The L.A. Rep-port: 3/14 to 3/20, by Scott Nye
As David mentioned on the podcast, I’ve been unusually preoccupied these past few weeks, so apologies for the lack of columns, but there was no question, none at all, that I would carve out time to spotlight UCLA’s Friday night double feature of Orochi (1925, 35mm) and The Mark of Zorro (1920, 35mm). Now the chance to see the Wayne-family-killing Zorro on film with live accompaniment by Cliff Retallick is special enough, but samurai film Orochi is the real draw. In the silent era in Japan, instead of the piano accompaniment we’re used to, films were narrated by benshi, who would explain the major actions in the film and even talk back to the screen when they saw fit. Major stars even grew out of this tradition. For all the obvious reasons, such performances don’t really happen anymore, but UCLA’s bringing it back, along with a composed score performed live with traditional Japanese instruments. This is an insanely rare, and very cool opportunity.
This kicks off a month of Japanese and American silent film double bills, which continues Saturday with Yasujiro Ozu’s Days of Youth (1929, 35mm) and Frank Borzage’s spectacular 7th Heaven (1927, DCP). Orochi is the only one that will sport benshi narration, but if Ozu ain’t enough, I can’t help you.
UCLA then starts their series on refugee cinema on Sunday with two French films, Welcome (2009, 35mm) and the Dardenne brothers’ La Promesse (1996, 35mm).
Building off the momentum from FX’s Feud, the Egyptian has a couple Bette Davis and Joan Crawford double features. On Friday, it’s The Star (1952, 35mm) and the incomparable Johnny Guitar (1954, DCP), while Saturday brings us two of their most famous – All About Eve (1950, DCP) and Mildred Pierce (1945, DCP).
I’m even more tempted by Sunday’s Superman: The Movie (1978, 35mm) / The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, DCP) program, as I adore Superman and have never seen it on a screen near as big as that which the Egyptian offers.
The New Beverly celebrates Easter as only Quentin Tarantino or my former church would, with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004, 35mm) screening Sunday and Monday. I know how we all feel about Mel Gibson, and I know this film in particular tends to go down with the ship there, but it’s a really staggering piece of art, one of those rare modern films that could play without dialogue at all (and I certainly wish Gibson could have released it without subtitles, as he intended).
On Wednesday and Thursday, they resurrect a Jonathan Demme double feature from a couple of years ago – Something Wild (1986, 35mm) and Married to the Mob (1988, 35mm). Both are a real blast, and pair quite well together.
Cinefamily has a fairly active week with a lot of DCP/format unlisted type stuff, but what I’m really into is Phase IV (1974, DCP), the only film Saul Bass ever directed. I saw this several years back when Cinefamily played it for a weekend-long tribute to Bass, and it’s really exceptional. Even better, they’re screening alongside it the incredibly rare alternate ending, which, y’know, I don’t know if it would have fit the flow of the picture, but it’s an incredibly worthy sort of short film companion to it.
LACMA is screening Josef von Sternberg’s The Scarlet Empress (1934, 35mm) on Tuesday afternoon. I’d put it pretty low on the list of Sternberg/Dietrich collaborations, but it is in The Criterion Collection, so I’m sure it has its fans.