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In a unique presentation not seen on pay tv before, World Movies has curated six months of Saturday night movie programming devoted to milestone movies from some of the revolutionaries of modern European cinema, playing them only once each on Saturday nights (with encore screening early on Sunday evenings). Already hosting the Sunday night tv premieres, Andrew L. Urban jumped at the chance to introduce these classic films to an audience of existing fans - and those who are about to discover them. 

I’m far from a film buff, more a film enjoyer. My love of film is driven by the same curiosity as is my love of writing – both reading it and doing it. I see hundreds of movies every year, but I am still surprised, inspired and moved by film. If music is an intravenous art, film is the extreme form of opera, combining elements to be consumed by almost all the senses, artforms that transcend logic and strike at our emotions directly. And where are they, exactly? I am reminded of a line of dialogue in Casablanca, by Claude Rains’s character, the French police officer, Captain Renault: when Rick (Humphrey Bogart), in order to obtain the crucial letters of safe passage, says his gun is pointing straight at his heart, Renault quips wryly, quietly: “My least vulnerable spot.” So where IS it that we hide our emotions? 

"milestones that mark the evolution of the cinematic arts"

Milestones of World Cinema is a chance to try and find out: each of the films we present in this series has been screen tested by millions of movie lovers around the world and found to be remarkable. Works that defied the cinematic conventions of the day and brought powerful new storytelling styles to the screen. In the relatively short history of cinema – compared to literature and music, say – these are milestones that mark the evolution of the cinematic arts in leaps and bounds. 

And I wonder sometimes if like music and literature, the best of the artform has already been explored in its bloom periods. Just as Mozart (among others) took dictation from god when writing music of sublime beauty, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Shaw and Dostoevsky (among others) defined the art of writing. The filmmakers of the first 50 years of cinema may have reached the pinnacles of the artform. From early Hollywood to the French New Wave - and the others in this series – filmmakers who have gone before have discovered all the treasures that the medium offers. At least, that’s one conclusion we can reach. 

Are filmmakers damned to simply repeat the career highs of the pioneers? What new language of cinema are we discovering now? Are the new tools of cinema more effective? Do we feel bigger feelings, think more profound thoughts about the human condition and the universe than we did when Charlie Chaplin took the world by storm? Are we progressing? Is there progress possible in this artform? Is it even an artform? 

Well, in a conversation with Sydney Pollack on a Sydney visit in 1999, we agreed that the word ‘art’ is so heavy with pretension, nebulous, unsafe and personal that we should think of filmmakers (and other artists) as creating things ‘of lasting value’ – if they’re really excellent. That’s the most neutral definition we came up with and I’ve used it ever since. 

So whatever your personal response to the films in this series, they are proven to be ‘of lasting value’ by millions of people; that doesn’t mean you have to agree. It just means they’re worth a look. 

My first contact with film was as an eight year old in Hungary, when I was cast as a school kid in a comedy and worked on location and in the studio. It was a tiny role with one line of dialogue. Still, I got a big kick out of missing school – and was infected by the atmosphere of filmmaking. But there was more: on Friday evenings after shooting, we were bundled into a screening theatrette to be shown a few Charlie Chaplin films. They were the first movies I ever saw, and the impact they made on me remains fresh to this day. The films were great, but the pleasure of seeing them was heightened by the fact they were shown IN SECRET – they were BANNED as decadent foreign pollution by a Communist regime which was as stupid as it was oppressive. Those few months at Budapest Studio laid the foundations for my understanding of film as not merely entertainment but as a political powertool.

"an expression of freedom"

The films in the Milestones series are just as political as was Chaplin’s silent comedy – depending on who is watching them and in what circumstances. But to me, watching any film I choose is an expression of freedom. That’s a political act; we should savour and treasure.

This first series of Milestones takes highlights from French New Wave, New German Cinema, Prague Spring, Polish Cinema and selections from the films of Ingmar Bergman and Luis Bunuel. In all, 14 filmmaking giants are represented through 26 films (shown over 26 Saturdays), made between 1957 and 1982.

The series begins with The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut) on Saturday, September 7, 2002 and finishes with That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Bunuel) on Saturday, February 22, 2003. In the intervening 24 weeks, the series presents a staggering list of classics, including Breathless, Alphaville, Jules et Jim, Contempt, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Belle de Jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgouisie.

Now, at least on Saturday nights, there’s no excuse to cry “50 channels and there’s nothing to watch!” when looking at your program guide.

Published September 5, 2002

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Milestones of World Cinema
From Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002 at 8.30pm


Milestones Trailer - Low or High

Andrew L. Urban

400 Blows


Jules et Jim



Readers who wish to receive a free glossy, illustrated A3 brochure on Milestones of World Cinema with the full program details for the entire 6 months, are invited to send an email (see below) to World Movies with their name and address. The offer is open to non subscribers as well as subscribers to World Movies. Anyone, in fact.
If you are already a World Movies subscriber, email HERE

If you are NOT a World Movies subscriber, email HERE (you will be sent information about the subscription service* together with the brochure)

* World Movies subscription is $6.95 per month

See the Milestones WEBSITE for more

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