If spending an intimate six-hours worth of serious scholarship on some of your favorite films sounds like a rewarding use of a day off, you won’t want to miss SIFF’s upcoming series: Cinema Dissection.
The series kicks off September 19 with Stephen Spielberg’s unlikely masterpiece, Jaws (1975). Facilitators Malory Graham and Kris Kristensen will lead the discussion with scene-by-scene and sometimes shot-by-shot deconstruction of everything from that underwater image of the doomed girl’s legs kicking in the ocean to “I think we need a bigger boat.” (For a refresher on just how unlikely a project this movie was, revisit our essay on Jaws‘ 40th anniversary.)
Moments to belabor:
- Shark POV. Many will remember the chilling effect this camera angle has on the viewer’s psyche (as if we’re the one’s about to eat the girl). In fact, Spielberg resorted to this device because the mechanical shark often broke down on set. ‘Tis a classic example of how necessity births invention.
- “Do you want to get drunk and fool around?” A monster isn’t scary if we aren’t rooting for its victims. Actress Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody lends Brody (Roy Scheider) some humanity when he propositions the sheriff of Amity in this playful exchange.
- “Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye.” Everybody remembers Brody and Hooper below deck and Quint’s iconic monologue about his past encounters with sharks. Legend has it, actor Robert Shaw tried to do the scene fueled by actual alcohol, with dismal results. The actors are sober in the final cut.
Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, and what better way to spend the afternoon leading up to the night’s festivities than with a lengthy discussion of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968)? Head of the University of Washington’s Cinema and Media studies program Jennifer Bean will direct the night’s conversation.
Moments to belabor:
- Zombies storm the farmhouse. Watch how Romero expertly builds up an insidious dread as corpses slowly but surely break down every barricade to get at their victims.
- “Mass hysteria, what do they think, we’re imagining all this?” In this scene, the cast of frightened characters gathers around the television set for news reports, as the 1960s have only just been introduced to the concept of undead cannibals.
- “They’re coming to get you, Barbra.” One of the chilliest moments in Night of the Living Dead comes from Johnny as he perpetually teases Barbra in a cemetery. There’s just something about the way he says it…
The series wraps on November 14 with Werner Herzog’s extraordinary film, Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) about a doomed exploration by 16th century Spanish conquistadors in search of El Dorado. Eric Ames, a University of Washington professor and Herzog scholar will facilitate the conversation.
Moments to belabor:
- Down the mountain to the river. In one continuous take, Herzog films the entire cast as they travel single-file down a switchback on an exhibition that will inevitably end in their slow and painful death.
- “Ten.” In one of the film’s most unforgettable moments, Aguirre slices off the head of a man as he talks over his plans of mutiny. His severed head completes the count several feet away from the rest of his body.
- “I am the wrath of God. Who else is with me?” The crew has been adrift for weeks and the people are dying off in droves. Monkeys have overtaken the raft, and only Klaus Kinski as Aguirre remains. The irony, of course, is that no one else is with him.
Cinema Dissection at SIFF: Fall 2015
When: September 19, October 31 and November 14 at 11 AM
Where: Most sessions take place in the SIFF Film Center Classroom located at Seattle Center near the corner of Warren Ave & Republican St. Check out SIFF’s website for the details.