A May To-Do List for Film Buffs in L.A.

20th Century-Fox/Photofest
'The French Connection'

Films by Friedkin, Godard, Brakhage and others are among the must-see retrospective and revival screenings in Los Angeles this month.


American iconoclast William Friedkin is paid welcome tribute throughout the month of May at the New Beverly Cinema with a selection of classic and contemporary genre works, all presented in 35mm. Double features include a pair of the director’s ‘80s California crime sagas, To Live and Die in L.A. and Rampage (May 6 and 7), his Oscar-winning The French Connection and its John Frankenheimer-directed sequel The French Connection II (May 14), and a weekend showcase featuring his two most recent films, the misunderstood psychosexual thriller Bug, starring Ashley Judd, and the twisted Matthew McConaughey indie Killer Joe (May 27 and 28). In addition to these is a special four-night stand of Friedkin’s retroactively embraced ‘70s thriller Sorcerer (May 20, 21, 22 and 23), while the month’s Saturday midnight specials are given over to some of the director’s even less heralded work, including the Al Pacino vehicle Cruising (May 7), the mythological horror saga The Guardian (May 14), a third pass at Killer Joe (May 21) and, finally, the cat-and-mouse thriller The Hunted (May 28), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro. 

DRAGON INN AT THE NUART 11272 Santa Monica Blvd.

Beginning on Friday, May 6 at Santa Monica’s Nuart Theatre and running for one week is the brand new 4K restoration of King Hu’s 1967 wuxia epic Dragon Inn. The beloved Chinese filmmaker’s second martial arts film, and one of its enduring classics, Dragon Inn centers on the children of a defeated general who, after being banished from their homeland, flee to a remote border outpost where a gang of henchmen await in ambush to carry out their final executions. The resulting spectacle, a mix of hand-to-hand combat and deceptively elaborate spatial choreography, brought wuxia action into the realm of pure visual poetry, influencing multiple generations of martial arts filmmakers whose reliance on CGI and wire-work continue to inadvertently speak to Hu’s unparalleled use of practical effects and his dedication to cinema’s most elemental phenomena. 


New digital restorations of Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal nouvelle vague effort Band of Outsiders and Eiichi Yamamoto’s watershed work of psychedelic animation Belladonna of Sadness highlight a typically busy month at Cinefamily. Beginning on May 5 and running for a week is Godard’s highly influential small-time crooks parable, starring Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur and the iconic Anna Karina as a trio of lovers and would-be criminals whose dreams of Hollywood and delusions of grandeur bring them together only to summon their inevitable fates. Yamamoto’s erotic, hand-drawn epic, meanwhile, runs from May 12-19, allowing ample opportunity to experience its lush colors, dizzying details and labyrinth narrative in which a small village is haunted by an incensed woman who, under the spell of Satan, seeks revenge on a community who exile her following accusations of heresy and witchcraft. 


The UCLA Film and Television Archive’s monthlong celebration of Iranian cinema is largely comprised of new films made under the strict regulations of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. But amid these works of contemporary significance is a classic that paved the way for the many filmmakers continuing to battle undue censorship. Made in 1969, director Dariush Mehrjui’s The Cow–– screening May 13 in a new digital restoration –– tells the tale of Masht Hassan (Ezzatolah Entezami), a middle-aged villager who slowly loses grip on reality and his sense of self-worth in the wake of the passing of his beloved livestock. Often cited as the first film of the Iranian New Wave –– and a key influence on many of the movement's key figures, including Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf –– The Cow stands as a probing parable of quiet insight and heartbreaking humanity. 


Los Angeles Filmforum’s upcoming programs, “The Birth Film” and “The Death Film”––taking place on May 8 and May 15, respectively, at the Spielberg Theater at Grauman’s Egyptian –– are slightly misleading, each comprising not one film but a selection of vintage experimental works made by a roll call of the avant-garde’s most storied names, dealing with the matter and depiction of birth and death onscreen. Running the gamut from modest observational portraiture to first-person documentation––and ranging in subject from human to animal birth, and in tone from lighthearted reflection to poetic mourning –– these two largely 16mm programs feature classic works from Stan Brakhage (Thigh Line Lyre Triangular, Cannot Exist), Marjorie Keller (Misconception), Standish Lawder (Necrology), Gus Van Sant (Where’d She Go?) and the husband-wife duo of Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren (with the little-seen long version of The Private Life of a Cat).