A Thousand Decisions in the Dark: A Film Series with David Thomson
January 18, 2007 - February 22, 2007
I would like to regard what I am offering here as a series of conversations. This is not an official course in any academic program. It is not being offered for credit. Those attending will not be required to do any written work—as the instigator of the series I guarantee that I will not read it if it is written. At the same time, I hope that we may all learn something from it.
I am basing the program on this assumption: by the late fifties, classical Hollywood was in ruins—both as a business and as a way of telling stories. And so a group of films appeared—without any organizing principle—in which it was evident that such old codes as genre, suspense, comedy, happy ending, and stardom were being abandoned. Films were being made out of self-referential obsession, groundbreaking camp satire, and the simple feeling that this nonsense can't go on.
The films I am choosing as illustration of this—Vertigo, Touch of Evil, Rio Bravo, and Some Like It Hot—are all "obvious" and well known (they are also great fun). I have chosen familiar films because our shared knowledge of the movies will help generate a freer conversation. But then I offer two more—Pierrot le Fou and Bonnie and Clyde—as responses to the breakdown. So six days, six movies, each with an introduction and open conversation.
David Thomson is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Film Comment, Movieline, The New Republic, and Salon. His books include The New Biographical Dictionary of Film; The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood; Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles; Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick; and, most recently, Nicole Kidman. Born in London, he lives in San Francisco.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
7:30 p.m. Touch of Evil
Introduced by David Thomson. Charlton Heston is a Mexican cop (!) grappling with Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, and corruption in Welles’s ultimate California border noir. “As visually thrilling as it is sin-soaked.”—N.Y. Times
Thursday, January 25, 2007
7:30 p.m. Vertigo
Introduced by David Thomson. Detective Jimmy Stewart combs the Bay Area looking for the secret behind Kim Novak’s beauty in Hitchcock’s sinister ode to voyeurism, death, and amorous fixation. “Perhaps the finest film starring San Francisco.”—S.F. Chronicle
Thursday, February 1, 2007
7:30 p.m. Some Like It Hot
Introduced by David Thomson. Marilyn Monroe shines in Wilder’s outrageous cross-dressing comedy, selected by the American Film Institute as the funniest movie ever made.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
7:30 p.m. Rio Bravo
Introduced by David Thomson. Sheriff John Wayne must keep a killer jailed, but needs help from local drunkard Dean Martin, baby-faced Ricky Nelson, and dance-hall girl Angie Dickinson in Howard Hawks’s loose-limbed Western.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
7:30 p.m. Pierrot le Fou
Introduced by David Thomson. Godard is a brilliantly jaundiced tourist in the stylistic universe that is Hollywood. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina play "the last romantic couple," and Sam Fuller puts in an iconic appearance.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
7:30 p.m. Bonnie and Clyde
Introduced by David Thomson. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway make a beautiful, deadly Bonnie and Clyde in Arthur Penn's infamous '60s revisionist gangster flick, which in 1967 made the cover of Time as "The New Cinema: Violence . . . Sex . . . Art."
Presented with support from the Consortium for the Arts at UC Berkeley.