Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hi-‘theque’ movie-going

Of the many advantages of going to a large, state-funded university, free movies aren’t exactly something that comes to mind immediately. Sure, we’ve all basked in the sun at the terrace and cheered on UW athletics at our state-of-the-art facilities, but when was the last time you opened yourself up to something you’d never seen before (and not had to pay for)?

This is the goal of the UW Cinematheque, an organization that brings rare prints of film to Vilas hall every weekend for those brave enough to resist the siren song of Bruckheimer-esque Hollywood riff-raff. They range from the unappreciated (cartoonist-turned-director Frank Tashlin) to the unseen (recently available films from Russian filmmaker Aleksander Sokurov) to the flat-out unbelievable (Godmother of the French New Wave Agnes Varda, who will make her way to UW later in the season).

ArtsEtc. sat down with Cinematheque Programmer Katherine Spring to discuss the rare opportunities available to the Madison film community this fall.

The Badger Herald: What exactly is Cinematheque?

Katherine Spring: It’s an organization of different academic departments within UW that seeks to show films that would otherwise not be seen here. We show not only art films, but we also show popular films from other countries that might not make it to Madison.

The Frank Tashlin films, for example, ones that starred Jayne Mansfield and Jerry Lewis — popular stars. These films haven’t really played here to our audiences.

BH: What about Frank Tashlin, who worked in the days of the Hollywood studio system, why do you want to expose his films to audiences in Madison?

KS: They’re fun films, and this is a good chance for audiences to see a different type of comedic filmmaking. We called his series “Gags and Gals,” and that pretty much sums up Frank Tashlin. There are also all sorts of colorful nuances to his style because of his background as a cartoonist.

BH: Why the international flavor to this semester’s program?

KS: Most of what’s playing in our theaters is 95 percent American. Yet there are countries like Iran and Hong Kong whose production output has rivaled Hollywood for many years, yet we never see their films. International cinema is definitely underrepresented, and there are great films to be seen. And that’s one of our goals — to bring them here.


BH: What would you tell people who attach stigmas to foreign films?

KS: More exposure to these films helps, and you have to come with an open mind. When you go to a theater here, you see an American film. You don’t know if it’s going to be good or bad, yet American audiences are still willing to take that chance. I think people should be willing to take the same chance with foreign films.

Hong Kong films are a great example of how a movie can be visually legible to everybody, but there’s just that language barrier.

BH: How did you get into contact with Agnes Varda?

KS: We got into touch with her through the efforts of [UW film professor] Kelley Conway, and she was able to contact Varda’s distributor in France. There will be a symposium and events at the Pyle Center when she visits, but to prepare the Madison community, the Cinematheque will be holding Varda screenings for the month before she comes.

BH: How is her voice unique from that of other French New Wave filmmakers?

KS: She’s one of the few female filmmakers from that time to make it big, but she’s also one of the first — some consider her a precursor to celebrated directors like Godard and Truffaut. Her films also deal with feminine issues in ways that her male contemporaries didn’t.

BH: What one movie or series would you recommend people to get out and see?

KS: If you want visual and comic delight, come to the Tashlin series. The Sokurov films are weird, but in a good way — they’ve been described as “Dostoevsky on acid.” Personally, I’m looking forward to “Daughters of the Sun,” an Iranian film that barely squeaked past censors.

But Varda, of course, is going to knock everyone off their feet.

BH: What would you say to the average undergraduate or Madisonian planning his Friday night, torn between seeing the latest J. Lo bomb and something he’s never seen before at the Cinematheque?

KS: We give you a rare opportunity to see a beautiful print of film you would not be able to see otherwise. They’re often not available on video, and this is such a great opportunity. Admission is free and there’s comfortable seating. Ours are only one-night screenings, and you can catch the J. Lo movie at a budget theater Tuesday night.

Take a risk and open your eyes.

The UW Cinematheque resumes its fall program this Friday, September 13 at 7:30 p.m. with Agnes Varda’s “La Pointe Courte.” The screenings are held at 4070 Vilas, located at 821 University Avenue (at the corner of Park Street). Seating is limited, so patrons are encouraged to arrive early. For more information, visit

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