Critic's Picks: An October To-Do List for Film Buffs in Los Angeles
Angeleno cinephiles have much to choose from this month, including screenings of classics from Renoir and Bunuel, vintage horror flicks and a retrospective devoted to one of Japan's top current filmmakers.
SPANISH LANGUAGE RARITIES AT THE BILLY WILDER | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.
In September I highlighted the launch of the "Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA" film program with a note on Los Angeles Filmforum's opening weekend festivities. Many other organizations are hosting events of their own over the series' next five months, including the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Already underway at the Billy Wilder Theater and running through early December is "Recuerdos de un cine en espanol," a 38-film program of classic Spanish-language features produced both locally and throughout Latin America, many of which once defined downtown Los Angeles' foreign-language film scene. October highlights include a double feature of recently rescued and restored Cuban films, La Virgen de la Caridad and Casta de roble (Oct. 23); a pair of noirs from Argentina, El vampiro negro and Los tallos amargos (Oct. 28), the former a riff on Fritz Lang's M and the latter a revered accomplishment in the history of cinematography; and, finally, a double bill of Ahi esta el detalle and Calabacitas tiernas (Oct. 30), two Mexican comedies starring national icons Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno and German "Tin Tan" Valdes, respectively. Of additional note is a selection of encore screenings at the Downtown Independent, former home of the Teatro Azteca, which once hosted many of these films during their original Los Angeles engagements.
RENOIR AND BUNUEL AT ECHO PARK FILM CENTER | 1200 N Alvarado St.
The screening series Kino Slang returns to the Echo Park Film Center in October with a pair of American films by international masters. Screening as a double feature on Oct. 28, Jean Renoir's The Southerner and Luis Bunuel's The Young One each confront the hard realities of the south in midcentury America. Renoir's masterpiece, screening on a rare 16mm print, sensitively depicts the the plight of a poor migrant family attempting to establish a cotton farm in rural Texas. With characteristic naturalism and a one-of-a-kind poetic touch, Renoir captures an unfamiliar milieu with a grace and sensitivity uncommon to even the era's most lauded American auteurs. The Young One (screening digitally), by contrast, finds Bunuel confronting sexual taboos and the region's entrenched racism with unflinching immediacy. Following an African-American jazz musician on the run after an alleged rape, the film's narrative takes shape on an island off the coast of North Carolina where a white supremacist bee keeper lives with his widow's granddaughter. The musician and the beekeeper soon clash over the affections of the young girl, and the thorny love triangle, which Bunuel depicts through stark, moody imagery and a palpable realism, blossoms into one of cinema's most potent critiques of American masculinity.
CLAUDIO CALDINI AT REDCAT | 631 W 2nd St.
Los Angeles Filmforum's Latin American experimental film series "Ism Ism Ism" rolls on this month as veteran Argentine filmmaker Claudio Caldini will make a special trip to Los Angeles to present a selection of his rare 8mm films at a trio of venues. Following shows at USC and the Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian, Filmforum will host Caldini for an evening at downtown's REDCAT cinema Oct. 23. Screening in their original format, a pair of Caldini's classic small gauge works from the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Ventana and A traves de las ruinas, will share space with one of the filmmaker's newer films, Lux Taal. Each is a brief but bracing evocation of rural and domestic life in and around Buenos Aires. Titled "Fantasmas Cromaticos (Chromatic Ghosts)," the evening, which will also include a trio of live projector performances by Caldini, should provide its share of otherworldly visions.
UNIVERSAL HORRORS AT LACMA | 5905 Wilshire Blvd.
In the spirit of Halloween, LACMA is dedicating its Tuesday Matinee series this month to Universal Studio's famed monster movies and horror films, four of which will be screening on 35mm prints. First up on Oct. 3 is the original 1925 film version of the The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Rupert Julien and starring Lon Cheney Sr. as the legendary deformed phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. Following on Oct. 10 is a DCP restoration of the Spanish version of Dracula, made in conjunction with the better-known Bela Lugosi version released the same year. Karl Freund’s The Mummy comes next, on Oct. 17, with Boris Karloff in the title role, one of his most iconic transformations. Claude Rains undergoes a different kind of disappearing act in James Whale's The Invisible Man, screening Oct. 24, while Jack Arnold's underrated Creature from the Black Lagoon, originally shot in 3D, brings the series to a close on the afternoon of Halloween, Oct. 31.
HIROKAZU KORE-EDA RETROSPECTIVE AT THE BILLY WILDER | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.
This month a small retrospective dedicated to Japanese veteran Hirokazu Kore-eda will unfold at a handful of venues across town. Three nights with Kore-eda in person at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater highlight the series, with a pair of the director's most acclaimed films screening on 35mm, as well as a third to be announced in the coming days. First up, on Oct. 27 is Still Walking, something of a contemporary classic, having been released in 2009, followed the next evening (Oct. 28) by Kore-eda's landmark debut Maborosi, which set the template for both the director's signature style (a patient, observational approach derived from past Japanese masters) and most frequent subject (middle class domestic life), announcing in the process a uniquely sensitive voice in East Asian cinema. (Full disclosure: I own and operate Acropolis Cinema, the nonprofit screening series co-presenting the latter event.) With additional screenings at USC and the Japan Foundation Los Angeles, this is a welcome opportunity to acquaint oneself with one of Japan's finest directors.
LANDMARKS OF SOVIET CINEMA AT THE AERO | 1328 Montana Ave.
This month a quartet of pioneering Soviet films will be highlighted over three nights at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. As its title, "Landmarks of Soviet Cinema," suggests, all four are long-canonized classics, but this series offers newcomers and devotees alike the chance to see a few of these highly influential films on 35mm prints. On Oct. 7 there's Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, one of the towering stylistic accomplishments of the silent era; it'll be paired the same evening with another groundbreaking experiment in montage editing, Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera, screening on DCP. And bringing things to a quick close the next weekend will be Andrei Tarkovsky's modernist historical epic Andrei Rublev, on Oct. 14, followed on Oct. 15 by Elem Klimov's harrowing World War I drama Come and See, one of the most beloved international films of the 1980s.