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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This week at U. of C.: A classic romance and a historic prison riot

Posted By on 08.26.14 at 01:53 PM

Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur in History Is Made at Night
  • Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur in History Is Made at Night
The fall quarter might not start for another month, but movie culture is in full swing at the University of Chicago this week. Tomorrow Doc Films begins the final week of its summer calendar with Frank Borzage's History Is Made at Night, screening from 16-millimeter at 7 PM. If you don't know the perennially underrated Borzage, this 1937 masterpiece—surely one of the most romantic movies ever made—provides ample proof of his artistry. To quote Dave Kehr's Reader capsule, "Borzage uses every resource of mise-en-scene—lighting, camera movement, depth of focus, and cutting—to create a separate enchanted environment for his characters. It is melodrama, certainly, but melodrama played with so much conviction and exquisite sensitivity that all the viewer's defenses are destroyed."

On Friday at 7 PM the Logan Center for the Arts will host South Side Projections' 16-millimeter screening of Attica, a 1974 documentary about the historic prison riot at New York's Attica Prison. That event inspired one of Al Pacino's most famous improvisations (in Dog Day Afternoon) and a superb Charles Mingus composition ("Remember Rockefeller at Attica," from the 1975 LP Changes One—see below). This film sounds significant too. According to the South Side Projections website, director Cinda Firestone "combines interviews with the participants [of the riot]—prisoners and hostages, police and civilian observers, government officials and lawyers—with documentary footage of the conditions that prompted the riot, the riot itself, the violent retaking of the prison, and the inquiries that attempted to sort out the truth of what happened."

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Michael Deutsch, an attorney who represented the Attica prisoners during their criminal trials, and Benneth Lee, a former gang member who took part in an uprising at the Pontiac State Prison in 1978.

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