David Bordwell

For six consecutive Wednesdays beginning June 19, the Cinematheque will remember our friend David Bordwell (1947-2024), Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. David’s many books, blog postings, and video essays made him a mentor to film academics and cinephiles around the world. To the staff of the Cinematheque and Wisconsin Film Festival, he consistently was a warm and enthusiastic front-row presence at screenings and a deeply influential programming advisor. All of the Bordwell favorites screening in this summer series will be shown on original 35mm prints personally collected by David Bordwell, and now provided by the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research and Academy Film Archive.

  • Wed., Jun. 19 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

The feature debut for the writing-directing team of Joel and Ethan Coen is a drenched-in-sweat, swarming-with-shadows thriller set deep in the heart of Texas. When a sleazy bar owner (Hedaya) recruits a private detective (Walsh) to catch his young wife (McDormand) with her lover (John Getz), the stage is set for a series of violent double-crosses. Working with cinematographer Barry Sonnefeld, the Coens and the colorful cast go beyond film noir with their stylish storytelling. “The characteristic Coen awareness, a sly recognition of letting the audience share their power over our access to the story world, is everywhere in evidence” (David Bordwell). The screening of a 35mm print, courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research, dwill be followed by David Bordwell’s video essay discussing point-of-view in Blood Simple (2021, 15 min.)

  • Wed., Jun. 26 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Ozu's first movie made after World War II is set in a Tokyo neighborhood where a stoic middle-aged widow begrudgingly shelters an abandoned child, their initially chilly relationship thawing over time. With humor, poignancy, and a stark lack of sentimentality, the film delicately unveils the unlikely bond that forms between them amidst the rubble of war. “If Ozu had only made this seventy-two minute film, he would have to be considered one of the world’s great directors” (David Bordwell). 35mm print courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research.

  • Wed., Jul. 3 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

A disgruntled explosives expert (Hopper) holds Los Angeles for ransom by arming a city bus with a bomb that will detonate if the vehicle slows down below 50 mph. Attempting to foil the dastardly plot is a dedicated bomb-squad cop (Reeves) and a brave and clever bus passenger (Bullock) who must navigate the oversized vehicle through very busy crosstown traffic. One of the best-remembered summer blockbusters of the 90s, Speed marked the directorial debut of Die Hard cinematographer de Bont and “exemplifies the fairly well-crafted action picture” (David Bordwell). 35mm print courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research.

  • Wed., Jul. 10 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Winner of the top prize at the 1985 Venice Film Festival, Vagabond begins with the discovery of the lifeless, frozen body of the young hitch-hiker Mona (Bonnaire). Through flashbacks recounted by individuals who crossed paths with her (portrayed predominantly by amateur actors), Varda constructs a fragmented depiction of this mysterious woman, crafting a mosaic-like portrayal that the director playfully referred to as “Rashomona.” Bonnaire’s multi-faceted turn won her several awards, including France’s Cesar, and the Los Film Critics Association prize for Best Actress. The presentation of a 35mm print, courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research, will be followed by David Bordwell’s video essay discussing plotting in Vagabond (2019, 15 min.)

  • Wed., Jul. 17 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Tough and crude cop McPherson (Andrews) investigates the murder of beautiful advertising executive Laura Hunt (Tierney) and falls in love with her portrait. The chief suspects are Waldo Lydecker (Webb), Laura’s cynical friend and companion; Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), her good-for-nothing fiancé; and Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), her rich, unscrupulous Aunt, who loves Shelby. Filled with shocking twists and revelations, Preminger’s classic gracefully mixes elegance with decadence. 35mm print courtesy of Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research.

  • Wed., Jul. 24 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

In this HK buddy cop drama in the tradition of Lethal Weapon, Chow Yun-Fat stars as a clownish, womanizing Sergeant more interested in flashy shirts than fighting crime, until he's paired with a serious rookie (Conan Lee) to bust a cocaine ring. As they attempt to uncover the criminal masterminds, the pair are led to a final showdown involving shotguns-on-strings and flying chainsaws, one of the most jaw-dropping sequences in the celebrated history of Hong Kong action movies. “Such flagrantly loopy combat is quite exciting, even exhilarating….Artificially shaped grace can be tremendously arousing. Don’t forget how people get carried away watching dancing, acrobatics, or basketball” (David Bordwell). 35mm print courtesy Academy Film Archive.