Usually, the UW-Cinematheque on-campus film program schedules series around the work of a particular filmmaker, or from a certain country, or even a particular genre of film.
But this summer, the Cinematheque is building its main series around something different — a film critic.
That critic is, of course, the great Roger Ebert, who passed away in April. In addition to being the most famous writer about film on Earth, Ebert was a good friend to Madison, coming up for several Wisconsin Film Festivals; on his last visit, in 2006, he and film professor David Bordwell presented the film “Laura” in the UW-Cinematheque screening room at 4070 Vilas Hall.
So it’s fitting that the free summer Cinematheque series, which kicks off July 11, will feature “Roger Ebert: Great Movies, Overlooked Films and Guilty Pleasures.” Ebert loved movies, all kinds of movies, and the series gives audiences a taste of that, mixing established classics like “The Third Man” with lesser-known gems like Tarsem’s visually ravishing “The Fall” (July 26) and the sci-fi kung fu movie “Infra-Man.” (July 19). The series also includes Akira Kurosawa’s epic “Ran” (Aug. 2) and Russ Meyer’s less-than-epic “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (Aug. 9), which Ebert wrote the screenplay for.
And, in a major coup for the campus series, the Cinematheque will present the only Madison screening of the much-anticipated new film from Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”). “To the Wonder,” starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko, was the last movie that Ebert filed a review for before he passed away.
All the screenings are free and open to the public, and seating is first-come, first-serve. The Ebert series will be much longer than Cinematheque summer seasons of past years, stretching through the rest of the summer. In addition, Cinematheque programmer Jim Healy is showing many of the Ebert selections in the larger Marquee Theatre in Union South. The Ebert screenings will run Friday nights, with a special showing of “To the Wonder” on Saturday, July 13.
On Thursday nights, Cinematheque will show the films of French comic filmmaker Pierre Etaix, whose work is largely unknown outside France but very influential on the works of David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and Robert Bresson, among other filmmakers. Those films, all new 35mm prints, will all screen in the Cinematheque’s usual home at 4070 Vilas Hall.
The opening weekend shapes up like this:
Thursday, July 11, “Le Grand Amour” (UW Cinematheque) — Pierre Etaix’s 1969 comedy follows a married businessman tempted to stray by his beautiful young secretary.
Friday, July 12, “The Third Man” (Marquee Theater) — Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles star in this classic tale of intrigue and betrayal in post-World War II Vienna.
Saturday, July 13, “To the Wonder” (Marquee Theater) — Terrence Malick uses rapturous imagery to tell the tale of a French woman (Kurylenko) who comes to live with her new lover (Affleck) back home in Oklahoma.
Visit cinema.wisc.edu for the full schedule.