Programmed by Aparna Ravilochan
The Dinner Party: that mainstay of high society life that epitomizes decadence and brims with dramatic possibility. The room buzzes with the chatter of glamorous people who have come to see and be seen; they flirt and flatter, but do they even really like one another? The films in this series chip away the glossy veneer of social niceties to reveal a rotten core of emptiness and moral vacuity beneath. When they aren't dining, these characters are picnicking, hunting, yachting and playing tennis, but not even the most refined occupation can keep their decorous charm from giving way to infidelity, political cowardice, and nonchalant cruelty. Many of cinema's most renowned directors put their talents to work on this theme, crafting masterpieces that range in genre from murder mystery to comedy to surreal political allegory.
(Jean Renoir, 1939) · On the eve of WWII, French blue-bloods gather at a country estate. Its lush interiors and sprawling grounds, shot in incisive deep focus, set the stage for their callous moral failings. After a disastrous premiere in 1939, Renoir's comedy of manners was destroyed in an Allied bombing in 1942. It was not until many years after the war that the film was restored and lauded as a prescient satire on Europe's upper class and the rise of fascism.
runtime: 110m format: 35mm
(Luis Buñuel, 1972) · Luis Buñuel had already announced the end of his career when an anecdote about a colleague who forgot his own dinner party inspired him to make this madcap film. Six bourgeois friends repeatedly sit down to dine together, only to be thwarted by a series of bizarre and nightmarish events. Time and again, their class hypocrisy, political paranoia, and sense of entitlement are on display in Buñuel's logic-bending fable.
runtime: 105m format: DCP
(Federico Fellini, 1960) · Fellini's tour de force follows Marcello, a tabloid journalist, as he wanders and womanizes his way through "the sweet life" in postwar Rome. In a series of loosely connected episodes, Marcello pursues pleasure and meaning but finds only moral stupor. Fellini's hellish but glamorous Rome is brought to life by tender nighttime streetscapes, a voluptuous score from Nino Rota, and an unforgettable final party scene.
runtime: 180m format: 35mm
(Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960) · When a young woman disappears during a yachting party in the Mediterranean, it falls to her lover and her best friend to search for her. In the first film of his trilogy on "modernity and its discontents," Antonioni lingers on the alienated pair as they drift into inconstancy and empty love. Ennui suffuses every detail, from a score that Antonioni called "jazz written in the Hellenic era," to the glacially pretty, dead-eyed gaze that propelled Monica Vitti to stardom.
runtime: 145m format: 35mm
(Luis Buñuel, 1962) · As a lavish dinner party for Spanish aristocrats begins to die down, the guests find themselves incapable of leaving, trapped by some mysterious force. So begins Luis Buñuel's surrealist allegory of Franco's Spain. As the characters struggle to cope with hunger, thirst, sickness, and conflict, propriety collapses into ugliness and dangerous conformity. Buñuel, with his taste for mischief and eye for human weakness, is at the height of his powers in this sinister dark comedy.
runtime: 96m format: DCP
(Vĕra Chytilová, 1966) · From Vĕra Chytilová, enfant terrible of the Czech New Wave, comes this bacchanalia of color, collage, subversion, and visual invention. Daisies follows the antics of Marie I and Marie II, a pair of scamps who answer war and disparity with whimsy, pledging a devil-may-care attitude to a rotten world. In the famous "wanton" scene that earned the film a ban in Czechoslovakia, the girls have free rein over a decadent feast when the invited guests are absent.
runtime: 76m format: 35mm
(George Cukor, 1933) · In this Depression-era ensemble picture graced by a sparkling script and star-studded cast, a shipping mogul and his harried wife arrange a soirée for their Park Avenue friends. In the days and hours before the party, they and their invitees--including an aging actress, a mining magnate and his social-climbing wife, and a booze-soaked silent film star--struggle to keep up appearances as they face ill-fated loves and precarious fortunes. 16mm collection print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive
runtime: 113m format: 16mm
(Vittorio de Sica, 1970) · In this scathing depiction of Mussolini's Italy from the director of Bicycle Thieves, the elite Jewish family of the Finzi-Continis clings to an illusion of normalcy as fascism creeps to the door. The children socialize and host tennis parties at their luxurious walled estate, but as the characters are faced with increasingly anti-Semitic restrictions upon their way of life, their reactions range from obliviousness to outrage to rationalization.
runtime: 95m format: 35mm
(Robert Altman, 2001) · Scandal and intrigue abound in this manor house murder mystery set in the interwar era. When a group of wealthy Britons gather for a weekend shooting party, secrets begin to surface among both the upstairs guests and the downstairs servants. Altman cooks up a sharp class study peppered with Britain's favorite faces, including Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Helen Mirren, Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, and Stephen Fry.
runtime: 137m format: DCP