May 13, 2012

Screening This Week at the American Cinematheque - May 14 - 20, 2012 -

More masterworks by director Robert Bresson (including - as far as I'm concerned - his best movie) as well as new Belgium Cinema at the Aero.  A Tim Burton/Johnny Dep double feature and silent rarities at the Egyptian - it's another great week of movie watching in Los Angeles courtesy of the American Cinematheque.  Special guests, double you pretty much need to buy a membership like now.  No more excuses.  And if you think this week is good, just wait until next week!  It just keeps getting better.

THE EGYPTIAN - 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA  90028

Thursday, May 17th - 7:30pm

The newest collaboration of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp is in theaters now - Warner Bros.' DARK SHADOWS - so in honor of that, the Cinematheque has a double feature of previous Burton/Depp movies.  Easily, 2 of the Director's best offerings, and titles that fans usually get very excited about.  Oh yeah, Depp plays characters in each with the name...Ed.  This double is just exploding with themes.

First off, screenwriters Larry Karaszewshi and Scott Alexander will be on hand to discuss their work with Tim Burton on...

ED WOOD (1994, Touchstone Pictures; Directed by: Tim Burton)

A great movie about real life individuals who seem caught in their own weird reality - and if you really think about it, an extremely depressing one - but not as far as they're concerned (as Burton portrays them).

ED WOOD is the ultimate piece of idol worship as Tim Burton turns the life of a man who made the movie that has the distinction of being "the worst movie ever made" (that would be PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE) into an entertaining character study of people living life to fullest on the fringe of society - but don't seem to realize it.

Ironic too that it's such a good movie about a guy who made bad movies for a living, and as well, the story revolves around some hero worship of its own as Depp's Ed Wood tries to revive the fallen career of his idol Bela Lugosi played by Martin Landau (Landau went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role).

Johnny Depp portrays Wood as a guy so oblivious to the fact that his movies are truly awful, that he goes forward with such enthusiastic gusto and those around him - and us as an audience - gets caught up in his cause.  You can't fault a guy who dives into his work.

Upon repeat viewings I keep coming up with questions like - how did he and his entourage of fringe filmmakers make a living?  Why do these people stick with Ed while doing improbable things shooting 25 scenes over the course of a night?  You'd think they could do better elsewhere - but while not giving their back-story Burton tells all as you guess that each one of them has a story like Lugosi's of failure that Wood is the only guy who they can conceivably have a "career" with.

Oh and seeing this movie on the big screen is ideal.  The black-and-white photography is sumptuous, again so counter to the low-budget crappy look of Ed's films, it makes for a great appreciation of the movie and Burton's approach to the material.

I just recently blogged about this movie in my THE STUDIOS: TOUCHSTONE post, but will repeat a story that I recounted there.  I saw this movie at the (now defunct) Hollywood Galaxy General Cinema that was at the corner of Hollywood and Sycamore (and only a few blocks away from the Egyptian) on opening night while in film school in 1994.  I went to a Ralphs grocery store on Sunset Boulevard about 2 days later (also referred to by locals as the "rock-and-roll Ralphs") and while in the dairy section saw Mr. Landau.  It took all of my film nerd energy not to go up to him and say the great line from ED WOOD - "PULL THE STRINGS".

Ok...let's shoot this F@#$er!

Followed by my personal favorite Tim Burton movie, and one of my favorite movies from the 1990s...

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990, 20th Century Fox; Directed by: Tim Burton)

Another movie I recently blogged about (in my A YEAR ON FILM: 1990 post) and I'm going to repeat a confession that I made then - I openly wept during EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.  I was so moved by this movie, I didn't want to talk to anyone after it for fear they would ruin the emotional reaction I was having to it.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is a beautiful fairy tale with performances, direction and production design that just work so well together that it makes for a truly timeless classic, and an overall magical experience.  If there ever was an argument that Johnny Depp is one of the best actor's working in Hollywood, this is it.  His Edward is such a fully realized creation that even with few words and slight facial expressions he gets across everything he needs to.

Some of the most touching moments are during flashback sequences which involve Edward's creator played by Vincent Price, also one of his great performances in that it's so restrained and personal.  Same with the ice dance sequence involve Winona Ryder.

This also feature's frequent Burton collaborator Danny Eflman's best musical score.  All the elements of this movie just seem to be working on a level where everyone is so obviously moved by the material in the same way, and Elfman's score ties it together perfectly.  Fun yet emotional, and still has that gothic tone that Elfman has brought to his other Burton scores (including the 1989 BATMAN).

And the movie begins and ends just so perfectly with an image of a young girl being told the story of Edward by an older Winona Ryder - the girl practically buried in a bed so huge with blankets up to her chin as the snow falls beautifully outside.  Such a touching and magical moment in a beautiful movie.

I could gush on and on about EDWARD SCISSORHANDS but alas, you should just go see it (or revisit it) for yourself - and no better way than on the big screen at the Egyptian.



Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Friday, May 18th - 7:30pm

As we all face our impending doom (per the Mayan Calendar) here are a couple of cinematic world endings.


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, it's the war room!

Stanley Kubrick in all his glory on the big screen.  DR. STRANGELOVE is a comedy classic with an ending that has something that is so not funny, you can''t help but laugh at the fact of just how absurd the whole thing is.

Peter Sellers plays multiple characters, George C. Scott sees Commies everywhere, and Sterling Hayden thinks that we are slowly going to hell thanks to bodily fluids.  And of course


Slim Pickens rides the missile like a cowboy into a nuclear holocaust.

Thankfully you'll survive the bomb to see...

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS (1986, MGM; Directed by: Jimmy Murakami)

One of those great rare-screenings that the Cinematheque is known for, here is the rarely screened WHEN THE WIND BLOWS an animated film from the UK about an elderly couple who build a bomb shelter to protect themselves from an impending nuclear attack, completely clueless to the fact that war has changed since their romantic memories of World War II.

Great soundtrack includes David Bowie, Genesis and others, and is an event not to be missed.



Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Also on Friday, May 18th - 7:30pm in the Spielberg Theater

THE MYSTERY OF THE DOUBLE CROSS - Episodes 1 - 8 (1917; Directed by William Parke and Louis J. Gasnier)

Very rare screening of a serial from 1917 about a gentleman traveling to America to receive his inheritance, but gets a cryptic message stating "beware of the double cross" and ends up in an adventure with a mysterious woman.

Live piano music accompaniment by Cliff Retallick.  

Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Saturday, May 19th - 7:30pm

A Ulu Grosbard double feature.

STRAIGHT TIME (1978, Warner Bros.; Directed by: Ulu Grosbard)

I have not yet seen this movie, but it has been on my too-be-watched list for sometime.  Here is the write up from the Cinematheque website.

This adaptation of the novel No Beast So Fierce, the crime-fiction debut of ex-con writer Edward Bunker (written while he was in prison), is one of the most underrated and least seen of Dustin Hoffman’s 1970s performances. Reformed Los Angeles junkie and thief Hoffman comes up against the gritty realities of a smugly unfair parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) and the limited employment opportunities for ex-convicts. Although the bitter, frustrated Hoffman finds love in the form of Theresa Russell, his institutionalized resentments gradually suck him back down into the company of lowlife companions (Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton) and a life of crime. This was a project close to Hoffman’s heart - he initially began directing the film himself but turned it over to director Grosbard after the first few days.

Followed by...

TRUE CONFESSIONS (1981, MGM; Directed by: Ulu Grosbard)

Another great screening at the American Cinematheque.  Robert Duvall is a cop tracking down the killer of a Black Dahlia-like murder in 1948 Los Angeles, an investigation that leads him to his distant brother, Robert De Niro, a high ranking monsignor, as one of his parishioners is the chief suspect.  

Not your standard mystery movie, instead focuses more on character and personal subtext for a different and intimate approach to the 1940s detective period genre.



Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Also on Saturday, May 19th - 7:30pm in the Spielberg Theater

THE MYSTERY OF THE DOUBLE CROSS - Episodes 9 - 15 (1917; Directed by William Parke and Louis J. Gasnier)

Very rare screening of the continuing episodes from Friday night's program of this serial from 1917 about a gentleman traveling to America to receive his inheritance, but gets a cryptic message stating "beware of the double cross" and ends up in an adventure with a mysterious woman.

Live piano music accompaniment by Cliff Retallick.  

Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Sunday, May 20th - 7:30pm

A presentation of the Art Director's Guild Film society.

THE IRON MASK (1929, Photoplay Production; Directed by: Allan Dwan)

Silent film expert and historian Kevin Brownlow has a restored 35mm print that he is flying in from London, and it will be accompanied by the music of Carl Davis, who is known for composing and restoring silent film scores, that will be screened making this a not to be missed event. 

Douglas Fairbanks is D'Artagnan in this swashbuckler based on the novel by Alexander Dumas.  This is what Fairbanks was known for, and all the action and adventure that the silent film star made famous is on full display here.

There will be a panel discussion following which will include rare clips and behind-the-scenes restoration details as well as stills and a collection of costumes and poster and art work from the film will be on display in the lobby.

Relive classic Hollywood in style!

Oh and while you're at it, make sure to pick up Kevin Brownlow's masterful book on the history of the Silent film era, THE PARADE'S GONE BY... which is a must read for anyone interested in the silent film and the history of Hollywood.


Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

THE AERO - 1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA  90403

Tuesday, May 15th - 8:00pm

Not a movie, but an event co-sponsored by LIVE TALKS L.A.


The founding member of the Allman Brothers Band will be on-hand to share the triumphs and tragedies of his life story in full detail.  This is the only national stage appearance in conjunction with his memoir MY CROSS TO BEAR.

Co-sponsored by the Pasadena NPR affiliate (and my favorite L.A. radio station) KPCC, and the Los Angeles PBS affiliate, KCET.

Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Wednesday, May 16th - 7:30pm

Grit and Whimsy III: The Best of Recent Belgian Cinema Series

THE INVADER (2011, O'Brother Distribution; Directed by: Nicolas Provost)

From the Cinematheque website - Amadou (Issaka Sawadogo), a swaggering bull of a man, makes his way from an unspecified African country to work illegally in Europe. He finds a tough construction job in Brussels…Amadou is a man on the make, both financial and sexually, so it isn’t long before he’s engaged in a steamy affair with Agnès (Stefania Rocca), a sophisticated, white European woman. When this liaison turns sour, Amadou’s fortunes quickly deteriorate. A chap who has previously been a potentially model EU citizen - hard-working, caring, conscientious, intelligent, resourceful - spirals into bloodshed and murder…Slickly accomplished and anchored by an outstanding central performance by the imposing Sawadogo, this offbeat picture will be a surefire talking point at festivals, especially those also showing Steve McQueen’s SHAME, with which it happens to share certain key thematic and visual parallels.” - The Hollywood Reporter. In French with English subtitles.


Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Thursday, May 17th - 7:30pm

The Robert Bresson retrospective continues.

LE DIABLE PROBABLEMENT (1977, Olive Films; Directed by: Robert Bresson)

Get ready for a little controversy.  This movie was banned in France to anyone under the age of 18, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder threatened to walk off the jury of the Berlin Film Festival because of it.  That makes it a must see movie in my opinion.

A young man gets fed up with everything - politics, religion, society - and decides suicide is the only answer. Fun stuff and perfect Bresson material.


Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Friday, May 18th - 7:30pm

Ahh the moment of the Robert Bresson series that I have been waiting for.  His masterpiece...

DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (1951, Rialto; Directed by Robert Bresson)

This is not only the first Bresson movie I had the pleasure of seeing, but it is the one that has stuck with me over time.  

A young country priest is stationed in a small town where basically everyone treats him like absolute crap.  No matter what he does, and he does it selflessly and fights through a nasty stomach ailment as well, he cannot get a break.  A dark and dreary look at a society without feeling towards a man willing to practically kill himself to help them.

Beautifully shot and acted, a movie that will leave you wondering why a man would continue in a profession when basically everyone around him hates him.

Please consider this as my plea to the Criterion Collection which has released the DVD to please, please, please upgrade to a Blu-Ray.  In the meantime though, the Cinematheque offers the best way to see it - with an audience and projected.


Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Saturday, May 19th - 7:30pm

A triple feature of Robert Bresson movies I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing.

UNE FEMME DOUCE (1969, Paramount; Directed by: Robert Bresson)

From the Cinematheque website - Based on a short story by Dostoevsky and perhaps the most secular and sensual of Bresson’s films an impression heightened by its featuring the screen debut of the ravishing Dominique Sanda (THE CONFORMIST), whom the director discovered. A balefully beautiful account of the marriage between the gentle creature of the title (Sanda) and a pawnbroker (Guy Frangin) whose introspectiveness masks his sadistic nature. Bresson’s femme douce can escape her domestic hell only through death - either her husband’s or her own. In French with English subtitles.

Followed by...

LES ANGES DU PECHE (1943; Directed by: Robert Bresson)

Adapted by Jean Giraudoux from a Diderot novel, LES ANGES DU PECHE is a thriller in both the spiritual and the more traditional suspenseful sense - as well as being a magnificent example of that little recognized subgenre, the “nun movie.” A pampered young woman (Renee Faure) enters a Dominican convent and dedicates herself to saving a bitter, self-hating delinquent with a murderous heart (Jany Holt). As with many of Bresson’s subsequent characters, the nun’s search for salvation through sacrifice becomes a kind of Calvary, ending in humiliation, death and redemption. In French with English subtitles.

Followed by...

LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE (1945, Janus; Directed by Robert Bresson)

A jealous woman (María Casares, in a piercing performance) takes revenge on the man who spurned her (Paul Bernard) by tricking him into marriage with a prostitute (Elina Labourdette). Jean Cocteau wrote the dialogue for this glistening drama of revenge, which, despite its elegantly acid language and luxe setting, is remarkably Bressonian in its emphasis on entrapment, sacrifice and redemption. In French with English subtitles.




Link to Information and Tickets HERE.

Sunday, May 20th - 7:30pm

The Robert Bresson retrospective continues with...

LANCELOT DU LAC (1974, Gaumont; Directed by: Robert Bresson)

Forget the romanticism of EXCALIBUR, CAMELOT or FIRST KNIGHT, this is a complete deconstruction of the Arthurian legend.  The knights of the round table are opportunistic jerks, and are not exactly thrilled to have completely failed in their quest for the Holy Grail (thankfully, Indiana Jones will eventually find it.)

This is just the kind of movie Bresson is known for.  A bare bones character study that gets to the root of human spirituality and emotional feelings.  Worth it too for the outstanding jousting sequence.

Followed by...

THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC (1962, Janus; Directed by: Robert Bresson)

Another classic story stripped down to the bare essentials by Bresson.  Here he tackles the Joan of Arc story based entirely on transcripts from the original trial.  

No romanticized version here, this is a spare, straight forward telling of the facts.  The movie is more intriguing than than any other filmed version of this story.



Link to Information and Tickets HERE.