The Cinema 5 Story

The Cinema 5 Story

20 Episodes

How did era-defining art films like Z, GIMME SHELTER, and SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE find an audience in the U.S.? It was thanks in large part to a groundbreaking movie-theater chain and distribution company called Cinema 5, the brainchild of an inspired, often difficult impresario named Donald Rugoff. Selected to accompany the exclusive streaming premiere of Ira Deutchman’s documentary SEARCHING FOR MR. RUGOFF, this survey of some of the films that Cinema 5 helped make classics includes underground landmarks (PUTNEY SWOPE), international provocations (WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM), documentary triumphs (HARLAN COUNTY USA), cult favorites (THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH), and even the movie that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name (PUMPING IRON).

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The Cinema 5 Story
  • The Soft Skin

    Episode 1

    Directed by François Truffaut • 1964 • France
    Starring Jean Desailly, Françoise Dorléac, Nelly Benedetti

    François Truffaut followed up the international phenomenon JULES AND JIM with this tense tale of infidelity. The unassuming Jean Desailly is perfectly cast as a celebrated literary scholar, ...

  • Elvira Madigan

    Episode 2

    Directed by Bo Widerberg • 1967 • Sweden
    Starring Pia Degermark, Thommy Berggren, Lennart Malmer

    Based on a true nineteenth-century romantic tragedy, this rapturously beautiful period drama traces the doomed affair between a teenage tightrope walker (Pia Degermark, winner of the Cannes Best Actr...

  • The Firemen’s Ball

    Episode 3

    Directed by Miloš Forman • 1967 • Czechoslovakia
    Starring Jan Vostrcil, Josef Šebánek, František Reinstein

    A milestone of the Czech New Wave, Miloš Forman’s first color film THE FIREMEN’S BALL is both a dazzling comedy and a provocative political satire. A hilarious saga of good intentions confo...

  • Putney Swope

    Episode 4

    Directed by Robert Downey Sr. • 1969 • United States
    Starring Arnold Johnson, Laura Greene, Buddy Butler

    The most popular film by Robert Downey Sr. is this offbeat classic about the antics that ensue after Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson, his voice dubbed by a gravelly Downey), the token black man ...

  • Z
    Episode 5


    Episode 5

    Directed by Costa-Gavras • 1969 • Algeria, France
    Starring Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Irene Papas

    A pulse-pounding political thriller, Greek expatriate director Costa-Gavras’s Z was one of the cinematic sensations of the late sixties, and remains among the most vital dispatches from t...

  • Gimme Shelter

    Episode 6

    Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin • 1970 • United States

    Called the greatest rock film ever made, this landmark documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 U.S. tour. When three hundred thousand members of the Love Generation collided with a few d...

  • WR: Mysteries of the Organism

    Episode 7

    Directed by Dušan Makavejev • 1971 • Yugoslavia
    Starring Milena Dravić, Ivica Vidović, Jagoda Kaloper

    What does the energy harnessed through orgasm have to do with the state of communist Yugoslavia circa 1971? Only counterculture filmmaker extraordinaire Dušan Makavejev has the answers (or the q...

  • State of Siege

    Episode 8

    Directed by Costa-Gavras • 1972 • France
    Starring Yves Montand, Renato Salvatori, O. E. Hasse

    Costa-Gavras puts the involvement of the United States in Latin American politics under the microscope in this arresting thriller. An urban guerrilla group, outraged at the counterinsurgency and torture...

  • SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE: Theatrical Version

    Episode 9

    Directed by Ingmar Bergman • 1973 • Sweden
    Starring Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson

    SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE chronicles the many years of love and turmoil that bind Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson) through matrimony, infidelity, divorce, and subsequent partners. Shot in intense, i...

  • Visions of Eight

    Episode 10

    Directed by Miloš Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Yuri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, and Mai Zetterling • 1973 • United States

    In Munich in 1972, eight renowned filmmakers each brought their singular artistry to the spectacle of the Olympic Games, capturing the j...

  • Swept Away

    Episode 11

    Directed by Lina Wertmüller • 1974 • Italy
    Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Riccardo Salvino

    Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Mediterranean, SWEPT AWAY is Lina Wertmüller’s most famous and controversial film about sex, love, and politics. On an elegant yacht cruising off ...

  • Seven Beauties

    Episode 12

    Directed by Lina Wertmüller • 1975 • Italy
    Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, Shirley Stoler

    Nominated for four Academy Awards, including best director, SEVEN BEAUTIES stars Giancarlo Giannini as Pasqualino Frafuso, known in Naples as “Pasqualino Seven Beauties.” A petty thief who lives ...

  • Coup de grâce

    Episode 13

    Directed by Volker Schlöndorff • 1976 • Germany
    Starring Margarethe von Trotta, Matthias Habich, Mathieu Carrière

    Latvia, 1919: the end of the Russian Civil War. An aristocratic young woman (brilliantly played by Margarethe von Trotta) becomes involved with a sexually repressed Prussian soldier....

  • Harlan County USA

    Episode 14

    Directed by Barbara Kopple • 1976 • United States

    Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award-winning HARLAN COUNTY USA unflinchingly documents a grueling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikeb...

  • The Man Who Fell to Earth

    Episode 15

    Directed by Nicolas Roeg • 1976 • United States
    Starring David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark

    THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de fo...

  • A Special Day

    Episode 16

    Directed by Ettore Scola • 1977 • Italy
    Starring Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni

    Italian cinema dream team Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni are cast against glamorous type and deliver two of the finest performances of their careers in this moving, quietly subversive drama from Ettore Sco...

  • Jabberwocky

    Episode 17

    Directed by Terry Gilliam • 1977 • United Kingdom
    Starring Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Warren Mitchell

    Amid the filth and muck of England in the Dark Ages, a fearsome dragon stalks the land, casting a shadow of terror upon the kingdom of Bruno the Questionable. Who should emerge as the only poss...

  • One Sings, the Other Doesn't

    Episode 18

    Directed by Agnès Varda • 1977 • France
    Starring Valérie Mairesse, Thérèse Liotard, Ali Raffi

    In the early 1960s in Paris, two young women become friends. Pomme is an aspiring singer. Suzanne is a pregnant country girl unable to support a third child. Pomme lends Suzanne the money for an illegal...

  • Pumping Iron

    Episode 19

    Directed by George Butler and Robert Fiore • 1977 • United States
    Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Mike Katz

    Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to mainstream prominence with his unforgettable star appearance in this supremely entertaining docudrama, which also helped popularize the once-nic...

  • Searching for Mr. Rugoff

    Episode 20

    Directed by Ira Deutchman • 2019 • United States
    Starring Donald S. Rugoff, Elyce Bonnell, Peter Broderick

    This illuminating, unexpected slice of forgotten film history tells the story of Donald Rugoff, who was the crazy genius behind Cinema 5, the groundbreaking midcentury theater chain and fil...