Film Major Moment, Major Film Moment

Agnes Varda from The Gleaners and I (2000)

Lights! Camera! Film 150! Every Tuesday for the past four months, you could find me in the same location. Deep within the basement of the Humanities Quadrangle — one of Yale’s largest buildings dedicated to the study of the arts and humanities — exists the Alice Cinema, a movie theater named after first female filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché.

The Alice Cinema at Yale
The Alice Cinema

The Alice Cinema may have started out as a random location on my course syllabus, but soon enough it became one of my usual haunts this fall. I was here as a student in Film 150: Introduction to Film, where screenings are held each week to watch films on the syllabus in all their cinematic glory.

 The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The course is split up into two weekly lectures, a screening block, and a discussion section to talk about what we watched that week in more depth. Although the lectures and discussion sections were always engaging (obviously), my favorite part of the class had to be the opportunity to watch movies on the big screen. For one thing, all the films on the syllabus were chosen very intentionally, so every week I could trust I was watching something that would be worth my time. Ranging from Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I (2000) to Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion (1937), Kenji Mizoguchi’s Sansho the Bailiff (1954), and Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I never knew what I was going to watch from one week to the next. Across genres, geographies, and time periods, I encountered a wealth of films I’m not sure I would’ve come across otherwise. And having them laid out for me every week, I got to see great films without having to stress over the inevitable decision-making that goes into putting on a movie. Instead of scrolling through Netflix, hoping that the algorithm places something tasty before me, I could just know that at 7:00pm each Tuesday, there would be an exhilarating, gut-wrenching, or thought-provoking film already waiting.

Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven
Far From Heaven (2002)

Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman in May December (2023)
May December (2023)

My favorite film we watched this semester was Far From Heaven (2002) by Todd Haynes. Visually gorgeous, thematically poignant, and starring a personal fave, Julianne Moore (shoutout to Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Far From Heaven was a not-so-hidden gem I hadn’t seen previously. And coincidentally, we watched this film the same month that Haynes’ May December was released on Netflix. When it came time to watch the Netflix flick, I felt like I was in a practical examination of everything I had been learning in class thus far. The semester may be over, but my self-proclaimed, film-buff era is only starting.