It’s the new year and a new semester at UC Berkeley. Thankfully, that also means that the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has reopened. The line-up that the PFA is putting on in the upcoming months is a cinephile’s dream and features some of the most influential international films produced in cinematic history. Below are just some recommendations for those adventurous filmgoers looking for world classics to see this semester.
“The Seventh Seal,” directed by Ingmar Bergman (Sweden, 1957)
Screening times: Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m., Feb. 7, 12:45 p.m.
Why you should see it: This is the undisputed masterpiece of the masterful Ingmar Bergman — the Swedish director of more than 170 works of film and theater. “The Seventh Seal” is his most influential and parodied, with even Woody Allen citing it as one of his favorite films. Shot in starkly beautiful black and white, the film follows a Crusades-era knight (Max Von Sydow) as he is challenged by an embodiment of death to a game of chess. The film is what launched Bergman into international auteur status, one he would keep for the next 50 years.
“Battleship Potemkin” directed by Sergei Eisenstein (Russia, 1925)
Screening times: Feb. 7, 5:15 p.m., Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m.
Why should you see it: Sergei Eisenstein has had an influence on practically all modern editing with his montage technique birthed from this landmark film. The theory is based on the principle of having separate images juxtaposed in rapid succession through editing, increasing dramatic and intellectual effect for the audience. The “Odessa Steps” sequence may be the most studied and analyzed sequence in cinematic history and getting the chance to see it on the big screen should not be missed. But along with the film’s technical excellence, the film stands as one of the most revolutionary propaganda films. It’s so revolutionary, in fact, that when Stalin took power over the Soviet Union, he banned all films similar in form to the montage-style Eisenstein created with “Battleship Potemkin.”
“Rocco and His Brothers” directed by Luchino Visconti (France/Italy, 1960)
Screening times: March 12, 5 p.m., March 20, 6:30p.m., March 23, 7p.m.
Why you should see it: While it’s not Visconti’s most popular film, “Rocco and His Brothers” is still loved by many, not the least for launching heartthrob French actor Alain Delon on to the scene. Visconti, known for starting the Italian neorealism movement with “Obsessione,” mixes his realist tendencies with the beautifully decadent style and melodrama found in his later films, such as the Palme D’Or winning-“The Leopard.” Following a quintet of brothers moving to Milan, the film explores all of their misfortunes, including murder, prostitution and rape. The film isn’t a happy affair, but its sprawling and operatic scope had an influence on “The Godfather” and Scorsese’s breakout “Mean Streets.”
Various films directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey, 1997-present)
Screening times: “Distant” April 2, 8 p.m. and April 16, 6 p.m. “The Small Town” April 3, 4:30 p.m. “Climates” April 8, 8:30 p.m. “Clouds of May” April 9, 8:15 p.m. “Once Upon of Anatolia” April 10, 6:30 p.m. “Three Monkeys” April 16, 8:30 p.m. “Winter Sleep” April 17, 2:30 p.m.
Why you should see them: Nuri Bilge Ceylan has quietly but surely been building his reputation as an auteur in international circuits since the late 1990s. Most recently, he was awarded the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix (Second Place) in 2012 for his intense police procedural “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and the Palme D’Or (Best Film) in 2014 for his magnum opus “Winter Sleep.” Known for his long static shots, detailed sound mixings that rely on near silence, use of non-actors in major roles, and brutally long running times (“Winter Sleep” borders on four hours), his style isn’t for everyone. But for those who don’t mind challenging cinema, there aren’t many directors out there who better than Ceylan at forcing the audience to come to their own conclusions about the meticulously detailed stories he weaves. And if that isn’t what great art is, then what is?
“Yojimbo” directed by Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1961)
Screening time: April 27, 3:10 p.m. (Seating is limited because of class screening)
Why you should see it: Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and many others were inspired by this very film and the other legendary works by Akira Kurosawa, such as “Seven Samurai.” One of the most famous international actors at the time, Toshiro Mifune (“Seven Samurai” and “Rashomon”) stars as a nameless, masterless samurai who stumbles into a town where two rival businessmen are having a gang war and vie to hire this nameless ronin to be their bodyguard. Kurosawa and Mifune honor the American Western genre they were influenced by, while creating an adventure yarn that would lead the genre to new heights. Because of the fact that it’s just an incredibly entertaining samurai epic, there’s no reason why anyone should miss seeing this film on the big screen.
Contact Levi Hill at [email protected].