A quiet week, this week (even the UCLA programes at the Hammer are closed down, presumably in breathless anticipation of the upcoming film fest extravaganza) but if you’re down Orange County way, why not check out this imposing theatre (with a really cool Wurlitzer) for Don Siegel’s paranoid sci-fi classic. No-one will believe the small-town doctor when he says everyone is being replaced by pod people! The basic premise is so potent that it’s been remade twice (and innumerably inspirational) but the original has never been beat.
Fri 13 at 7.30: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Preston Sturges lets rip on the movie industry, but in a markedly benevolent way, as producers allow hotshot director Joel McCrae to tramp as a hobo in preparation for his heavyweight picture (to be called O Brother, Where Art Thou?..). Through a series of good-naturedly incompetent episodes he meets irresistible gamine Veronica Lake, becomes a dead man and a convict, and learns that laughter is the best medicine. The depression backdrop is a harsh reality, but the wonderful writing and performing help prove the film’s own point.
Sat 14 at 1.00: Leave Her To Heaven (1945)
This is one of my favourite movies. Gene Tierney is awesome as the beautiful, sweet, loving wife of author Cornel Wilde , who may just love him a bit too much.. How long do you reckon the disabled little brother is going to last? John Stahl had made the original Magnificent Obsession (1935) and Imitation of Life (1934); unexpectedly, they are better even than the Sirk remakes, and this film proves him a master at the hard-nosed domestic psychodrama. The Technicolor is gorgeous, whether around the New Mexico farmhouse, or the tucked-away cabin on a wooded lake, so let us hope this is the recent restoration.
Sat 14 at 9.00 (doors at 7.30): My Man Godfrey (1936)
A glorious reminder of why the thirties is often called the Golden Age of movies. Perfect, sophisticated comedy as tramp William Powell becomes butler to Carole Lombard (always trouble!) and proceeds to upend the household (perhaps he is not all that he seems..) Just like Sullivan’s Travels, the socio-economics of the early 30s are incorporated into the plot, and the digs at the idle rich are unmistakable but good-natured. Delightful but never sentimental, it’s one of the very best.
Sun 15 at 9.00 (doors at 7.30): Rockers (1978)
Jamaican cinema rocks. The Harder They Come is fantastic, and so is this Yardie tale drenched in dreadlocked reggae (Junior Murvin, Burning Spear , Bunny and Pete). Given that the cemetery seems to be shrouded in pot smoke anyway, good choice.
Sat 14 at 7.30: CaÃ³tica Ana (2007)
The latest from Julio Medem is disappointing by his own high standards, but still full of strange wonders, in a tale of a young woman unlocking the doors of previous existences. Concentrating largely on womanhood, implacable destiny, and tragic love, the film expands its reach at the last minute, unsuccessfully, but Manuella Velles is strong in the lead, and the paintings by Medem’s late sister quite charming.
Fri 13 at 7.30: War and Peace pts 1 & 2 (1963-5)
Sat 14 at 7.30: War and Peace pts 3 & 4 (1963-5)
Sergei Bondarchuk’s massive 70mm, 7-hour epic, never until recently seen in complete form outside Russia, is split over two indulgent evenings at LACMA. With a cast of thousands, sumptuous art direction, exhilarating camera work and a story that attempts to say it all, it should quite an impressive experience. That it won the best foreign film oscar during the cold war deep freeze is some testament to its achievements. The appalling dubbing of versions previously available in the west has finally been replaced with subtitles and the original Russian soundtrack. Hooray!
Thu 12 at 7.30/9.35: The French Connection (1971) / The French Connection II (1975)
The original film starring Gene Hackman as loose cannon cop Popeye Doyle was so good that it is a surprise that part two matches, builds on and almost exceeds it. The milieu is grittily realistic, the emotions sour, the job tough, and Fernando Rey makes a superbly exotic villain in the context; both directors Friedkin and Frankenheimer were fans of European cinema and the mood is decidedly existential (part one has a terrific ending). Rey is a drug-trafficker and the high point of part two is the enforced cold turkey Doyle undergoes after the bad guys have pumped him full of dope. Deserved classics and a great double bill.