Maury Rapf picks 'Classics' for the fall DFS series

by Joe Manera | 9/20/99 5:00am

When Dartmouth Film Society co-founder and screenwriting professor Maury Rapf was offered to design the fall DFS series by the very organization he helped build, his simple intention--to select a fluid compilation of the best the medium has to offer--must have seemed increasingly monumental once he began composing the actual list. Countless film critics, contrarians and other big talkers have ventured the "Best Of" cliff-jump in the hopes of casting familiar classics and overlooked gems in new critical light. Due to the impossibility of selection perfection, choosing favorite sons and daughters out of masterpieces must be a bit of a pain, unless compulsive list-making is your sort of vice.

Had film literacy promotion been the only objective of the fall series, perhaps we would have a different list than the one we have now. Maybe instead of the most recent film dating as far back as 1979, it would have dated even earlier and the series would have been driven by the likes of the Lumire Brothers. Or maybe not. What matters is that this particular series is intended to cap off a year's worth of celebrations for the DFS's fiftieth anniversary. The films on Rapf's list--collectively termed "Classics on Parade"-- are strong works of art on any terms, sometimes a lot more but certainly no less. As a celebration of what film can do, these pictures deliver engagement over idle amusement.

Kicking off the series tomorrow is Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot," a gangster farce with Marilyn Monroe in full-bodied glory. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play musicians who doll it up in drag to escape the mafia. Unlike other cross-dressing fables, the schoolmarm frocks doesn't steal the show here--the one-liners do.

This Friday is "A Clockwork Orange," and given the divided response to "Eyes Wide Shut" it will be interesting to view a Stanley Kubrick film that's received the full-fledged critical pandering treatment. It doesn't hurt that Kubric's sense of pacing was remarkably keen on this one. Funny, lewd, and not the least bit modest, it's the tale of a disaffected youth in a whacked-out suburban spaceland alarmingly similar to contemporary mall culture. Read the book first, but save the controversial "previously unpublished" last chapter for after the movie to see if it strengthens or weakens what you have just experienced.

Seen "The Player" yet? At one point in the film, Timothy Robbin's Hollywood head honcho takes a night out of the vulture life to catch a little black-and-white ditty that's supposed to represent everything his slick, opportunistic projects can't even aspire to be. That little black-and-white film is "The Bicycle Thief," and it plays September 29.

The diametric opposite of "The Bicycle Thief" in terms of scale would have to be "Lawrence of Arabia," which plays on October 10. File under "sweeping epic": big music, big performances, big camels.

October 20 is the showing of "The Third Man," and Roger Ebert has gone on record saying that Orson Welles' drug-pushing thug Harry Lime is the most chilling cinematic villain ever. See if you agree. The film has received its fair share of renewed critical props this past year as it's enjoying it's fiftieth anniversary.

Michaelangelo Antonione's "Blow Up" shows October 27. This European marvel tracks the tizzying about of a photographer who thinks he has evidence of a crime committed to film.

Two films produced by Maury Rapf's father Harry screen on October 31. "Min and Bill" features an Academy Award winning performance from Marie Dressler, and "The Champ" won Wallace Beery a golden man of his own.

The November 7 showings are dubbed "Sex and Labor." First is Jack Clayton's "Room at the Top," in which a social climber marries his boss's daughter. That same night, the oldest living profession gets a decidedly non-Julia Roberts spin in Jean-Luc Godard's "My Life to Live," with Anna Karina.

November 17 brings out the one musical in the series, "The Band Wagon." Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse stomp their way through the tale of a fading film star who gets his second chance in a Broadway revue.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!