The L.A. Rep-port: 3/3 to 3/9, by Scott Nye
The Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the city.
Happy days are here again in the form of UCLA’s biennial Festival of Preservation, a chance for the UCLA Film & Television Archive to show off all the new restorations they’ve completed. As mentioned last week, the festival runs all month in Westwood, and a $50 pass gets you into every one of their programs (tickets run $9 apiece otherwise).
I value the festival more for the possibility of discovery than any confirmation of what I already know is great, but this year kicks off with an absolute masterpiece, Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932, 35mm). Longtime listeners may recall this is one of my all-time favorites, and I cannot wait to revisit it for the umpteenth time in such fine form. There’s always something new lurking in it, it seems. I’ve preceded by a 1931 short that apparently nobody’s seen since that year, and followed by Marion Gering’s western(?) I Take This Woman (1931, 35mm), starring Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard. I follow its genre with a question mark because, although UCLA’s description suggests that’s what it is, it’d be just about the only such film I’ve heard of Paramount releasing in this era. It does sound like more of a ranch romance than a gunslinger tale, so we’re not totally afield, but this once-thought-lost film should make for an interesting discovery at any rate.
Saturday afternoon brings a barrage of silent films – one short, one fragment, and two features, all on one bill – headed by two First National society comedies, Good References (1920, 35mm) and The Poor Nut (1927, 35mm).
That evening brings Los Tallos Amargos (1956, 35mm) and She-Devil Island (1936, 35mm). The former, an Argentine noir, was shown at last year’s Noir City program at the Egyptian, and again at TCM Fest. It’s a spectacular psychological thriller about the temptation and toll of murder. The latter is the English-language version of a Mexican production titled María Elena, and deals with, you guessed it, an island inhabited entirely by women who are captured by competing men. Should be quite an evening.
The weekend concludes with The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971, 35mm), a ground-level profile of the Illinois Black Panther leader shortly before he was murdered by police officers. It’s paired with a 22-minute short from 1967 made by a group of black high school students.
But the Festival hardly has time to rest, as they’ll be back up and running on Monday for an old-school horror double feature, The Vampire Bat (1933, 35mm) and Almost Married (1932, 35mm). This should prove interesting as it’s one of the many times UCLA is totally comfortable admitting that the films they’re showing aren’t always masterpieces – Vampire Bat is described as “mercifully brief”, and their program notes reference the heavy hand Fox utilized to trim down director William Cameron Menzies’ vision. But hey, you never know, sometimes these odd programs can be the most accidentally inspired.
UCLA finally calls it a week (though the festival continues the rest of the month) on Thursday with two films by Juleen Compton – Stranded (1965, 35mm) and The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean (1966, 35mm). UCLA’s program notes emphasize their feminist and formal qualities, noting of Stranded, “the film shares the cinematic experimentation and stylish, youth-centric rebellion of the French New Wave made even more radical by its progressive portrayals of female independence and sexuality, beatnik culture, and discussions of homosexuality.” This is one of the programs for which I’m most excited this month.
Already this post is longer than most of these columns I’ve done, but we’re far from through with Los Angeles yet. The New Beverly is poised to have a banner month, starting with Straw Dogs (1971, IB Tech 35mm) and Lenny (1974, 35mm) on Friday and Saturday, and Batman: The Movie (1966, 35mm) on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The Bev notes Batman is showing on a “Beautiful 20th Century Fox Archive Print”, which should be quite something given how famously-colorful it is.
The Bev goes with some rarities on Sunday and Monday, showing Frank Perry’s Last Summer (1969, 16mm) and Ladybug Ladybug (1963, 16mm). Neither are available on DVD, and Last Summer is often only broadcast on TCM in a slightly-trimmed version (it was originally rated X). The print they have is believed to be the most complete in existence. Perry is perhaps most (in)famous for directing Mommie Dearest, but his Burt Lancaster-starrer The Swimmer is an outright masterpiece and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of his work throughout the month.
Speaking of Lancaster, Wednesday and Thursday bring a couple late westerns starring the incredible actor. First up is Robert Aldrich’s Ulzana’s Raid (1972, 35mm), followed by Edwin Sherin’s Valdez is Coming (1971, 35mm).
Cinefamily is kicking off a self-explanatory “Fight the Power” series with Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940, 35mm), his famous satire of Adolf Hitler. I adore Chaplin, and submitted him for BP’s 50 Greatest Actors poll, but…I don’t think this is all that good. Still, it’s worth seeing, and 35mm is always a plus.
After that, Olivier Assayas takes over the joint all weekend for a showcase of his own films and some of the work that inspired him. First up is a Saturday afternoon showcase of two Guy Dibord films, a short and a feature, both presented digitally. Later that evening, Assayas presents a collection of his short films and music videos (various formats).
Then on Sunday, he shows off a Swedish film I’ve never heard of, Bo Widerberg’s Adalen 31 (1969, 35mm), chronicling riots and a confrontation between Swedish civilians and their military that lead to tremendous gains in workers’ rights. That evening, he’s there to discuss his acclaimed Irma Vep (1996, DCP).
LACMA’s Tuesday matinee is The Deer Hunter (1978, 35mm), in case you have three hours and your soul to spare on a weekday afternoon.