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2011 UCLA Festival of Preservation Tour Comes To The Siskel

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 2, 2011 8:40PM

2011_09_gsfc.jpg Digital incarnations notwithstanding, film is a fragile, even ephemeral thing. It is commonly observed that 90 percent of all American silent films and 50 percent of American sound films made before 1950 have already been lost forever. The great majority of those that have survived continue to suffer woeful decay and neglect. The vaults of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, with a big, dedicated staff and a 220,000-title collection that makes it second in size only to the Library of Congress, are xenon arc lamp of our burgeoning enlightenment about the need to restore and preserve our cinematic heritage so it can be shared with future generations. Throughout September, treasures plucked from that vault will be available at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and we recommend you take as much of it in as you can.

With a program spanning so many genres and decades, there's too much worthwhile material to do justice to it all. The essential Alan Schneider-directed production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot, starring Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel is pared up with the rarer-than-rare 35mm print of the Irish literary titan's only cinematic jaunt, an arid, uncomfortable short starring a very old Buster Keaton, called Film. Douglas Sirk's ravishing 1948 noir, Sleep, My Love does justice to stars Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings and Don Ameche. Several titles we're not familar with stand out, such as the Paul Robeson-narrated leftist agitprop Native Land and a program of three episodes of the legendary 50s television show "This is Your Life," featuring the first holocaust survivor to describe her ordeal on national television, a German actress who helped to liberate 400 from concentration camps and a family who hid for 18 months in an attic in the Netherlands.

Things kick of with a bang, as the ultra-rare Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean opens the program this weekend. Unavailable DVD or Blu-ray (though we know where you might be able to scrounge up a Laserdisc), Robert Altman's followup from the big-budget Popeye was this loving and assured adaptation of the stage Ed Graczyk play he also directed, which had its premiere at the 1982 Chicago International Film Festival (where it took the top prize). With his camera winding around stars Sandy Dennis, Karen Black and Kathy Bates, and Cher. Jimmy Dean feels somehow completely, disconcertingly true while never hiding its theatrical artifice. If an evening's worth of reminiscences of the local chapter of the James Dean fan club in a Texas town near where his last movie Giant was filmed sounds like thin gruel for a movie, Altman's Alchemy renders it an unforgettable catalog of the backwards, inward-looking American psyche of 1975.

More information about each of these titles is available online.

Sep 3rd and Sep 7th: Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Robert Altman, 1982)
Sep 3rd and Sep 8th: Outfest Legacy Project Program (Various directors, 1950-84)
Sep 5th: Eve's Leaves (Paul Sloane, 1926)
Sep 5th: The Goose Woman (Clarence Brown, 1925)
Sep 10th and Sep 14th: Waiting for Godot (Alan Schneider, 1961) and Film (Alan Schneider, 1965)
Sep 10th and Sep 12th: Native Land (Leo Hurwitz and Paul Strand, 1942)
Sep 17th and Sep 21st: Sleep My Love (Douglas Sirk, 1948)
Sep 17th and Sep 19th: Strangers in the Night (Anthony Mann, 1944)
Sep 24th and Sep 28th: Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)
Sep 24th and Sep 26th: Cry Danger (Robert Parrish, 1951)
Oct 1st: The Flower of Doom (Rex Ingram, 1917)
Oct 1st: The Chalice of Sorrow (Rex Ingram, 1916)
Oct 3rd: Rendezvous with Annie (Allan Dwan, 1946)
Oct 5th: This Is Your Life (Various directors, 1953-61)
Sep 4th, Sep 11th, Sep 18th, Sep 24th, Oct 5th: These Amazing Shadows (Paul Marino and Kurt Norton, 2011, HDCAM video)