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In a career spanning over six decades, John Williams has established himself as the best-known movie music composer of all time. Our Sunday afternoon series for February-May takes us from Williams’ jazzy origins in 60s comedies and capers to his iconic orchestral scores for some of the biggest blockbusters from the 70s onward, including several key pairings with Williams’ most celebrated collaborator, director Steven Spielberg. Please note: While Lucasfilm is currently not licensing the first six chapters of the Star Wars saga for theatrical viewing, a prelude to this series will be offered on Sunday, January 29 when we present a screening of the Williams-scored Star Wars: The Force Awakens as part of the Best of 3-D series in our regular venue, 4070 Vilas Hall.
Sunday Cinematheque at the Chazen, a collaboration between Cinematheque and the Chazen Museum of Art, presents archival and feature films curated by Cinematheque director Jim Healy. Screenings are free and begin at 2 p.m. There will be no admittance to the Auditorium after the film has started.
February 5 - JAWS
USA | 1975 | 35mm | 124 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw.
In one of the very best of all 70s blockbusters, an unusually large and vicious great white shark is devouring swimmers off the coast of a tiny New England resort town. It’s up to the newly appointed police chief (Scheider), an ichthyologist (Dreyfuss) and a salty fisherman (Shaw) to kill the ‘eating machine’. John Williams’ score, which takes inspiration from other classic seafaring adventures, as well as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, made him the most sought-after composer in Hollywood.
February 12 - BACHELOR FLAT
USA | 1962 | 35mm | 91 min.
Director: Frank Tashlin Cast: Terry-Thomas, Tuesday Weld, Richard Beymer
Professor Bruce Patterson (quintessential uptight Brit Terry-Thomas) continuously has to keep beating off his female students with a stick. When he decides to lease the apartment of his fiancée(Celeste Holm) while she is abroad, complications ensue after her teenage daughter (Weld) decides to visit. Tashlin’s hilarious sex romp comes complete with a pants-dropping finale and a jazzy early score from John (then Johnny) Williams!
February 19 - HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
USA | 2004 | 35mm | 142 min.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
In the third film in the series, Harry Potter fears the new threat of Sirius Black, a traitorous murderer who escaped from the magical prison Azkaban––and happens to have a personal vendetta against the young wizard hero. Along with the excellent additions of Gary Oldman and Emma Thompson to the cast, Cuarón brings a tone of darkness and dread to the youthful mysteries at Hogwarts, marking a lasting shift for the franchise in one of its best entries. The Prisoner of Azkaban also contains the third and last of John Williams’ original scores for the saga. (MS)
February 26 - HOW TO STEAL A MILLION
USA | 1966 | 35mm | 127 min.
Director: William Wyler Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Charles Boyer
An art forger’s daughter (Hepburn) teams up with a suave burglar (O’Toole) to retrieve a fake Cellini statue from a heavily secured museum. Director Wyler, re-teamed with his Roman Holiday discovery Hepburn, finds a suitably light touch for this entertaining caper. It’s also helped along by the enormously charming cast, which also includes Eli Wallach, and Hugh Griffith, and bouncy John Williams music.
March 5 - THE COWBOYS
USA | 1972 | 35mm | 128 min.
Director: Mark Rydell Cast: John Wayne, Bruce Dern, Roscoe Lee Browne
In a late-career performance, Wayne plays an aging rancher who, abandoned by his usual employees, sets out on a massive cattle drive aided only by a group of young schoolboys. Dern is memorably creepy as a shaggy-haired rustler shadowing the herd. The music by John Williams, some of his very best, is alternately rousing and elegiac.
March 12 - INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM
USA | 1984 | 35mm | 118 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan
Indy (Ford) is recruited to infiltrate an ancient, evil cult that has kidnapped and enslaved all of the children from a small village in India. This follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark adds a great deal more humor and even a musical number to its continuing tribute to classic Saturday matinee adventure films and serials, but it’s the brilliant action sequences, including a rollicking mine car chase, that makes this memorable and a must see on the big screen. This 35mm stereo print that will be shown provides a fine showcase for one of the very best scores of John Williams, who builds on the familiar Raiders march with a whole new set of themes and leitmotifs.
March 19 - THE MISSOURI BREAKS
USA | 1976 | 35mm | 126 min.
Director: Arthur Penn Cast: Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Randy Quaid
Real-life next-door neighbors Brando and Nicholson made only one film together, this dark and odd 70s Western from acclaimed auteur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde). Nicholson plays the leader of a gang of horse thieves who are hunted by Brando, a highly eccentric hired killer who occasionally works in drag. John Williams’ music is appropriately minimalist and moody.
March 26 - BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
USA | 1989 | 35mm | 144 min.
Director: Oliver Stone Cast: Tom Cruise, Kyra Sedgwick, Willem Dafoe
Vietnam veteran Stone’s second movie to deal directly with the war is an adaptation of the autobiography of Ron Kovic. A gung-ho marine who was wounded and paralyzed during his second tour of duty, Kovic returned to the U.S. and became a leading anti-war activist. Born on the Fourth of July is solidly anchored by a powerhouse Cruise performance as Kovic and John Williams’ mournful Americana score, featuring trumpet soloist Tim Morrison.
April 9 - CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
USA | 2002 | 35mm | 141 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken
DiCaprio plays real-life all-American con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr., who, while still a teenager in the 1960s, made millions while variously posing as a pilot, a lawyer and a doctor. Hanks is the dogged FBI agent who chases Abagnale around the world and an Oscar-nominated Walken plays Abagnale’s father. Spielberg’s typically fleet-footed direction keeps this caper/character study fascinating throughout. The director’s regular composer, John Williams, delivers an Oscar-nominated score that returns Williams to his jazz roots.
April 16 - THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
USA | 1972 | 35mm | 117 min.
Director: Ronald Neame Cast: Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine
On New Year’s Eve, a tidal wave flips over a luxury ocean liner, leaving only its bottom sticking up above water. A small group of crafty survivors, led by Man-of-the-Cloth Hackman, face a number of deadly obstacles as they try to make it to the “top” of the vessel. The best-loved of the cycle of 70s disaster movies, this Irwin Allen production features a stormy score by John Williams, who also wrote the music for Earthquake and Allen’s The Towering Inferno.
April 23 - E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
USA | 1982 | 35mm | 115 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace
Elliott (Thomas), the 10-year-old son of divorced parents, finds a unique friend in an alien visitor stranded on earth. An enduring fantasy, Spielberg’s enormously successful blockbuster is also one of the great movies about childhood. The director’s vision is aided immeasurably by one of the most emotional of all of John Williams compositions. The original 1982 release version will be shown.
April 30 - DRACULA
USA | 1979 | 35mm | 109 min.
Director: John Badham Cast: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Kate Nelligan
Bram Stoker’s legendary bloodsucker saga is given a lush, fog-filled 70s update from Badham, director of Saturday Night Fever. The suave and sexy Langella, recreating his turn from a successful Broadway production, is the perfect Dracula for the disco-era and Olivier is an enjoyably hammy Van Helsing. Badham eschews a pop soundtrack however, opting for a wonderfully doom-laden orchestral sound courtesy of composer John Williams.
May 7 - JURASSIC PARK
USA | 1993 | 35mm | 126 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum
Scientists, industrial spies, and two cute kids are let loose in a theme park stocked with real live dinosaurs and chaos (theory) ensues. Spielberg’s first real “monster” movie after Jaws provided the director, along with his longtime composer John Williams, bountiful chances to flex their action/suspense muscles. Williams also took the opportunity to create yet another of his grand, stirring, iconic themes. (BR)