For Madison film fans looking to get their fix of classic and obscure films, look no further than the University of Wisconsin Cinematheque, which boasts a terrific lineup of film series for the spring.
Here’s our top four best bets of the numerous film series planned for this spring. Every screening is free, with showings in 4070 Vilas Hall, the Chazen Museum of Art and the Marquee in Union South. Check the Cinematheque website for a full list of showtimes, locations and more movie listings.
Every Sunday from Jan. 26 to May 4, the Chazen Museum of Art will present 13 works from the most well-known and arguably greatest director of all time. Each of Alfred Hitchcock’s films are rife with suspense; he practically wrote the book on how to create it through a cinematic medium. The term “Hitchcockian” has become synonymous with deeply psychological tales full of twists or MacGuffins, classic set pieces, oppressive mother characters, sexual overtones and beautiful blondes. With this series, Hitchcock’s auteur status can be traced in full. The series kicks off with the director’s later British works, including “The 39 Steps” (Jan. 26) and “The Lady Vanishes” (Feb. 2), before transitioning into his Hollywood works, presented in chronological order. Make sure not to miss the one-take “Rope” (Mar. 2), the voyeuristic “Rear Window” (Mar. 16), the bone-chilling “Psycho” (Apr. 13) or the visceral “The Birds” (Apr. 20).
LE MONDE ENCHANTÉ DE JACQUES DEMY
While Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut inverted all the stylistic elements that came before the French New Wave movement they spearheaded in the early 1960s, Jacques Demy relished traditional aesthetics and brightly-colored musical productions. One of the few French directors to dabble in musicals, Demy shot his films through the eyes of a stage director and allowed his characters to sing and dance freely, painting them in a collage of pastels and moving his camera with them. While most American musical directors ended their films on happy, high notes, Demy generally ended his on more realistic notes, often ending with characters in heartbreak. Relish the music in “Model Shop” (Apr. 11), “Donkey Skin” (Apr. 25) and “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (May 2). Also being shown during the series is a film essay from Agnes Varda, “Jacquot de Nantes,” which pieces together elements from the life of Demy —her husband.
FILM NOIR DOUBLE FEATURES
From the 40s to the 50s, Hollywood developed a fascination with all things dark. Characters grew moody and psychologically complex. The blackness of “black and white” engulfed the screen. It was the golden age of film noir, a genre that birthed “Double Indemnity,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “Sunset Boulevard.” For its film noir double feature series, the Cinematheque has chosen four rarely-seen films. Those who enjoyed Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” should check out Elliott Nugent’s 1949 adaptation of the classic book, if not for comparison’s sake for the director’s emphasis on the story’s gangsters and violence. The film will play Jan. 25 alongside “Alias Nick Beal.” The series’ darkness continues with Cy Endfield’s “The Sound of Fury,” in which a man lures an unemployed family man into a kidnapping, only to botch the job and be hunted by a lynch mob. It will be shown Feb. 1 alongside Lewis R. Foster’s “Crashout.”
RICHARD FLEISCHER: CINEMASCOPE KILLERS AND THRILLERS
Richard Fleischer, who was active as a motion picture director from the late 40s to the late 80s, functioned so invisibly in the Hollywood studio system because of his willingness to take on seemingly any project; as critic David Thomson said, “Thus he seemed to have no character.” But where Fleischer truly excelled was in his crime films, which Cinematheque will honor in this series. “The Girl in the Swing” (Apr. 12) focuses on a deadly (and true) love story, in which a man sleeps with a model and is then murdered by her jealous husband. “The Boston Strangler” (Apr. 26) is a moody, minimalist look at a madman who committed a string of murders in the early 1960s. It’s the perfect companion piece to “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and the perfect date night movie. The Fleischer series also includes “Compulsion” (Apr. 19) and “Violent Sunday” (May 3).