Doc of Love: From Ozu to Grit to WTF, what’s playing this quarter at the University of Chicago

Be still my caffeine-addicted, jumpy heart. Spring might not be in the air quite yet, but this quarter brings a new Doc Films calendar to plaster dorm and apartment walls across Hyde Park. And who should be on this quarter’s sepia-toned, oversized broadsheet but Cary Grant, heartthrob? Though Doc calendars are usually relegated to the darkest corners of my own abode, perhaps this one can be hung prominently–too bad Mr. Grant is looking off to the side, instead of right into my tired eyes.

But perhaps I misspeak. After all, Cary is just the icing on the cake. The real treat is Doc’s ten weeks of programming. Let’s take a look.

On Sunday, Doc gives us a continuation of last quarter’s series on Japanese film maestro Yasujiro Ozu. Ozu’s melancholy films examined the complexities of modernity in Japan. These films are all post-World War II, and show the despair and destruction that followed Japan’s defeat, as well as the economic boom that overtook the country in the 1950s. Ozu slams the personal against the social, and while his films can be heart-wrenching, they can also be perceptive and sweet–don’t worry about them bringing down your weekend.

Monday’s series on Taiwanese filmmakers is cosponsored by the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Library. Most of the films screened are from the ‘80s and early ’90s, with three each by Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Edward Yang. Hsiao-Hsien’s “City of Sadness”(May 11) and Yang’s “Brighter Summer Day” (May 18) are highlights.
Tuesday brings us a series on the evolution of documentary film! Starting with “South,” produced in 1918, these ambitious films trace (and invent) footage from the South Pole to Iran to the North Sea.

On Wednesday, we have a very compelling series, perhaps the most compelling of all. Why? Because Cary Grant is in all of the films, of course. The series starts this week with ur-LOL-cat comedy “Bringing up Baby,” which also features a leopard! Grant stars as a paleontologist, and Katherine Hepburn is his love interest, a wry society girl. The series focuses on Grant’s work with George Cukor and Howard Hawks, including the Hawks and Grant screwball collaboration “I Was a Male War Bride” on May 20.

Kicking off this week with 1969’s “Easy Rider,” directed by and starring Dennis Hopper, Doc’s early Thursday series on “American Grit” explores the seedy underbelly of life against flower power. Iconic performances by Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson examine macho angst, while films like “Diary of a Mad Housewife” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” look at the fraying of American norms after the ’50s, fueled by changing perspectives on vices like drugs and sex.

Late Thursday probably speaks for itself, with the scintillatingly titled “WTF?”. With films by mainstays of absurdity Ed Wood (“Glen or Glenda,” this Thursday at 9pm) and Cecil B. DeMille (“This Day and Age”), the series also features ridiculous plots and images by Norman McLeod (“Alice in Wonderland”) and an evangelical epic by Ron Ormond who converted to Christianity after surviving a plane crash.

As usual, weekends are a series of second-run gems. This spring brings us a combination of Oscar nominees and winter blockbusters, but also look for little independent gems like “Let the Right One In” (April 17 and 19), which combines Sweden, vampires, and the 1970s (elements that together, make my heart go boom about as fast as Cary Grant does) and “Wendy and Lucy” (May 2 and 3), a film that, I have been told, causes intense anxiety and precarious feelings in its audience. Looking forward to graduation, indeed.

In the meantime, I’ll have Cary Grant on my wall to keep my company. Swoon.