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Calgary Cinematheque: Celebrating a Decade of Critical Cinema in Calgary. 

Thursday 05th, October 2017 / 07:00
By Morgan Cairns 

CALGARY – “In our discussions, we were just so keen on things that were beautiful,” says Calgary Cinematheque President, Brennan Tilley, of year’s programming. Entering their 11th year of presenting critical cinema culture, Calgary Cinematheque is revving up for what might be their most stunning season yet.  We sat down with Tilley for an overview of this year’s programming, and to take a look into what the future of Calgary Cinematheque has in store.

Opening the season is the four-film series Focus: Landscapes; and while some might question the subject of “landscapes” as a broad topic, this contemplation is exactly what Cinematheque intended. “What we wanted to do was leave it a bit open ended to show just what that can be,” says Tilley. “I think what we’re trying to say is wide and expansive shots.” And while all of the series’ films invoke the sort of vast openness and sweeping shots that the series title suggests, none are more synonymous with the exploration of landscape in cinema than the third film of the series, Terrance Malick’s  1973 crime film, Badlands. “It’s another character, and that’s what’s so key,” explains Tilley. “Badlands is about the badlands, it’s almost like those characters are secondary to story of them travelling through this area.” The industrial wasteland of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964), the Australian outback of Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971), and the urban setting of Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1964) flesh out the remainder of the cinematheque’s broad exploration of cinematic landscapes. 

The second segment of Cinematheque’s season this year, also referred to as the Masters series, places focus on celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker, Wong Kar-wai. “His influences are really coming to bare right now,” says Tilley. “I think we see through a lot of films right now that his influence is apparent and he’s still quite relevant. You don’t often see a filmmaker that can be such an influence on the zeitgeist, and also himself be so active and maintaining that master’s status.” Opening the series with what is arguably the director’s most well-known film, In the Mood for Love (2000), Wong Kar-wai’s mastery in the art of simplicity and subtlety is on full display, in what is considered a must-see in every cinephile’s film education. Rounding out the series are 2046 (2004), Ashes of Time (1994), and Wong’s most recent release, The Grandmaster (2013). “He’s slowed down a little bit in the last few years, in terms of a high-profile North American release,” notes Tilley. “But he’s still very much active…he’s already at a level that I think can be recognized as a master based on 20 years of solid output.”

Kicking off in the new year, this seasons Spotlight series will focus on the works of notable cinematographers, Haskell Wexler and Gordon Willis. Building off last year’s spotlight on actress Tilda Swinton, Cinematheque’s aim was to focus on other renowned artists in cinema, while still retaining the Masters series as an exploration of directors and filmmakers. Putting their cinematic flourish on classic films such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Klute (1971), Wexler and Willis were some of the first cinematographers to become auteurs in their own right. “We thought both Wexler and Willis both represented a pair of cinematographers really putting their stamp on things,” explains Tilley. “You have these 70s’ cinematographers coming in, and so clearly making a film in their style, and we really thought that was the way to go.” He elaborates, “We went back and forth about whether we wanted to highlight one or the other, and just thought a six-film series with three of each covers it off pretty well.”

In addition to a new season of programming, their 11th season will also include a partnership with Central Public Library to present screenings of the series most quintessential films (In the Mood for Love, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Badlands), followed by a more in-depth discussion of the film with the cinematheque’s programming committee. A new edition to the cinematheque’s programming, Tilley sees the screenings potentially catering to two contradicting audiences, “In one way it could be a bit more casual and not as cinephile-ish as our usual screenings because it’s a different environment, or it could be more in depth because we actually have more time to talk and we can take on a longer analysis,” explains Tilley. “There’ll be one from each series there, so if someone really wanted to do one film per series and get an introduction into what we do, I would tell people to take a look at that.”

Looking forward, Tilley remarks that while the future of the cinematheque has yet to be determined, their mission remains the same. “Ultimately, we’re trying to foster a critical cinema culture,” says Tilley. “It’s about finding other ways to react to how Calgarians want to go to the movies and have these discussions…We’re a very member-oriented organization, so we’ll just see where people will follow us. It’s not so much where we want it to go, but as much as where our audience wants to take us.” 

Calgary Cinematheque’s 11th season kicks off October 12 with Red Desert at The Plaza Theatre. The following films will be shown at the Calgary Public Library… In the Mood for Love, Sunday, Oct. 22; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Sunday, Oct. 29; Badlands, Sun, November 5. The season will run from October 2017 to March 2018. For more info on the Season 11 go to calgarycinema.org. 

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