Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Two Eyes: Susan Hahn

In the San Francisco Bay Area, moviegoing is not just for the newest releases. In 2013 there were more theatrical opportunities to see films spanning the history of cinema than any one person could take advantage of. Therefore, I've asked a sampling of local moviegoers to select a few favorites seen in cinemas last year. An index of participants is found here.  

The following list comes from Susan Hahn, a newly-minted (and job-hunting) film archivist who has run the Six Martinis and the Seventh Art blog since 2007.

I was finishing up my film studies at UC Berkeley last year and that greatly affected my cinema attendance. Truth be told, I was burnt out on watching films and I’m only just recovering now. Sadly I cannot include some amazing private screenings I experienced during my tenure as a film archivist, such as the time I watched a newly restored print of George Kuchar’s Wild Night in El Reno with a few co-workers and Mike Kuchar (ha! Got that in!). Instead this list, presented without rank, is made up of class assignments and a few that motivated me to drag my tired self back into the theater.

Directors Merian C. Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack (U.S., 1927)
Pacific Film Archive
What struck me most about seeing this film in the theater (because that is the purpose of this list) was the audience. I was in the final semester of university at this time and most of my favorite professors were there. The collective film knowledge sitting in front of the screen was astounding and inspiring enough that I wrote a great paper about the film that was excerpted by my professor for the rest of the class. Good times.

The Big Trail
Director Raoul Walsh (U.S., 1930)
I knew about the lovely snow scenes in this film which is why I made the effort to get to the theater to watch a Western. I dislike that film genre immensely but this early sound film avoided most of the silly tropes that drive me crazy. Oh and it was shown in 70mm Fox Grandeur which is the only way that film should be viewed. The cinematography was breath taking, John Wayne was handsome and I was enthralled.

Director Susana de Sousa Dias (Portugal, 2009)
The description of this film makes it sound so dull but I was blown away. I had never heard about the brutal fascist regime in Portugal and the presentation was effective in humanizing the horrors while avoiding the “victim parade” that documentaries dealing with depressing subjects often adopt. I saw this as an assignment for a documentary film class featuring non-stop depictions of brutality and genocides. It was a traumatic class and this film alone balanced the horrible events with the hope of the survivors.

The Conformist
Director Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1970)
One of my favorite films and so good on the big screen though I remember it was a poor print. And studying Italian the past year helped me to understand some of the dialog.

Director Raoul Walsh (U.S., 1915)
Pacific Film Archive
I had been watching lot of D W Griffith for class and this film still wins hands down. I love it more each time I watch it.

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