The crowd that filled the Whitney Humanities Center on Friday night seemed to be an ordinary group of cinephiles, eating and drinking at the reception before the night’s movie. But closer observation revealed something peculiar: Many of them were wearing red shoes.

The Cinema at the Whitney held the opening gala reception for its fall season last Friday, followed by the screening of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 film “The Red Shoes.” The Whitney auditorium, with seating for 180, was packed.

Latecomers, though welcomed to the reception, were unable to get tickets for the film.

The Cinema at the Whitney Undergraduate Chair Miranda Popkey ’09 said the group chose “The Red Shoes” for the opening because it is a classic that should be watched in 35mm.

“This is a film that emphasizes color, space and movement,” Popkey said. “Seeing it in 35mm is very different than watching it on a TV screen.”

“The Red Shoes,” released 60 years ago this week, was inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and explores the dilemma ballerina Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) faces as she is forced to choose between career ambitions and love.

It is an intensely visual and musical film, with several ballet sequences described by Graduate Chair Richard Suchenski GRD ’11 as “a deliriously impassioned treatment of Andersen’s story of all-consuming artistic obsession.”

Steven Kochevar ’09 said he thought the choice was very successful.

“I was deeply moved,” he said. “I think in a sense we are all wearing red shoes.”

As in previous years, the fall schedule will feature two screenings each Friday evening. The two movies are paired by director, genre, subject, cinematic movement or a more abstract unifying theme that makes them provoke a complex reaction when viewed together.

All films are shown in 35 mm so they can be appreciated at a more visceral level, Popkey said.

The films on this season’s schedule stretch from Japanese New Wave to Alain Resnais’ Nouvelle Vague, and from alien films to Polanski and Bergman.

Jeff White ’09, publicity coordinator for the Cinema at the Whitney, said they have tried to make this semester’s films more approachable than those of last year.

“We aim to bring new and different films to campus,” White said. “We mix recognizable films with the more obscure.”

White is a former photography editor for the News.

One of the season’s highlights is the Yasujiro Ozu Tribute Series, which will run each Thursday from Sept. 19 to Nov. 13 and will feature films from all periods of his career.

Halloween weekend will witness the screening of three science fiction movies: Peter Tscherkassky’s “Outer Space,” Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers.”

The season’s program emphasizes foreign directors, such as Brazil’s Nelson Pereira Dos Santos, Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira, India’s Kumar Shahani, French directors Jean Renoir, Claire Denis, Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati, and Italian directors Fellini and Rossellini.

Yet Hollywood is not overlooked in the cosmopolitan selection.

One weekend is devoted to two films keeping with the theme “Love and Death in the Hollywood Hills.”

Although the board of the Cinema at the Whitney picks the films after a careful selection process, where each suggested film is discussed individually, Popkey pointed out that this is not, after all, a film studies class.

“We [the board members] are a group with different tastes and backgrounds and we want to share our great love of cinema,” she said.