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

Paramount Pictures/Photofest
'Better Luck Tomorrow'

A series of seminal Asian American films, classics from Coppola and Eastwood and a retrospective of African American genre movies are among offerings this month for SoCal cinephiles.

COME AND SEE AT THE LAEMMLE MONICA | 1332 2nd St.

On March 6, Janus Films’ new 2K restoration of Soviet director Elem Klimov’s 1985 World War II drama Come and See will open at the Laemmle Monica Film Center. Set in 1943 Belarus and based on a book by Ales Adamovich and Janka Bryl (the former of whom co-wrote the screenplay with Klimov), the film follows the slow disillusionment of Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko, in an unshakable performance), a teenage resistance recruit who eagerly takes up arms on the Eastern Front against the Nazis only to witness a series of horrors that inextricably alter his view of humanity. Shot with intense realism and an impressively mounted sense of scale (helped in no small part by cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov’s bracingly mobile camera), the pic offered a critique of Russia’s involvement in the war that was new to the screen, prompting the Soviet government to thwart its production for almost a decade. (It eventually became a box office hit in Russia.) An anti-war film that doubles as a reminder of cinema’s boundless ability to generate empathy, Come and See is the rare work that stands both above and apart from its genre.

NOIR CITY AT THE EGYPTIAN | 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

The 22nd annual Noir City: Hollywood festival returns to the Egyptian Theatre this month with over a dozen programs of dark cinema classics sure to entice purists and more adventurous viewers alike. Set to run March 6-15, the largely 35mm festival opens with a double bill of the little-seen 1953 Argentine feature The Beast Must Die and Charles Vidor's 1946 Rita Hayworth vehicle Gilda, before launching into a series of double bills that similarly pair classics from Hollywood’s golden age with more obscure international productions. Other notable pairings in this vein include Kim Ki-young’s seminal domestic thriller The Housemaid with Joseph H. Lewis’ gothic melodrama My Name Is Julia Ross (March 8); Jules Dassin’s The Naked City with Hugo Fregonese’s white-collar prison flick Hardly a Criminal (March 12); the seminal B movie Gun Crazy, also by Joseph H. Lewis, with Masahiro Shinoda's beautifully grim Pale Flower (March 13); William Dieterle’s haunted romance Portrait of Jennie with Hasse Ekman’s Swedish murder-mystery Girl With Hyacinths; and, finally, Bernard Vorhaus’ The Spiritualist with Roberto Gavaldón’s In the Palm of Your Hands, two films from the always ingratiating fortune teller subgenre.

THE CONVERSATION AT THE NUART | 11272 Santa Monica Blvd.

Opening March 20 at Nuart Theatre is a 35mm print of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. Released between the first two Godfather films, Coppola’s 1974 thriller is in many ways the antithesis of his generation-spanning mob saga: Intimate, mysterious and quietly provocative, it exemplifies the director’s ever-refined way with drama while anticipating his eventual turn toward more personal filmmaking. Starring Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert who inadvertently records a potential murder, The Conversation takes a premise popularized by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup and emphasizes the moral (rather than metaphysical) quandaries prompted by such a scenario. With expert craft and a masterful sense of tension, Coppola turns what could be a conventional mystery into a character study of immense power.

ASIAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL AT THE JAMES BRIDGES AND BILLY WILDER THEATERS | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.

From March 6-21 at the Billy Wilder and James Bridges theaters, the UCLA Film and Television Archive teams with a number of cultural and campus-based organizations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center with a special program of classic and contemporary films made by and starring Asian Americans. Highlights include, on March 7 at the Billy Wilder, a 35mm presentation of Justin Lin’s groundbreaking 2003 debut Better Luck Tomorrow, an independent crime drama recently voted the best Asian American film of the past two decades by the Los Angeles Times; on March 13, also at the Billy Wilder, Alice Wu’s 2004 lesbian romance Saving Face; and on March 21, a closing day double-bill of the iconic Bruce Lee kung fu film Enter the Dragon, screening in a new 4K restoration at the James Bridges Theater, followed later that evening at the Billy Wilder with a special 35mm nitrate screening of Robert Florey’s 1937 Daughter of Shanghai, a Paramount-produced thriller starring the great Anna May Wong and Philip Ahn in one of the rare Hollywood films to star two Asian American leads.

CLINT EASTWOOD, BLAKE EDWARDS, “NEW JACK CINEMA” AND MORE AT THE NEW BEV | 7165 Beverly Blvd.

This month’s New Beverly calendar is packed with a diverse array of delights. Among the themed double-bills, standouts include a pair of classic Barbara Stanwyck vehicles, The Two Mrs. Carrolls and The Bitter Tea of General Yen (March 15 and 16), a two-night tribute to French New Wave great Francois Truffaut featuring 1975’s The Story of Adele H. and 1970’s The Wild Child (Match 22 and 23) and a monthlong tribute to Blake Edwards that runs the gamut from his Peter Sellers collaborations The Return of the Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again (March 6 and 7) to character-driven comedies 10 and Micki & Maude (March 20 and 21). Elsewhere, the weekday matinees will focus on two very different subjects: On Mondays, what the theater bills as “New Jack Cinema” will spotlight a variety of African American genre films including the beloved Kid ’n Play feature House Party (March 9), Mario Van Peebles’ gritty urban crime epic New Jack City (March 16) and Hype Williams’ coolly stylized gangland drama Belly, starring rappers DMX and Nas (March 30). Wednesdays, meanwhile, will be given over to four films directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, beginning with three of the legendary filmmaker’s early Westerns (High Plains Drifter, March 4; The Outlaw Josey Wales, March 11; and Pale Rider, March 18), followed by his very first directorial effort, 1971’s psychological thriller Play Misty for Me (March 25), in which a radio DJ, played by Eastwood, is stalked by an obsessive fan (Jessica Walter).