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February 10, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

TICKETS for THE MANHATTAN FRONT at Roxie Sat Feb 10, 430p HERE



Director Cathy Lee Crane – 2017 USA 89 min World Premiere – Drama / Musical / Historic


In 1915, a German saboteur comes to Manhattan and tries to co-opt the progressive labor movement push America into World War I. In this hybrid art film, as history plays itself out between the staged and the archival, fact and fiction unmask one another to tell a story of the corruption of America’s innocence. With music by the Bay Area’s fabulous Beth Custer. – Jennifer Junkyard Morris

Both screenings of The Manhattan Front will be preceded with live renditions of musical performances from the film led by the production’s San Francisco-based musicians.

Starting at 4:00pm before the February 10 screening, composer Beth Custer (clarinet, bethcuster.com), will perform alongside Dave Scott (piano) and Scott Foster (guitar) from the Dave Len Scott Quartet (http://davelenscott.org). Before the February 14 screening, starting at 6:30pm, La Familia Pena-Govea (miguelgovea.com) will perform corridos and ballads for Valentine’s Day.


Noël Burch, American film theorist:

Back in the blessed seventies, a goodly number of film-makers in Western Europe – mostly Britain but also Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands – working on the fringes of the Institution – which Christian Metz usefully defined as “meant to fill theatres, not to empty them” – produced a sizable body of “experimental” but generally legible films deal- ing with history and radical politics. Alas, like so much else from that era, this tradition has been lost. Which is why I was enchanted to discover, quite by accident, the work of Cathy Lee Crane at a festival in Vienna some fifteen years ago. The Girl from Marseilles was an imaginary construction of what might have been the subjectivity of the “real Nadja” be- hind Breton’s fictional heroine, both a critique of the Surrealist vision of women and a moving evocation of the écriture of the films of Man Ray, Germaine Dulac. I have followed closely her development ever since: the evocations of the life of the French Catholic Marxist Simone Weil, of Pasolini and his death… Fascinating films. But I had one reproach: why this obsession with Europe (my Europe!), why not look around you?

And after several years, The Manhattan Front was her reply. It is undoubtedly her masterpiece. A shoe- string period movie was a challenge, and Cathy met it with a maestria we can only salute. Her subject is complex, an essential (tragic) episode in the history of the “American” left and a crucial moment in the progress of US women: set in Manhattan during WW1, she evokes both the work of women in the munitions industry, and the way the capitalist establishment used the war effort to destroy the most radical labor union your country has ever known, the Industrial Workers of the World, the “Wobblies”… This is a melodrama, with German spies hiding bombs in cigars, with German-American traitors… But Cathy’s approach to this complex material is resolutely experimental, with brilliantly conceived visual metaphors and disconcerting juxtapositions. Which no doubt explains (along with the film’s unfashionable politics) the refusal from festivals around the world to program it. One can only congratulate the organizers of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (a festival in the city of my birth) for their clairvoyance.

Noël Burch
co-director with Alan Sekula on The Forgotten Space 
and with Thom Andersen on Red Hollywood
15 December 2017 Paris, France



February 10, 2018
4:30 pm
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