B. 7. US literature into film
b.  U.S. Play

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The American

The American

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Matthew Modine and Diana Rigg star this adaptation of Henry James' novel. Modine plays Christopher Newman, 19th-century "new man" who amasses a fortune in California and heads to Europe to learn its ways and find a wife. His overtures to a young French woman, a member of an aristocratic but impecunious family, meet with icy condescension in this classic collision between the old world and the new.  --Amazon  (90 mins)

American Graffiti (Collector’s Edition)

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Here's how critic Roger Ebert described the unique and lasting value of George Lucas's 1973 box-office hit, American Graffiti: "[It's] not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie's success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant." The time to which Ebert and the film refers is the summer of 1962, and American Graffiti captures the look, feel, and sound of that era by chronicling one memorable night in the lives of several young Californians on the cusp of adulthood. (In essence, Lucas was making a semiautobiographical tribute to his own days as a hot-rod cruiser, and the film's phenomenal success paved the way for Star Wars.) The action is propelled by the music of Wolfman Jack's rock & roll radio show--a soundtrack of pop hits that would become as popular as the film itself. As Lucas develops several character subplots, American Graffiti becomes a flawless time capsule of meticulously re-created memory, as authentic as a documentary and vividly realized through innovative use of cinematography and sound. The once-in-a-lifetime ensemble cast members inhabit their roles so fully that they don't seem like actors at all, comprising a who's who of performers--some of whom went on to stellar careers--including Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, and Paul Le Mat. A true American classic, the film ranks No. 77 on the American Film Institute's list of all-time greatest American movies.  --Amazon

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Blue Velvet (Special Edition)

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David Lynch peeks behind the picket fences of small-town America to reveal a corrupt shadow world of malevolence, sadism, and madness. From the opening shots Lynch turns the Technicolor picture postcard images of middle class homes and tree-lined lanes into a dreamy vision on the edge of nightmare. After his father collapses in a preternaturally eerie sequence, college boy Kyle MacLachlan returns home and stumbles across a severed human ear in a vacant lot. With the help of sweetly innocent high school girl (Laura Dern), he turns junior detective and uncovers a frightening yet darkly compelling world of voyeurism and sex. Drawn deeper into the brutal world of drug dealer and blackmailer Frank, played with raving mania by an obscenity-shouting Dennis Hopper in a career-reviving performance, he loses his innocence and his moral bearings when confronted with pure, unexplainable evil. Isabella Rossellini is terrifyingly desperate as Hopper's sexual slave who becomes MacLachlan's illicit lover, and Dean Stockwell purrs through his role as Hopper's oh-so-suave buddy. Lynch strips his surreally mundane sets to a ghostly austerity, which composer Angelo Badalamenti encourages with the smooth, spooky strains of a lush score. Blue Velvet is a disturbing film that delves into the darkest reaches of psycho-sexual brutality and simply isn't for everyone. But for a viewer who wants to see the cinematic world rocked off its foundations, David Lynch delivers a nightmarish masterpiece.  --Amazon

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Williams)  

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The clan has gathered to face the impeding death of their patriarch, Big Daddy. Brick, the favored son, a tortured boozing exfootball star who cannot face up to adult responsibility.

Cannery Row

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Director-writer David S. Ward’s 1982 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (with material from another Steinbeck tale, Sweet Thursday) has its charms, principally some top-drawer talent on both sides of the camera; the cast is headed by Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, Jack Nitzsche composed the music, and John Huston supplies the voice-over. In a previous life, Nolte’s Doc was known as Eddie "The Blur" Daniels, a star baseball pitcher in the 1920s who mysteriously gave up the game while still in his prime; now he’s a self-styled marine biologist with a predilection for octopi who makes his home on "The Row," a string of sardine fisheries in Monterey, California. There are a variety of colorful characters in this rundown ‘hood--a worldly-wise madam (Audra Lindley) and her charges, a bum (M. Emmet Walsh) and his buddies--but although it takes him a while to admit it, Doc only has eyes for Suzy (Winger), a newcomer to the scene who, by her own estimation, "ain’t got the class of a duck." The film relies mostly on these oddballs and their various idiosyncrasies and adventures, and Steinbeck clearly has considerable affection for them; it’s no surprise that some, including Doc, were based on real folks. But while Nolte and Winger have a certain squabbling rapport, the movie too often comes off as stagey (the dialogue), artificial (the sets), and glib. In the final analysis, Cannery Row isn’t John Steinbeck’s greatest book (at the very least, it lacks the heft of East of Eden or The Grapes of Wrath), and this effort, despite its good points, will hardly be considered the best adaption of the author’s work to the screen or the stage.  --Amazon

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Death of a Salesman (I)(II)  (Williams)


Death of a Salesman


Willy Loman's tragedy in Death of a Salesman assumes proportions at once epic and painfully intimate. There is simply no finer rendition of this great American drama.

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Educating Rita



Michael Caine and Julie Walters sparkle in this brilliant comedy about a lievely working-class woman on the path to self-discovery and the cynical teacher who acts as her guide. Rita desperately hungers for an education. To escape her dreary life as a hairdresser and confining existence at home, she enrolls in literature tutorials at a British University.

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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (Ntozake Shange; Dir: Oz Scott)

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The history of black women in America: having emigrated on a purely involuntary basis, they became slaves to white America and nurturers to white America's offspring. They were rewarded by being the last Americans given the right to vote. This explosive, vivid "choreopoem" illuminates the story of black women in America as they celebrate in song, poetry and dance their strength, beauty and enormous capacity for love. The seven women comprising the cast, including author Ntozake Shange, share with the viewer their exuberance for life and their ability to begin again, no matter how ridiculous the odds.

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Glass Menagerie, The (Williams)



Amanda, a strong willed woman who attempts to impose her shattered dreams into the life of personality of her shy, reclusive daughter Laura. Although dominated by her mother, Laura finds solace through the attention of her troubled brother Tom and Jim, a "Gentleman Caller."

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High Noon (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition)

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One of the greatest Westerns ever made gets the deluxe treatment on this superior disc from Republic Home Video's Silver Screen Classics line of special-edition DVDs. Written by Carl Foreman (who was later blacklisted during the anticommunist hearings of the '50s) and superbly directed by Fred Zinnemann, this 1952 classic stars Gary Cooper as just-married lawman Will Kane, who is about to retire as a small-town sheriff and begin a new life with his bride (Grace Kelly) when he learns that gunslinger Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) is due to arrive at high noon to settle an old score. Kane seeks assistance from deputies and townsfolk, but soon realizes he'll have to stand alone in his showdown with Miller and his henchmen. Innovative for its time, the suspenseful story unfolds in approximate real time (from 10:40 a.m. to high noon in an 84-minute film), and many interpreted Foreman's drama as an allegorical reflection of apathy and passive acceptance of Senator Joseph McCarthy's anticommunist campaign. Political underpinnings aside, this remains a milestone of its genre (often referred to as the first "adult" Western), and Cooper is flawless in his Oscar-winning role. The first-rate DVD gives this landmark film all the respect it deserves, beginning with a digitally remastered transfer from the original film negative. Additional features include the exclusive documentary The Making of High Noon, hosted by film historian Leonard Maltin and featuring interviews with the late Lloyd Bridges (who played Cooper's rival ex-deputy), director Fred Zinnemann, and producer Stanley Kramer. Also included is the original theatrical trailer and a special chapter stop highlighting the Oscar-winning song "Do Not Forsake Me." Offered in English and dubbed French and Spanish, with English closed-captioning or Spanish and French subtitles.                                                                                                                                                               --Amazon

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It’s a Wonderful Life

(60th Anniversary Edition)

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Now perhaps the most beloved American film, It's a Wonderful Life was largely forgotten for years, due to a copyright quirk. Only in the late 1970s did it find its audience through repeated TV showings. Frank Capra's masterwork deserves its status as a feel-good communal event, but it is also one of the most fascinating films in the American cinema, a multilayered work of Dickensian density. George Bailey (played superbly by James Stewart) grows up in the small town of Bedford Falls, dreaming dreams of adventure and travel, but circumstances conspire to keep him enslaved to his home turf. Frustrated by his life, and haunted by an impending scandal, George prepares to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. A heavenly messenger (Henry Travers) arrives to show him a vision: what the world would have been like if George had never been born. The sequence is a vivid depiction of the American Dream gone bad, and probably the wildest thing Capra ever shot (the director's optimistic vision may have darkened during his experiences making military films in World War II). Capra's triumph is to acknowledge the difficulties and disappointments of life, while affirming--in the teary-eyed final reel--his cherished values of friendship and individual achievement. It's a Wonderful Life was not a big hit on its initial release, and it won no Oscars (Capra and Stewart were nominated); but it continues to weave a special magic.  --Amazon

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Long Day's Journey Into Night, O'Neill (Dir: Michael Blakemore & Peter Wood)

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Sir Laurence Oliver, in a rare (and Emmy winning) television appearance, stars in this explosive, painfully autobiographical work by Eugene O'Neill, America's most acclaimed dramatist.  It is a play so brutally revealing, O'Neill  hoped that I would never be performed. On a warm summer night in 1912, a violent storm is brewing in the home of the Tyrone family.  Ageing actor James has abandoned all hope of being a truly great performer and has settled for being a mediocre hack.  His bitter wife Mary has slipped into the hellish world of morphine, while eldest son Jamie is a drunk, envious of the writing talent of sickly, younger brother Edmund.  Four haunted lives are about to clash in what playwright Eugene O'Neill called his story of "old sorrow, written in tears and blood.”

Video info.: VHS, Color, 160mins., 2003, English no subtitles,  BFS Video.

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M Butterfly





The mysterious of love and the sting of betrayal are bildly portrayed in this fictional tale of French diplomat and Beijing Opera star Song Liling.

M. Butterfly

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uring the Cultural Revolution in China in the mid-1960s, a French diplomat falls in love with a singer in the Beijing Opera. Interwoven with allusions to the Puccini opera "Madama Butterfly", a story of love and betrayal unfolds. --IMDb

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Orpheus Descending (play by Tennessee Williams; Dir: Molly Smith) This modern telling of the Greek myth took playwright Tennessee Williams 17 years to write. Set in a small Mississippi town, a woman must run her disagreeable husband's dry goods store while he recuperates upstairs from a long illness. A young drifter musician wanders into her life and the spring of jealousy, lust and revenge is wound tight.
Our Town


The classic film based on Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a small New England town fraught with human drama, family conflict, marriage, life and death.

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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady

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The role of Ralph Touchett is one of Richard Chamberlain's finest performances. Give him a character named Ralph, and he seems to become magnificent. His performance, in this wonderful British mini-series was so noteworthy.  Ralph Touchett was the rich, but sickly cousin of Isabel Archer, suffering with Consumption, a terminal condition, which caused him to take a back seat in life as a spectator. Determined to meet the requirements of his imagination, he invested in his cousin Isabel, giving her half of his vast inheritance. This investment came with a no strings attached freedom, to pursue her mysterious purposes and fulfill her unconventional desires.  Ralph's faith in her was challenged as he watched her make a disastrous choice in a husband, who married her for the money she inherited.  Ralph's physical suffering was trivial compared to the pain he felt when his spirited cousin no longer soared, but sank into a deep unhappiness.  --Amazon  (240 mins)  


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Fantastical writer Gary Ross (Big, Dave) makes an auspicious directorial debut with this inspired and oddly touching comedy about two '90s kids (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) thrust into the black-and-white TV world of Pleasantville, a Leave It to Beaver-style sitcom complete with picket fences, corner malt shop, and warm chocolate chip cookies. When a somewhat unusual remote control (provided by repairman Don Knotts) transports them from the jaded real world to G-rated TV land, Maguire and Witherspoon are forced to play along as Bud and Mary Sue, the obedient children of George and Betty Parker (William H. Macy and Joan Allen). Maguire, an obsessive Pleasantville devotee, understands the need for not toppling the natural balance of things; Witherspoon, on the other hand, starts shaking the town up, most notably when she takes basketball stud Skip (Paul Walker) up to Lover's Lane for some modern-day fun and games. Soon enough, Pleasantville's teens are discovering sex along with--gasp!--rock & roll, free thinking, and soul-changing Technicolor. Filled with delightful and shrewd details about sitcom life (no toilets, no double beds, only two streets in the town), Pleasantville is a joy to watch, not only for its comedy but for the groundbreaking visual effects and astonishing production design as the town gradually transforms from crisp black and white to glorious color. Ross does tip his hand a bit about halfway through the film, obscuring the movie's basic message of the unpredictability of life with overloaded and obvious symbolism, as the black-and-white denizens of the town gang up on the "coloreds" and impose rules of conduct to keep their strait-laced town laced up. Still, the characterizations from the phenomenal cast--especially repressed housewife Allen and soda-shop owner Jeff Daniels, doing some of their best work ever--will keep you emotionally invested in the film's outcome, and waiting to see Pleasantville in all its final Technicolor glory.  --Amazon

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A search for an American voice in theater: Into the Post-War Era (Elena Pinto Simon)

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This six-part series traces the history of stage drama and the American imagination, from pre-Revolutionary days to the late 20th century, through interviews and archival images. Using theater as a mirror, each program reveals the ongoing development of American culture and society's artistic aspirations.
Street Car Named Desire, A



Looking for a benchmark in movie acting? Breakthrough performances don't come much more electrifying than Marlon Brando's animalistic turn as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Sweaty, brutish, mumbling, yet with the balanced grace of a prizefighter, Brando storms through the role--a role he had originated in the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's celebrated play. Stanley and his wife, Stella, are the earthy couple in New Orleans's French Quarter whose lives are upended by the arrival of Stella's sister, Blanche DuBois. Blanche, a disturbed, lyrical, faded Southern belle, is immediately drawn into a battle of wills with Stanley, beautifully captured in the differing styles of the two actors. This extraordinarily fine adaptation won acting Oscars for Leigh, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, but not for Brando. Although it had already been considerably cleaned up from the daringly adult stage play, director Elia Kazan was forced to trim a few of the franker scenes he had shot. In 1993, Streetcar was rereleased in a "director's cut" that restored these moments, deepening a film that had already secured its place as an essential American work.                                                                                                                                                             --Amazon
Summer and Smoke


Since childhood, spinster Alma Winemiller has loved handsome young Dr. John Buchanan, Jr.. But John has fallen hard for Rosa Zacharias, the town's sultry vamp, and descends into a seamy nightlife while ignoring Alma's dreams of romance and possible marriage.  --IMDb

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Theatre of the Absurd: Six Character in Search of An Author 


This production brings to vivid light the struggle to define reality which characterizes the playwright's work. In Pirandello's view, man assumes reality in accordance with the role he plays; thus all roles are disguises and life is an endless comedy of illusion.

The Crucible

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The movie is centered around the Salem Massachusetts witch trials of 1692. The movie is based on the play "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller. He also wrote the screen play adaptation.

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?




Taylor and Burton in a Scorching Study of Marriage Gone Mad. Drop in for drinks with George and Martha.Nothing fancy,just a ferocious, headlong slide into the corrosive hell of a marriage twisted by years of hatred and humiliation. The most famous real couple of the '60s, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, portray the most famous stage couple of the '60, George and Martha, in first-time film director Mike Nichols' searing, shocking screen version of Edward Albee's smash Broadway hit Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Washington Square

Washington Square

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This story, based on Henry James’ novel, concerns Catherine Sloper, a 19th-century heiress whose father disapproves of the man she loves. In a twisty plot, questions are raised about both her father's and her suitor's motives, and Catherine must untangle the connections between love and money. This provides fodder for Henry James's critiques of the shallowness and sexism of his society. Some find James's work stiff, self-important, and a bit dull, while others see him as the most astute social critic of his time, so your enjoyment of this film may be a matter of taste. But it's definitely a period piece done right, which is to say that it fully captures its era, and never stoops to anachronisms that would interrupt the viewer's sense of an older, crueler world.  --Amazon (115 mins)  


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Video Catalogue
English Department
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