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2004 Campus Film Series

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The rocking, rollicking, defiant, and controversial 1960’s briefly return to the Fox Cities in late Dr. MeckiffeMarch and early April when the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley hosts the second annual “UWFox Film Series” at the Menasha campus. Three films, all focused on groups, events, and stories that are based in the tumultuous decade that transformed America and defined a generation, are being offered free and open to the public at 7:00 p.m. on successive Monday nights in room #1229. Seating for the films is open and unreserved.

The films being show are “A Hard Day’s Night,” featuring the Beatles, on March 29; “Woodstock,” featuring a host of rock and music stars, on April 5; and “Easy Rider,” starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, on April 12.

In addition, Dr. Donald Meckiffe, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at UWFox, is offering insightful comments to the audienc about each film prior to its showing.

“ A Hard Day’s Night,” the Beatles first major motion picture was a “summer 1964 film that was intended to exploit what industry types thought was going to be a short-lived teen craze around the Beatles,” Meckiffe said. “The semi-documentary, built around the Beatles songs, chased the group around ‘Swinging London.’

“The lack of money and condensed shooting schedule led director Richard Lester to adopt zany camera styles and innovative, aggressive editing techniques which captured the carefree spirit of the band at the time,” Meckiffe continued. “The visuals and the attitude of the film paved the way for the tone and style of later American TV shows like, ‘The Monkees,’ and ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.’ For younger generations, the enduring legacy of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is that it is widely credited as being the genesis of the Music Video format.”

And that led to MTV, VH1 and various copy-cat TV programming formats that began in the ‘80’s .

The second movie in the series, “Woodstock,” was released March 1970 and captured, live, the legendary concert staged in late summer 1969.

“Like ‘A Hard Days Night,’ this Oscar winning documentary was made with very little money and is now critically regarded as the symbolic high point of the counterculture ... that loose coalition of young groups and attitudes that challenged ‘traditional’ thinking around such issues as the Vietnam war, drugs, racial integration and sexuality,” Mekiffe said.

“The attitudes of the time are distilled in musical performance, most notably Jimi Hendrix's, now legendary, rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ The significance of Woodstock is that, for a moment, the essentially good-natured behavior of the audience - who were woefully underserved with food, water and toilets - seemed to promise that peace and love were going to be enough. For younger generations, ‘Woodstock’ became the model for multi-band tours and events like Ozzfest and Lollapalooza.”

1969’s “Easy Rider” is the final film in the series. “It was the movie where a Hollywood film finally directly represented aspects of the social upheavals and polarization that were taking place at the time,” Meckiffe said. “Insiders Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper raised money for this low-budget road movie. It featured a couple of young guys - played by themselves - riding across the USA on money raised from drug dealing. The subject matter and style of the film, featuring a soundtrack by top rock bands of the time, were unprecedented for an American movie. The financial success of the film, coupled with its cheapness, demonstrated to studio bosses that there was money to be made with films that represented the challenging youth attitudes of the time. ‘Easy Rider’ featured a young Jack Nicholson and opened the Hollywood door for young directors, such as Robert Altman (‘M*A*S*H’), Martin Scorsese (‘Mean Streets,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ and ‘Raging Bull’), and Francis Ford Coppolla (‘Godfather’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’).”

Meckiffe feels that the films, like the decade itself, have an ambiguous legacy. “At their darkest, these films touch upon the themes of drugs, exploitative sex and greed that were to emerge within the counterculture. At their best, these movies represent the energy, optimism and sense of limitless possibility that characterize the period while still capturing the imaginations of people not even born at the time,” he summarized.

And, if you really want to emerge yourself the 1960’s, plan on attending UWFox’s stage production of “HAIR,” the great American tribal love-rock musical that set new standards for theatrical performances during that era. “HAIR” is being presented on April 21, 22, 23, and 24, at 7:00 p.m.

For more information about the film series, those interested can contact Dave Hager, Director of University Relations, at 832-2611 (or email david.hager@uwc.edu), or Professor Donald Meckiffe, at 832-2682 (or email donald.meckiffee@uwc.edu).

Posted on 3/22/2004