official First Film Star, Florence Lawrence, and in which new director Griffith tries out parallel cutting and camera movement; Vitagraph’s trick film The Thieving Hand; Gaumont’s Fantasmagorie, animated by Émile Cohl; Selig’s The Count of Monte Cristo (above, top photo), starring Hobart Bosworth; Pathé’s comedy Troubles of a Grass Widower, starring Max Linder (curiously, as per the IMDb, this is a 1912 short); and one of the earliest Italian productions, the hand-tinted Le Farfalle (Butterflies).
As in past years, Randy Haberkamp will provide historical context for the rare films, which will be accompanied by Michael Mortilla.
I’m assuming that Randy (who was a great help when I was working on my Ramon Novarro bio) will have something to say about the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), founded in December 1908. With an eye on the fast-growing film/nickelodeon business, the MPPC – spearheaded by Thomas Edison (the mean-looking gent in the first row of the picture below, fourth from the left) – did its best to destroy competition from independent filmmakers. The MPPC oligarchy, however, apparently failed to bring the right people on their side. The independents prospered so much (especially after many of them moved to the Los Angeles area and began promoting star attractions) that they eventually became an oligopoly of their own, whereas the MPPC was to have its patents voided a few years later.
Most films will be screened from 35mm prints drawn from the collections of the Academy Film Archive, the Library of Congress, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, among others.
Tickets to “A Century Ago” in Hollywood are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase online at www.oscars.org, by mail, or at the Academy box office during regular business hours. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.
The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. Free parking is available through the entrance on Homewood Avenue (one block north of Fountain Avenue). For additional information, visit www.oscars.org/events or call (310) 247-3600.
Tickets for “A Century Ago” in the San Francisco Bay Area are $10 for the general public and free for Academy members. Tickets may be purchased through the Smith Rafael Film Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.
The Smith San Rafael Film Center is located at 1118 Fourth Street in San Rafael. For more information, call the Academy at (310) 247-2688, Smith Rafael Film Center at (415) 454-1222, or visit www.cafilm.org.
Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library
‘Life’ magazine archives online via Google
Google has recently launched an online photo gallery featuring images from Life magazine’s archives, many of which have never been seen publicly before. The new Google service is available at http://images.google.com/hosted/life; it currently offers 2 million photos, from the 1860s to the 1970s.
In the coming months, Google plans to scan all 10 million photos from the Life magazine library. Life‘s photo archive will also be made available on the magazine’s website in late February 2009.
Miriam Hopkins on the ‘Time’ cover
The Time cover above shows Miriam Hopkins in the title role in Becky Sharp, the 1935 film adaptation of W.M. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Hopkins received her one and only Best Actress Academy Award nomination for playing Thackeray’s antiheroine in the Rouben Mamoulian-directed production, which happens to be the first three-strip Technicolor feature film ever made.
Other Miriam Hopkins movies include Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), with Fredric March in the title roles and Rose Hobart as the nice girl (Hopkins plays a doomed sex worker); Ernst Lubitsch’s The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), with Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert; Stephen Roberts’ controversial The Story of Temple Drake (1933), based on William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, and featuring William Gargan and Jack La Rue; and Howard Hawks’ Barbary Coast (1935), co-starring Edward G. Robinson and Joel McCrea.
Additionally, Miriam Hopkins co-starred opposite Bette Davis in a couple of melodramas made at Warner Bros.: Edmund Goulding’s The Old Maid (1939) and Vincent Sherman’s Old Acquaintance (1943). The latter movie would be unofficially remade as The Turning Point (1977), directed by Herbert Ross, and starring Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. An official remake would follow in 1981, directed by George Cukor, and starring Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen.
Miriam Hopkins died of a heart attack in 1972.
Miriam Hopkins Becky Sharp Time cover image: Life magazine archives.
100 Films for the Ideal Cinematheque
Via Cahiers du Cinéma:
Seventy-eight film critics and historians – mostly from France or the Francophone world, apparently – among them screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, screenwriter-director Claude Miller, and author-documentarian, poll organizer, and editor of the book 100 Films pour une Cinemathèque Idéale Claude-Jean Philippe – have selected their top 100 films for the “ideal cinematheque.” That is followed by a list featuring their picks for the top 50 filmmakers.
There are only two Best Picture Oscar winners in the list: The Godfather (1972) and, gasp, The Deer Hunter (1978). Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by auteurish Hollywood and French cinema titles. In other words: Nothing directed by Henry Hathaway, Michael Curtiz, William A. Wellman, Mitchell Leisen, William Wyler, W.S. Van Dyke, Julien Duvivier, Jean Delannoy, or René Clément. (George Cukor and Elia Kazan managed to be included for the bloated – but auteurish – A Star Is Born and America America, respectively.) And you’ll be hard-pressed to find “producer’s films” like Gone with the Wind or Rebecca or Casablanca in the list.
Among the silent films, only the most well-known, prestigious titles were included, e.g., Greed (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925), The Wind (1928), City Lights (1931). That makes me wonder how many silents those critics and historians have actually watched – or even heard of.
The biggest surprise is probably the inclusion of Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955) as the #2 title, though I must admit that I’d never have expected to find Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) – which is actually quite enjoyable – anywhere in such a list, either.
No films from Africa were included. From Asia, there are a handful from Japan and one from India (the tedious The Music Room). From the Americas, the only non-Hollywood entry is Luis Buñuel’s Mexican melodrama El (1953), in my view one of the director’s very worst films. Australian and New Zealand films are nowhere to be found. And from Europe, there isn’t a single 100 percent British production in the list – John Huston’s beautiful The Dead comes closest – and nothing from Eastern Europe, excepting a few scattered Russian entries. Italy, Spain, Germany, and Sweden (the only Ingmar Bergman entry is Fanny and Alexander) are quite underrepresented, with – at most – a handful of films from each country. (Seventy-seven of the 100 films are either French or American productions or co-productions.)
Perhaps all those omissions prove nothing. On the other hand, perhaps they’re proof that French critics and historians are as narrow-minded and insular as their American counterparts.
Film Title (Director) Number of votes
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) 48
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton) 47
La Règle du jeu / The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir) 47
Sunrise (F. W. Murnau) 46
L’Atalante (Jean Vigo) 43
M (Fritz Lang) 40
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock) 35
Les Enfants du Paradis / Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné) 34
The Searchers (John Ford) 34
Greed (Eric von Stroheim) 34
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks) 33
To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch) 33
Tokyo monogatari / Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu) 29
Le Mépris / Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard) 28
Freaks (Tod Browning)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray)
La Maman et la Putain / The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache)
The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
Il Gattopardo / The Leopard (Luchino Visconti)
Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
Die Büchse der Pandora / Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst)
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
Casque d’or / Golden Maria (Jacques Becker)
The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
Moonfleet (Fritz Lang)
Madame de… / The Earrings of Madame de… (Max Ophüls)
Le Plaisir (Max Ophüls)
The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino)
L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein)
Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock)
Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
The Wind (Victor Sjöström)
Amarcord (Federico Fellini)
La Belle et la Bête / Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder)
Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli)
Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
King Kong (Ernest B. Shoedsack and Merian C. Cooper)
Laura (Otto Preminger)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
Les 400 coups / The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
La Dolce vita (Federico Fellini)
The Dead (John Huston)
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch)
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra)
Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin)
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc / The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
À bout de souffle / Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)
La Grande illusion (Jean Renoir)
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith)
Partie de campagne / A Day in the Country (Jean Renoir)
Playtime (Jacques Tati)
Roma, città aperta / Open City (Roberto Rosselini)
Senso (Luchino Visconti)
Modern Times (Charles Chaplin)
Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat)
An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey)
Andrei Rublev(Andrei Tarkovsky)
The Scarlet Empress (Joseph von Sternberg)
Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
Hable con ella / Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar)
The Party (Blake Edwards)
Tabu (F.W. Murnau)
The Bandwagon (Vincente Minnelli)
A Star Is Born (George Cukor)
Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Jacques Tati)
America America (Elia Kazan)
El (Luis Buñuel)
Kiss Me Deadly (Robert aldrich)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone)
Le Jour se lève / Daybreak (Marcel Carné)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls)
Lola (Jacques Demy)
Manhattan (Woody Allen)
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)
Ma nuit chez Maud / My Night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer)
Nuit et Brouillard / Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)
The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin)
Scarface (Howard Hawks)
Ladri di biciclette / Bicycle Thief (Vittorio de Sica)
Napoléon (Abel Gance)
Filmmakers Number of votes
Jean Renoir 155
Alfred Hitchcock 146
Fritz Lang 143
Charles Chaplin 128
John Ford 124
Orson Welles 114
Ingmar Bergman 113
Luis Buñuel 110
F.W. Murnau 108
Howard Hawks 105
Jean-Luc Godard 99
Federico Fellini 99
Ernst Lubitsch 98
Luchino Visconti 90
Robert Bresson 90
Kenji Mizoguchi 87
Akira Kurosawa 86
Max Ophüls 83
Alain Resnais 82
Carl Theodor Dreyer 76
François Truffaut 75
Stanley Kubrick 75
Vincente Minnelli 73
Joseph L. Mankiewicz 73
Roberto Rosselini 73
Josef von Sternberg 69
Michelangelo Antonioni 67
Sergei Eisenstein 65
Marcel Carné 64
Billy Wilder 61
Buster Keaton 61
Yasujiro Ozu 60
Erich von Stroheim 60
John Huston 59
Elia Kazan 55
King Vidor 53
D.W. Griffith 53
Maurice Pialat 52
Jean Vigo 51
Nicholas Ray 49
Jacques Becker 48
Woody Allen 48
Francis Ford Coppola 47
Jacques Demy 47
Charles Laughton 47
Jacques Tati 46
Otto Preminger 45
Leo McCarey 45
George Cukor 44
Raoul Walsh 44
78 Critics and Historians
François Amy de la Breteque
Anne de Gasperi
Claude de Givray
Natacha Laurent (Cinematheque de Toulouse. With Christophe Gauthier and Jean-Paul Gorce)
Philippe Le Guay
Jean-Yves de Lepinay
Eric Le Roy