Treading the Waters of Hip Captalism or Serving the People at the Orson Welles
PASSING by the office of University Cinema Associates at 930 Massachusetts Avenue, one notices that the picture window of their second floor office has been broken; perhaps the product of a rock thrown by an angry radical. The broken part of the window is patched up with a pink valentine on which is scrawled the single word "Please."
This as much as anything typifies the philosophy behind the Orson Welles Cinema and its brothers and sisters in the UCA complex. To charges of hip capitalism, the people at UCA will respond that there can be something of a romantic vision in a corporate venture, and that the venture can be of service to the community.
Frances Gitter, administrative director of UCA's latest venture, The Film School, and wife of Dean Gitter, one of the founding fathers of the Welles, explains the philosophy behind the UCA complex: "From the beginning, Dean and Peter [Peter Jaszi, program director at the Welles], and I felt that the actual presentation of films had been so plastic. We wanted a place where people could sit-down and talk. We've always thought of the Welles as a framework for generating real community feeling."
In order to reinforce this sense of community, UCA is trying to bring together members of the community who ordinarily don't come in contact with each other. One way they are doing this is through the Restaurant.
The Restaurant is described by the UCA people as an "international farmhouse cookery" encompassing food from France, Greece, and Armenia. But UCA is quick to point out that the culinary aspects of the Restaurant are by no means its most innovative aspects. The theme of the Restaurant is "brotherhood," and UCA sees dining as a group experience. What this means is that dinners will be served only for groups dining together. If a single individual or couple comes in, he or they will be seated with others to make up groups of four (for luncheon) or eight (for dinner). Since portions are designed for groups, strangers will thus have a reason to talk to each other, even if only to decide what to eat.
"For people who have dropped out of the money economy for one reason or another," said Frances Gitter, "we'll allow them to barter for meals. Also, hopefully, we'll be able to open soup kitchens from the profits of the Restaurant." The Restaurant should open early this week.
IN THE Film School, too, UCA is trying to bring together all sorts of people who ordinarily wouldn't see each other. Only about half of the 250 people already enrolled in The Film School are student types under 30; and the enrollment ranges from 15 year-old high school kids to 65-year-old retired doctors.
However good in theory such a diverse student body might be, it might well provide the UCA teaching staff with a few problems. The school offers eight courses, five history/ theory courses and three courses on practical filmmaking, and in any one of them a student with a fair amount of experience might find his progress being slowed by a class with little or no experience.
Some of the problems of The Film School faces now are purely logistical and should be ironed out soon. For instance, will the new complex (classrooms, labs, and 230 seat screening room) behind the present Welles Cinema open within the next two weeks as scheduled? If not, the practical filmmaking courses which will rely heavily on laboratory work, won't, as one UCA staff member said, "be worth shit."
Already The Film School boasts students enrolled in all eight of its courses, students who seem to be using the school as a full-scale film program. Frances Gitter said, "We have no structured program as yet, but we're working on it. They [the students currently enrolled] will want a progression from where they are and we want to be able to give them that without getting stuffy and heavy and losing flexibility. We realize that it is easier said than done."
Of course, any criticism of The Film School at this point is purely speculative. Most of the courses have only met once and instructors are in the process of finding out what their students are like and how to deal with them.
THOUGH students at The Film School might find their first semester riddled with a few of the problems that beset most schools during their first year of operation, they will also have their share of benefits. All students will get half-price admission to all commercial showings at the Welles Cinema, students will be able to buy books and equipment at UCA's F Stop at a substantial discount (cost plus ten per cent) and selected student filmmakers will get a chance to display their work at special screening sessions at the Welles.
Whether UCA is treading the waters of hip capitalism or is genuinely trying to serve the community remains a moot question. What is important is that The Film School is one of the only alternatives open to non-university students who are interested in film and university students who are not lucky enough to get into the Visual Etudies course of their choice. Applications at The Film School are accepted entirely on a first-come-first-served basis.
The five history/theory courses include:
Film History; Wednesdays, 3-6 p. m., October 7-December 16 (tensessions).
This course will survey the development of the narrative film, emphasizing the relationship between film aesthetics and meaning. The films that will be shown represent a history of genre as much as of film itself (Comedies, musicals, and drama will be shown). Classics like Keaton's "The General" and Von Sternberg's "The Blue Angel" will be shown along with more esoteric films such as G. W. Pabst's "Kameradshaft" and Carl Dreyer's "Day of Wrath." Students might question the complete absence of any New Wave films whatsoever and the presence of such films as Reed's "The Third Man" and Kelly/Donen's "Singing in the Rain."
This course is taught by Ken Dancyger, a Canadian who taught film last year at Emerson College and will teach at Boston University this semester while he is also serving as film consultant to the Newton Public Schools.
Contemporary Film Styles; Tuesdays, 3-6 p. m., October 6-December 8,$50.
This course purports to deal with the thematic, technical, and aesthetic means of film innovation. The most obvious problem this course might encounter will be that of tying together such diverse subject matter; i. e., all new films. It does. however, have the most exciting schedule of any of the courses; students enrolled in the course will have a chance to see films that are rarely, if ever, screened in the Boston area. Definite booking has already been made for Glauber Rocha's "Antonio das Mortes" and "Black God, White Devil," Jean Marie Straub's "The Chronicle of Anna Magdelena Bach," and Bertolucci's "The Partner." There is also a possibility that Rohmer's "Ma Nuit Chez Maud" will be screened.
For those who don't want to take the course but have been desperately trying to see any one of the above films, the public can attend single course sessions at $5 each.
This course is taught by Deac Rossell, who rowed crew for Syracuse and is film editor of Boston After Dark
Film Syntax; Thursdays, 10:30 1:30 p. m., October 8-December 17, $50.
This course will deal with the specific elements of film and the ways in which they convey meaning to the audience. Sequence-by-sequence, shot-by-shot analysis will be applied to a wide variety of film classics. Among the films to be shown are early Dziga Vertov films, Griffiths' "Birth of a Nation," Chaplin's "Modern Times," the Odessa steps sequence from "Potemkin," Ford's "Stagecoach," Welles' "Citizen Kane," Kubrick's. "Dr. Strangelove," and Fellini's "81/2"
The instructor is Steve Schlow who taught film and television at Penn State for four years before becoming film critic for WBUR radio. Frances Gitter calls Schlow the "most eloquent" member of the UCA staff.
The Director: Two Careers; Wednesdays, 10:30-1:30 p. m. October 7-December 16, $50.
A look at the hauteur theory through the study of the careers of two of America's greatest filmmakers, D. W. Griffith and John Ford. A close look will be taken at the role of the central creative personality and the ways in which artistic individuality survives the act of filmmaking. Five films of each director will be shown, among them Griffith's "True Heart Suzie," "Wav Down East," "Sorrows of Satan." "The Struggle," and Ford's "The Long Voyage Home," "My Darling Clementine," "The Sun Shines Bright," and "Seven Women."
The instructor is Peter Jaszi who teaches Humanities 197a at Harvard -where you can take his course on John Ford for $275 more than you would pay at The Film School. Jaszi is director of programming at the Welles Cinema. His film criticism has appeared in the CRIMSON, Boston After Dark, and Film Quarterly.
Documentary Film; Thursdays, 3-6 p. m., Octorber 8-December 17, $50.
This course looks like one of the best in The Film School; it will apply techniques of close visual analysis in an effort to teach students how an unstaged film sequence is manipulated to produce a "statement." Among the topics to be studied are the romantic documentary, cinema verite, the social documentary, propaganda, and the use of documentary footage in television. Each topic will be accompanied by the screening of a film ("Salesman" by the Maysles Brothers, "High School" by Wiseman and "Triumph of the Will" by Riefenstahl are all tentatively booked), or guest lecturers (Rickie Leacock and Mrs. Robert Flaherty are scheduled).
John Marshall is the instructor. From 1958-1960, Marshall served as associate director of the Film Study Center at Harvard. He later served as cameraman-reporter for N. B. C., and photographed the controversial documentary "Titicut Follies" for Fred Wiseman.
THE THREE courses on practical filmmaking include:
Techniques of Practical Film making; Saturday, 2-4 p. m., October 10-December 12, $60 ($30 to students enrolled in a filmmaking workshop).
This course is specifically recommended for those enrolled in one of the filmmaking workshops. Through lectures, screenings, and question-answer periods, students will be taught techniques of lighting and exposure, editing, synchronized and non-synchronized sound, and special effects, as well as the working relationship between filmmaker and laboratory.
UCA admits that the 85 students already enrolled in the course might make it difficult for each student to get the tremendous amount of individual attention needed to make the course worthwhile.
Eric Isen, a Harvard graduate who is presently cameraman-editor for WGBH-TV in Boston, teaches the course. He has written and directed several short films and is working on a documentary concerning transcendental meditation and the Maharishi.
Super-8 Filmmaking Labs. There are four sections, each meeting in two hour sessions twice a week, $150.
The major drawback to this course is its cost; $150 is only the basic fee for instruction and use of the labs.
After paying about $50 for film and film processing, plus the cost of renting or buying a camera, a student could be paying as much as $350. Moreover, if the new film labs don't open in time for immediate use, the course might be rendered worthless.
This is probably the most ambitious course offered by The Film School and is probably the most difficult to assess in terms of worth. One Vis Stud senior at Harvard said, "I'm worried that they'll just tell you what buttons to push and you'll go out and push the right buttons and everything will come out fine. But that's not the way to get quality stuff." The staff at UCA insist, however, that highly personalized attention will be given to each student with a strong emphasis on editing. Each workshop is limited to 15 students.
This course is headed by Ben Butler, but each section will be taught by a different instructor.
35mm Slide Workshop. Four sections meeting for two hour sessions on alternate weeks, $50.
As in the super-8 workshop, the student should be aware that the cost of tuition is only the basic cost; costs for film and film processing are expected to average $50, plus whatever the student is willing to pay for a camera.
The course will start off by teaching the basic principles behind the use of the 35mm camera. Workshops will consider the use and juxtaposition of color, form, shape and light.
Like the super-8 workshops, this course will be most valuable only if the labs open for use soon. Critics question why a course for beginners starts off with color photography instead of black and white, particularly in view of the cost differential.
This course is headed by Owen Franklin, but each section will be taught by a different instructor.