First of all, here’s wishing everyone a safe and sane 4th of July weekend as well as a reminder straight off the labels of many small and large-scale fireworks I detonated on the holiday as a kid: DO NOT PUT IN MOUTH! (This applies to searing hot explosives and not, of course, to your favorite nitrate-infused and lovingly grilled Farmer John product.)
My friend Tom Sutpen, proprietor of that visually splendiferous oasis in the blogsphere known as If Charlie Parker Was A Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats (where an image from the lost Metropolis footage can be seen), has ensured that my own three-dayer gets off to a wonderful start. Tom has unearthed the magical picture of Sergio Leone you see above, I’m guessing taken on the set of Once Upon a Time in the West (#382 in his “Artists in Action” series) and kindly bequeathed it to this blog. Since opening the saloon doors to this site nearly four years ago I’ve searched for an image like this but never found one. Thanks to Tom (and Stephen and Richard and old friend Kimberly) the search is over. In addition to getting the spotlight here, it’s going to take up permanent residence on my sidebar as well. My ceramic Buddha, my St. Christopher medal, my good luck charm has finally arrived.
The image arrives just in time to help highlight another Leone series coming up here in Los Angeles, yet another chance to see the director’s major works on the big screen. The Aero Theater, in conjunction with the American Cinematheque, will be screening the great Leone films near the end of this month, and as obvious as it sounds, if you’re in this city and have never seen them bigger and wider than a 60” plasma screen this is an opportunity of which you must avail yourself. The Dollars movies are screening out of order, for some reason, but that’s no reason to grumble. Thursday, July 24, is the night to see The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966). Then the next night you can make your way back to Montana Avenue and 19th in Santa Monica for a double feature of A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965)—this is one of the two nights I’ll be at the Aero (though there is a crucial conflict, which I’ll mention in a minute). Saturday night, July 26, the 165-minute director’s cut of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) screens—get there early, know what I mean? And on Sunday night, July 27, the director’s swansong, the original 226-minute version of Once Upon a Time in America (1984) gets another showing. But the engagement I’m most looking forward to comes Wednesday night—it’s Leone’s rarely screened Duck, You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite) (1971), a movie which I have never seen theatrically—this is the big treat of July, to be sure.
The trouble is, as good as repertory and revival cinema is in Los Angeles at this moment in time, there’s certain to be conflicts when planning to attend one-time-only screenings of this sort, and the last weekend of July has a couple of doozies in store, for me at least. Saturday night, July 26, the Alex Film Society is showing Lawrence of Arabia, which should be spectacular indeed in the palatial confines of this magnificent Glendale theater. But there’s an out here-- Lawrence screens at 1:00 p.m. as well as 7:00 p.m. that day, so it’s entirely possible that one could be witness to the greatest of Lean and Leone on a single day in July (and presumably live to tell the tale). Not so the night before, when the Dollars double bill is in direct conflict with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s final film, the delightful Cluny Brown (1945), starring Jennifer Jones in the title role and Charles Boyer. Cluny Brown is part of LACMA’s July tribute to Boyer, and as such will be making Saturday, July 26 an even more impossibly bountiful evening for cineastes with its screening of Max Ophuls’ sublime masterpiece The Earrings of Madame de… (1953). On one night, the masterpieces of Lean, Leone and Ophuls. Remember back in the days before the invention of the Betamax when a standard complaint was that there would be nothing on TV to watch, and then on one night, all scheduled at the same time, three must-see shows? Marvelous as it is, TiVo can’t possibly solve this dilemma!
Just to add fuel to the fire, the Cinematheque will be celebrating Blake Edwards’ 86th birthday that day with a 3:00 pm screening of The Great Race (1965), Edward’s loving tribute to silent comedy starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and featuring perhaps the largest-scale pie fight in movie history. (Another part of their family matinee series, a compilation of great shorts by the likes of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy, called Silent Clowns, screens July 12.) The Cinematheque’s Blake Edwards Retrospective runs July 10-17 and will feature Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961; July 10); a double bill of The Pink Panther (1964) and Return of the Pink Panther (1975) on July 11; two more from the Clouseau series on July 12-- The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978); two with Julie Andrews on July 13-- Victor/Victoria (1982) and Darling Lili (1970); the great Hollywood poison-pen letters S.O.B. (1981) and The Party (1968); and on July 17 Days of Wine and Roses (1962) along with Experiment in Terror (1962). This last double bill will be introduced by Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas.
And as if life at the Aero weren’t already interesting enough in July, how about four great Jean-Luc Godard double features? They’re all on DVD, and mostly good quality (except maybe La Chinoise), but that’s still no substitute for a darkened theater. Friday, July 18, the Aero features Breathless (1960) along with A Woman is a Woman (1961); see Pierrot le Fou (1965) alongside Masculine Feminine (1966) on July 19; a rare screening of Alphaville (1965) on the same bill with La Chinoise (1967); and finally, on Wednesday, July 23, Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967) along with Band of Outsiders (1964).
This should get you out to see Pierrot le Fou on the big screen…
I just got back from ogling a great print of Kenji Mizoguchi’s stunning Sansho the Bailiff (1954) at the New Beverly Cinema, which I was so glad to see on the big screen, even though Criterion’s DVD is just about perfect. I was also glad to be able to say hi to owner Michael Torgan and thank him personally for bringing this one back-- it shared the bill with Ugetsu monogatari (1953), one of my favorites which I had to miss. Michael is doing his part to make sure the Independence Day weekend is special on Los Angeles movie screens with a terrific Friday-Saturday (July 4-5) double bill of Joseph von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930) featuring the incomparable Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings, up next to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s personal response to that film, 1981’s Lola (1981) starring Barbara Sukowa. Then the holiday weekend concludes with the beginning of a five-day engagement of perhaps Ridley Scott’s finest four-and-a-half hours—the “final cut” of Blade Runner (1981) paired with the “director’s cut” of Alien (1979). Later in the month the New Beverly showcases classic Monty Python-- Life of Brian (1979) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974) on July 25-26; James Toback’s Fingers (1978) and Exposed (1983) on July 27-28, with the writer-director in attendance for Sunday night’s screening; a Grindhouse Film festival tribute to Ted. V. Mikels on Tuesday, July 29; and finally, Enzo Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards (1978) with surprise second feature on July 30 and 31. Castellari will appear in person on July 30, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain other director with a distinctly Italian surname showed up as well.
But the New Beverly’s July showcase is Mondo Diablo, the two-week festival programmed by screenwriter Diablo Cody that begins on July 11. As will come as no great surprise to regular readers of this blog I have no love whatsoever for Juno, and I find that I’m either a little too old or a little too little enamored of the ’80s to appreciate most of Cody's festival picks. But lovers of ‘80s kitsch will groove on her double bills of Xanadu (1980) starring Olivia-Newton John and Gene Kelly with Labyrinth (1985) starring David Bowie (July 13-15); Fright Night (1985) alongside A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)—okay, I might come out for that one July 18-19; Midnight Madness (1980) with co-hit Wet Hot American Summer (2001), the postmodern Meatballs, slated for July 20-22; and Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) paired up with Pretty in Pink (1986), the most revered of the non-John Hughes-directed John Hughes movies on July 23-24. Cody kicks off the fest July 11-12 with a nod to the Reitmans in her life-- elder statesman Ivan (Stripes, 1981) and whippersnapper Jason (Thank You for Smoking, 2005), who just happens to have directed that movie she won an Oscar for writing. The cream of the Mondo Diablo fest has to be, however, her one nod to pre-Reagan-era life, a compelling Maysles Brothers documentary doubling of Grey Gardens (1975) and the notorious Gimme Shelter (1970). I can’t feign too much enthusiasm for Cody’s slate of movies, but I bet there’s a whole passel of Los Angeles SLIFR readers who will dig ‘em just fine, and to them I say support your only locally owned and operated full-time repertory cinema, head to the New Beverly in July and enjoy he hell out of ‘em! Me, I’m just thanking my lucky stars Inglorious Bastards isn’t playing on July 26!
Finally, it’s getting late and I haven’t had time to peruse the July schedule for The Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Click on the links for their Silent Wednesdays series ”Silent Sirens”; Music Thursdays ”Don’t Knock the Rock ‘08”; Early Fridays “The Female Gaze” (this one sounds great!); Late Fridays “Summer Camp”; Early Saturdays ”John Huston’s Beautiful Losers”; and Late Saturdays Holyfuckingshit Series, this month featuring ”Gore Comedies” (not only is July good in the series, but the August theme—“When Animals Attack”—is pretty damned special too!). And when you click on these links, be sure to check in and tell me what I’ve missed by not doing a full and proper write-up! I need as many heads-up as I can get!
Dammit, I didn’t mean to stay up this late. But this is what happens when there’s so much good stuff on L.A. screens to talk about—and on top of that, my shorts are on fire to see Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The X-Files: I Want to Believe as well, both coming out this month. Okay, well, I’d better get to bed soon. The missus and I are taking our daughters out to see the Werner Herzog documentary Encounters at the End of the World tomorrow morning—might as well get ‘em started on their apocalyptic beauty kick early, right?
And then there’s fireworks tomorrow night too. Again, I hope everyone has a ripping good holiday and makes it out the other end happy and safe and ready for another great month of movies and of life, wherever you live. All the best from me and mine to you and yours, and I’ll talk to you next week when “Double Secret Probation” month continues!