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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

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I hadn't seen Elia Kazan's film of East of Eden (1954) until last summer. I was stunned by its emotional power, particularly by the performance of James Dean in his first starring role. Though based on just a part of Steinbeck's giant novel, Kazan's film possesses an epic authority far beyond most American films. Ted McCord's camerawork is one of the first outstanding uses of cinemascope.

The excellent Rossellini retrospective at Harvard-Epworth continues with Stromboli, and Currier House's Fellini series offers La Strada [The Road, 1956), the table of a half-wit peasant girl (Giulietta Masina) sold into slavery and gradually driven mad, with Anthony Quinn's and Richard Basehart's finest performances, and Fellini Satyricon as a Halloween treat (or trick).

At Harvard Square's Janus Film Festival the films change every day, and every one is a classic--the most notable being Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game (1939), brilliant film both verbally and visually, that gyrates between starkly powerful drama and very funny comedy. Rules of the Game dissects pre-WWII French society with such precision that it caused riots among bourgeouis audiences when first released. It was not shown again until the late 50s.

The most intriguing Janus program is the pair of French gangster films Casque D'Or (1952) and Pepe Le Moko (1936). Pepe unabashedly imitates American films like Scarface, but period piece Casque set in the Belleville district of Paris in 1898, has golden-haired Simone Signoret as well as a guillotine to set it apart.

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