The great filmmaker Barbara Kopple, with her crew, spent more than a year documenting the coal miners’ strike at the Eastover Mining Company’s Brookside (Kentucky) Mine, which began when the firm refused to sign a contract with its newly unionized workers. In her staggeringly powerful film, “Harlan County USA” (1976), the fierce struggle, marked by violent battles between armed “representatives” of the company and the picketing miners, is given context with background on the difficult lives of the miners and their families, and history of the United Mine Workers of America union.
Forty years after premiering at the New York Film Festival, “Harlan County USA” returns in the Revivals section and will screen on Friday, October 7 at 6:00 pm. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary.
(When I photographed Kopple, she’d won two. I hadn’t yet met Oscar in person and was surprised by the substantial weight of the world’s most famous figurine and asked Kopple to use them as if they were exercise weights, which might have worked, been funny, in a video but didn’t make sense a single image.)
Three Jacques Rivette shorts, “Aux quatre coins” (1949), “La quadrille” (1950)–featuring a startlingly young Jean-Luc Godard–and “Le divertissement” (1952), all shot in Paris, are also included in Revivals. The films, rediscovered this year by Véronique Rivette and digitally restored by the Cinémathèque française, provide a view of the New Wave master discovering his themes and “approach to mise-en-scène.” The program will be shown on Saturday, October 8 at 1:00 pm and Saturday, October 15 at 3:30 pm.
Additional highlights in the Revivals section include”Panique,” directed by Julien Duvivier (Friday, October 14 at 6:45), Robert Bresson’s “L’argent” (Wednesday, October 12 at 6:30 pm), and Marlon Brando’s sole directorial effort, “One-Eyed Jacks,” in which he also stars (Sunday, October 9 at 12:00 pm).
*Obviously a little joke, referencing a 1984 film by Wim Wenders.