- Fri 7 at 7.30: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
It’s no wonder this has been remade three times as the central metaphor is so open-endedly potent: small-town folk mysteriously replaced by placid pod people while they sleep, to the horror of an individual who has evaded conversion. The terror is invisible and metaphysical and can stand for any disease, ideological or physical, or/as well as an erasure of individuality in a world outwardly unchanged but irredeemably corrupted within. This is the original and the best, with an inexorably tightening atmosphere of suspense and paranoia, thanks in no small part to Don Siegel’s tight, unfussy direction.
Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre:
- Mon 10 at 8.00: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) with live accompaniment
Carl Dreyer’s silent classic as scored live by In The Nursery. How this luminous and incredible film will suit an electronic/industrial backing remains to be seen and heard, but the images are amazing, conjuring almost tangible faith through sheer photography and the incredible face (and close-ups) of Rene Falconetti. It’s eerie air may have something to do with the fact that Dreyer was an agnostic but fascinated by religion. Unmissable, whatever the music.
- Wed 12 at 7.30: Head (1968), in the presence of Davy Jones and Peter Tork!
A 40th anniversary extravaganza for the Monkees’ crazy acid movie, featuring cameos from Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa and Victor Mature, in whose hair the band find themselves as dandruff. Yes, it’s that crazy. Honestly, I can’t remember much of the plot, but it’s got the fantastic “Porpoise Song” and a bunch of other good songs. It’s a far cry from the TV series but good trippy fun, and the boys are as endearing as ever. The extravaganza part involves the never-televised series pilot, four episodes unseen since 1973, and “other rarities”, as well as a Q&A with Davy, Pete and others. It sounds like a long evening. But fantastic!
UCLA at the Hammer:
- Fri 7 at 7.30: L’Immortelle (1963) / Trans-Europe Express (1966)
- Sun 9 at 7.00: Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
It’s Alain-Robbe Grillet time at the Hammer. Robbe-Grillet was the leading light of the nouveau roman vogue in the sixties, deconstructing literature and narrative willy-nilly, before branching out into cinema. His first major venture in that direction was the script for Marienbad, an intoxicating labyrinth of a story as a man at an expensive, calcified hotel mets a beautiful woman and recalls (relives? imagines?) events of the previous year (or years?) when they had an affair (the woman is the gorgeous – and always mysterious – Delphine Seyrig). It’s dazzlingly complex, filmed with restraint and steely intelligence by Alain Resnais, and, to many, quite infuriating (it may just have no meaning at all, although in its complete shattering of chronology, character and narative, that may also be just the point).
Another brief encounter that may or may not be a dream is at the heart of Robbe-Grillet’s first film as director, L’Immortelle. A professor wanders around Istanbul being told the beautiful woman with whom he got involved never existed. The mysteries of the narrative(s) have a far more sinister air than in Marienbad, and there’s even a little bondage, but the vagaries of narrative, truth and fiction seem more fealty (or dreamy) than in the precision-cut Marienbad.
Trans-Europe Express expresses similar conceptual concerns, but is a far more playful film; a small group of intellectuals in a train compartment make up a story about international skullduggery that plays out simultaneously on the same train. It has no more profundity than either of the other two films, but Jean-Louis Trintignant’s cipher face is the blank perfect centre, Robbe-Grillet himself is the leader of the storytellers, and with gangsters, drug-smuggling and bondage (which scenes got it banned in the UK), it is a great slice of 60s intelligensia cool.
Mon 10 at 7.30: The Savage Eye (1960)
I will admit, I had never even heard of this. It’s popped up in UCLA’s superb restoration series and sounds fantastic. An independent American feature, it was co-directed by screenwriter Ben Maddow (The Asphalt Jungle, Johnny Guitar), Sidney Meyers (later to edit the fantastic Film, authored by Samuel Beckett and starring Buster Keaton) and Jospeh Strick (future director of Ulysses, Portrait Of The Artist.. and Tropic of Cancer). Perhaps it is was this last that initiated the twin stream-of consciousness voice-overs, as a woman wanders around the grottier parts of LA awaiting a divorce and apparently suffering acute existential ennui. Photographed by Helen Leavitt and Haskell Wexler it sounds like a fascinating collision of documentary, literary post-modernism and the on-the-fly poetry of independent cinema.