1971. Fassbinder's first film to garner broad praise in Germany is an engaging close-up portrait of a downtrodden fruit peddler who escapes from the Foreign Legion and returns home to a life that gradually disintegrates under the stress of menial work, crushed hopes, and a dispirited marriage. Central to the drama is a repugnant family based on Fassbinder's own. 88 mins.
1972. A lesbian film by an openly gay director, BITTER TEARS stars Margit Carstenson as Petra von Kant, a successful fashion designer who carries on a melodrama of erotic attractions with a contented slave and a sultry model. The lavishly furnished chamber piece takes place in a single claustrophobic room against a wall covered by Titian-like reproductions of the naked at play. A super-charged melodrama of sadomasochistic passion. 124 mins
1946, dir. Lewis Milestone. Barbara Stanwyck, the woman who defined the film noir femme fatale in the 1944 film Double Indemnity, returns to the role of the deadly seductress in this classic thriller. When streetwise gambler Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) returns to his home town of Iverston, childhood sweetheart Martha (Barbara Stanwyck() assumes he has come to blackmail her over the suspicious death of her aunt, which he witnessed years earlier. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse, in which the wealthy and powerful Martha, whose husband is the local district attorney (Kirk Douglas), attempts to threaten, connive and seduce the truth from Sam's clenched lips. Lizabeth Scott co-stars as a hard-boiled woman on probation whose attempts to go straight land her, ironically, in Iverston's vortex of circling sharks. 115 mins
1952, dir. Harry Horner. An itinerant psychotic handyman (Robert Ryan) holds a young widow (Ida Lupino) hostage. When her feverish attempts to escape fail, she is forced into a fierce and final struggle with her captor. 77 mins
1950, dir. Akira Kurosawa. The film which opened the West to Japanese cinema, Kurosawa's Academy Award-winning classic tells of the rape of a woman (Machiko Kyo) and the murder of a man (Masayuki Mori), possibly by a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), presented entirely in flashbacks from the perspectives of four narrators: the "murdered" man (through a medium), his ravished wife, the murderer, and a "neutral" bystander. The framing portions of the movie transpire at Kyoto's crumbling Rashomon gate, where people seek shelter from a pelting rain storm and discuss the recent crime, which has shocked the region. The vastly divergent accounts demonstrate the maxim that perspective distorts reality; it impossible to know the absolute truth. The most striking portrayal belongs to the radiant Machiko Kyo, whose character varies the most from narrative to narrative. She is either a victim, a manipulator, an innocent, or a vixen. 88 mins.
1952, dir. Akira Kurosawa. Mr. Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is a bureaucrat who has worked for 30 years at Tokyo City Hall applying a rubber stamp to piles of papers. He discovers that he is dying of cancer and realizes that he has never lived. Determined to accomplish at least one worthwhile thing before he dies, he battles bureaucracy to ensure that a children's park is built on a wasteland. Watanabe's final triumph is seen in one of the greatest closing shots in the cinema. 140 mins
1949, dir. Jean Cocteau. Orphée is a poet who becomes obsessed with Death (the Princess). They fall in love. Orphée's wife, Eurydice, is killed by the Princess' henchmen and Orphée goes after her into the Underworld. Although they have become dangerously entangled, the Princess sends Orphée back out of the Underworld, to carry on his life with Eurydice. This modern incarnation of the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is a complex tale of life, death, and fidelity. The images which mould this film, both in symbolic form and through the striking photography, build a narrative which transcends words. 112 mins
1946, dir. Jean Cocteau, starring Jean Marais and Josette Day. A visual masterpiece telling the classic tale of true love triumphing over appearance. From the intricate and convincing make-up of the Beast and the surreal splendour of the bewitched castle, to the unadorned simplicity of Beauty and the brutal gaudiness of her sisters, every frame is a feast for the eyes. Light and darkness seem to caress the screen. The aura of amour drifts through every scene, underpinning the story and leading us to a triumphant conclusion which celebrates the victory of love over all obstacles. 96 mins
1998, Writer-director Darren Aronofsky. Maximillian Cohen, a sleepwalking mathematician, fights his excruciating and mystically visionary migraines with increasing doses of drugs. He spends his days cloistered away in his New York City Chinatown apartment searching for a connection between the numerical construct p (the division of a circle's circumference by its diameter, i.e. 3.14 ad infinitum) and the stock market. Soon Max is pursued both by the Cabalist Hasids of his Lower East Side neighborhood, who think he has deciphered the 216-number key to their ancient code, and Wall Street financiers who want Max to help them make a killing on the market. 85 mins.
WHITE LIGHTA Color Performance each Saturday at 7:00