Cornell Cinema Continues Under the Stars
Every summer since 2000, the Cornell Cinema has turned the terrace of Willard Straight into an open-air theater, welcoming patrons to delight in a few special screenings in the balmy night sky. The outdoor film series is titled, "Cinema Under the Stars" and it runs three weeks this summer: today, July 9, and July 22. Enjoy classic cinema alongside some of the best views of Ithaca and of Cayuga Lake. Screenings begin just past nightfall at 9:30 p.m., but audiences are invited onto the terrace at 8:30 p.m. to enjoy the sunset on the lake, music before the film, wine and beer from a cash bar and complimentary snacks.
The $12 ($10 students & seniors) tickets go on sale each Monday before the screening (July 6 and July 20). Tickets are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cinema office, 104 Willard Straight Hall or from the Willard Straight box office, 7:40 - 8:30 p.m. For more information, call 255-3522 or visit cinema.cornell.edu.
"We started it out the summer of 2000, and the original idea was quite elaborate," the Cinema's director Mary Fessenden said. "We screened 'Mambo Kings,' and we had dance lessons, the film, and a dance party. The event was so successful that we decided to make it an annual series."
Typical programs have combined both classic and contemporary films, including more recent fare like the Gallic romance "Amelie," to the German workout "Run Lola Run" and the retro animated flick "The Triplets of Belleville." "This year we decided to pull together a schedule of classics, and we pulled together a list and had people vote," Fessenden said. "We just had done a Marx Brothers film last year, and it was so successful we decided to screen another."
The three features are well-suited fare for the warm night sky. "Duck Soup" gets things rolling tonight, a film that features the verbal and physical comedy of The Marx Brothers. Perhaps the brothers' finest film, "Duck Soup" is part political satire, and part wacky send-up; Groucho plays the petty dictator of Freedonia, who decides to declare war on Chico, his brother. Silliness ensues.
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Then on July 9, Cornell Cinema will offer "The African Queen," a comedy, love story and an adventure tale all rolled into one. Directed by John Huston and staring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, the film is set in 1914, and concerns two missionaries on their way up the Congo guided by the brash and straight-talking Bogie. Hepburn's "Rosie" was meant to invoke Eleanor Roosevelt, and her pairing with Bogart is cinematic heaven.
The series concludes on July 22 (Wednesday) with one of the greatest of film noirs, "Double Indemnity." The femme fatale is played by Barbara Stanwyck, who lures an insurance salesman, played by Fred MacMurray, into a complex murder scheme. Based on a James M. Cain story (he also wrote "The Postman Always Rings Twice"), the screenplay was written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, whose marvelous dialogue intertwines flawlessly with Billy Wilder's cool sense of style.
The "Cinema Under the Stars" series barely scratches the surface of Cornell's fine summer programming. In addition to a bevy of Ithaca premieres (which will be reviewed in the upcoming weeks), this summer the theater is offering a series on The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Winners, including Akira Kurosawa's "Dersu Uzala," Frederico Fellini's "Amarcord" (his fourth! film to nab the foreign film Academy Award), and Constantine Costa-Gavras 1969 Greek epic "Z."
Fessenden noted that attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance for they frequently sell out, and arrive early to the outdoor screenings, as tables are set up for picnic dinners. In the event of rain, the screenings take place in the theater.
By Luke Z. Fenche