June 1 – June 8, 2022

BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair

ABOUT THE SERIES

The American Cinematheque invites you to its inaugural “BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair,” a weeklong festival that spotlights some of the greatest films from around that world that explore the darkest sides of humanity, as well as some of the bleakest points in human history. A harrowing, yet powerful lineup of films defined by stark imagery, unimaginable tragedies, existential fear, nihilism and shocking acts of brutality, this series features the world’s leading filmmakers who wholly embrace a cinema of despair in pursuit of unpleasant truths and raw empathy.

This year’s festival includes 33 films of a variety of genres and time periods and from 18 countries, including the UK, France, Italy, USA, Soviet Union, Mexico, China, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Brazil, Poland, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. Such a wide scope demonstrates the multitude of ways filmmakers have addressed humanity’s collective, periodic sense of despair throughout history. A foremost example is Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr’s signature bleak aesthetic, which is rendered primarily through a slow, repetition of everyday life, observed most famously in his seven and half hour epic SÁTÁNTANGÓ (1994). It is the similarly banal depictions of existence that hammers in the depressive effects of Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT (2003) and Hu Bo’s AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL (2018), two 21st century masterpieces that expand on the sense of time passing and deal with tragedy in horrifyingly monotonous terms.

Other films deal less in banal horror, than in the existential threats to both the individual and society. Whether it’s the anxious certainty of nuclear annihilation running through Mick Jackson’s infamous BBC TV movie THREADS (1984), or the fear of one’s own inability to overcome addiction in Steve McQueen’s SHAME (2011), these films center on the apparent hopelessness of the human experience. Such films can be overwhelmingly punishing viewing experiences, as in Agnès Varda’s VAGABOND (1985), which begins with its main character already dead frozen in a ditch, or in Robert Bresson’s AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (1966), in which the innocence of a donkey proves no match for a callous world of owners, or in George Sluizer’s SPOORLOOS (1988), in which a young girl’s kidnapping plays out with frustrating simplicity; but these types of films are not necessarily without moments of levity as well, as seen in the previous examples, as well as Andrey Zvyagintsev’s fatalist, yet at times touching and even humorous views of family life in THE RETURN (2003) and LEVIATHAN (2014).

Some of the most outwardly bleak films spare no punches by using pure shock value to address oppressive societal structures. Few films compare in terms of sheer unpleasantness than in the mean-spirited rages of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s CHINESE ROULETTE (1976), Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES (1997), and Claire Denis’ BASTARDS (2013), each of which take head on an infuriatingly cruel facet of society (which in the case of FUNNY GAMES, is the spectators themselves). The presence of unexpected brutality also gives what first seem like familiar genres territories—such as Anthony Mann’s western MAN OF THE WEST (1958), Buddy Giovinazzo’s low budget exploitation war film COMBAT SHOCK (1986) and Atom Egoyan’s legal drama THE SWEET HEREAFTER (1997)—a nasty jolt just when the viewer assumed a mistaken sense of comfort with the subject matter.

Other films are deemed bleak simply by their unfettered cynicism. New Hollywood films SORCERER (1977) and CHINATOWN (1974) manage the cruel trick of developing a deep bond between the audience and the protagonists’ sympathetic cause, only to demolish the viewers’ hopes in the end with a nihilistic twist. Although New Hollywood might be most associated with such grand gestures of pessimism, Hollywood has plenty of examples from both the early and more recent days of cinema alike, as with the thoroughly nihilist undertones of Val Lewton and Mark Robson’s Satanic cult-focused horror THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943), Arthur Penn’s black comedy PENN & TELLER GET KILLED (1989) and Frank Darabont’s heavy adaptation of Stephen King’s considerably lighter novella, THE MIST (2007). Outside the US, many filmmakers have long grappled with pessimism in more spiritual terms, as the protagonists in Ingmar Bergman’s WINTER LIGHT (1963), Lars von Trier’s BREAKING THE WAVES (1996) and Bernard Rose’s THE KREUTZER SONATA (2008) face the harsh reality of a world without God.

Finally, perhaps most disturbing are the bleak films that depict and empathize with real events. With an uncomfortable proximity to historical tragedies, films such as Andrzej Wajda’s KORCZAK (1990), Larisa Sheptiko’s THE ASCENT (1977) and, most famously, Elem Klimov’s COME AND SEE (1985) assume a documentary quality that allows no comfort despite the assurance that the images depicted are actually fiction. The despair onscreen is real. In a similar way, films that empathize with the trials of children, whether based on real life or not, generally carry with them a heavier dose of reality. Films like Luis Buñuel’s LOS OLVIDADOS (1950), Héctor Babenco’s PIXOTE (1981), Larry Clark’s KIDS (1997), Lynne Ramsay’s RATCATCHER (1999), and Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s THE TRIBE (2014), have each shocked its respective generation of moviegoers with the realizations of harsh difficulties facing youth around the world.

Join us this June Gloom for Bleak Week as we explore the sobering tones of this wide variety of artful films and discover the ways that filmmakers have used cinema to portray, understand, empathize with, and at best, overcome humanity’s moments of despair.

Read More about SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM
WED JUNE 1, 2022

7:00 PM

SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series

Read More about RATCATCHER / VAGABOND
WED JUNE 1, 2022

7:30 PM

RATCATCHER / VAGABOND

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Los Angeles Premiere of New 4K Restoration of RATCATCHER. 

Read More about THREADS
WED JUNE 1, 2022

10:00 PM

THREADS

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about BASTARDS
THU JUNE 2, 2022

7:00 PM

BASTARDS

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about CHINATOWN / SORCERER
THU JUNE 2, 2022

7:30 PM

CHINATOWN / SORCERER

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about SHAME
THU JUNE 2, 2022

10:00 PM

SHAME

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about LOS OLVIDADOS
FRI JUNE 3, 2022

1:30 PM

LOS OLVIDADOS

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about MAN OF THE WEST
FRI JUNE 3, 2022

4:00 PM

MAN OF THE WEST

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about ELEPHANT
FRI JUNE 3, 2022

7:00 PM

ELEPHANT

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | Q&A with filmmaker Gus Van Sant. 

‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about COME AND SEE / THE ASCENT
FRI JUNE 3, 2022

7:30 PM

COME AND SEE / THE ASCENT

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about Friday Night Frights Presents THE MIST – B&W Director’s Cut
FRI JUNE 3, 2022

10:00 PM

Friday Night Frights Presents THE MIST – B&W Director’s Cut

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

B&W Director’s Cut! 

Read More about WINTER LIGHT
SAT JUNE 4, 2022

1:30 PM

WINTER LIGHT

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL
SAT JUNE 4, 2022

2:00 PM

AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about THE KREUTZER SONATA
SAT JUNE 4, 2022

4:00 PM

THE KREUTZER SONATA

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | Q&A with filmmaker Bernard Rose. 

‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about Cinematic Void Presents COMBAT SHOCK
SAT JUNE 4, 2022

7:00 PM

Cinematic Void Presents COMBAT SHOCK

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | Q&A with filmmaker Buddy Giovinazzo. 

‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about THE RETURN / LEVIATHAN
SAT JUNE 4, 2022

7:30 PM

THE RETURN / LEVIATHAN

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about FUNNY GAMES
SAT JUNE 4, 2022

10:00 PM

FUNNY GAMES

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about AU HASARD BALTHAZAR
SUN JUNE 5, 2022

1:30 PM

AU HASARD BALTHAZAR

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

‘Sunday Print Edition’ Series 

Read More about SÁTÁNTANGÓ
SUN JUNE 5, 2022

2:00 PM

SÁTÁNTANGÓ

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about THE TRIBE
SUN JUNE 5, 2022

4:00 PM

THE TRIBE

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about PIXOTE
SUN JUNE 5, 2022

7:00 PM

PIXOTE

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about KIDS
SUN JUNE 5, 2022

10:00 PM

KIDS

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about Cinematic Void Presents THE SEVENTH VICTIM
MON JUNE 6, 2022

7:00 PM

Cinematic Void Presents THE SEVENTH VICTIM

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | Rare 35mm print from the Library of Congress

‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about KORCZAK
MON JUNE 6, 2022

7:30 PM

KORCZAK

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about THE SWEET HEREAFTER
MON JUNE 6, 2022

10:00 PM

THE SWEET HEREAFTER

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | Co-Presented by the Armenian Film Society.

‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about SPOORLOOS
TUE JUNE 7, 2022

7:00 PM

SPOORLOOS

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about PENN & TELLER GET KILLED
TUE JUNE 7, 2022

10:00 PM

PENN & TELLER GET KILLED

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series 

Read More about BREAKING THE WAVES / CHINESE ROULETTE
WED JUNE 8, 2022

7:30 PM

BREAKING THE WAVES / CHINESE ROULETTE

$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | ‘BLEAK WEEK: Cinema of Despair’ Series