a highly-opinionated selection of things happening around town, and sometimes out of town. this month's page here.
mon. dec. 18 the general, steamboat bill jr. @ new beverly theatre mt. eerie @ the smell tue. dec. 19 out on a ledge: photographs of a comic genius - exhibit ends @ ampas black christmas, bloody night deadly night @ new beverly theatre wed. dec. 20 rebel without a cause, bitter victory @ egyptian theatre thu. dec. 21 nels cline, smegma @ the echo fri. dec. 22 jon brion @ largo dec. 27 pandora's box, diary of a lost girl @ new beverly theatre dec. 28 pandora's box, diary of a lost girl @ new beverly theatre the ghost breakers, mr. peabody and the mermaid @ egyptian theatre dancing mothers 8 PM @ silent movie theatre fri. dec. 29 my man godfrey, i'll give a million @ aero theatre dec. 30 hotel imperial @ starlight studio mon. jan. 1 abbott & costello meet frankenstein, arsenic and old lace @ egyptian theatre a night at the opera 5 PM, monkey business @ aero theatre wed. jan. 3 kraig grady @ mr. t's bowl fri. jan. 5 les amants reguliers (regular lovers) @ lacma bipolar bear @ the smell sat. jan. 6 les amants reguliers (regular lovers) @ lacma tue. jan. 9 the wrong man 1 PM @ lacma fri. jan. 12 zack galifianakis and friends @ largo sat. jan. 13 french without tears @ starlight studio earthless @ spaceland the flakes @ mr. t's bowl mon. jan. 15 nick castro @ the echo the pope @ the smell tue. jan. 16 intruder in the dust 1 PM @ lacma fri. jan. 19 by the ways (a journey with william eggleston) @ getty center the lady from shanghai @ lacma bunny lake is missing 9:15 PM @ lacma zack galifianakis and friends @ largo sat. jan. 20 experimental audio research, fuxa @ silverlake lounge wed. jan. 24 deerhoof, hella @ el rey fri. jan. 26 the exterminating angel @ lacma secret ceremony 9:20 PM @ lacma the black lips @ the echo of montreal @ el rey jan. 27 one night in lisbon @ starlight studio the black lips @ spaceland of montreal @ wiltern jan. 28 of montreal @ troubadour tue. jan. 30 the letter 1 PM @ lacma mose allison @ jazz bakery wed. jan. 31 helmet @ troubadour mose allison @ jazz bakery thu. feb. 1 helmet @ troubadour mose allison @ jazz bakery fri. feb. 2 orpheus @ lacma eyes without a face 9:20 PM @ lacma mose allison @ jazz bakery sat. feb. 3 sherlock jr. 5 PM, the scarecrow, the play house @ lacma celine and julie go bowling @ lacma mose allison @ jazz bakery sun. feb. 4 mose allison @ jazz bakery fri. feb. 9 stairway to heaven aka life and death @ lacma sat. feb. 10 hatter's castle @ starlight studio tue. feb. 13 the decks ran red 1 PM @ lacma upsilon acrux @ the smell wed. feb. 14 charalambides @ the smell fri. feb. 16 point blank @ lacma blow-up 9:15 PM @ lacma sat. feb. 17 woman in the dunes @ lacma fri. feb. 23 don't look now @ lacma persona 9:30 PM @ lacma sat. feb. 24 crazy house @ starlight studio tue. feb. 27 cabin in the sky 1 PM @ lacma nels cline @ the echo fri. mar. 2 clinic @ troubadour mar. 10 street of chance @ starlight studio mar. 24 the lady has plans @ starlight studio apr. 7 the mad doctor of market street @ starlight studio fri. apr. 20 trans am @ troubadour sat. apr. 21 true to life @ starlight studios may 5 the hour before the dawn @ starlight studios may 19 standing room only @ starlight studios WHAT IT IS: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, 1944, Warner Bros., 118 min. Dir. Frank Capra. The granddaddy of all black comedies, a tender tale of two sweet old ladies with this odd little habit of poisoning people, plus their three darling nephews: a homicidal maniac who looks like Boris Karloff (who created the role on Broadway), a nut who thinks heâ??s Teddy Roosevelt, and worst of all, a theatre critic. Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Jack Carson and original cast members Josephine Hull and Jean Adair move two miles a minute under Capraâ??s assured direction. Actually filmed in 1941, but it couldnâ??t be released until the ultra-popular show closed on Broadway! BITTER VICTORY, 1957, Sony Repertory, 103 min. Richard Burton is a fatalistic captain at odds with his indecisive and inexperienced superior, a timid major played by Curt Jurgens, as they undertake a dangerous mission across the desert to steal secret documents from the Nazis during WWII. Burton had left Jurgensâ?? beautiful wife, Ruth Roman, heartbroken years before, and this association further poisons the relationship between the two officers. One of Nicholas Rayâ??s most underrated and most beautifully directed masterworks is full of subtle touches that build inexorably to a shattering and tragic conclusion. Originally cut by over 20 minutes in America, this is the restored and original uncut version. Writing about BITTER VICTORY in Cahiers du Cinema, Jean Luc Godard famously declared "Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray." BLACK CHRISTMAS (from IMDB) It's time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don't express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem? Blow-Up (1966/color/111 min.) Scr: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, based on a story by Julio CortĂˇzar; dir: Michelangelo Antonioni; w/ David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles. Based on a short story by the Argentinian writer Julio CortĂˇzar, Michelangelo Antonioni's first English-language film, set in Swinging London, was a deconstructed whodunit, a cause cĂ©lĂ¨bre, and one of the most discussed films of its time. Ostensibly a day in the life of a successful, bored fashion photographer, it also involves a murder photographed by chance and then "erased": the photographs are stolen, the body has vanished. In this existential mystery, Antonioni shows only what the photographer himself sees, leaving it to the viewer to decide what really lies behind the image or within the protagonist's heart. With its spectacular set pieces (a visit to a deserted London park at night made eerie by the sound of rustling leaves and the tour de force sequence in which one photograph is progressively enlarged to reveal a hidden "truth"), Blow-Up is a film that rewards repeated viewings with new insights. Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965/b&w/107 min./Panavision) Scr: John Mortimer, Penelope Mortimer, based on the novel by Evelyn Piper; dir: Otto Preminger; w/ Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Kier Dullea, Anna Massey, Noel Coward. Does this Bunny really exist? That's the question dominating Otto Preminger's examination of the events surrounding the disappearance of four-year-old Bunny Lake from a London nursery school that has no record of the child's registration. With its bizarre cast of characters-Bunny's neurotic American mother, her weird, solicitous brother, the dotty school teachers, and the sadistic landlord-and its asymmetrical black-and-white CinemaScope images, Bunny Lake "walks a fascinating line between morbid humor and outright horror, and it consistently defies expectations," notes Tasha Robinson in The Onion A.V. Club. "By building a world where nearly every character flaunts a dark or disturbing side, Preminger turns a relatively simple mystery into an unsettling fun house ride where nothing can be assumed or assured." By the Ways (A Journey with William Eggleston) French filmmakers Vincent GĂ©rard and CĂ©dric Laty examine the art of pioneering photographer William Eggleston, hailed as "the father of color photography" in this recent documentary. An unconventional portrait, this evocative film follows the artist on a journey through the American South as he photographs "these badlands" and features interviews with Eggleston, tributes from other artists, and a glimpse of Eggleston at work in the lab and behind the camera. Complements the exhibition Where We Live: Photographs of America from the Berman Collection. CĂ©line and Julie Go Boating (1974/color/193 min.) Scr: Juliet Berto, Eduardo de Gregorio, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Jacques Rivette; dir: Jacques Rivette; w/ Juliet Berto, Bulle Ogier, Dominique Labourier, Marie-France Pisier, Barbet Schroeder. Inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Jacques Rivette's lighthearted celebration of the world of the imagination centers on two women-CĂ©line, a magician, and Julie, a librarian-who meet on a summer day in a Paris park. Instant friends and conspirators, they stumble into a mysterious house and a parallel reality in which a quartet of ghosts acts out a nineteenth-century play about two women in love with the same man. "The old house is like a deserted art cinema where the same faded old print is projected forever. But what happens there is also a creaky stage melodrama that needs to be endlessly rehearsed until the spell is broken," observed Jonathan Romney in The Guardian. "[And] that's only part of it: there's CĂ©line's slapdash magic act as La Mandragore, Julie's manic song-and-dance debut as La Kamikaze, a dead-of-night library raid with roller skates and an extraordinary number of cats . . . Rivette's film is a three-hour tangle of dream, cloak-and-dagger intrigue, and seemingly haphazard comedy that leaves you exhilarated. DANCING MOTHERS (from IMDB) Young girl becomes a "flapper", defying her parents and the community. Don't Look Now (1973/color/110 min.) Scr: Allan Scott, Chris Bryant, based on the story by Daphne du Maurier; dir: Nicolas Roeg; w/ Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie. Grieving for their young daughter who has drowned on their farm in Britain, John and Laura Baxter travel to Venice. John, an architect, has been hired to restore an old church there, and it is in this city built on water that he and Laura begin to catch glimpses of their dead child wearing a red raincoat. From this simple premise, Nicolas Roeg created one of the great modern horror films, a tale told in images that merge past, present, and future and weave an indelible atmosphere "of dread, grief, and apprehension," as critic Roger Ebert noted. "Venice, that haunted city, has never been more melancholy than in Don't Look Now. It is like a vast necropolis, its stones damp and crumbling, its canals alive with rats . . . and the streets, bridges, canals, dead ends, and wrong turns fold in upon themselves. Walking in Venice, especially on a foggy winter night, is like walking in a dream." The Exterminating Angel (1962/b&w/95 min.) Scr: Luis BuĂ±uel, based on a play by JosĂ© BergamĂn; dir: Luis BuĂ±uel; w/ Silvia Pinal. After an opera performance, members of Mexico's elite are invited to a dinner party at a mansion on "Calle de la Providencia" but find themselves incapable of leaving the house at night's end. An inexplicable force similarly drives the servants home, and as the days pass and the food and water run out, the trapped-Luis BuĂ±uel called them "shipwrecked"-bourgeoisie quickly descend into savagery. No description of the plot can evoke the black humor and strange poetry that BuĂ±uel weaves into this premise; it is certainly one of the eeriest and most memorable films ever made. THE GHOST BREAKERS, 1940, Universal, 85 min. Dir. George Marshall. After the enormous success of THE CAT AND THE CANARY, Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard were quickly reteamed in this even better outing, which sends them to a "haunted" castle on a tiny island off the coast off Cuba. Not only funny but genuinely spooky as well, with A-list support from Richard Carlson, Paul Lukas, Anthony Quinn, Tom Dugan, Jack Norton, Noble Johnson (as a zombie) and top black comic Willie Best. Thirteen years later, Marshall remade this with Martin and Lewis as SCARED STIFF, and it became a hit all over again. I'LL GIVE A MILLION, 1938, 20th Century-Fox, 75 min. Dir. Walter Lang. This undeservedly obscure jewel is about a millionaire (Warner Baxter) who rescues a tramp (Peter Lorre!) from drowning, musing that he'd give a cool "mill" to anyone else who would do a good deed. Try and guess what happens next. The supporting cast is practically a who's-who of wonderful character actors - far too many to list here - so just do yourself a good deed and come see it. Actually a remake of a 1935 Italian film; one of the adapters was Boris Ingster, who later directed Lorre in the creepy cult thriller STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR. NOT ON DVD! The Lady from Shanghai (1948/b&w/87 min.) Scr: Orson Welles, based on a novel by Sherwood King; dir: Orson Welles; w/ Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Edward Everett Sloan. Orson Welles cast himself as the Irish drifter who falls down the rabbit hole when he rescues a beautiful woman (played by Rita Hayworth, the former Mrs. Welles) in Central Park and then accepts a job on her crippled husband's yacht. Rich in plot twists, exotic settings, and cruel behavior, the film has been described as Welles's fever dream, in which he vanquishes the cool, enigmatic, and iconic Hayworth. As Foster Hirsch wrote in The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir (1981), "The ideal metaphor for the worldview that prevails in noir is the mazelike, mirrored fun house which Orson Welles uses at the end of The Lady from Shanghai: the noir world is as filled with deception as Welles's bizarre set, and the multiple mirrored reflections of the film's duplicitous husband and wife are equally representative of their uncertain, shifting identities." Les Amants rĂ©guliers (Regular Lovers) (2005/b&w/178 min.) Scr: Philippe Garrel, Marc Cholodenko, Arlette Langmann; dir: Philippe Garrel; w/ Louis Garrel, Clotilde Hesme, Mathieu Genet, Nicolas Bridet. Winner of the best director award at the 2005 Venice Film Festival, Philippe Garrel has crafted an epic look back at several lives that were changed by the antigovernment riots that students and workers mounted in Paris in May 1968. Garrel was then a budding filmmaker in his early twenties, and unlike his friend Bernardo Bertolucci, whose film The Dreamers (2003) romanticized the lives of three students on the eve of the riots, Garrel participated in the events of May '68. Les Amants rĂ©guliers opens on the Molotov cocktail-throwing "night of the barricades" with a nearly wordless hour-long sequence staged as a ghostly hallucination. As the excitement and chaos of the police clashes recede, the protagonist (played by Garrel's son Louis) is left to face a post-'68 reality in which political passions give way to personal dilemmas. "Garrel shot the film in black and white and very much in the film style of the day; we can literally feel [Jean-Luc] Godard, [Eric] Rohmer, and [Robert] Bresson looking over his shoulder," Piers Handling wrote in the Toronto Film Festival catalogue. "It has an unadorned sense of verisimilitude that captures the spirit of the sixties and the lives of the students who form the narrative's core, balancing the contradictory idealism and nihilism of a generation trying to grapple with its restless ambitions." MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID, 1948, Paramount, 89 min. Dir. Irving Pichel. Delightful comic romantic fantasy in which William Powell, suffering from mid-life crisis, is smitten by a beautiful young mermaid (Ann Blyth) while on vacation in the Caribbeanâ?¦which doesnâ??t sit particularly well with his wife. Nunnally Johnson scripted this first and best of all the fishy love stories; Irene Hervey and Andrea King co-star. NOT ON DVD. MY MAN GODFREY, 1936, Universal, 94 min. Dir. Gregory La Cava. "You people have confused me with the U.S. Treasury!" barks Eugene Pallette to his spoiled, filthy-rich family, including daughter, Carole Lombard, who acquires tramp William Powell during a scavenger hunt and makes him her butler, whereupon he teaches her a few lessons about being human. Comeuppance for the wealthy was sure-fire material during the Depression, and no film ever did it better than this one. With Alice Brady, Mischa Auer, Gail Patrick and Alan Mowbray. OrphĂ©e (Orpheus) (1950/b&w/95 min.) Scr/dir: Jean Cocteau; w/ Jean Marais, MarĂa Casares, Edouard Dermit, Marie DĂ©a, Juliet GrĂ©co. Jean Cocteau transposed the myth of Orpheus-in which the singer/poet travels to the underworld to rescue his dead wife, Eurydice-to 1950s Paris and its bohemian cafĂ©s. Using simple but astonishing effects (Orpheus passes through a mirror to reach the dark side), Cocteau created a film that he described as "a thriller which draws on myth from one side and the supernatural from the other." Critic Pauline Kael described it as a "masterpiece of magical filmmaking . . . as inventive and enigmatic as a dream. Jean Marais is ideal as the successful, popular poet who is envied and despised by the younger poets; his conflicts, his desire to renew himself are the substance of the film . . . Dark, troubled, passionate MarĂa Casares is his Death: attended by her hooded motorcyclists, she is mystery incarnate." OUT ON A LEDGE Featuring over 100 large-format photographs from Harold Lloyd's personal archive of production stills, behind-the-scenes shots and family photos, many printed from the original negatives. Persona (1966/b&w/83 min.) Scr/dir: Ingmar Bergman; w/ Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson. Emerging from a serious illness, the great Ingmar Bergman created a film that ranks among the simplest and most enigmatic ever made. An actress who mysteriously ceases speaking is put in the care of a nurse who responds to the silence of her inscrutable patient with a stream of compulsive talk, by turns confessional, self-pitying, aggressive, and cruel. Are we watching two similar-looking Swedish women or two faces of one woman? Bergman attempts nothing less than to deconstruct the self, to go through the mirror and behind the mask-the persona-to pose fundamental questions about reality, the image, performance, and cinema itself. With its outstanding performances, intense probing close-ups, white-on-white decor, and film-within-a-film stylistics (at a moment of high emotion the celluloid appears to burn from the center outward), Persona is an aesthetic triumph and an enduring masterpiece. Point Blank (1967/color/92 min./Panavision) Scr: Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse, Rafe Newhouse, based on a novel by Richard Stark; dir: John Boorman; w/ Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Vernon. One of the most violent and influential gangster films of the 1960s, Point Blank follows Lee Marvin as Walker, an implacable force who will stop at nothing to find his gangster friend Reese and Reese's lover, Chris (Walker's wife), who stole his money and left him for dead in a cell at Alcatraz. A nihilistic nightmare fashioned out of surreal fragments, the film owes a stylistic debt to Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard, but its vision of the modern city as an alienating jungle and the criminal organization as a faceless corporation run on credit cards is distinctly American. Critic David Thomson called the film a masterpiece. "The actual and the imaginary are perfectly joined in Point Blank," he wrote. "For it is not only an account of Marvin's remorseless and romantic hacking away at the syndicate, but his dream in the instant that he dies." Secret Ceremony (1968/color/109 min.) Scr: George Tabori, based on the novel by Marco Denevi; dir: Joseph Losey; w/ Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, Robert Mitchum, Peggy Ashcroft, Pamela Brown. Though less political and more psychological than Luis BuĂ±uel, Joseph Losey shares a jaundiced view of human nature, and his films abound in destructive relationships and sadistic characters. In Secret Ceremony, a mad young heiress coerces a streetwalker whose child has drowned into being her mother and takes the woman home to play house. A gothic premise deserves a gothic setting, and Losey found one in an abandoned 1896 art nouveau mansion in London's Kensington, tiled in peacock blue and emerald green and filled with dark wood, leaded glass, De Morgan mosaics, and Pre-Raphaelite stained-glass windows. As the secret ceremonies of the film unfold in an increasingly twisted and lethal fashion, Losey, critic David Thomson noted, "uses the interior setting as an extension of character and finds a unique suggestibility in the spaces and shapes within a house." Sherlock Jr., The Scarecrow, The Play House Sherlock Jr. (1924/b&w/45 min.) Scr: Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joe Mitchell; The Scarecrow (1920/b&w/20 min.) Scr: Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline; The Play House (1921/b&w/20 min.) Scr: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton; all b&w, silent w/ recorded music; dir: Buster Keaton. In Sherlock Jr., Buster Keaton's most surreal and conceptually audacious film, Keaton is a projectionist who aspires to become a great detective. Falsely accused of stealing his boss's watch, he dreams that he enters the movie he is projecting, solves the crime, and wins the boss's daughter. In The Scarecrow, nothing is what it seems: a Victrola turns into a stove and tennis racquets double as snowshoes. In The Play House, nine Keatons strut their stuff in a minstrel show. Stairway to Heaven aka A Matter of Life and Death (1946/color/104 min.) Scr/dir: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; w/ David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Richard Attenborough. "RAF pilot [David] Niven bales out of his blazing plane without a chute and survives; but-at least in his tormented mind-he was due to die, and a heavenly messenger comes down to earth to collect him. A celestial tribunal ensues to judge his case while, back on earth, doctors are fighting for his life. What makes the film so very remarkable is the assurance of [Michael] Powell's direction, which manages to make heaven at least as convincing as earth. (The celestial scenes are in monochrome, the terrestrial ones in color.) Made at the instigation of the [British] Ministry of Information, who wanted propaganda stressing the need for goodwill between Britain and America, it emerges as an outrageous fantasy full of wit, beautiful sets, and perfectly judged performances."â??Time Out Woman in the Dunes (1964/b&w/147 min.) Scr: KĂ´bĂ´ Abe, based on his novel; dir: Hiroshi Teshigahara; w/ Eiji Okada, KyĂ´ko Kishida. An entomologist searches the dunes for a rare beetle that will bring him fame but finds himself instead imprisoned in a sand pit with its sole occupant, a woman with whom he must labor shoveling sand or perish. "Are you shoveling to survive, or surviving to shovel?" the man asks the woman. Adapted by KĂ´bĂ´ Abe from his own novel, this parable about a man reduced to the status of an insect while retaining all of his human needs is an existential horror film that brings to mind Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" (1916), the myth of Sisyphus, and the claustrophobic hotel room-hell of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit (1947). "There is a strong erotic undercurrent, beginning with the woman displaying her sleeping form, and continuing through hostility, struggle, and bondage," critic Roger Ebert wrote. "In this pit, life is reduced to work, sleep, food, and sex." Los Angeles premiere of the director's cut; new print courtesy of Janus Films. Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes without a Face) (1960/b&w/88 min.) Scr: Pierre Boileau, Pierre Gascar, Thomas Narcejac, Claude Sautet, based on the novel by Jean Redon; dir: Georges Franju; w/ Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob. Jean Cocteau, whose novel Thomas l'imposteur (1923) had also been filmed by Georges Franju, said of the face-lifting scene in Les Yeux sans visage that "it takes us implacably to the end of what our nerves can bear." The premise is lurid: a mad doctor attempts to restore his daughter's mutilated face with skin obtained from young women that he has had abducted and imprisoned in a remote chĂ˘teau. But the execution is poetic and dreamlike, enriched by free-floating allusions to then-recent European history, such as Nazi scientific experiments and OrphĂ©e's leather-clad messengers of death. As Kenneth Turan noted in the Los Angeles Times, "Eyes is a series of images that burn themselves into your subconscious. Every visual is carefully thought out and brilliantly composed for effect, creating a world that is simultaneously real and surreal. With its ability to go deeply into our fears, this is a motion picture that captures the texture of nightmare as convincingly as it's ever been done on film."