Big Screen Berkeley: A day at the Pacific Film Archive

The Tiger of Eschnapur. Photo: Courtesy BAMPFA

Legend has it that, in decades past, mom or dad would drop junior off at the movies on Saturday morning and leave him or her there for the better part of the day. Junior would get a chapter play, some cartoons, and a couple of kiddie features that they could sit through a second time if they so desired. In return for the price of a quarter, junior’s parents would get a few hours of well-deserved peace.

This Saturday, Jan. 25, Pacific Film Archive is offering a day’s worth of outstanding feature films that will allow you to spend over eight hours in the dark, with or without your parents. And while it’ll cost you more than twenty-five cents — and popcorn won’t be available — you didn’t have anything else to do on Saturday, did you? It’ll probably rain, anyway.

Eat a hearty breakfast, because your movie marathon begins at 1 p.m. with a screening of The Tiger of Eschnapur, the first part of Fritz Lang’s long-unseen ‘Indian epic’ (part two, The Indian Tomb, follows at 3:15 p.m.). Released in 1959, the films weren’t considered commercial propositions in the States, where they ended up being condensed into a single butchered feature entitled Journey to the Lost City which quickly made its way to late-night television.

Recently digitally restored to dazzling effect, Lang’s original films probably look better today than at any time since their original release. If you can see past their badly dated Orientalism (though the films were shot on location in South Asia, Debra Paget, Luciana Paluzzi, and numerous German actors play the roles of Indian natives), you’ll be rewarded with two lush, fantastic pieces of prime Langian storytelling.


The Paper Will Be Blue. Photo: Courtesy BAMPFA

Now in the mood for something a touch more realistic, you’ll stick around for Hîrtia va fi albastrã (The Paper Must Be Blue), a 2006 drama from Romanian director Radu Muntean. Screening at 5:30 p.m. as part of the series ‘Perspectives on History: Romanian Cinema Since 1989‘, it’s the story of Bucharest militiaman Costi (Paul Ipate), who finds himself caught up in the violence and intrigue of his country’s December 1989 revolution.

Shot in steely cobalt blues by cinematographer Tudor Lucaciu, The Paper Must Be Blue brilliantly conveys Romania’s febrile atmosphere as the government of Nicolae Ceaușescu teeters on the brink of collapse. You don’t need to be a Cold War expert to appreciate or understand Muntean’s intense imagining of this critical moment in modern Romanian history.

I Vitelloni. Photo: Courtesy BAMPFA

Sorry, there’s no dinner break before Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni screens at 7:30 p.m. as part of the series ‘Federico Fellini at 100‘. You’ll just have to soldier on, but the film – one of the auteur’s best – will soon make you forget those hunger pangs.

I Vitelloni (roughly translated, the overgrown calves, or veal) tells the story of five poorly behaved young men in the immediate post-World War II years, one of them portrayed by the great Alberto Sordi. The film focuses on the arrested development of the male animal while presaging Fellini’s later predilection for things pulchritudinous, and its screenplay was nominated for an Oscar.

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Shortly before 9:30 p.m., you’ll stumble into the darkness, ravishingly hungry but much improved for your one-day cross-continental cinematic odyssey. Luckily for you, Top Dog will probably still be open. Enjoy!