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Arthur Penn, A Liberal Helping

June 10, 2011 - June 29, 2011

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Throughout the early sixties there was a concerted effort to break with the Hollywood model of rigidly managed filmmaking. But it wasn’t until 1967, the year Arthur Penn released Bonnie and Clyde, that the stranglehold visibly weakened. Though Penn worked with a major studio, he had managed to wrangle some autonomy, apparent in his smartly innovative reprise of a well-worn genre. Penn’s stylish gangster film had blatantly balletic violence, a pronounced cynicism, and cocky, wardrobe-wise crooks who just slayed younger audiences. Out of this unmuzzled movie rose the New Hollywood, a more independent, quirkier, and attuned cinema that was carried forward by such young directors as Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, William Friedkin, Paul Schrader, and Terrence Malick.

By the time Bonnie and Clyde gunned down expectations, Arthur Penn (1922–2010) had already completed four influential films, notable for their emphasis on strong performance, fluidity of setting, and empathy for cultural moods. Beginning with a youthful Paul Newman in The Left Handed Gun (1958), a pained portrait of Billy the Kid as feral and fatherless, and continuing through Mickey One (1965), an existential noir with Warren Beatty on the lam, and The Chase (1966), with Marlon Brando as a sheriff overwhelmed by emerging unrest in a Texas town, Penn quietly reinvented American cinema, film by film, borrowing an intellectual curiosity from the New Wave and displaying a prodigious trust in his actors. Whether it was the draft-dodging hipsters of Alice’s Restaurant (1969), the outraged survivor of the Indian Wars in Little Big Man (1970), or the malaise-muddled private eye of Night Moves (1975), Penn’s unparalleled pictures are hopeful testaments to a nation anguished by assassination, war, and betrayal. Join us for A Liberal Helping, nine films from the career of one of America’s most prominent directors.


Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, June 10, 2011
9:00 p.m. The Left Handed Gun
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1958). A simmering, swaggering Paul Newman is a not-so-iconic, nearly feral Billy the Kid in Penn’s revisionist Western, based on a teleplay by Gore Vidal. (105 mins)

Sunday, June 12, 2011
5:30 p.m. The Miracle Worker
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1962). Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft both won Oscars for their performances as the blind/deaf Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, the woman who teaches her to communicate. Penn’s miraculously unsentimental drama is “a stunningly impressive piece of work” (Time Out). (106 mins)

Sunday, June 12, 2011
7:30 p.m. Mickey One
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1965). Introduced by David Thomson. Warren Beatty is a Detroit nightclub comic on the lam from unknown thugs in Penn’s masterful existential noir, set in the seedy gin joints and end-of-the-road clubs of a shattered urban America. “A jazzy blend of film noir and Federico Fellini” (Village Voice). (93 mins)

Thursday, June 16, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Chase
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1966). Robert Redford escapes from prison, and finds more than the law on his tail: there’s his hometown sheriff (Marlon Brando), as well as an oil tycoon wanting to kill him. Jane Fonda and Angie Dickinson co-star in Penn’s lusty, gripping melodrama about small-town Texas crude. (135 mins)

Saturday, June 18, 2011
6:00 p.m. Alice’s Restaurant
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1969). Introduced by Nat Segaloff. Folksinger Arlo Guthrie stars as “Arlo,” a singer trying to make sense of the Vietnam War and government bureaucracy, with a little help from the misfits at Alice’s converted church, in Penn’s gentle portrait of the sixties generation. (111 mins)

Saturday, June 18, 2011
8:40 p.m. Bonnie and Clyde
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1967). Introduced by Nat Segaloff. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway make a beautiful, deadly Bonnie and Clyde in Arthur Penn's infamous sixties revisionist gangster flick, which in 1967 made the cover of Time as "The New Cinema: Violence . . . Sex . . . Art." (111 mins)

Sunday, June 26, 2011
5:30 p.m. Little Big Man
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1970). Dustin Hoffman stars in Penn’s savage anti-war satire, involving a young man raised by the Cheyenne caught up in General Custer’s mad last stand. “An enduring satire, a comedy with a sharp historical edge” (Scott Simmons). (139 mins)

Sunday, June 26, 2011
8:10 p.m. Night Moves
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1975). A low-rate L.A. private eye (Gene Hackman) heads to the Florida Keys to search for a runaway girl (Melanie Griffith), but finds secrets that are far more deadly than expected, in Penn’s atmospheric, paranoid neo-noir. (99 mins)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Missouri Breaks
Arthur Penn (U.S., 1976). A gaudy Marlon Brando delivers one of his most outrageous performances as a cross-dressing gunslinger hired by a cattle baron to rid the range of rustlers. Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid co-star as his laid-back, incompetent prey. (126 mins)

Thanks to James Quandt, TIFF Cinematheque; Haden Guest, Harvard Film Archive; Todd Weiner, UCLA Film and Television Archives; Marilee Womack, Warner Bros.; and Nat Segaloff.