Not everything is just as good 12 years later, but due to some twists and revamps over the years, the Cinematheque film series at the University of Wisconsin has proven to do just that. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that so many people love films – each is a piece of entertainment designed for the masses, after all.
This fall’s Cinematheque calendar, complete with a colorful redesign, will feature an increase in the number of films. These will range across a broad spectrum of nationalities, and from the American silent era to the ’80s.
Jim Healy, Cinematheque’s first-ever director of programming, started in the position last October and said he has seen a 70 percent increase in attendance since last summer. He is ready to finish up his first full year with a lineup of some spectacular cinema, as well as some notable guest presenters.
“We do have three in-person guests confirmed. … The Nicholas Ray [centennial] series is ending with the last feature film he made in 1976, and his widow will be there to present it. It’s just been recently restored,” Healy said, speaking of the famed ’50s-era director who tackled gritty issues in “Rebel Without a Cause.” “Joe Dante who made ‘Gremlins’ and is also a great film historian is coming to the show. ‘Gremlins’ at the Marquee [will] introduce a kind of a collage film he made in the ’80s called ‘The Movie Orgy.’ It runs nearly five hours of footage pulled from his 16 mm. It’s really something to see.”
Something new starting this semester is that in addition to Cinematheque’s Friday and Saturday showings of selected films, they will have “Marquee Mondays” once a month at the Marquee Theater inside Union South. Starting November there will also be a film shown Sunday afternoons in the Chazen. Healy also commented that the Cinemateque takes part in what he calls “classic exploitation cinema” – that is, trying to slot films in accordance with the season in order to attract more interest.
“You’ll notice that the three Christmas movies we’re showing this year are very dark; that might be only slightly coincidental. … We thought, ‘Let’s do something fun,’ and these films somehow presented themselves to us,” he said. “I think seeing ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ with the audience at the Marquee is going to be great. Santa Claus with an ax, how bad could it be”?
Healy has a unique perspective, if not the best, on which films students should be trekking to see this season. He said a lot of programmers get into their jobs because they want to see movies on the big screen themselves, whether a favorite film or one they’ve never experienced before.
“I’ve only seen two of the Kaneto Shindo films and they were both magnificent, and I’ve heard only great things about the other two. … He’s 99 years old, and he just made a new film called ‘Postcard,’” he said. Another Shindo film in the series, ‘Naked Island,’ is a favorite of director Benicio Del Toro, who sponsored the creation of the print that will be used for Cinematheque’s presentation of the film. “Out of the Robert Siodmak films I’ve only seen one, so I want to see them; I’ve wanted to see ‘The Suspect’ and ‘Christmas Holiday’ for years.”
Cinematheque attracts a variety of different age niches, depending on the film being shown. Healy said it’s the program’s mission to communicate to a wide breadth of viewers why the films being shown are still relevant, perhaps more so than what’s being shown in commercial theaters.
“They all inform the contemporary world; whether it’s the subject matter or the way it was made, what happened historically or what happened afterward,” he said. “For anybody who might not be versed in these films … [we] can’t show them how good they are until you get them in the door. Cinematheque is fun! We might be part of the university, but it’s not just good cinematic medicine for you; what we do is very much alive and a part of the fabric of our culture.”
Check out a full listing of films, from ax-wielding Santas to 45-year-old Japanese films, to be presented by the Cinematheque this fall at www.cinema.wisc.edu.