This New Year begins with a collection of new film venues. In our last newsletter, we mentioned that the Laemmle Music Hall is now Lumiere Cinema at the Music Hall; it’s the same location, with new independent operators. Their website is a work in progress, but the programming is already in full swing, with a collection of adventurous independent and international cinema. Craig Hammill, who has been programming 35mm screenings at the Vista Theatre for the last couple years, is opening his own space in the Arts District. The Club is a 99-seat theater and arts space. Preview shows take place through January before a proper opening in February. And the old Cinefamily space has been rebranded and reopened as Fairfax Cinema. Given that the current operators have ties to the ignominiously-closed Cinefamily, we’re curious to see how this new space plans to rebuild a sense of community.
Most notably, Maggie Mackay is fundraising for the new Vidiots theater located at the former Eagle Theatre in Eagle Rock. A fall 2020 opening is planned for the space, which will encompass a 200+ seat primary theater with 35mm and DCP capability, a 50-seat screening/event space, a video rental store housing the full Vidiots collection, and a beer and wine bar.
WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? (2001)
dir. Tsai Ming-liang
January 9, 7:30 PM
James Bridges Theater
Few filmmakers truly engage the irony that filmmaking — a collaborative endeavor best seen in a communal atmosphere — is a wonderful means to explore quiet isolation and loneliness. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang, who earned international festival fame with this hymn of romantic yearning, is among those who gets it on a fundamental level. Lee Kang-sheng, the director’s leading man in all his feature endeavors, plays a street vendor who sells watches; a brief encounter with a woman en route to Paris leads the vendor to express his longing by setting watches and clocks to Paris time.
All of which sounds almost impossibly twee, but Tsai’s films do not traffic in idealized wish fulfillment. What Time Is it There? is patient and sensitive, but not sentimental. When the characters assuage their desires with stand-in sex, their intimate moments are unvarnished and raw. We always love to see Tsai’s films programmed on the big screen; this one is free, making it an easy pick for one of the best cinematic events in L.A. this month.
Exiled American filmmaker Joseph Losey, who left Hollywood in 1951 following his tangle with the House Un-American Activities Committee, made two fairly astounding movies with Elizabeth Taylor in 1968. “Astounding” in the sense of “I can’t believe these exist.” Like many of Losey’s films, they’re off-kilter, disreputable, and honest all at once. Boom!, scripted by Tennessee Williams based on his own play “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” is high camp. John Waters loves the movie; he has called it “beautiful, atrocious, and perfect.” The decadent, proto-goth psycho-sexual morass of Secret Ceremony, in which Taylor’s character becomes a surrogate mother to a young woman (and ultimately her avenger), is more difficult to reckon with — and possibly more rewarding.
SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT (1967) / IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHTS (2020)
dir. J.L. Anderson / Ross Lipman
January 10, 7:30 PM — Billy Wilder Theater
In denial of their stifled lives in a depressed Ohio mining town, half-siblings Carl and Jessie have an illicit encounter which ultimately defines their futures. Nonprofessional actors and documentary-style filmmaking lend Spring Night, Summer Night an unaffected honesty. Director J.L. Anderson intended this first feature as an American Neorealist effort to match post-war Italian films like Umberto D. He succeeded incredibly well. Once slated to debut at the New York Film Festival, Spring Night, Summer Night was bumped from the festival program. It was recut with explicit new footage, released as the exploitation film Miss Jessica Is Pregnant, and all but forgotten — until Peter Conheim worked to restore the film with help from Nicolas Winding Refn. That history is chronicled in the short In the Middle of the Nights, which runs after the feature.
While Deliverance — John Boorman’s story of Atlanta city boys who encounter a backwoods nightmare — is notorious for its provocations, some of its extreme actions undermine the best efforts from the cast and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright, however, is far more than Deliverance‘s Australian prototype. Schoolteacher John Grant is stranded in a remote Outback mining town, where his middle-class ambitions prove to be inadequate preparation for a collision with the locals. It is one of the most harrowing depictions of primal masculinity ever put to film, and the framework for a tour de force performance from Donald Pleasence.
dir. Michael Koresky, Jeff Reichert, and Farihah Zaman
January 15-17 — Lumiere Cinema
Food fosters community in this fiction-documentary hybrid which comes from the reliably thoughtful online film magazine Reverse Shot. What begins as the dramatic story of a dinner party thrown under a heavy cloud of grief turns into a documentary about an upstate New York farm. Feast of the Epiphany is experimental in the sense that it isn’t bound by any typical form or convention.