Film for thought

A week of movies and lectures devoted to the way films illuminate the brain will be presented at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

The Congress is a visually lush animated/live action  (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Congress is a visually lush animated/live action
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Some people may think of movies as mindless entertainment, but there is some real brain food up there on the big screen. The Jerusalem Cinematheque is celebrating that fact with a week of movies and lectures devoted to examining the way full-color movies can illuminate the gray matter.
The series starts on March 8 with a screening of the very cerebral but visually lush animated/live action mix The Congress by Ari Folman, whose previous film was the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. While Bashir was an often trippy examination of soldiers’ memories of the first Lebanon War, in The Congress Folman draws his inspiration from a novel, The Futurological Congress, by Polish author Stanislaw Lem. In this loose adaptation of the book, Folman presents an aging actress – Robin Wright playing herself – who is given the option to have her likeness digitized by Hollywood executives. Once this is done, she can never act again. But she is desperate to help her son who has a degenerative disease, so this suits her. When she visits a special congress for animated characters in her digital form, she discovers to her dismay that there is no way back to the real world.
Prof. Eilon Vaadia, the director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will give a lecture entitled “The Creative Mind, Reality, Imagination and Brain-Machine Interfaces” and will drawinspiration from The Congress.
Another film in the series is the thoughtprovoking chick flick In Her Shoes, based on the best-selling novel by Jennifer Weiner. It is about two very different sisters, one brainy, frumpy and lonely (Toni Collette), and the other one beautiful, impulsive and intellectually insecure (Cameron Diaz). Prof. Merav Ahissar, also of the Brain Sciences Center, will use the film as a starting point for a talk on how we learn new skills.
Andrew Niccol’s science-fiction film Gattaca, about a society in which genetic engineering is everything, features Ethan Hawke as an outsider trying to break in, and Uma Thurman as one of the genetic elite. But the film is probably best remembered for Jude Law’s performance as a bitter, disabled formerly perfect genetic specimen.
(It’s also the movie where Hawke and Thurman met. The two later married and divorced). Prof.
Chaya Kalcheim will give a talk on “Brain Development: Reality and Dreams.”
Perhaps the funniest idea for a film-lecture combination is Hal Ashby’s cult classic Harold and Maude, about a very young man and a very old woman who fall in love, scandalizing everyone around them, which is paired with a lecture called “How Do You Smell? The Sensory Processing of Scents” by Prof. Noam Sobel.
Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, the story of a socialite who has lost her fortune (and her husband) and must relocate and reinvent herself, will be screened and will be the focus of a lecture called “Reactions to Stress Take a Toll” by Prof.
Hermona Soreq.
This series provides the rare opportunity to see on the big screen Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece of 1970s paranoia, The Conversation, starring Gene Hackman as a wiretapping expert who becomes convinced that his life is in danger. The lecture that goes with it will be “What Was Said and What Wasn’t,” presented by Prof. Yosef Grodzinsky.
There will also be a segment for children, with the beautifully animated and orchestrated Disney film Fantasia. Prof. Eitan Globerson will talk to kids about “The Musical Brain.”
In addition, the Cinematheque will feature a special cartoon exhibition, which includes drawings and caricatures on the subject of mind and brain.
The exhibition is part of the flagship project of the Israel Cartoonists Association – the Shpitz project.
Every evening before the film and lecture, different laboratories from the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences will present their latest discoveries in the field of brain research. These presentations in the Cinematheque lobby will be presented to the public by ELSC’s promising young scientists.
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