Cinematheque Celebrates Universal

This spring, Emory’s Department of Film and Media Studies continues Cinematheque, a series of free 35mm film screenings every Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm, from Jan. 30 to Apr. 24 in White Hall 205. For 2013, Emory College and the Department of Film and Media Studies join forces to show the series “Universal Pictures: Celebrating 100 Years” presented by American Express and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Film. Emory is the only venue in the southeast to host the touring series of outstanding Universal Pictures films, as well as one of very few venues in the Southeast to screen 35mm programming.

According to the department’s website, the series, curated by film and media studies faculty, will include 12 films, two documentaries and two special features hosted by Sir Salman Rushdie. The diverse slate of films, spanning from 1931 to the 2000s, is meant to illustrate Universal’s diverse output through the decades.

“Every decade is represented from the 1930s to the 2000s except the 1970s … Back in the day, each studio had a pretty specific identity (Universal had horror films in the 1930s, hence the double feature on the 13th; pink Technicolor comedies in the late fifties, 1960s, hence Pillow Talk) comprised of genre, star and visual style,” Dr. Matthew Bernstein explained in an email to the Wheel.

Such shifts in focus are to be expected from a centenarian movie studio. As the oldest continuously operating producer-distributor in the U.S., Universal Pictures has explored a myriad of cinematic styles. German-born Carl Laemmle founded the pioneering Hollywood movie studio in April 1912. Although popular movie genres and filmmaking techniques have changed dramatically in its century’s worth of production, the iconic spinning globe logo has remained the same.

Throughout its history, Universal Pictures has strived to strike a balance between prestigious and popular entertainment, often questioning the distinction altogether. From the 1930s horror flicks “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” to the 1980s blockbuster “Back to the Future,” the films selected for the series surely reflect Universal’s ongoing struggle to let art and profitability share the screen.

One may not expect the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds” or the highly accoladed “Apollo 13” to appear in the same series as a 2005 Judd Apatow comedy, but the film studies department wanted to showcase the Universal ancestry in its entirety.

“Perhaps the biggest surprise for students is “The 40 Year-old Virgin.” As the first feature film to make a huge splash from Judd Apatow and his crew, we thought it was important to link this highly successful comedy with the Technicolor fantasies, melodramas, horror films, sci-fi, rom-coms and westerns that preceded it,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein feels fortunate to have been asked to screen the series and expressed his hopes to see large audiences come out to White Hall on Wednesday nights this semester. “Our series take a lot of time and work, and we offer them to the entire campus community,” he said.

All screenings are free and unticketed. For the full list of film titles, visit the film studies website.

— By Emily Jackson

eejack2@emory.edu