Every Thursday night this year, we and shockingly few of our friends and acquaintances will gather to watch a classic film. There is one rule in this film/fight club: We can only watch movies neither of us have seen. With this principle in mind, we try to select films from a wide variety of countries, periods, genres and perspectives. Last year our film selections spanned from the 1920s to the 1990s and from Tokyo to Mexico City. We’ll watch political thrillers like “Z” one week and nonsensical experimental romance like “Last Year at Marienbad” the next — although we’re done with the French New Wave for a while.
This year, our schedule is equally diverse:
Sept. 7 — “L’Avventura” (1960): We started the year with Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura,” an Italian romantic mystery. Though the film was famously booed at Cannes, Antonioni’s slow pacing, unique cinematography and experimental plot (it’s been described as a film in which nothing happens) have exerted an enormous influence on modern cinema.
Sept. 14 — “Andrei Rublev” (1966): Next week, join us in a viewing of Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic biopic about a 15th-century Russian icon painter. It touches on politics, religion, state repression of artists and, according to Tarkovsky, “Christianity as an axiom of Russia’s historical identity.” Okay! Unsurprisingly, the whole thing was never aired in the Soviet Union, but here in the land of the free, we get to enjoy all 205 minutes of one of the most acclaimed films of all time.
Sept. 21 — “Cries and Whispers” (1972): This drama is about death, repression and faith in 19th-century Sweden — that is to say, it’s an Ingmar Bergman movie. Experimental and visually striking, the film polarized the Swedish critical press. American critics tend to love it, though we’ll have to see if the trend continues.
Sept. 28 — “Effi Briest” (1974): For our next depressing period drama, we’ll be watching Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 adaptation of Theodor Fontane’s 1894 novel. The film is a rare period piece from Fassbinder, but its bitter critique of the repressive, alienating aristocratic society of Bismarck-era Prussia made for a deeply personal project, and the result is widely recognized as one of his masterpieces.
Oct. 5 — “Some Like It Hot” (1959): Despite being raised on Turner Classic Movies, we’ve both somehow made it to age 21 without having seen “Some Like It Hot,” Billy Wilder’s 1959 romantic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe.
Oct. 26 — “Tokyo Story” (1953): Yasujiro Ozu’s most famous film, internationally and in his native Japan. With his characteristic slow pace and still camera, Ozu tells the story of a family in postwar Tokyo, as the members react in different ways to a rapidly changing culture.
Oct. 26 — “Nosferatu” (1922): For Halloween, F. W. Murnau’s German expressionist horror masterpiece seemed an obvious choice. The adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” that inspired all the rest, “Nosferatu” is our only silent picture on the agenda, but it promises to be as terrifying as it is visually innovative.
Nov. 2 — “Man of Marble” (1976): One of the great masterpieces of Polish cinema, directed by perhaps its most notable director, Andrzej Wajda. Wajda explores the tortured history of Polish communism in this story of a documentary filmmaker working on a film about a bricklayer turned communist hero who falls from grace.
Nov. 9 — “The Music Room” (1958): Indian Bengali director Satyajit Ray tells the story of a Bengali aristocrat trying to hold on to his family’s prestige despite his financial difficulties. This was apparently one of the first films to extensively feature Indian music.
Nov. 16 — “Children of Paradise” (1945): This epic period drama, sometimes called the French “Gone with the Wind,” depicts a mysterious woman in 19th-century Paris and the four men who love her. Relatable!
Nov. 30 — “Close-Up” (1990): Our first ever Iranian film is a fiction-documentary hybrid about the real arrest of a young man accused of impersonating a famous Iranian filmmaker. “Close-Up” brought celebrated director Abbas Kiarostami international fame.
Dec. 7 — “Scarlet Empress” (1934): A sexy period drama directed by Joseph von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great — so basically, the perfect movie.
The series has been a perfect way for us to check off movies we’ve been dying to see and to make time for films we never thought we would enjoy. Some of us could have gone our whole lives without seeing typewriter-on-insect sex in “Naked Lunch,” but we would have been poorer for it. The purpose and the joy is discovery. It started as a way for two friends to watch movies together, and it has evolved into frankly not much more. But we’re still technically open to the public! So, if some of the films we’re watching this semester appeal to you, or even if they don’t, send either of us an email. We meet every Thursday at 7 p.m. Bring your own popcorn.
Leni Kagan | email@example.com
Clara Collier | firstname.lastname@example.org .