August 30, 2019: See the greatest film trilogy of the ’90s

Once each week, Marquee L.A. highlights exceptional films, screenings, and film events in the Greater Los Angeles area. Click here to sign up for future email newsletters.

BLUE (1993) / WHITE (1994) / RED (1994)

Three Colors Red 600x200

dir. Krzysztof Kieślowski

September 8 at 5:00 PM at the Egyptian Theatre

The stories of the Three Colors trilogy sound unassuming enough. A woman (Juliette Binoche) comes to terms with difficult truths after the deaths of her husband and daughter. A wronged man (Zbigniew Zamachowski) returns home from France to Poland, where he plots revenge against his arsonist ex-wife. A woman (Irene Jacob) hits a dog with her car, which leads to an encounter with a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who has dedicated himself to quiet, God-like observation of the lives around him.

And yet it is mystifying that the three final films by Krzysztof Kieślowski, which are among the greatest movies of the 1990s, are not more consistently honored. (In truth, they’re among the best films, period.) Perhaps that’s because Blue, White, and Red, which follow heartbroken characters down intense emotional pathways, do not appear from the outside to be as funny, engaging, and dynamic as they are. This series is bound together, barely, by theme. Each film represents a virtue of the French tri-color: Liberty, equality, and fraternity. Ultimately, the true unifying factor is humanity. The patient and ultimately optimistic Kieślowski allows his characters to expand and grow in ways that are not forced by formula or expectation. All three films are visually striking; each is as rich and surprising as a genuine life, lived fully. (This program plays as part of a Kieślowski retrospective at the Egyptian Theatre.)

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SHIN GODZILLA (2016)

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dir. Hideaki Anno

September 1 at 10:30 AM at the Vista Theatre

Leave it to Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno to dream up one of the most unique kaiju movies ever made. Shin Godzilla takes place primarily in government board rooms as a panicked and paralyzed bureaucracy stalls while trying to deal with the landfall of a massive creature. As the monster evolves into something that looks more or less like the Godzilla we know, the Japanese government struggles to formulate a plan of attack while also coordinating with an increasingly worried international community. Despite being visually matter-of-fact when the creature is not on screen, Shin Godzilla is riveting and blackly funny. It’s the only Godzilla film, other than the original, to feel genuinely new.

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TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (2017)

dir. Issa López

Now Playing at the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Noho 7 and Playhouse 7

We came to this movie late, but fortunately its Los Angeles run has been extended before it moves to stream on Shudder in September. Issa López’s film follows a group of children who are orphaned by cartel violence in a Mexican city, as they confront human monsters and ghosts which may be more literal than figurative. López tells a very adult story without losing sight of her characters as children, and in doing so puts this film in the company of Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and Victor Erice’s magnificent The Spirit of the Beehive. Also opens at the Laemmle Music Hall and at Arena Cinelounge on September 6, may be playing at other L.A. theaters as well.

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THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS (2001)

dir. Takashi Miike

August 30 at 11:59 PM at the Vista Theatre

There was a point when prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike’s breakneck filmmaking pace was matched only by his total fearlessness with respect to ideas. That’s how The Happiness of the Katakuris — a remake of Kim Jee-woon’s more conventional thriller The Quiet Family — came into being. This musical con artist comedy features claymation sequences and a plot driven by murder and suicide, all wrapped in a brightly-colored coating. It’s an absurd movie, which often feels like a late-night session of channel-flipping (that metaphor might be totally useless in 2019), but there’s just enough internal logic to string together the increasingly bizarre setpieces.
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MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL (2019)

dir. Stanley Nelson

Opens August 30 at the The Landmark

There are a great many films about him, but no film yet approaches iconoclastic trumpeter Miles Davis in a way that mirrors his work. Where’s the Miles version of Bob Dylan film I’m Not There by Todd Haynes? Regardless, while this straightforward documentary doesn’t break ground from a storytelling perspective, it is an exhaustive chronicle of the musician’s stormy life, his creative spirit, and his inexhaustible allure. Even die-hards will likely be surprised by a few things here.
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EASY RIDER (1969)

dir. Dennis Hopper

September 7 at 7:30 PM at the Ahrya Fine Arts

We’ll likely see more Peter Fonda films pop up on the calendar soon in the wake of his August 16 passing. (May we humbly request The Limey, Nadja, and Fonda’s own directorial debut, The Hired Hand?) The obvious place to start when revisiting Fonda’s career, however, is Easy Rider. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen this counterculture road movie, you might think of it primarily as a watershed moment in the business and culture of Hollywood. In that case, now is a good time to be reminded of the film’s vivid vision of America — one which has a renewed relevance. Also plays the Aero on September 29.
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