For the past nine years, Howard Karren has been programming a series of films on the outermost tip of Cape Cod. At first, the Film Art series was a program of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), but this year, PAAM has teamed up with the Provincetown Film Society to co-produce the series at the Waters Edge Cinema (237 Commercial St., 2nd Fl., Provincetown). The series kicks off this Sunday, November 2 at 1 p.m. with a benefit reception followed by a screening of Six by Sondheim, a film Karren says perfectly suits the concept of the series, which has always been to show films about art as well as showing films as art themselves.
“I focus on trying to pick titles that are not that familiar… I like to choose stuff that there’s a good chance the audience will not have seen. So there’s a real sense of discovery in that regard,” Karren explains over lunch in Orleans.
The full series schedule is divided into three distinct but related sections, running through May 2015. Karren says while having a thematic arrangement is a useful tool in the curating process, it is also more than that. Each section speaks to the other and someone who attends the full season, or several films from each section at least, can see how the films reflect upon each other and how the vibrant post-screening discussions illuminate shared themes among all of them.
“These folks are not shy about expressing themselves,” Karren says smiling. “It’s a little like a book club in that way. I give my point of view, but that’s really only one voice among many. The thing that excites me is people’s enthusiasm because for me the whole series is a way fro film to be taken serious as an art form. So that’s very gratifying.”
Karren began the series because he says he was “feeling kind of isolated” in his passion for film on Cape Cod, after having lived in New York, a great cinema city. Karren’s background includes studying film theory and semiotics at Brown University, obtaining an MFA in film from Columbia University, and an accomplished career in film journalism, writing for and editing at Premiere Magazine, People, and New York Magazine. In addition to curating the series and working as a consultant to the Waters Edge Cinema, he also writes a column for the Provincetown Banner and co-owns Alden Gallery in Provincetown.
The first part of the series, called “Part I: Women Transcendent,” includes films with great female leads, ranging from the quiet, graceful style of Yasujiro Ozu’s Early Summer (1951) to the Israeli film Fill the Void (2012) by first-time filmmaker Rama Burshtein about a woman in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Speaking about Fill the Void, Karren says, “The performances [Burshtein] elicits do not feel like they’re in a first film. You would not know it’s a first film.” It was apparently a film that was hard to make for a whole host of reasons, but Karren says the results are extremely moving and explore “the torment of not fitting into the structures and the rules and boundaries for what women are supposed to do.”
The second section, “Part II: Outsiders,” is just as what it sounds like and includes Lindsay Anderson’s bizarre 1971 film O Lucky Man, starring Malcolm MacDowell, The Tin Drum (1979) by Volker Schondorff, and Jacques Tourneur‘s 1942 thriller Cat People, among others. And the series finishes with “Part III: Art in the Mirror,” a group of films about art and artists that reflect back on themselves.
“These three parts speak to one another,” Karren emphasizes. “They are united in exploring what it means to be a movie that is a work of art and dealing with the subjects of that in one way or another.”
All screenings are listed here on Cape Cod Film Society’s regular calendar of upcoming film events. Full details about the series selections and ticketing information can be found here. Consider purchasing a a full season pass, which not only gets you into all of these great film presentations and discussions, but also supports the continuation of the Film Art Series. Tickets to this Sunday’s kickoff celebration are $35.