Despite a vibrant and burgeoning film community here in Dallas (thanks Dallas Film Society, Texas Theatre, Video Association of Dallas and the many, many others who make it happen) we tend to pay a great deal of attention to what’s new while more or less neglecting the old.
We can be relied on to regularly screen the old faithfuls; Hitchcock and Casablanca show up time and again, but our organizations are hesitant to screen international, and even lesser-known stateside work. Ticket sales drastically decrease when subtitles enter the equation, so their reluctance is understandable.
Our lack of exposure to the international necessarily spills over into what first-run cinemas like the Angelika and Magnolia will take a chance showing, which results in a dearth of art-house films at even our requisite art-house cinemas.
But doesn't it seem obvious that if we could offer movie-lovers opportunities to get to know under-screened classics and international film, we could build a more robust film community? Greater exposure breeds greater appreciation, which breeds greater interest. And for cinephiles, watching films on your home television or — nowadays as often as not — your computer, is nothing compared to the big screen.
Enter the Video Association of Dallas, Alamo Drafthouse and the City of Richardson, which this month entered into what we hope will be a long, steady relationship, the initial fruits of which are international film screenings.
For September, the inaugural month of this venture into the wide world of cinema, the Video Association of Dallas has appropriately chosen to focus on French New Wave film with the help of UTD Professor and artist Frank DuFour (who just so happens to be French).
The European New Wave may make the single-best argument that film writers and historians should take a cue from revisionist trends in the visual art world and move toward a more inclusive definition of film history, one which distinguishes less between American and International cinema.
Jean Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, et al. fit snugly into mid-century film history, deeply influenced by the trends of mid-century American cinema but with drastic stylistic differences, making them familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
Characterized by highly stylized performances, dialogue that's often absurd, long takes, romantic settings and incredibly slow pacing (at least in comparison to American films), they’re difficult to get used to but absolutely transformative once you do.
And there could not have been a better launch to the series than Godard’s Le Mépris (Contempt) with its luscious Italian scenery, breathtaking score, heartbreaking romance and meta-cinematic plot featuring Fritz Lang (as himself) in a characteristically antagonistic conflict with his supercilious producer, played here by American actor Jack Palance, all set against a backdrop of romantic conflict and ennui taking place between the glorious Brigitte Bardot and her husband, played by French actor Michel Piccoli.
It’s equal parts massive emotional love-story and send-up of the artistic process, which perpetually pits the moneyed producers against the directorial auteurs and plays out here over a film based on nothing less dramatic than Homer’s Odyssey.
It’s a gorgeous film and one which, as Video Association director Bart Weiss suggested in his brief introduction for the film, some of us may have seen on television but few will have had the opportunity to see and hear in a theater.
Weiss alluded to screenings beyond the final installment this month on September 26, and for the continued growth of the Dallas film community, and the happiness of all cinephiles who value community, education and sheer pleasure, consider our fingers crossed.
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Saturday, September 12:
Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim
Saturday, September 19:
Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad
Saturday, September 26:
Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 and Chris Marker’s La Jetée
Every film starts at 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at drafthouse.com/dfw.