Thursday, February 11, 2010


UPDATED 2/12 3:26 p.m.

For those who may not have the Hallmark chip implanted in their pop culture consciousness, Valentine’s Day approacheth on Sunday, and while one of this week’s picks is decidedly romantically oriented (as are some of the other choices available to the Los Angeles revival audience this week), the others are located on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. I’ll get to those picks in a moment.

But if Valentine’s Day is your main focus this weekend, you might want to carve out some time with your significant other to make it over to the Aero for the Cinematheque’s series dedicated to movie romance. Tonight, for example, is a swoony tribute to Jennifer Jones (and Joseph Cotten) in the form of two classics directed by William Dieterle, Love Letters (1945) and Portrait of Jennie (1948).

Friday brings one that I’d love to take my daughter to see on the Aero’s big screen—Jean Cocteau’s magnificent Beauty and the Beast (1946). It’s paired with Jacques Demy’s strange and rather beautiful fairy tale Donkey Skin (1970), starring Catherine Deneuve as a dying queen whose king promises that his new queen shall be her equal in beauty. When he realizes that no one can compare to her other than his own daughter (also played by Deneuve), a fairy godmother (Delphine Seyrig) steps in to help the princess don a series of animal disguises in order to ward off her father’s advances.

It’s an Audrey Hepburn double bill on Saturday, where the dampened satirical bite of Billy Wilder’s Sabrina (1954) plays genial host to the more bittersweet romantic music of Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Both films have casting question marks (Humphrey Bogart and Mickey Rooney, respectively), but both are redeemed by Hepburn’s natural iridescence.

Finally, you can spend Valentine’s Day (or evening, more accurately) with two of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular pictures, the haunting gothic Rebecca (1941) starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and, of course, Judith Anderson, coupled (clever, eh?) with easily the most desperately romantic movie of the director’s career, Notorious (1946), starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and those kisses… oh, and Claude Rains too. Unbeatable.


UPDATED 2/12 3:26 p.m.

Over at the Egyptian Theater this weekend are five screenings spread out from Friday, February 12 through Sunday afternoon, February 14, of Armando Iannucci’s brutally hilarious satire In the Loop (2009), number 17 on my list of the past year’s best. All of the showings of the film will be in the Spielberg Theater, the Egyptian's smaller auditorium, except for Sunday afternoon's showing, which is now scheduled for the much more spacious Lloyd Rigler auditorium. That screening which will be attended by director Iannucci, who will presumably field questions from the audience. It’d probably be a good idea, especially if you’re headed there for Sunday’s show, to get there early.


Payman Haghani’s A Man Who Ate His Cherries (2009)

The UCLA Film & Television Archive’s 20th Anniversary celebration of Iranian Cinema continues at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood with screenings of four hard-to-see examples from that emerging center of world cinema. Saturday starts off with 444-Day Face-off (2008; Mohammad Shirvani), which recounts the chaos surrounding the taking of the United States Embassy after the ouster of the Shah and the 444-day "hostage crisis" that followed. Immediately following is Countdown (2008; Khatereh Hanachi), an examination of the pressures surrounding Parisa, a young woman who, along more than a million other high-school graduates, studies for her intensely competitive college entrance exams in the hopes of making a life for herself in male-dominated Iranian society. (It should be noted that Saturday’s screenings start slightly earlier than usual, at 7:00 p.m.)
And Sunday reveals the intricate pastoral observations of Mahdi Monari’s documentary Tinar (2007) contrasted with Payman Haghani’s A Man Who Ate His Cherries (2009), a stark drama revolving around a infertile man’s attempts to raise the cash to pay back his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s dowry and the inspiration he derives from an witnessing an unfortunate industrial accident.


LACMA’s tribute to Clint Eastwood (timed to coincide with the release this coming week of the massive Clint Eastwood: 35 Films in 35 Years at Warner Bros. DVD box set, gets under way tomorrow night with a great opportunity to see Don Siegel’s masterful San Francisco noir Dirty Harry on the big Bing screen. The classic policier is paired with one of Eastwood’s later (and not entirely successful) efforts to begin dealing with the seedy underbelly of the Harry Callahan archetype, Tightrope (1985; Richard Tuggle) costarring Genevieve Bujold and Allison Eastwood.

Saturday night’s program follows the same pattern, only transferred to the realm of the western. The Bing will surely accommodate very beautifully the great expanses of Eastwood’s acclaimed western The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), a movie that the likes of Orson Welles, upon its release, proclaimed a great achievement in the genre’s history. It is doubled up with an Eastwood variation on the spectral themes of High Plains Drifter, 1985’s Pale Rider which, like Tightrope before it, is not without interest but, if you’ll forgive me, pales next to its thematic predecessor, to say nothing of how it will play up next to a masterpiece like Wales. The double features are precise illustrations of the contradictions and glories that make up Eastwood career as a director and performer, which should make seeing the films again in this context even more interesting in the push-and-pull and in the simple triumphs glimpsed along the way. The Eastwood tribute continues through February 26.


The Cinefamily offers the opportunity this coming Saturday to meet legendary Czech director Ivan Passer (Cutter’s Way) when he appears in person to discuss a screening of his 1965 wonder Intimate Lighting, part of the theater’s continuing “Czech your Head” series. The Cinefamily calendar notes astutely observe that “Watching Intimate Lighting is like having drinks with an old, rarely seen friend on a warm summer night -- after some gentle laughs (too mild to ache one's belly) and a wistful reminisce or two, it's off to bed in a warm and drunken shroud of soft, sweet melancholy.” The discussion should be a good one too, and a rare opportunity to hear Passer speak about his work.


And the New Beverly has Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 coming up next Wednesday, which I cannot recommend because I haven’t yet seen it. What I can recommend is the affecting, affected, suggestive and oddly funny trailer for the film, which has screened occasionally at the New Beverly over the last month or so, and which I had never seen before. It’s scored to Yes’s “Heart of the Sunrise” (from the Fragile album), a prog rock epic whose driving and elliptical thunder perfect encapsulates the still imagery that lurches through this crazy, creepy bit of filmmaking. It makes me want to see Gallo's film too.


All these choices are nothing to turn one’s nose up at, to be sure, but the three-way SLIFR Revival Pick this week is a true treasure chest of black-and-white wonders that run the gamut from silent comedy to rich ethnographic urgency to naked terror. First off, the Cinefamily offers this year’s most irresistible Valentine’s Day treat, a chance to revisit (or get familiar with for the first time) Buster Keaton’s mad dash comedy Seven Chances (1925). Buster essays the timely role of a penniless financial broker who discovers that he’s in line for a multimillion-dollar inheritance, the only catch being (and there’s always a catch) that he must be married before the sun sets. The movie is a wild parade of hasty propositions and what the Cinefamily hilariously describes in their calendar notes as “court-us interruptus,” followed by one of the most clever, gasp-inducing and justifiably famous chase scenes in the history of the movies. (If you haven’t seen it yet, to say more, or to provide a YouTube link, would be unfair in the extreme.) Best to just take it in with your Valentine and be thankful you ain’t Buster. You will also be thankful to the Cinefamily for providing the option of reserved couch seating for the screening, all the better to cozy up during the movie, of course, where you can also enjoy the complimentary champagne, strawberries and concession service at your seat, all included when you purchase a reserved couch ticket for the show.

Anyone who has seen and treasured Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself will not need to be convinced to head to the New Beverly this week and see two of the movies Andersen held up in his brilliant film essay as invaluable portraits of lives and individuals in Los Angeles that rarely see the light of the silver screen. Both Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles (1961), and Charles Burnett’s much more well-known Killer of Sheep (1977) serve as vibrant rejoinders to the sun-baked, palm tree-lined clichés of life in Los Angeles and suggest an entire alternate vision of Los Angeles that reverberates with vitality and desperation beneath the pop culture radar of this most pop culturally oriented of cities. As Kenneth Turan wrote upon The Exiles and its recent reemergence from its own sort of cinematic obscurity, the movie, “a quasi-documentary, cinema verite look at the rootless Native America community that once upon a time lived in Bunker Hill and hung out in downtown bars like Club Ritz, places where shots were 55 cents and Lucky Lager came in cans” is especially valuable as “a portrait of a time and a place in the city that can be found almost nowhere else.” And Killer of Sheep stands as a poetic testament to the humanity found pulsating within the confines of the Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s, as seen and felt through the eyes of Stan, a man whose depth can only be articulated through his dreams, and who is growing ever more detached and numb to life as a result of the psychic toll exacted by his job at a slaughterhouse. Both of these movies have been made available in sparkling new prints from Milestone Films and should not be missed.

Finally, raise your hand if you have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Okay, thank you. Now raise your hand if you’ve seen Psycho in a theater. Fewer hands, I think, but still, not bad. Now raise your hand if you’ve seen Hitchcock’s ruthless, groundbreaking thriller in a grand old movie house very much like the ones it played in on its original release in 1960. Whoa, look at those hands drop. Which is why Psycho is my third pick this week, showing as it is on the ver-r-r-ry big screen inside the gorgeously maintained and ornate motion picture palace on Brand Boulevard in beautiful downtown Glendale, the Alex Theater. It’s a presentation of the Alex Film Society, which holds periodic screenings of classic Hollywood films throughout the year—I’ve seen Sunset Boulevard, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Tingler and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly here, and each screening was a heady experience. (The AFS’s annual Thanksgiving Three Stooges Marathon is always a big draw too.) Psycho promises to be equally thrilling in this context, not only for the expanse of the image and the surrounding glamour and style of the cinema itself, but because the Alex Film Society have arranged for the appearance of a couple of guests which should make the evening even more delightful. Present for the Saturday evening screening only (there will also be a Saturday afternoon matinee) will be Psycho’s assistant director Hilton Green, who should have an interesting anecdote or 70 about Hitchcock’s working methods and the production history of this seminal horror classic, as well as Stephen Rebello, author of the well-regarded Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. And just to round out the sensation of being among the first to see Psycho theatrically, the AFS will also screen a Looney Tunes cartoon short that could very well have played before Hitchcock’s picture during its original run, Hyde and Go Tweet (1960), a nifty, horror-influenced number starring Tweety Bird and Sylvester.

Tickets for both evening and matinee are $13.50 (general admission) $9.50 (seniors and students) and $8 for Alex Film Society members. Join up or purchase tickets right here.)

The brilliant trailer for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho


And as always, more information on tickets, prices, parking and show times for all of the above venues and more can be found by clicking the links to the Art Theater in Long Beach,
the Cinefamily (at the Silent Movie Theater), the Billy Wilder Theater, the Bing Theater at LACMA, the Downtown Independent theater, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian and the Aero, the New Beverly Cinema and the Nuart.



Peter Nellhaus said...

I did see Buffalo 66. Kind of funny and strange. What I liked best was the deliberately off kilter framing of the compositions.

Anonymous said...

I think The Egyptian theater moved their Sunday screening of In the Loop to the larger auditorium since they can sell a lot more seats with the writer/director from the UK visiting.

This is from The Egyptian's mailing list:
"*All screenings of IN THE LOOP are in Spielberg Theatre except for Sunday, February 14 at 4:00 PM, which will be in the Rigler Theatre."

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, A: I will make the fix in the body of the post.

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