The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Southern (Dis)comfort: The American South in Cinema – Film Series at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley BAM/PFA
11/11/2011 – 12/11/2011


The South has never shaken its past. It sits like mist on the land, seeping into the drawl of the everyday. Secession, the cotton gin, a God-fearin’ people, slavery, pecans and poke salad, moonshine, hounds and possums, a big Rebel yell—there’s enough cultural ammo here to fight the Civil War all over again. Those munitions will never run dry as long as Southern artists (and a few carpetbaggers) plow the fertile fields of Dixie mythology, milling it into a genre all its own, the Southern Gothic. This genre wallows in the grotesque, prefers the randy to the restrained, knows Jim Crow isn’t the national bird, considers blood for an old debt paid, plunders the plantation, and imagines it all residing inside a delirious melodrama like one big corn mash-up. Primed by the literary likes of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, Erskine Caldwell, and Horton Foote, then agilely adapted by directors Fritz Lang, Sidney Lumet, Otto Preminger, Elia Kazan, John Huston, and others, these ten films beckon back to a Civil War drama of seduction and surrender (The Beguiled), then charge forward to a gritty tale of race agitation in the sixties (The Intruder), covering every bayou and bygone way in between. Southern (Dis)comfort is a lingering gaze at regional renditions of our Deep South side.


We are excited to announce that the Roxie Theater in San Francisco is joining in Southern (Dis)Comfort, adding six double-bills of its own.


Series curated by Peter Conheim and Steve Seid.


Saturday, December 3, 2011
9:00 p.m. Baby Doll
Elia Kazan (U.S., 1956) Preservation Print! A dilapidated antebellum manor is the fitting site for Tennessee Williams’s menagerie à trois between a bigoted cotton gin operator (Karl Madden), his vampy teenage bride (Carroll Baker), and the Sicilian immigrant (Eli Wallach) who gets in the way. (114 mins)


Friday, December 9, 2011
7:00 p.m. God’s Little Acre
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1958) Restored Print! A white-trash family, led by patriarch Robert Ryan, looks for gold and deals with desirous daughters in this adaptation of Erskine Caldwell’s novel. One of Anthony Mann’s least-seen films—and one of his most fascinating. (110 mins)


Friday, December 9, 2011
9:10 p.m. The Intruder
Roger Corman (U.S., 1962) Archival Print! Pro provocateur Adam Cramer (William Shatner) arrives in a small Missouri town, but it’s not goodwill he’s spreading, but racist ideology. A change of topic (but not pace) for B-movie king Roger Corman. (80 mins)


Sunday, December 11, 2011
5:15 p.m. Wise Blood
John Huston (U.S., 1979) Archival Print! Flannery O’Connor’s 1952 novel gets the big-screen treatment from legendary director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon). The son of a preacher invents his own religion, “the Church of Truth Without Christ,” in this satire of a faithless milieu where evangelical hucksters peddle “prophets” to those just achin’ for salvation. (108 mins)

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