NAU’s College of Arts and Letters Film Series, which is co-sponsored by the Cline Library and the School of Communication, promotes understanding and appreciation of cinema through Northern Arizona University and the greater Flagstaff community. Before each film a local film expert offers a short introduction to set the film in its historical, artistic, and cultural context. Each film is followed by a discussion.
The CAL film series blends well-known audience favorites along with lesser-known films, as well as a mix of genres, artists, and decades, moving chronologically from past to present, so that audiences can see the evolution of the art form.
The Spring 2019 film series continues our two-season focus on youth in the movies with fifteen films about troubled youth. We begin this season in 1933 with “Zero for Conduct.” This influential French film, about a student uprising in a boarding school, was banned in France for years because of its anti-authoritarian message.
Moving into the 1950s, we present perhaps the most iconic film of our series on troubled youth, “Rebel Without a Cause.” James Dean’s portrayal of teenager Jim Stark is the role that Dean is best known for, and the image of Dean with his pompadour, jeans, and jacket with a popped collar is instantly recognizable. Our other 50s film depicts a very different kind of troubled youth. In “The Bad Seed,” eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark seems to be a sweet and proper little girl but as the story unfolds, we learn that Rhoda is not what she appears.
“Lord of the Flies” (1963), based on William Golding’s 1954 novel, tells the story of English boarding school boys who end up stranded on a remote island. The boys’ attempts to establish their own society quickly devolves into savagery and violence, revealing the fragile nature of civilization. Our second 60s film is the critically acclaimed but little known “Pretty Poison,” starring Anthony Perkins as a man recently released from a mental institution who comes to a small town where he meets high-school cheerleader Sue Ann, played by Tuesday Weld. Director Noel Black said that the film was about “a Walter Mitty type who comes up against a teenybopper Lady Macbeth.”
Often called the greatest rock film ever made, “Gimme Shelter” (1970) documents the notorious concert by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway in 1969 at which an audience member was stabbed to death in front of the stage as the band played. Our second film from the 70s, “Two-Lane Blacktop,” depicts the clash between the younger generation and the older as a road movie. Musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson are the driver and mechanic of a 1955 Chevy, and Warren Oates plays their challenger as they race along Route 66.
Our iconic 1980s high-school film is Amy Heckerling’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The hilarious film features memorable performances from the cast, particularly Sean Penn as archetypal stoner dude Jeff Spicoli. Our second film from the 80s is the beautifully filmed story of intergenerational conflict, Frances Ford Coppola’s “Rumble Fish.” Coppola called the film his “art film for teenagers.”
From the 1990s, we have director Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho.” The film stars Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix as young street hustlers in the Pacific Northwest and is also an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV.” “Backbeat” (1994) is the story of original member of the Beatles, Stuart Sutcliffe, and his relationship with John Lennon prior to his leaving the band just before they gained superstardom. To close out the 90s, we present the first film by director Sophia Coppola, “The Virgin Suicides.” Coppola also wrote the screenplay, based on Jeffrey Eugenides novel, about five sisters dealing with their overprotective religious parents in suburban Detroit in the 1970s.
Our films from the 21st century begin with another high-school film, ‘Mean Girls,” which tells the story of a formerly home-schooled teenager struggling with the complexities and cruelty of high-school life. The screenplay was written by Tina Fey, who later adapted the film as a play, which premiered on Broadway in 2018. The critically acclaimed horror film “It Follows” is about a young woman who is stalked by a supernatural presence after a sexual encounter. This film also takes place in suburban Detroit, though rather than the dreamy nostalgic look of Sophia Coppola’s film, the crumbling city has a menacing dystopian air that contributes to the growing dread of the story.
We close our season with the multi-Oscar-nominated “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which follows six-year-old Hushpuppy’s search for her absent mother against the backdrop of her Bayou community’s slow destruction by rising waters and the re-appearance of ancient beasts.
The film series is free and open to the public. (A cartoon will precede films of less than 120 minutes.)
Free weeknight parking behind Cline Library in lot P13 requires a permit, which community members can get by following directions at our film series website at http://nau.edu/CAL/Events/CAL-Film-Series. We hope to see you on Tuesday nights this semester.