Critic's Picks: An August To-Do List for Film Buffs in L.A.

Photofest
Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Army of Shadows' (1969)

Remedies for late-summer multiplex blues in Los Angeles include vintage French crime films, classic Japanese melodramas, blaxploitation gems and more.

ZANZIBAR FILMS AT CINEFAMILY | 611 N. Fairfax Ave.

In Paris 1968, a loose cohort of young artists, emboldened by the political turmoil of the era and equipped with a windfall of funds from arts patron Sylvina Boissonnas, united to produce a run of films independent of any prior tradition, including that of the preceding generation of rebels known as the French New Wave. Later dubbed the Zanzibar group, these fresh-faced filmmakers, which included future master Philippe Garrel and prolific technician Jackie Raynal, as well as such relative unknowns as Etienne O’Leary, Serge Bard and Patrick Deval, worked in a largely improvisational, experiential fashion, closer to the mode of the avant-garde than anything resembling proper narrative. Throughout August, Cinefamily is showcasing a generous selection of Zanzibar classics and curios, largely in digital presentations, though the films remain so rare in any format it hardly matters. On opening night, Aug. 10, Raynal will be in person to present a number of rare clips and discuss the climate of the times; and she’ll be back the following night, Aug. 11, to present Garrel’s early feature The Inner Scar, featuring the enigmatic musician Nico, and O’Leary’s hallucinatory short Chromo Sid (screening on 16mm), as well as on Aug. 12 for her own feature, Deux Fois. Other highlights include a double bill of Bard’s Detruisez-vous (Destroy Yourselves) and Deval’s Acephale (Aug. 26), and a special closing evening with Garrel’s Le revelateur, featuring an acclaimed live score by Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler.

'70s SHADOW CINEMA AT THE BILLY WILDER | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.

In conjunction with the publication of Charles Taylor’s new book, Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ‘70s, the UCLA Film and Television archive are presenting a selection of the forgotten and underappreciated genre films reassessed by the author, who will be on hand opening weekend to sign and discuss the book. Beginning on Aug. 4 with Michael Ritchie’s provocative Vietnam-era gangster picture Prime Cut, starring Lee Marvin and Sissy Spacek, the series covers a whole spectrum of B-movie motifs. On Aug. 12, a pair of classic car films, Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop and Richard Sarafian’s Vanishing Point, will share a bill, while Jack Hill’s seminal blaxploitation entries, Foxy Brown and Coffy (each starring Pam Grier), will follow on Aug. 14. And bringing the program to close will be a quartet of lesser-known works, paired as double bills: Irvin Kershner’s giallo homage Eyes of Laura Mars and Robert Culp’s L.A. crime saga Hickey & Boggs (Aug. 18), and B.L. Norton’s Cisco Pike and Floyd Mutrux’s Aloha, Bobby and Rose (Aug. 26), between them starring Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black, Gene Hackman and Robert Carradine.

JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE AT THE EGYPTIAN | 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

The great Jean-Pierre Melville will be paid tribute this month at the Egyptian Theatre with a 10-film series of highlights from throughout the French filmmaker’s storied career. Screening on a combination of digital restorations and 35mm prints, the series highlights many of Melville’s beloved crime and noir films, including Le deuxieme souffle (Aug. 4), Le Samourai (Aug. 5), Le Cercle Rouge (Aug. 6), Bob le flambeur (Aug 13) and his final film, Un flic (Aug. 12). But this is also a great opportunity to explore some of the director’s work in other genres, such as the moody chamber piece Le Silence de la mer (Aug. 5), the religious drama Léon Morin, Priest (Aug. 10) and the wartime meditation Army of Shadows (Aug. 11). With a career that lasted just over two decades, few directors covered as much stylistic ground in so little time as Melville. 

JOYCE WIELAND AT LOS ANGELES FILMFORUM | 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

On Aug. 6 at the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, Los Angeles Filmforum presents what is in all likelihood the city’s first retrospective program of films by the seminal Canadian experimental filmmaker Joyce Wieland. Active through much of the avant-garde’s most celebrated period, but with little of the exposure afforded to such contemporaries as Hollis Frampton, Jonas Mekas and her onetime husband Michael Snow, Wieland adeptly combined elements of painting, animation and collage into strange cinematic concoctions, helping to pioneer a distinctly feminist form of abstract filmmaking. Filmforum’s program (presented entirely on 16mm) begins in the late 1960s, with the domestic portraits Water Sark and Cat Food, expands into more political mode with Rat Life and Diet in North America and Solidarity and concludes with A & B in Ontario, a highly personal repurposing of old footage that Frampton and Wieland shot of each other on the streets of Ontario in 1967.

JAPANESE ART HOUSE CLASSICS AT THE AERO | 1328 Montana Ave.

Running from Aug. 24-26 at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica is a short series of Japanese classics, none too obscure but exceedingly rare to find screening on film prints in Los Angeles. Paired by director, the three-day program begins Aug. 24 with a double bill of Kenji Mizoguchi’s female-centered films, Ugetsu and The Life of Oharu (the former on DCP, the latter 35mm), continues Aug. 25 with a pair of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s most unsettling works, Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another (both 35mm), and concludes Aug. 26 with two Yasujiro Ozu classics, Tokyo Story (DCP) and An Autumn Afternoon (35mm).

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