On the last weekend of September the UCSD Fall Films series kicked off and, small surprise, stubbed its toe. According to my informants, who had shown up to see, as promised, Godard's Weekend and Penn’s Mickey One, showtime rolled around and rolled on by, and finally, after a generous allowance for squirming in seats and twiddling of thumbs, it was divulged the films did not arrive on time, sorry folks. They did not arrive on time, or they were not ordered on time, or who really cares how this particular pratfall was engineered? This very thing — no show tonight, come back next week — has happened before, and it will happen again, and it is just another chalk mark on the debit side of a film series which leans to that side on a forty-five degree tilt.
The auditorium in which UCSD's film series takes place the Undergraduate Scien.ce Building, room 2722, on- Revelle Campus — is not the ideal movieviewing locale, for seven or ten reasons I could drop. And there are other annoyances about the way they show their films (the split-second intermissions between films on double-feature programs, the showing of cinemascope movies in cropped prints). But, to hold the present discussion within tidy borders and to prevent it from taking on the exorbitant wrath of an avalanche, it is simply the selection of films for the Fall season at UCSD that will be under gaze make that a glower.
The general situation of film exhibition in San Diego is not agonizingly out-of-whack with
what exists in other cities around the country, excepting of course New York and perhaps this or that burg. too. In this city there are, all told, about one and four-fifths theaters which could be classified as “art theatres,” catering to the more specialized pastes in new or old. and relatively rare, movies. And that figure thought it may vary depending upon who is doing the estimates — is a sum total, arrived at by adding the contributions of borderline, or chameleon, theaters (the cozy Capri, for example, might be counted as approximately one-third of an art house).
The difference between San Diego and some places, however, is in the role played by local colleges and universities as gap-fillers in the presentation of the less common motion pictures. Their contribution to this end is inevitably spotty. Pathetically spotty. And the cynic could detract a great deal else from the idea of colleges as nests of serious-mindedriess (student
audiences are notorious for cackling, whistling, and guffawing in wrong places). But, nevertheless, under any conditions the opportunity to see films which would be otherwise unavailable west of Manhattan is to be applauded. Reasons for such applause are thin in this area, unhappily.
First of all, the film show ings on local campuses are fairly well-kept secrets. San Diego State runs a film series with some titles in it that you might want to see: Godard's My Life to Live, October 17: Mizoguchi's The Life of O-Harn (this is printed on their schedule as The Life of O'Hara, but it is only known that way in Boston), November 30; De Sica's Umberto D, December 5. However, you have to be a card-carrying Aztec to get into the events, unless you care to lurk around the entrance in hopes of being picked up by somebody on the way in, but this is sometimes a health hazard. The only film series in the area that I am personally familiar with is the one at UCSD,
which is open to the public, and runs three nights a week, Tuesday. Friday, Saturday.
It is their collection of films which concerns me here. The films making up the UCSD series are certainly not all of the same ilk, but this only complicates the complaint.
At worst, the University apparently wishes to carry on competition with the Roxy and the Pacific Drive In and every other theater in town. When the likes of Fists of Fury, The Graduate, The Professionals, Bullitt,
Slaughterhouse Five are shown on a college campus, as they will be this Fall, the event may be mildly termed as wasted time, squandered opportunity, dereliction of duty, or criminal negligence. Any of these films, and more like them, may be seen tomorrow night around town or next week on TV. And the benefits of showing them on campus — keeping students off the street at night, or cutting down on students’ gas bills — are not
enough to offset the tedium of seeing the same dreary titles, once more, which are in the San Diego Union every week of the year.
What complicates the complaint is that some of the movies on UCSD's Fall schedule are definitely worth seeing, at least once. This must be admitted, even in the grumpiest mood, and even in spite of the world-wide renown, acceptance, and gush in which many of these movies are caked. (Other movies of equal renown .that appear on the schedule — Giant, Henry V, On the Waterfront never did, and less so now. deserve the attention.) These Fall happenings will be turning up in the Reader's weekly film guide, but some of them are worth marking now on your calendars: on November 3, Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux and Hawks' His Girl Friday; on November 10, Kurosawa's Sanjuro (but, be warned, this is a wide-screen movie, and when Kurosawa’s widescreen Yojimbo was shown here earlier, it was a narrow-screen version, cropped): on December I. Satyajit Ray's Pother Panchali (Ray has made around twenty movies since this one, his first; several of them are as good or belter, and all of them are less often seen than this one).
Each of these films, the cream, can be defended in the name of all those people in the potential audience who have never seen them. Those people should have their chance, okay. (The film series might be called Remedial Film Classics.) And these are films which will make people glow and purr; however, there is no thrill about them. They are encrusted in golden reputations, and the savvy it takes to select them for showing is a faculty of any obtuse orangutang,
calling on the random knowledge of film history he has acquired by holding his ear to hollow tree trunks.
Pother Panchali and Monsier Verdoux, and so on, are movies that everyone knows, and everyone should see. And in the exhibition of them, consequently, there is no risk, no adventure, no advance, no chance of discovery, and no optimism. There is instead the con-
tentment with full houses, and happy audiences, and fat smiles all around. This is not the only way to run a film program. There are. in existence elsewhere. University-sponsored film societies that give you the sensation of being in the presence of programmers w'ho know and care about movies, that give you coherent and unified series of films, that give you mimeographed hand-outs with information about the movie of the week, that give you an over-the-microphone greeting, and introduction to the film, and we’ll see you in the lobby later and please let us know your suggestions. But memories of film programs which are run this way, competently and commitledly, seem from here like some sort of rural fantasy that vanished with corner grocery stores, soda fountains, and doctors who make housecalls.
It is just slightly disheartening, while not altogether unexpected, that more imagination, dare.
progressiveness, or something did not go into the planning. With over forty films, divided over three different nights, it ought to have been possible to squeeze in something a little new, fresh, up-to-date. Something besides the usual hallowed movies, approved at the box-office by Richard Schnickel and Judith Crist. It would not seem that, at the University of California. turning a profit and filling the seats ought to be on everyone's mind every night of the week.
The one night that demonstrates what might have been accomplished is this coming Saturday, the 13th, when there will be a showing of Marcel Ophuls' documentary on the Irish conflict, A Sense of Loss. This is a new film that has not yet played in San Diego, and it is an admirable use of time, space, and money to bring it
here. (Although the thought-process that is responsible is probably not dissimilar from the one that caused Arthur Jacobs to
Home of Kirk Bates, where we (continued on page 15)
follow one Planet of the Apes movie with four more, since, last Spring, UCSD premiered Marcel Ophuls' documentary The Sorrow and the Pity, and this is undoubtedly a literal-minded try to recapture the glory.) Another example of what is possible, in the way of coherent programming, are the series of of films sponsored by UC Extension School and shown at the Unicorn: this Fall, it is a series of Japanese films, including Kurosawa's Red Beard, October 10, and Ozu’s Floating Weeds, November 21; in the past, it was a series of Latin American films.
At the moment, the most stimulating prospect for Fall is the projected appearance at UCSD of the Italian film-maker Roberto Rossellini, in person, and in company of screenings of some of his works, old and new. The planned date is October 28, but this project is still in the works, and we'll have to wait and see if, and in what shape, it comes out of the oven.