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

Claire Denis Beau Travail Still - Photofest - H 2019

A tribute to French filmmaker Claire Denis, a retrospective devoted to Bruce Dern, the annual TCM Classic Film Festival and a series of vintage noirs are among options for SoCal cinephiles this month.

TCM FEST AT THE TCL CHINESE | 6925 Hollywood Blvd.

The big news at the moment for any discerning Los Angeles cinephile is the TCM Classic Film Festival, which returns to Hollywood this month for its 10th edition. From April 11-14, over 75 films of classic and contemporary vintage will screen at multiple venues around the festival’s primary home at the TCL Chinese Multiplex. Among the many themed programs, the big draw this year is a four-film selection of rare nitrate prints that will be presented at the Egyptian Theatre. These include Irving Reis’ Oscar-winning 1947 feature The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (April 11), starring Shirley Temple as a high school student who falls for a much older artist played by Cary Grant; Irving Cummings’ 1945 vaudeville tribute The Dolly Sisters (April 14), featuring Betty Grable and June Haver as singing siblings; Jean Negulesco’s 1948 noir Road House (April 12), with Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde and Richard Widmark as a volatile trio of lovers; and Cecil B. DeMille feverish Biblical saga Samson and Delilah (April 13), with Victor Mature and Hedy Lamar in the title roles. Other 35mm presentations to note are Vincente Minnelli’s 1945 romance The Clock (April 12), starring Judy Garland and Robert Walker; Howard Hawks’ biographical epic Sergeant York, with Gary Cooper in his Oscar-winning role as Sergeant Alvin C. York; John Ford’s 1953 romance Mogambo, featuring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly; and, lastly, Leo McCarey’s 1939 romantic comedy Love Affair, starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne as ship-bound suitors whose budding romance spells trouble for their unwitting partners.

CLAIRE DENIS AT THE AERO | 1328 Montana Ave.

In conjunction with the April 5 release of Claire Denis’ new film High Life, the American Cinematheque is hosting a four-night tribute to the great French filmmaker this month at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Pulling from each era of Denis’ career, the short but sweet series begins April 12 with a double bill of her 1989 debut Chocolat and 2009’s White Material (both screening on 35mm), sister films of a sort that explore colonial Africa through the eyes of two of the director’s most recognizable leads, Isaac de Bankolé and Isabelle Huppert. Denis herself will be in person the following night, April 13, to present a 35mm print of the film that's regularly cited as her masterpiece, 1999’s Beau Travail, a hallucinatory tale of a French Foreign Legionnaire (Grégoire Colin) on assignment in Djibouti. Two additional double features will then close things out: On April 13, 1996’s turbulent romance Nénette and Boni will share a bill with 2008’s beautifully observed family drama 35 Shots of Rum (both on 35mm), while April 14 will bring a pair of quasi-genre films, 2001’s polarizing vampire pic Trouble Every Day (35mm), starring Vincent Gallo and Tricia Vessey, and 2017‘s Let the Sunshine In (DCP), an unexpected swerve into romantic comedy starring the great Juliette Binoche.

NOIR CITY AT THE EGYPTIAN | 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

Underway and running through April 7 at the Egyptian Theatre is the 21st edition of Noir City: Hollywood, Los Angeles' preeminent festival for all things film noir. Of the six double bills remaining this month, the programs that stand out include 35mm pairings of Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo, starring Cornel Wilde as a professionally and romantically obsessed cop, and John Sturges’ Bad Day at Black Rock, with Spencer Tracy as a World War II vet searching for a missing comrade (April 3); the San Francisco-set Tony Curtis vehicle The Midnight Story and Andre de Toth’s addiction drama Monkey on My Back (April 5); and Robert Wise’s I Want to Live!, starring Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning role as a hard-bitten woman on death row, and the little-seen Paul Stanley film Cry Tough, featuring John Saxon as a Puerto Rican ex-con trying to balance familial obligations with loyalties to his former gang (April 7). On hand to introduce screenings throughout the week are the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode.


This month’s Tuesday Matinees at LACMA celebrate the stranger corners of American counterculture cinema, a movement most closely associated with the New Hollywood generation of filmmakers but one that's deeper and more diverse than that history often lets on. Working with modest budgets and taking on slightly risque topics, these small-scale productions stake out completely different territory than even the most subversive of 1970s studio product. Setting the tone on April 2 is director Paul Mazursky’s 1969 debut Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a character study in the guise of a marriage comedy that captures the era’s skepticism of monogamy and gender roles through four indelible characters played by Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon. And from there things get really interesting: The next four Tuesdays bring 35mm prints of Melvin Van Peebles’ 1970 film Watermelon Man (April 9), in which an ordinary white man wakes up one day to discover he’s now a black man; Hal Ashby’s iconic 1971 intergenerational romance Harold and Maude (April 16); Elaine May’s own dark comedy from 1971, A New Leaf (April 23), featuring Walter Matthau as an entitled playboy who plots to kill a gullible heiress (played by May) for her money; and, finally, John Waters’ notorious Pink Flamingos, from 1972, in which a coterie of oddballs, led by Babs Johnson (Divine), compete for the title of “filthiest person alive.” All five films will screen on 35mm.


Alongside multi-night showcases of films by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry and Escape From Alcatraz, April 12 and 13), Sam Peckinpah (Major Dundee, April 26 and 27) and Elaine May (The Heartbreak Kid, April 28 and 29), it's the life and work of the great American actor Bruce Dern that takes the spotlight this month at the New Beverly Cinema. Digging deep into Dern’s career, from his rise through the New Hollywood ranks to his late career character work, the brief series manages to include many neglected films. Double features of note include an April 3 bill of Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut Drive, He Said and the 1972 John Wayne Western The Cowboys; on April 16, a pair of grindhouse classics, Bloody Mama and The Cycle Savages, by Roger Corman and Bill Brame; and two nights, April 17 and 18, featuring Alfred Hitchcock’s 1976 swan song Family Plot and John Frankenheimer’s 1977 political thriller Black Sunday. Meanwhile, this month’s Wednesday Matinees are given over to French crime classics, many difficult to see on 35mm. Titles include two heist films, Rififi (April 3) and Bob le Flambeur (April 24), directed by Jules Dassin and Jean-Pierre Melville, respectively; Jacques Becker’s masterful gangster film Touchez Pas au Grisbi (April 10); and Henri-Georges Clouzot’s sublime 1947 murder mystery Quai Des Orfèvres (April 17).


On April 14 at the Bootleg Theater, a new screening series called Projections will present rare film prints of Michael Powell’s 1937 docudrama The Edge of the World and Jean Epstein’s 1930 short The Sea of Ravens. Now in its second month, Projections celebrates the communal act of moviegoing by bringing difficult to see films to Los Angeles theaters in their original format. Powell’s first major project following a decade of studio commissioned work, The Edge of the World tells a lightly fictionalized history of the Scottish Archipelago of St. Kilda, where after World War I and an outbreak of influenza the already tiny population fled the island for the mainland. Epstein’s short documentary, meanwhile, is one of early French cinema’s most evocative ethnographic experiments, centering on the Breton Island of Sien. Each film finds its maker at a decisive moment in their career, and provides key insight into their quickly developing creative sensibilities.