You Go to the Movies but Merrily We Go to Hell – Dorothy Arzner’s Pre-Code Classic on 35mm – August 7 at NEIU

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Wednesday, August 7 at 7:30 PM
Directed by Dorothy Arzner • 1932
Taking its name from the “overboard-drinking era” of prohibition, Merrily We Go To Hell moves smoothly from farce to tragedy telling the story of a young socialite Joan (Sylvia Sidney) and her toxic romance with alcoholic playwright Gerry (Fredric March). After marrying, the couple overcome Gerry’s alcoholism before being faced with the reemergence of his old girlfriend. Their marriage is thrown into chaos as Gerry returns to drinking and becomes increasingly callous toward Joan, climaxing in a relentless final act, including a brief attempt at polyamory (allowing a small role for a young Cary Grant). Almost unreleased by the film’s studio, the film was a box office success as well as director Dorothy Arzner’s final film with Paramount. Lightly written off as a conventional domestic comedy-drama at the time, Arnzer’s direction and Sidney’s performance make for great cinema. At its lightest the film carries a palpable sense of warmth, most notable in unexpected bouts of singing and dancing, or of the film’s Merry Melodies-esque opening credits. As it pivots to drama, Sidney responds to her husband’s cruelty with a poignant display of heartbreak and tough resolve, especially as the relationship itself becomes more complicated and her motivation more muddy. Years later, academic Pam Cook cited the film as an example of Arzner’s ability to show the “problem of the desire of women caught in a system of representation which allows them at most the opportunity of playing on the specific demands that the system makes on them.” (VM)
78 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Universal

Cartoon: “Russian Lullaby” (Fleischer Studios, 1931) – 6 min – 16mm


Chicago Filmmakers — 5720 N Ridge Ave
Tickets: $8

Saturday, August 10 at 7:00 PM
Directed by Les Blank • 1965/1978
As the title suggests, Les Blank’s Always for Pleasure, a loving portrait of New Orleans street life during Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest, is an exercise in the total joy of being alive, punctuated by the most life-affirming funeral you’ve ever seen on film, and with more color and joy in its opening credits than most films have in their entire runtimes. Collaborating with New Orleans jazz photographer Michael P. Smith to gain access to local musicians and locations, Blank captured live performances from Professor Longhair, The Wild Tchoupitoulas, the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, and Kid Thomas Valentine — but the real star of the show is the Big Easy itself, sweating and dancing in the streets. A filmmaker who was interested in everything and notoriously reluctant to set his camera down for fear of missing something, Blank also perfected the art of capturing food on film without making it seem gross — among Always for Pleasure’s many wonderful diversions is a lesson on how to eat crawfish at Frankie and Johnny’s. (JA)
58 min • Les Blank Films • 16mm from Les Blank Films

Short: “Dizzy Gillespie” (Les Blank, 1964) – 20 min – 16mm

Presented with the Jazz Institute of Chicago as part of JIC’s 50th Anniversary

View the full season schedule here!

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