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New prints of Janus classics at NCMA

click to enlarge Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JANUS COLLECTION
  • Photo courtesy of the Janus Collection
  • Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water

As the N.C. Museum of Art's summer movies on the lawn give way to its second annual fall film series, area cinephiles can look forward to a lineup headlined by esteemed foreign-film and rediscovered classics.

In conjunction with its 50th anniversary, venerable U.S. distributor Janus Films has struck new 35mm prints, each with retranslated subtitles, of a select number of its world cinema catalogue. The 50 Years of Janus Films retrospective debuted at last year's New York Film Festival and has since been touring across the country in varying formats. In a treat hard to find outside of major cities, this fall, nine films from the program will unspool on Friday nights at NCMA, beginning this Friday, Sept. 14.

This weekend's kickoff features Jean Renoir's acclaimed and controversial 1939 classic La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game), an ensemble farce-cum-tragedy that was originally edited, then banned, in its native France for its satire of the French aristocracy (this film, like many others in the series, will be introduced by NCMA film curator and Indy contributor Laura Boyes). Indeed, the original film negative was destroyed during the subsequent German occupation. It was not until 1956 that Renoir, having moved to the United States, was able to restore the film to its original length. Today, it continues to influence filmmakers such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Robert Altman, who borrowed heavily from the movie's framework for Gosford Park.

Akira Kurosawa's High and Low is the director's searing adaptation of Evan Hunter's (aka Ed McBain) King's Ransom, retooled as an indictment of the class divide in 1960s-era Japan. The movie will be introduced Sept. 28 by Marsha Orgeron, chair of the N.C. State film studies program. Orgeron's husband, Devin Orgeron, also an NCSU film studies professor, visits Oct. 26 to introduce Roman Polanski's 1962 feature debut, the taut psychological thriller Knife in the Water. The following week will feature this fall's other Japanese offering, Sansho the Bailiff (Nov. 2), widely considered one of the crowning achievements of director Kenji Mizoguchi's illustrious career. The jidaigeki film takes place in feudal Japan and is a model of narrative and technical proficiency.

A favorite among museum members is Jean Cocteau's La bella et la bête (Beauty and the Beast) (Oct. 5), the first film version of the 18th-century fairy tale, starring Jean Marais in three roles. The Lady Vanishes (Oct. 12) is one of Alfred Hitchcock's great early British outputs. The final two weeks of the program will feature the directors who embodied the popular notion of the European art cinema of the 1950s and '60s. The late Ingmar Bergman will be noted with a screening of Wild Strawberries (Nov. 9), and the program concludes Nov. 16 with Federico Fellini's La strada (The Road), which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1956.

In addition to the Janus series, the museum will present a special homage to Italy's Bologna Film Festival on Oct. 19-20. Margaret Parsons, head of the film department at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., will introduce three American films included in the 2006 festival, which is dedicated to little-known, restored motion pictures: Vincent Minnelli's Home from the Hill; 1934's Jimmy the Gent, a pre-Code comedy starring James Cagney and a young Bette Davis; and a rare Paramount Pictures archival print of My Son John, Leo McCarey's Cold War melodrama starring Helen Hayes and Van Heflin.

For a complete program listing, including dates and showtimes, and ticket information, visit or call the museum's box office at 715-5923.

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