The Last Happy Day
Introduction by Professor Michele Lowrie, Classics Department
New York filmmaker Lynne Sachs presents The Last Happy Day, an experimental documentary portrait of Sandor (Alexander) Lenard, a Hungarian medical doctor and Sachs' distant cousin. In 1938 Lenard, a writer with a Jewish background, fled the Nazis to a safe haven in Rome. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service hired Lenard to reconstruct the bones— small and large — of dead American soldiers. Eventually he found himself in remotest Brazil where he embarked on the translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin. Sachs' essay film uses personal letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies, interviews, and a children's performance to create an intimate meditation on the destructive power of war.
In conversation with Classics Professor Michèle Lowrie (who acted as an adviser on the film), Sachs will discuss her cinematic process for making this portrait of a doctor who saw the worst of society and ran. From Lucretius’ sublime but wise “On the Nature of the Universe” to Euripides’ lurid Bacchae to Michael Ondaattje’s harrowing vision of Billy the Kid, Sachs will review the range of literature that fed her creative process. In the same spirit of experimentation, she will screen her companion piece, Cosmetic Surgery for Corpses (10 min., 2010) which witnesses a group of Latin scholars confronted with the haunting yet whimsical task of translating a newspaper article on Iraqi burial rituals into Latin.
(Lynne Sachs, 37 min, DVD, 2009)
Co-sponsored by the Departments of Classics, Rhetoric and Poetics, and the Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Fund of the Center for Jewish Studies