Emory Cinematheque celebrates the rich history of American comedy

By Caitlyn Ryan | Emory Report | Aug. 27, 2013

From Charlie Chaplin to National Lampoon, American filmmakers have been drawn to comic subject matter for the last century. In celebration of this long tradition, Emory Cinematheque presents "American Comedy Classics," a weekly series of free screenings in 35mm. The screenings will take place on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (with the exception of one Sunday evening) from Aug. 28 to Dec. 4 in White Hall 205.

Some like it hot film poster

"Some Like it Hot" (1959) to play Aug. 28.

The series opens with Billy Wilder's "Some Like it Hot" (1959), a film that has earned the top spot on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Funniest Comedies. Twelve of the films to be shown have nabbed a place on the AFI's list and several of them have won Oscars. The program covers the entire spectrum of the genre, from early comedies such as the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" (1932) to Mel Brook's breakthrough "The Producers" (1967) to the Farrelly Brother's romantic comedy "There's Something About Mary" (1998).

"Like the western, the gangster film and the musical, film comedy constitutes one of America's most distinctive contributions to worldwide cinema," says Matthew Bernstein, chair of the Department Film and Media Studies and this season's Cinematheque curator. "We aim to introduce our students, and share with the Atlanta community, an astonishing array of achievements, ranging from silent slapstick to classic screwball comedy to the ‘nervous romance' initiated by 'Annie Hall' (1977) to the animal comedy of recent decades."

While many of these titles may be familiar to the community audience, Bernstein hopes to make them familiar to Emory students. The series is presented in conjunction with Bernstein's course on American film comedy. He will introduce each screening and lead a brief, post-screening discussion of the film. 

Bernstein says that Emory remains one of the few venues to regularly show films in 35mm. "Our department firmly believes in the value and pleasure of screening professional 35mm prints for our audience, and we go so far as to secure prints from major film archives and invite live accompanists to create our program," he says.

In order to recreate the experience of early cinema, composer Donald Sosin will accompany the screenings of the silent films in the series: Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" (1925) and "The Immigrant" (1918) on Sept. 18 and Buster Keaton's "The General" (1926) and "Coney Island" (1917) on Sunday, Sept. 29.

Along with the series of "American Comedy Classics," a special screening of Paul Schrader's "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" (1985) will be held on Sept. 25 as part of famed composer Philip Glass's visit to Emory.  Glass will be present to introduce the film and its score, which is notable as his first composition for electric guitar.

Visit filmstudies.emory.edu for event details.