A Holiday To-Do List for Film Buffs in Los Angeles

Orion Classics/Photofest
1988's 'Chocolat'

There's more to holiday moviegoing in L.A. this year than 'Star Wars,' Tarantino and Tina Fey — check out the foreign, classic and rare films playing around town over the next month.

CLAIRE DENIS ON 35MM AT CINEFAMILY | 611 N. FAIRFAX AVE.
 
French master Claire Denis continues to work with a frequency rarely afforded her female contemporaries (whether in Europe or America), but her older films remain a rarity on the big screen, particularly in Los Angeles. It’s an unexpected delight, then, to see two of the director’s least appreciated films make their way to Cinefamily this month. A new 35mm restoration of Denis’ 1988 debut, Chocolat, has three remaining screenings (Dec. 4-6), while her 1996 film, Nenette and Boni, receives a single-night showcase on Dec. 8 as part of the ‘La Collectionneuse’ series of classic French films. Together these two works encompass many of Denis’ thematic interests –– from the violence of colonialism, to the eroticism of the human body, to the nuances of feminine identity –– while likewise speaking to the depth and power of her ever-maturing and elusive stylistic vision.
 
ARCHIVE TREASURES AT THE HAMMER | 10899 WILSHIRE BLVD.
 
For the past two months the UCLA Film and Television Archive has been showcasing some of their most beloved restorations –– everything from The Red Shoes to My Darling Clementine to Paths of Glory –– and the series continues through mid-December with some of its most tantalizing offerings. On Dec. 6, Barbara Loden’s seminal work of small-town neo-realism, Wanda, is appropriately paired with American iconoclast John Cassavetes’ debut feature, Shadows, while Dec. 11 brings together two even rarer works of micro-budget cinema: Billy Woodberry’s exemplary “L.A. Rebellion” title Bless Their Little Hearts and Efrain Gutierrez’s vital piece of Chicano heritage cinema, Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive! And finally, closing out the series on Dec. 19 is an early-‘30s double bill of auteurist delights, with Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus –– starring Marlene Dietrich as a wife driven to unfortunate lengths to provide for her ailing husband –– proceeding the Ernst Lubitsch musical The Love Parade, featuring Maurice Chevalier as a philandering Count and Jeanette MacDonald as the Queen drawn in by the young man’s lascivious charm. 
 
JOHN FORD DOUBLE-BILL AT THE NEW BEVERLY | 7165 BEVERLY BLVD.
 
Buried amid the New Beverly’s genre and holiday-heavy December schedule is an essential 35mm double feature of lesser-known films from two otherwise storied eras of directorial titan John Ford’s unimpeachable career. Opening the evening on Dec. 30 is the 1934 WWI drama The Lost Patrol, starring Victor McLaglen and Boris Karloff as soldiers attempting to lead a splintered troupe across the Mesopotamian desert following the death of their commanding officer, while the back half of the bill is given over to the vivid 1955 Technicolor drama The Long Gray Line, in which Tyrone Powers’ reckless West Point protege is forced to personally and professionally mature on his way to becoming a storied military instructor.
 
WEIMAR-ERA CLASSICS AND BING CROSBY FAVORITES AT LACMA | 5905 WILSHIRE BLVD.
 
A diverse selection of titles highlight a busier-than-usual month for the film program at LACMA. On Dec. 11, the museum finishes up their overview of Weimar-era German cinema with a digital restoration of Fritz Lang’s revered serial killer parable M, followed on Dec. 12 by a tantalizing 35mm presentation of F.W. Murnau’s silent chamber drama The Last Laugh. Meanwhile, the weekly Tuesday Matinee series features a quartet of Bing Crosby films, including the Dixieland Jazz chronicle Birth of the Blues (Dec. 8), the seasonally themed musicals Holiday Inn (Dec. 15) and White Christmas (Dec. 22), and, closing out the year on Dec. 29, the dark character study Country Girl, in which the iconic singer plays a washed-up alcoholic who uses his wife (Grace Kelly) as a pawn to keep his fading career afloat.
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