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

Courtesy of Photofest
Audrey Hepburn in 'Funny Face' (1957)

Hollywood on location; classic noir and screwball comedy; two Kurosawa gems; and an eclectic 1960s primer for Quentin Tarantino's latest are among this month's highlights in Los Angeles retrospective and revival houses.


Beginning July 19, the UCLA Film and Television Archive will welcome film historian Daniel Steinhart to the Billy Wilder Theater for a monthlong series inspired by his new book, Runaway Hollywood: Internationalizing Postwar Production and Location Shooting. A unique pocket history of Hollywood’s post-WWII international production model, the book charts the path of many established studio directors who were enlisted to make films across the Atlantic with international casts and crews; the accompanying screenings highlight a number of these "runaway" productions, providing a brief glimpse into an oft-overlooked era of cinema history. Following an opening-night double-bill of William Wyler's Roman Holiday, starring an ever-luminous Audrey Hepburn, and Jean Negulesco's Three Coins in the Fountain (each presented digitally), the series' July schedule rounds out with two essential pairings: On July 20, Anatole Litvak's 1952 war drama Decision Before Dawn will share a 35mm bill with Jacques Tourneur's atmospheric post-war drama Berlin Express, each shot on location across Germany, followed on July 27 by the Paris-set productions Funny Face (DCP), directed by the late Stanley Donen (and also starring a young Hepburn), and Paris Blues (16mm), Martin Ritt's 1961 jazz drama featuring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Sidney Poitier. 


A number of single-night screenings and small, thematically linked programs highlight this month's calendar at the Egyptian Theatre. The most immediate standout is a three-night series of double features that pair a classic Hollywood film noir with a contemporaneous screwball comedy. Titled "Highballs and Screwballs: Two Sides of the 1940s," the series begins July 11 with a 35mm double of Billy Wilder's dark cinema watershed Double Indemnity with Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire, both starring Barbara Stanwyck; it continues July 18 with John Huston's Key Largo and Preston Sturges' The Palm Beach Story (both on 35mm); and, on July 25, with Hawks' His Girl Friday (DCP) and Henry Hathaway's little-seen Call Northside 777 (35mm). Elsewhere, digital restorations of two groundbreaking films by Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957's The Cranes Are Flying and 1964's I Am Cuba, will screen July 19 as a special double bill. The former, a tragic romance set against the backdrop of World War II, won the Palme d'Or at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, while the latter, a highly stylized meditation on post-Revolution Cuba, has gained favor over the decades through its radical marriage of form and content. In an entirely different register, the following evening, July 20, will feature two pre-code Kay Francis vehicles: 1931's Girls About Town, directed by George Cukor, and William Dieterle's 1932 romantic crime caper, Jewel Robbery (both screening on 35mm), while an all-day, six-movie marathon of classic Warner Bros. genre films will close the month on July 27. Highlighting this entirely 35mm program are Todd Browning's seminal circus-set parable, Freaks; Robert Wise's atmospheric ghost story, The Haunting; and Jacques Tourneur’s cooly stylized Cat People.


With Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood set for release at the end of the month, the director and New Beverly proprietor is focusing his theater's July programming on all things related to his long-awaited ninth feature. Alongside a selection of late-'60s films starring leading men in the vein of Leonardo DiCaprio's Once Upon a Time character Rick Dalton, there will be double-bills featuring a variety of the era's "It" girls, as well as a series of Monday matinees dedicated to DiCaprio himself. Spotlighted stars include George Maharis (The Happening and Land Raiders, July 3 and 4), Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage and 100 Rifles, July 5 and 6), Jane Fonda (Cat Ballou and The Chase, July 12 and 13), Tab Hunter (Gunman's Walk and They Came to Cordura, July 14 and 15) and Natalie Wood (Gypsy and This Property Is Condemned, July 19 and 20). The DiCaprio matinees, meanwhile, run the gamut from a pair of his most notable titles (Inception, July 1, and The Aviator, July 29) to a trio of his less frequently seen early films (This Boy's Life, July 5; The Quick and the Dead, July 15; and The Basketball Diaries, July 22). And once suitably prepped, you can even catch Once Upon a Time in its proper 35mm format for seven straight nights to close the month.


With a thinner than normal month on the local repertory circuit, one might consider (if you haven't already) checking out "Time Is Running Out of Time: Experimental Film and Video From the L.A. Rebellion and Today," on view at the Art + Practice gallery in Leimert Park. Running through mid-September, this large-scale exhibition draws a line between the Los Angeles-based African-American filmmakers of the 1960s and '70s — collectively known as the LA Rebellion — to the artists of today that carry on their legacy. Largely eschewing the movement's more well-regarded figures (Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Julie Dash, et al.), the exhibition instead spotlights a cross-section of lesser-known names. Older films installed in the gallery show include Haile Gerima's Hour Glass (1971), about a young basketball player who begins to rethink his role as an athlete for white spectators; S. Torriano Berry's 1982 coming-of-age drama Rich, shot at and around the Watts Towers; and Alile Sharon Larkin's Your Children Come Back to You (1979), about a single mother attempting to provide for her young daughter. Each movie grants a crucial look at an era of filmmaking that only continues to reveal new insights.


For just over a year now, the Secret Movie Club has been bringing 35mm prints to the historic Vista Theatre in Los Feliz. Screenings are at odd times, often in the morning or at midnight, but the series nonetheless provides a good opportunity to see many beloved classics projected in their original format. This month, for instance, you'll be able to catch New Hollywood notables like Mike Nichols' The Graduate (July 4), Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise (July 19), Bob Fosse's All That Jazz (July 20), Sidney Lumet's Network (July 20) and Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (July 27), along with four Sergio Leone Westerns, including his crowning achievement in the genre, Once Upon a Time in West (July 27). Of particular note this month, however, are two films by Japanese master Akira Kurosawa: first, on July 13, there's 1960's The Bad Sleep Well, a scintillating corporate crime drama that remains among the director's most underrated works; followed on July 26 by 1961's Yojimbo, Kurosawa's influential tale of a rogue samurai whose ambiguous allegiances cause chaos in a small town.


On July 14 at the Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian, Los Angeles Filmforum welcomes Armenian-Canadian filmmaker Garine Torossian to town for a rare presentation of her hand-crafted hybrid-animation films. In fact, this will be Torossian's first-ever solo show in Los Angeles, which means Filmforum's program is free to encompass work from across her 25-plus-year career. Highlighting the program are five 16mm works made between 1993 and 2002. They include the Sergei Parajanov-referencing Girl From Moush, which uses the storied Armenian director's 1967 film The Color of Pomegranates as a catalyst to explore Torossian's own heritage; the meta-conceptual experiment Drowning in Flames; the Quay Brothers homage Shadowy Encounters; and two films, Sparklehorse and Babies on the Sun, originally inspired by (and featuring) the music of the late Mark Linkous' band Sparklehorse, which are now sure to play as tender audiovisual tributes to the great American singer-songwriter.