Oldies but goodies

A selection of restored classic European films will be screened at local cinematheques.

JIRI MENZEL’S ‘Closely Watched Trains’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
JIRI MENZEL’S ‘Closely Watched Trains’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In theory, it’s possible to see most movies on DVD today, but for true film lovers this presents problems.
There is simply no substitute for seeing a great movie on the screen.
Another Look: The Restored European Film Project is bringing a selection of classic films from Europe to the cinematheques in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv throughout the month of January, beginning on January 10. It’s a joint project of the European Union and local embassies – Italy, Ireland, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and France – the representatives of which regard preserving and showing these films as a way to spread awareness of the greatest achievements of European culture and to encourage a better understanding of European life.
The films in the project are divided into two main categories. The first, Band of Brothers, looks at attempts to define the notion of a European community (a topic that is particularly relevant in light of the economic turmoil among European Union countries in the past year). The films in this category chronicle social struggles throughout European history and offer both dystopian and utopian visions of European life.
The second section, called From the Mouths of Babes, focuses on European films that chronicle the struggles of youth and their attempt to find their place within European society. The films in both categories have been specially chosen to give Israeli audiences a deeper appreciation of the complexity of European life.
Usually, I write about the highlights of a particular upcoming festival or program, but these carefully selected films, many of which have rarely been shown for years in any form, are all highlights.
Film lovers will be happy to see some of these films for the first time and to view others for the first time in many years.
In the Band of Brothers category, the films include Luchino Visconti’s 1954 Senso, which Visconti wrote with several collaborators, including Tennessee Williams and the reclusive novelist and composer Paul Bowles. A drama set against the backdrop of the Italian war to become an independent nation, it stars Alida Valli, best remembered for her role in The Third Man, and Farley Granger, who starred in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.
Another film in this category is Jacques Feyder’s 1935 film Carnival in Flanders. Also a period film, this one is a comedy set in 1616, a farce about the struggles of the Flemish people dealing with their Spanish occupiers.
In the From the Mouths of Babes section, Victor Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive is a masterful look at how a young girl copes with the confusion of growing up in Spain under Franco by developing an obsession with Frankenstein movies. This film was widely released around the world when it came out in the 1970s but has rarely been shown in recent years.
Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains was similarly celebrated in the 1960s, but this charming tale of a bumbling young Czech stationmaster’s love life during the last days of World War II has been difficult to catch on screen in recent years.
Lindsay Anderson’s This Sporting Life, about a coal miner who plays rugby, was part of the Angry Young Men kitchen-sink movement in British theater and film. It stars Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts.
One of the lesser-known films in this category, Krzysztof Zanussi’s Camouflage, made in 1977, is a charming movie that takes a look at a convention of linguists to expose the comic pompousness of the bureaucrats who arrange the event.
In addition to the screening program, the project will feature a symposium on the subject of audio-vision preservation and restoration. This session will include presentations from prominent figures in European film preservation, as well as contributions from Israeli institutions such as The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, the Israel Film Archive and the Yad Vashem Visual Center. While this program is geared primarily towards film and archiving professionals, the symposium is open to the public, and all who are interested in audio-visual preservation are encouraged to attend.
For schedule details and to order tickets, check the programs of the individual cinematheques.