Do you know the last line of Martin Ritt’s 1976 comedic drama The Front? According to David Jenemann, director of film and television studies at the University of Vermont, it’s one of the greatest closing lines in film (though he wouldn’t reveal it; look it up on IMDb). Jenemann says, “It’s what everyone wishes they could say in a similarly stressful situation, and in an ideal world it’s what everyone should have said to HUAC [the House Un-American Activities Committee].”
If you haven’t heard the line before, or if you want to hear it again with an audience of community members and UVM students, April 17 is an opportunity to see The Front as the fourth and final film screened in this spring’s UVM Film Series, organized in partnership with UVM’s Lane Series.
The series kicks off this Thursday, January 23, with Mike Judge’s 1999 comedy Office Space, starring Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston. Based on Judge’s animated shorts, the satire of white-collar work prefigured TV’s “The Office” and became a cult classic. A pre-film lecture by Jenemann and a post-film discussion could give it a new spin.
Jenemann, first-time lead faculty lecturer for the series, will introduce each film with a different talk inspired by this year’s chosen theme: “Working for a Living: Labor on Film.”
“For better or worse, work defines who we are,” Jenemann explains, “and these films ask us to think about those definitions and their effect on us as individuals. [They] ask us whether we really are defined by our work, whether work ennobles us, or if work, especially work we do for the profit of others, diminishes us as human beings.”
Jenemann chose both the theme and the movies in consultation with staff at the Fleming Museum of Art. “It was great fun brainstorming with the whole group,” he says. “The biggest challenge is that we had enough films for 10 series.”
Do you live to work, or work to live? “Working for a Living” could make audiences think about questions that don’t often get time in the spotlight during their busy lives — questions that, says Jenemann, “are as pertinent for today’s Silicon Valley employee as they were for a Ford Factory worker at the turn of the last century.”
“Working for a Living: Labor on Film”: Office Space, Thursday, January 23; Salt of the Earth, Thursday, February 20; Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, Thursday, March 20; The Front, Thursday, April 17, all with pre-film lecture at 6 p.m.; film screening at 6:45 p.m. at Billings Lecture Hall, University of Vermont, in Burlington. $30 for entire series or $10 per film, $4 for students and faculty. Info, 656-4455. uvm.edu/laneseries
The original print version of this article was headlined "Labor Relations"