Lori Donnelly's Posts

Lori Donnelly is the George Eastman House Dryden Theatre film programmer.

The Films of Aki Kaurismäki

Posted by on Jan 18 2012 | Other

For many in attendance, the highlight of last year’s Cannes Film Festival wasn’t Terrence Malick’s grand and ambitious The Tree of Life, but Aki Kaurismäki’s low-key, unassuming Le Havre. Inarguably Finland’s best-known filmmaker — his only close competition is his brother, Mika — Kaurismäki belongs to an elite group of directors able to combine a distinct cinematic vision with a deep, humanist generosity toward their characters. Think Renoir, Ozu, or Keaton, three of the director’s influences: like Renoir, Kaurismäki’s concern for the people who populate his films is rooted in a keen awareness of class; like Ozu, he delights in static compositions splashed with primary colors; and like Keaton, his heroes are stoic and his humor deadpan. As Roger Ebert has noted, Kaurismäki “has created a world all his own, and you can recognize it from almost every shot.”

Scene from LE HAVRE, 2011.

That’s particularly true of his latest effort, a wry comedy that finds a Tatiesque community in the port city of Le Havre, France, sheltering a young Gabonese immigrant from the authorities as they try to reunite him with his mother. Even though it deals with a serious issue, the film is relentlessly funny and optimistic, a fable for our times that delights in the power of working-class solidarity and basic human kindness. It’s also gorgeous: a sworn devotee of 35mm, Kaurismäki uses the run-down, seaside beauty of the location to its full advantage, creating frames full of aquatic blues and greens and reminding us that, in his words, “film is light, digital is electricity.” We’re very excited to be hosting an exclusive three-day run of this wonderful film, and to celebrate, we’ll also be screening three other Kaurismäki classics: the Oscar®-nominated The Man Without a Past (Jan. 17), the blackly comic The Match Factory Girl (Jan. 24), and the unique literary “adaptation” La Vie de Bohème (Jan. 31) — one of whose characters returns as the protagonist of Le Havre!



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Filmmaker James Gray

Posted by on Nov 28 2011 | Motion Pictures

Although he has only directed four films, James Gray has already established himself as one of the most accomplished voices in modern American cinema. At a time when Hollywood moviemaking is defined by youth and spectacle, and “independent” cinema by disingenuous quirk, Gray’s films have embraced a restrained and classical visual style, a focus on the working class, an emphasis on character over action, and sincere performances of great depth and feeling.
Director James Gray on the set of ‘Two Lovers’.

It’s a style that’s a unique blend of American and European influences, and appropriately, Gray has long been received as a modern day auteur abroad. In France, Gray has been consistently praised by the critics of the prestigious Cahiers du cinema, and is the subject of a new book, Conversations with James Gray.

Born and raised in New York City — the setting for all of his films — Gray made his directorial debut in 1994 with Little Odessa, a striking mob picture set in Brooklyn’s Russian-Jewish community. Directed when Gray was only 25 years old, the film won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and immediately established Gray’s finely tuned sense of place and facility with actors.  Little Odessa was followed by a pair of noir-tinged, classically tragic crime dramas about families on either side of the law: The Yards and We Own the Night, both starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix again starred in the romantic mood piece Two Lovers, giving a bravura performance as an emotionally scarred man who finds himself torn between two women (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw).

Gray with Joaquin Phoenix.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix in scenes from ‘Two Lovers’.

James has generously taken time out of preparation for his newest film (with an all-star cast including Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Renner) to be with us for the Dryden Theatre screening of Two Loversthis Friday, December 2nd.


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Celebrating the Elizabeth Taylor Film Series

Posted by on Nov 02 2011 | Motion Pictures

On Thursdays in November and December, the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House presents a tribute to one of the great sirens of the silver screen, the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor, with a film series titled A Place in the Sun: The Films of Elizabeth Taylor. 

When Taylor passed away in March 2011, so passed one of the last bona fide queens of a bygone era. While her stunning looks and tabloid-ready personal life often eclipsed her talent in the public’s eye, her staggering career lasted nearly 70 years, encompassing triumphs on stage, screen, and television. Although Taylor had been acting for several years, her big break came at age 12 as plucky jockey Velvet Brown in National Velvet. Unlike other child stars of her day, her appeal came not from her girlishness, but from her preternatural assuredness and dark beauty, traits that helped her ease into adult roles after a string of mostly forgettable contract pictures.

Taylor with Mickey Rooney in NATIONAL VELVET (1945).

She came into her own as an adult star — at age 17 — with the first of three iconic collaborations with lifelong friend Montgomery Clift, A Place In The Sun. As the intoxicating socialite who tempts working-class Clift away from his pregnant girlfriend, Taylor earned widespread acclaim and cemented her reputation as a serious actress.

It wasn’t until 1956, however, that Taylor truly entered the Hollywood stratosphere, earning four Academy Award® nominations in a row for iconic performances in films like Raintree County, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and her first Oscar® triumph, Butterfield 8. Not classically trained, it was her charisma, her presence, and her tough charm that would come to define her acting style and persona. Taylor earned her well-earned second Academy Award® for Best Actress® for her role in the 1966 film Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

As ‘Maggie the Cat’ in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, (1958)

Taylor spent the second half of her career using her celebrity for humanitarian efforts. Before AIDS was widely acknowledged, she was at the forefront of HIV/AIDS activism, and eventually raised $270 million for the cause that she described as “her life.” Fittingly for a dual citizen of Britain and the United States, Elizabeth Taylor was royalty in all the right ways: charming, beautiful, generous, and talented.

Please join us at the Dryden Theatre as we pay homage to one of Hollywood’s finest stars. The series begins Thursday with National Velvet. The roster also features A Place in the Sun, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Raintree County, Giant, Little Women, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


Thursday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m.
National Velvet
(Clarence Brown, US 1945, 125 min.)

Thursday, Nov. 17, 8 p.m.
A Place in the Sun
(George Stevens, US 1951, 122 min.)

Thursday, Dec. 1, 8 p.m.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
(Richard Brooks, US 1958, 108 min., 16mm)

Thursday, Dec. 8, 7 p.m.
Raintree County
(Edward Dmytryk, US 1957, 187 min., w/ intermission)

Thursday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m.
(George Stevens, US 1956, 197 min.)

Thursday, Dec. 22, 8 p.m.
Little Women
(Mervyn LeRoy, US 1949, 121 min.)

Thursday, Dec. 29, 8 p.m.
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
(Mike Nichols, US 1966, 131 min.)

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