DFS bends laws of time and space with new film series

Jacinda Barrett and Kal Penn star in

In movies, time can take on a flexibility that just isn’t possible in the real world (if you just forget about the little time trip we all took a few weeks ago called daylight savings). Through editing and simple dramatic license, moviemakers can do whatever they want with temporal construction. Films that subvert time’s rules and logic are often among the most original and provocative ever produced, challenging the perceptive capacities and presumptions of their viewers. This term, the Dartmouth Film Society explores just that, in a film series titled “The Fabric of Time.”

The theme was chosen by the Dartmouth Film Society directorate, a group of students, faculty and local residents who design a list of films to show at the Hopkins Center every term. Selected two terms in advance, each theme-based series must include six to eight foreign films, one documentary and one silent film. Generally, the entries comprise both classic picks and newer blockbusters in an effort to draw a varied student audience.

Imagining the future, restaging the past, shuffling chronology and deconstructing temporal conventions, “The Fabric of Time” rolled onto the Spaulding Auditorium screen last week, and it will continue to show throughout the term. Several dates feature a double bill, with subjects such as time travel (“Primer” and “Back to the Future,” April 18) and the rocky marriage between time and romance (“Two For the Road” and “Annie Hall,” May 27).

Tyson Kubota ’07, in his last term as director of the DFS, would like to see “The Fabric of Time” replicate the success of winter’s “Villains” series.

“‘Villains did really well. Most of my non-Film Society friends seemed to respond positively to the topic,” Kubota said. “Hopefully, ‘The Fabric of Time’ will resonate in a similar way.”

The series kicked off last Wednesday with “Groundhog Day,” the 1993 classic starring Bill Murray as a sardonic TV weatherman trapped in a hellish repetition of the same day. Also shown last week were the recent critical darlings “Babel” and “Children of Men,” which drew an exceptionally large crowd, Kubota noted.

Scheduled for tonight at both 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium is director Christopher Nolan’s 2000 psychological thriller “Memento.” Guy Pearce stars as a man who, though crippled by short-term memory loss, sets out to find his wife’s murderer. The film ambitiously divides its narrative into black-and-white explanatory scenes and color action scenes cast in reverse chronology. The leaps of logic throughout “Memento” make it sometimes difficult but an overall exhilarating watch.

Several films in the series don’t manipulate time at all. Instead, they play out in real-time — rarely seen in film today, what with editing, location changes and shifting subplots. In a string of long, uninterrupted takes, “Before Sunset” (May 6) traces the reunion of two young people who, years ago, had been through a passionate affair. The classic 1952 Gary Cooper Western “High Noon,” also shot in real-time, will show on April 29.

The series concludes on May 30 with the recently released “The Namesake,” which screened at Dartmouth last autumn as part of the DFS tribute to the film’s director, Mira Nair.

“Our Tribute to Mira Nair sold out Spaulding, so clearly there is also a large audience that is familiar with, and interested in, Jhumpa Lahiri’s book [and] Mira Nair’s previous work,” Kubota said. “I think showing ‘The Namesake’ again this term is a great opportunity for people who missed the tribute.”

In “The Namesake,” Bengali immigrants struggle to balance cultural identity with assimilated values.

“It’s a perfect ending for the “Fabric of Time” film series since it interweaves various stories in a sophisticated and accessible way,” Kubota said.

Individual tickets are on sale at the Hopkins Center box office 30 minutes before each movie’s showtime (general public $7, Dartmouth students $5). DFS passes to the entire series are available at the Hop box office and online (general public $18, Dartmouth students $12).

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