- Thu 21 at 7.30: The Last Picture Show (1971)
Peter Bogdanovich may have gone seriously off the boil with a series of movies too in love with his own film history scholarship or the belief that Ryan O’Neal was a good actor, but his reputation was justifiably made with this elegy for a time when the movie theatre was a gathering place for communal dreams, and an escape from the harsh realities of the world outside. As such, he channels the spirit of his beloved John Ford through a coming-of-age story that coincides with the passing of an era, set in small-town ’50s Texas; that it manages to be touching and unselfconscious is thanks mainly to direction that gives ample room to a fantastic ensemble cast including young Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms, grizzled Ben Johnson, vacuous Cybill Shepherd (well-cast), and roles that actually provide some substance for Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan and the wonderful, desperate Cloris Leachman.
- Fri 22 at approx.10.45: A Boy And His Dog (1975)
A post-apocalyptic fable starring young Don Johnson and a talking dog. That seems to say it all really (plus it’s pretty funny).
- Wed 27 at 8.00: Saturday Night Fever (1977)
This is why Travolta is a star, from the awesome opening of him strutting down the sidewalk in super-tight pants – you can indeed tell by the way he walks that he’s a ladies man with no time for talk. No-one could do disco music like the Bee Gees and no-one could dance it like Travolta, who’s a joy to behold on the flashing disco floor. But there’s also a gritty social commentary movie bubbling under here – dancing is the only form of escape for Brooklyn boy Tony Manero, with a crummy job in a paint store and no prospects, and the disco is the only place he gets any respect; a dance competition gives him something to focus on and a way to believe in himself. It’s an old story, but rather than the simple exploitation of a fad it catches the zeitgeist wave to provide a realistic backdrop to the story, Travolta is fantastic, there’s lots of great Brooklynese and it’s remarkably downbeat. You’ll be surprised by the lack of cheese.
Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre:
- Fri 22 at 7.30: Fat Girl (A ma soeur!) (2001)
Catherine Breillat has been ploughing her furrow of tortuous sexuality for a while now; this offering is not as explicit as some others, but in many ways is more discomforting. The fat girl of the title is 12 year-old Anais, jealous of her older sister Elena, beautiful and sexually active, and she’s forced to conspire with her and her holiday lover as they have it off in their shared bedroom. Breillat picks skillfully at the sores of familial resentment and self-hatred and finishes matters of with a truly shocking ending (is it justified? see it and decide for yourself).
- Sun 24 at 7.30, 9.30: Frank Zappa’s Amazing Mr Bickford (1987)
Claymation dude Mr Brice Bickford really is amazing. And freaky. And disturbing. Check out a tiny bit here. No wonder Frank Zappa liked him. Here Bickford performs his clay-based miracles to Zappa orchestral music. Even if Frank hurts your ears, your eyes will be riveted to the screen (I’ve conducted this experiment on my wife). He’s also, oddly, made clay dioramas of scenes from Twin Peaks.
- Sat 23 at 8.30 (doors 7.00): Rear Window (1954)
One of the ultimate movies about watching movies. Jimmy Stewart, cameraman, breaks his leg and gazes out his apartment window at his neighbours. Even though the murder across the courtyard might not be in his imagination, why not send prim Grace Kelly over there to check out hulking Ray Milland’s living room? Hitchcock’s remarkable exercise in limitation of location bars itself from the dizzying psychological heights of Vertigo (1958), but grips from start to finish and stands as a very sour metaphor, the act of looking barely less healthy than that other classic of scoptophilia, Peeping Tom (1960).
- Thu 21 at 8.00: The Seven Samurai (1954)
Akira Kurosawa’s three-hour epic was the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven, as everyone should know by now, but in his turn he had been deeply influenced by the human dramas and makeshift community dynamics of John Ford’s movies of a legendary America. From the successive introduction and recruiting of each of the samurai – the characterisations are more complete at the start than those of most films by the end, and only deepen as it progresses – to the awesome final battle in the pouring rain, this tale of masterless samurai helping defend a peasant village from marauders for nothing but the honour of a decent cause and a sense of purpose is just great. Quite rightly, Mifune Toshiro’s performance as the young headstrong buck they don’t want on board (who proves himself in the end etc) is usually singled out, but the quiet, serious master swordsman (Miyaguchi Seiji) is my favourite, and Shimura Takeshi as the older leader is wonderfully worldly-wise, pretty much aware from the off of the futility of their fight.
- Fri 22-Thu 28 at 5.00, 7.30, 10.00 (+ Fri midnight, Fri-Sun 12.00, 2.30): What We Do Is Secret (2007)
Terrific biopic of LAs punk legends the Germs, and charismatic lead singer Darby Crash – quasi-fascist, posturing (closeted) queen or self-loathing drug addict? (why not all three?). It avoids rock biopic pitfalls through a refusal to mythologise any more than Crash did himself, easy but neat behind-the-music interview inserts, highly appealing support from the rest of the band (Bijou Philips, Rick Gonzalez, Noah Segan as Lorna Doom, Pat Smear and Don Bolles) and a fantastic evocation of the period. Shane West swaggers off with the film as Crash, and will be present (with unspecified guests) at the 7.30 and 10.00 shows on Friday.
UCLA at the Hammer:
- Fri 22 at 7.30, 9.45; Sat 23 at 4,00, 7.30, 9.15: The Exiles (1961)
I’ve not seen this, so I cannot comment in depth – newly restored by UCLA and presented by Charles Burnett, some say it is a lost landmark, a vital piece in the US indie jigsaw puzzle; others bemoan the rambling structure and poor technical aspects (even by US indie standards..) Whatever, it failed to get a theatrical release at the time despite a good reception at Venice, and it will be fascinating to find out for oneself if it is worth the hype. Made on short ends, spare time and a shoe-string by USC grad Kent MacKenzie and friends, it is a semi-documentary look at the lives of young Native Americans living in the poverty-stricken yet hugely characterful Bunker Hill district of LA, bulldozed shortly thereafter. Judging from the trailer it looks like a strikingly photographed record of a community rarely (never?) seen on screen and of a vanished and forgotten time and place. As a bonus, it’s screening with MacKenzie’s USC short Bunker Hill from 1956, a documentary look at the same neighborhood.