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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Art, history resonate in new film series

By Lindsey Giaquinto
Staff Writer

Friday, February 29, 2008

Bolt teaching chair in the humanities Diana Postlethwaite shares her enthusiasm for film by unyieldingly promoting film studies at St. Olaf. Her newest endeavor is the Classic American Film Series, which presents a landmark American film every Monday at 7 p.m. in Buntrock Commons' Viking Theater.

The series debuted with "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography," a documentary showcasing celebrated films, and was followed by D.W. Griffith's silent movie "Broken Blossoms," as well as the ultimate embodiment of Hollywood film, "Casablanca."

In weeks to come are classic Hollywood films such as the musical "Singing in the Rain," the screwball comedy "Bringing Up Baby" and even the gritty, moody film noir "Double Indemnity."

The series will take a speedy journey through American film history--ever-changing and always entertaining.

"It's a fun way to learn about movies you maybe haven't seen yet," Postlethwaite said.

The selection of movies to be screened is certainly widely varied. The St. Olaf community can enjoy the pure camp of a '50s sci-fi thriller as communist hysteria takes on a new form in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers;" experience '60s rebellion à la "Taxi Driver" and sample the work of filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, who ushered in European-inspired filmmaking with movies like "The Godfather." The series will wrap up with Hollywood's first blockbuster, "Jaws."

"My education in movies came from the college film society," Postlethwaite said.

Wishing to pass on such an experience to St. Olaf students, whether they are just starting to explore the world of classic film or are already addicted to film, she designed the campus-wide festival to bring great movies to St. Olaf. "There is something about getting together and watching [a film] in the dark on a big screen that creates a different movie-going experience," she said.

Although the film series is tied to her American Film History class, the movies are entertaining, free and open to the public. "Every movie is a fun movie," Postlethwaite said.

However, each film was carefully selected to reveal a trend in American film and culture. "Throughout the series, themes will emerge," Postlethwaite explained. "A theme that comes up again and again is violence."

Choosing to screen provocative films that are both artistically and culturally resonant, Postlethwaite also selected movies that represent groundbreaking moments in film. Postlethwaite wants to remind students that filmmaking techniques and plotlines that are now well established were not always so familiar. "Many of the films in the series reveal the origins of familiar film gambits we now take for granted," she explained. "These were the first movies like that, and we can see where some of these trends started."

Postlethwaite picks up on the influences classic film has had on modern filmmaking. "Jack Nicholson chopping through that door with an ax in 'The Shining?'--check out 'Broken Blossoms,'" she observed. "Countless movies have 'borrowed' their plot directly from John Wayne's Western 'The Searchers'--including Martin Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver,' which will also be shown in the film festival."

Through her continued efforts to bring film to St. Olaf and the kick-off of the Classic American Film Series, Postlethwaite hopes to encourage a Film Studies concentration at St. Olaf. Her efforts are not one-sided. "There is a lot of excitement about film at St. Olaf," she said.

Members of the St. Olaf community who have news to share about film-related events on campus may visit for the scoop on St. Olaf film happenings.

Students are invited to contact Diana Postlethwaite for a weekly update on the Classic American Film Series' upcoming films at

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