Programmed by Ted Davis
"There was a stranger who came into our town. He was tall and had eyes that could look right to the bottom of you. We might have welcomed him except for one thing..." Ken Nordine, Levi's Jeans commercial, 1972
Ken Nordine's narration for a Levi's commercial outlines the premise of this series, in which a community slowly unravels under the influence of a stranger. Where does he come from? What does he want? Who is he really? Is he even a man? When he arrives in the community, he appears to its residents as a cipher, sometimes seductive, sometimes, dangerous, but always mysterious and powerful. His motives remain as shrouded as nearly everything else about the man, but the truth about the community rises to the surface. As he embroils himself in the lives of its members, social order comes undone. By taking it apart, the stranger reveals how a community works and what it's made of. These films are nightmares. But they're not wrong.
(Clint Eastwood, 1973) · Out of the dust rides a nameless drifter smoking a cigarillo (Clint Eastwood, of course). He arrives in the one-horse mining town of Lago where, after dispatching some local wastrels, the local sheriff offers him a job defending the town--but he turns it down. In desperation, the sheriff offers the drifter anything he wants. A gleam ignites the drifter's cold blue stare. It was not the dust that blew him into Lago, and he will not leave until it is painted blood red.
runtime: 105m format: 35mm
(Charles Laughton, 1955) · A wolf-in-sheep's clothing if there ever was one, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a an itinerant preacher and serial killer who comes to a small West Virginia town, where he endears himself to his ex-cellmate's widow (Shelley Winters) and her small children. In the only film he directed, Laughton envisages a fantastical American South closer to an unexpurgated Grimm's fairy-tale than an O'Connor story: a crepuscular maze of swamps and woods where children flee from absolute evil with no adult supervision. 35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restoration funding provided by The Film Foundation.
runtime: 93m format: 35mm
(Jerzy Skolimowski, 1978) · Electronic music composer Anthony Field (John Hurt) lives happily with his wife Rachel (Susannah York) in the wilds of Devon, until they invite a charming vagrant for dinner. The vagrant (Alan Bates) regales them with stories of his magic, including an incantatory shout that can kill any living creature, and casts a spell that subjugates Rachel to his will. Sound proves the lynchpin of this tale of magic in modernity, in which Alan Bates establishes himself as the O.G. "super saiyan."
runtime: 94m format: 35mm
(Joseph Losey, 1963) · Tony (James Fox), a disaffected fop, lives peaceably with his manservant Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) in a pristine London apartment, until Tony's girlfriend Susan (Sarah Miles) starts to suspect that there is something wrong with the relationship between the master and his servant. She wants to get rid of Barrett, but it seems he is there to stay. As Barrett becomes strangely more assertive, Tony's plush apartment becomes a claustrophobic fun-house for a most peculiar species of game.
runtime: 116m format: DCP
(Joseph Losey, 1951) · Lonely housewife Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keeys) suspects that she may not be alone on the premises of her suburban mansion, so she calls the police. A worn-out beat cop Webb Garwood (Van Hefflin) finds no sign of a prowler, but he and Susan take a liking to one another, which blossoms into an extramarital affair. However, Webb's first name gives some indication of the man in this misanthropic film noir that Tom Gunning describes as "a late Lang with a geological imperative that almost anticipates Antonioni."
runtime: 89m format: 35mm
(Joseph Losey, 1968) · Ensconced in a mansion overlooking the crashing waves of the Mediterranean, the terminally ill (but extravagantly costumed) Sissy Goforth (Liz Taylor) awaits her angel of death. An English poet, Christopher Flanders (Taylor's husband Richard Burton), makes a timely entrance in a billowing kimono. Each seeks to bend the other to their will, so they face off in a tournament of elliptical mind-games. Losey, a maestro of the "insidious stranger" subgenre, offsets psychological terrorism with exotic kitsch.
runtime: 113m format: 35mm
(François Ozon, 2003) · Struggling with her next book, prim and short-tempered mystery novelist Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) goes to her publisher's pool house in Provence for a change of pace, but the unexpected arrival of a young woman named Julie shatters her repose. The puerile party animal poses a distraction to Sarah, who starts to watch her swimming laps--but when doubts arise concerning Julie's identity, the refracted image of the swimming woman becomes a cipher, a semblance without substance, a surface without depth.
runtime: 103m format: 35mm
(Lars von Trier, 2003) · Grace (Nicole Kidman) arrives in the cozy little mining town of Dogville looking for shelter. The townpeople allow her to stay in exchange for physical labor. Over time, Grace becomes a a member of the community, which means being subjected to all manners of abuse and degradation. Filmed on a black studio set inscribed with white lines to signify the dimensions of buildings, Dogville detaches the viewer from the narrative to investigate social evil on an allegorical stage.
runtime: 179m format: 35mm
(Alex van Wammerdam, 2013) · Like an economy-grade Dr. Mabuse, Camiel Borgman is a criminal with nebulous motives and superhuman powers of suggestion. Disguised as a vagrant, he arrives at the mansion of an affluent family. He provokes the husband into assualting him, but of course this is just phase one of the plan. The sympathetic wife allows Borgman to stay in the shed and work as a gardener, but the mystery man's work takes place as much inside the house as on the ground, as he insidiously extends his scope of influence.
runtime: 113m format: DCP
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) · In an opening montage that presages Blue Velvet, Hitchcock welcomes us to the picturesque California hamlet of Santa Rosa. Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) arrives to visit his family, and his niece (Teresa Wright), also named Charlie, embraces him ecstatically--but she soon observes that all is not well with her namesake when he suspiciously removes a section from her father's paper. As young Charlie searches for the truth about her uncle, she learns firsthand that evil is indeed relative...
runtime: 108m format: 35mm