Dedicated to screening rare & significant films in their original format.

The Melbourne Cinémathèque is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run film society.

We hold screenings at The Australian Centre for the Moving image every Wednesday night for most of the year.

Admission is by membership, which can be obtained on a monthly or yearly basis.

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FOOTAGE FETISHIST: ERICH VON STROHEIM, TOTAL FILM-MAKER – PART THREE

No other filmmaker has suffered the indignity of being called an “incomplete filmmaker” as often as Erich von Stroheim (1885–1957).

It is difficult to come to an accurate critical appraisal of Stroheim’s work based on the frustratingly partial, incomplete and forcibly abandoned nature of the works that make up his filmography — The Devil’s Pass Key, Queen Kelly, The Wedding March and the legendary, lost almost 8-hour cut of Greed — made at a time when the widespread appreciation of the art of cinema was not yet commonplace, much less the will to preservation.

Most damagingly but brilliantly, Billy Wilder cast Stroheim as a thinly fictionalised embodiment of the Hollywood casualty in Sunset Blvd. Stroheim has been cast in the shadow of this spectre ever since. Yet Stroheim was also one of the most accomplished, inventive and modern of all European émigré directors, past or present. As the émigré son of working-class Austrian Jews (who nevertheless styled himself a high Count), Stroheim’s status as the pre-eminent Hollywood outsider imbues his work with a tragic inexorability and gentle romanticism, qualities heightened further by the knowledge that Stroheim worked as a total filmmaker: penning several of his most potent works (Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives) in addition to occupying a multitude of roles both behind and in front of the camera. This handpicked season of 35mm prints includes Stroheim’s most celebrated works of the late silent era (The Merry Widow, The Wedding March), the monumental Greed, the film that defined his career and reputation, and his moving performance in Jean Renoir’s profoundly humanist anti-war classic, La grande illusion.

Additional screenings in this three-part season take place on 30 March and 4 May.


7:00PM – THE WEDDING MARCH

Erich von Stroheim
 (1928) 113 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

Following the commercial success of The Merry Widow, Stroheim embarked on this epic production. Showing trademark perfectionism and disdain for budgets and deadlines, Stroheim created a film—a love triangle featuring a pauper prince (Stroheim), a beautiful innkeeper’s daughter (Fay Wray in one of her first lead roles) and a brutish butcher—that was forcibly split into two parts (Josef von Sternberg was assigned to re-edit the picture; the second part, The Honeymoon, is now considered lost). Compromised though it may be, the film’s greatness was eventually recognised by its inclusion in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. With Zasu Pitts.

Digital Restoration courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum.


9:05PM – THE MERRY WIDOW

Erich von Stroheim
 (1925) 137 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

This expressly baroque and bitingly satirical deconstruction of Franz Lehár’s operetta is one of the great American silent films. One can almost whiff the stench of decay that palls across the Hapsburg Empire in Stroheim’s characteristically cluttered, meticulously detailed and opulent opus. Fascinatingly weird and grotesque characters parade across the film’s visually brilliant tableaux while the romance between Prince Danilo (John Gilbert) and the “Merry Widow” (Mae Murray) unfolds. Shot by Oliver T. Marsh and designed by the great Cedric Gibbons. Joan Crawford and Clark Gable appear as ballroom dancing extras.

35mm print courtesy of The Library of Congress.

CTEQ Annotation:
Footage Fetishist: ‘The Merry Widow’ by Adrian Danks.

ABOUT

The Melbourne Cinémathèque started out as the Melbourne University Film Society (MUFS) in 1948 and changed its name to Cinémathèque in 1984.

The Melbourne Cinémathèque aims to present films in the medium they were created and as closely as possible to screen films the way they would have originally screened (i.e. big screen, celluloid prints, not video or DVD).

Programmes include a diverse selection of classic and contemporary films showcasing director retrospectives, special guest appearances and thematic series including archival material and new or restored prints.

We have on occasion hosted numerous seminars featuring renowned film scholars such as David Bordwell, Adrian Martin and Ian Christie. We are also dedicated to providing new annotations on the films we screen via the CTEQ annotations, hosted as a part of the quarterly online film journal Senses of Cinema.

The Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered and membership-driven relying on support from individuals, foundations, corporations and government funding to maintain its high standard of excellence. If you would like to be involved, or to offer donations or sponsorship, please contact us.

NEWS

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PROGRAM CHANGES

MARCH 16, 7:00PM Douglas Sirk’s ALL I DESIRE to be replaced by Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY as part of the Barbara Stanwyck program.


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