It’s a bonza week for cinefiles in LA this week, from pre-code naughties to Jimmy Stewart’s centenary to Psychedelic Healing Visions: a Celebration of Lavendar Diamond’s Film “Imagine Our Love.” The last is playing at the Silent Movie Theatre on Wednesday 27th, an art-film/indie-folk collision made to accompany LD’s forthcoming album, and starring their dulcet vocalist Becky Stark. You can bet it’ll be somewhat fey, but if it’s anything like the music, you’ll be won over. Quite a contrast from the Cinefamily’s Saturday matinee, which is quickie Born To Kill (1947) from the recently late Robert Wise. One of the toughest, sourest film noirs, it has ultimate tough guy Lawrence Tierney hooking up with ultimate dame Claire Trevor for manipulation and cruelty, with Elisha Wood Jr popping up, as the ultimate whiner/dope. The leads mix psychopathy and perversity in equal measure and it’s really quite something. Definitely not for kids.
Also not for kids is the mini “Forbidden Hollywood” season at the Egyptian. The Hays Code was introduced in 1934 precisely to keep this filth off our screens; that is to say, casual sex, adultery, nudity, drugs, crime, violence, you name it. A number of these early talkies have been resurfacing of late, the best of which is the Stanwyck vehicle Baby Face (1933) but she, along with the perpetually salty Joan Blondell, is quite a fixture in these flicks; they star together on Friday in William Wellman’s Night Nurse (1931) a thriller about a child kidnap plot with Clark Gable, and Blondell’s back for the second feature, Mervyn LeRoy’s Three On A Match (1932), this time headlining as a reform school girl, supported by Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart – should be good! Otherwise, over Saturday and Sunday, you can catch Stanwyck as an unwed mother in Capra’s Forbidden (1932), and Joan Harlow as a gangster’s moll in Beast Of The City (1932), no doubt being extra slutty.
There’s also a new 70-minute doco on Saturday night which should helpfully compile many of the most titillating moments into an orgiastic clipfest. In fact, my experience of the pre-code films is that while the extra sauciness is definitely welcome (and often eyebrow-raising), the most fundamentally interesting thing about these movies is that they can attain to a more adult form of entertainment in actually treating issues like sex and violence and infidelity and crime and so forth. There’s few piercing inquiries, but the context allows for more complex characters and relationships in areas like this than would be possible under the code’s puritanical Catholicism.
There’s more noir on Sunday, with Frankie in The Detective (1968) which I’ve never managed to see, but I suspect might be rather great – cops and corruption and the lovely Lee Remick. Then it’s back to the sexy stuff with Jean Genet’s fantastic Un Chant d’amour (1950), a beautiful 26 black and white minutes about men and prison, fundamentally gay, fundamentally existential and fundamentally poetical. It couples with an hour-long documentary from 1981 featuring interview footage with the man himself. And as if this weren’t enough, the American CinemathÃšque’s 70mm presentation moves to the Aero this week: 2001 (1968), Apocalypse Now (1979) and Jacques Tati’s wonderful Play Time (1967) as they were meant to be seen, pinnacles of cinematic achievement and totally unmissable.
And still the classics keep coming: over at the Academy tonight, there’s a tribute to Robert Evans with a ragtag panel discussion including Brett Ratner, Sumner Redstone and Slash, and a screening of the ever-creepy Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Or how about a Hitchcock double bill at the New Beverly? Psycho (1960) (so great on the big screen) and his rather nasty London-set swansong, Frenzy (1972), starring Barry Foster in giant orange mutton-chops. This is followed on Friday and Saturday by Harry and Tonto (1974) which I’ve never seen but is reputedly charming (and since it’s about an old man traveling across America with his cat and making peace with the world, I’m inclined to believe). Otherwise, the remains of the Bette Davis centennial peter out at LACMA, with some missable stuff over the weekend, but another chance on Friday to see the truly terrific Dark Victory (1939) (ÃŒber-weepie) paired with the unusual but rather good Marked Woman (1937) wherein Davis plays a tough-as-nails pro testifying against the mob in court.
But there’s a new centurion in town – Jimmy Stewart – and UCLA kick off a tribute at the Hammer with a couple of cracking double bills, including It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and the charming The Shop Around The Corner (1940) co-starring adoring Margaret Sullavan. That’s a Lubitsch film (the shop itself could easily be in Budapest were it not for the few Americans) and the only director of the thirties who came close to his charming comedy touch was Rouben Mamoulian, who’s represented on Wednesday in the first part of a double bill from the preservation archive, High, Wide and Handsome (1937). It’s a Kern/Hammerstein musical starring the indomitable Irene Dunne, with the title perfectly describing co-star Randolph Scott.
Elsewhere, hidden away up North Vermont, the Steve Allen Theatre has a screening of Don Siegel’s seminal Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955) – oft-imitated, never equalled. That’s on Sunday night, but on Wednesday why not enjoy the luxury of the Arclight for a screening of Peckinpah’s awesome The Wild Bunch (1969). The west is dying and so, incidentally, is Hollywood, as Bill Holden, Edmund O’Brien, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and best of all Robert Ryan outlive their time in one amazing blaze of glory before our very eyes. The perfect vehicle for Peckinpah’s slo-mo violence, shading elegy into myth.
And finally, the summer is upon us and with it the Hollywood Forever Cemetary open-air movie screenings. On Friday, celebrate Douglas Fairbanks Sr’s 125th birthday with a free screening of The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), his Korda-produced swansong; then pop back on Saturday night for the first Cinespesia presentation: Billy Wilder’s fantastic Ace In The Hole (1951), featuring Kirk Douglas in barn-storming form as a journalist relegated to the sticks doing his best to capitalize on the plight of a trapped miner. The media circus that develops is literal and Wilder is at his most acerbic and cynical. Bring a picnic and get there early!Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre:
- Saturday 24 at 1.00: Born To Kill
- Wednesday 27 at 8.00: Psychedelic Healing Visions: a Celebration of Lavendar Diamond’s Film “Imagine Our Love”
- Thursday 22 at 7.30: Night Nurse / Three On A Match
- Friday 23 at 7.30: Why Be Good? / Forbidden / Madame Satan
- Saturday 24 at 7.30: Beast Of The City / Skyscraper Souls
- Sunday 25 at 7.30: The Detective
- Wednesday 28 at 7.30: Un Chant d’Amour / Genet
- Thursday 22 at 7.30: Salute to Robert Evans / Rosemary’s Baby
- Thursday 22 at 7.30: Psycho
- Thursday 22 at 9.40: Frenzy
- Friday, Saturday 23, 24 at 5.15 (Sat only), 9.40: Harry And Tonto
- Friday 23 at 7.30: Vivacious Lady / Born To Dance
- Saturday 24 at 7.30: It’s A Wonderful Life / Shop Around The Corner
- Wednesday 28 at 7.30: High, Wide And Handsome / One Touch Of Venus
- Sunday 25 at 9.00: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
- Wednesday 28 at 8.00: The Wild Bunch
- Friday 23 at 8.00 (gates at 7.00): The Private Life Of Don Juan
- Saturday 24 at 9.00 (gates: 7.30): Ace In The Hole