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

Le Trou Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Henri Thibault/Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal

L.A. cinephiles with fall festival envy have a plethora of options this month, including a French prison break classic, several Stephen King adaptations and a trio of African-American musicals.


Years in the making, the five-month, city-wide exhibition Pacific Standard Time: Latin American Art in LA launches its film series Sept. 22 with a tantalizing weekend of screenings at Downtown's REDCAT cinema. Presented by Los Angeles Filmforum, the inaugural weekend consists of seven programs representative of the range of styles and sensibilities that this ambitious series will survey. Things kicks off Sept. 22 with a selection of surrealist shorts highlighted by a previously lost work by Chilean master Raul Ruiz, followed by a program of resurrected films by many Chicana and Latin-American women who worked in Los Angeles. Following on Sept. 23 is both a 22-film program of "camera-less" experimental short films and an evening dedicated to the work of Chicano filmmaker Willie Varela, whose politically acute, culturally rich films present an intimate look at rural America. And finishing off the weekend on Sept. 24 are two other unique shorts programs: the first, dedicated to "countercultures and undergrounds," brings together a number of films that arose from the city's many midcentury cultural movements; the second features a handful of short and medium-length films centered on the Marxist icon Che Guevara. If this is any indication, the next five months should hold more than a few revelations and rediscoveries for the more adventurous cinephile.


Known to most casual viewers as the organization that hosts the annual Golden Globe Awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does much of its most vital work in other, less publicized realms, including with charities and in the humanities. It also plays a major role in film preservation, having restored more than 90 films over the years. A handful of these will be on display this month at the Egyptian Theatre during a three-day series comprised of some of the HFPA's most notable 35mm restorations. Things begin Sept. 22 with one of the most beautiful films ever made, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Technicolor ballet drama The Red Shoes, followed Sept. 23 by a double feature of Robert Altman's underrated '80s stage adaptation Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (featuring a wonderful female cast that includes Cher, Sandy Dennis, Karen Black and Kathy Bates) and Laslo Benedek's midcentury adaptation of Death of a Salesman. And closing out the weekend Sept. 24 is a triple feature of Indian master Satyajit Ray's "Apu Trilogy," which follows the title character over three films and nearly 20 years as he grows up in rural Bengal.

LE TROU AT THE AHRYA FINE ARTS | 8556 Wilshire Blvd.

On through Sept. 7 at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts is a new digital restoration of Jacques Becker's 1960 prison break classic Le Trou. Based on Jose Giovanni's debut novel, Le Trou was completed just months before Becker's untimely death at age 53. (He had worked for over two decades in the French film industry, having begun as an assistant to Jean Renoir in the 1930s.) Centered on four cellmates plotting their escape from a high-security prison, the plot turns on the arrival of a wrongly convicted new inmate whose initial complicity in the group's scheme grows complicated when he's proven innocent and scheduled for release. A former prisoner of war during the German occupation of France, Becker had an affinity for narratives pitted on loyalty and masculine camaraderie, and Le Trou remains unique in its attention to character interaction and the logistical nuances of its narrative.


While exploitation films are receiving top billing as part of "Grindhouse Month" at the New Beverly Cinema, it's pleasing to see the midtown rep cinema expanding its hours to accommodate periodic daytime screenings of old Hollywood studio fare. And not just any old studio fare: Every Wednesday afternoon will feature an Alfred Hitchcock classic on 35mm. Beginning on Sept. 6 with the Master of Suspense's 1951 murder swap drama Strangers on a Train, the series jumps to color the following two weeks with the Sept. 13 presentation of the immortal Rear Window, starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly as lovers who stumble upon a murder mystery in their own backyard, and a Sept. 20 matinee of the Moroccan espionage thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much, again starring Stewart, this time alongside Doris Day. The series wraps Sept. 27 by circling back to the beginning of Hitch's Hollywood career with his first American film, the gothic melodrama Rebecca, which won Oscars for best picture and best cinematography. 


LACMA's Tuesday Matinee series offers a quartet of 35mm pleasures of its own this month. Three of the titles are musicals with largely African-American casts: First up is Vincente Minnelli's debut film, Cabin in the Sky (Sept. 5), which tells the tale of a resurrected gambler being pulled between spiritual and worldly impulses in the deep South. Second, Andrew L. Stone's Stormy Weather (Sept. 12), a love story set just after World War I that follows a dancer, based loosely a vaudeville legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and a singer whose fortunes become entwined. And third, one of the most infamous of cult items: Sidney Lumet's The Wiz, starring a roll call of pop culture icons including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor, a reimagining of The Wizard of Oz against the backdrop of '70s New York. Between these, on Sept. 19, is a Western, Death of a Gunfighter, by Don Siegel, which began as a project by Robert Totten but was given life through Siegel's modernist sensibility, an apt touch for this matter-of-fact look at the passing of traditions.


The American Cinematheque's ongoing series "The King of Horror" moves to Santa Monica's Aero Theatre this month and brings with it some of the best and most diverse adaptations of the work of author Stephen King. Highlights include two 35mm triple features: Sept. 15 features the trio of supernatural thriller Sleepwalkers, '80s werewolf flick Silver Bullet and the oddball body horror film Thinner, followed on Sept. 16 by telekinesis thriller Firestarter, Brian De Palma's iconic revenge parable Carrie (screening on DCP) and David Cronenberg's underrated The Dead Zone, featuring Christopher Walken as schoolteacher who develops psychic powers. Finally, on Sept. 17, two non-horror adaptations, the coming-of-age classic Stand By Me (35mm) and the heart-swelling drama The Shawshank Redemption (DCP), that together showcase the range of the author and the timeless depth of his characters.