A February To-Do List for Film Buffs in L.A.

De Laurentiis Ent. Gr./Photofest; Universal Pictures/Photofest
'Blue Velvet' (left) and 'All That Heaven Allows' are being shown as a double bill at The Egyptian.

The studio releases are subpar in February, but there's a rich array of classic and retrospective screenings around town, including works by David Lynch, Chantal Akerman, Douglas Sirk and more.


With the long-awaited third season of Twin Peaks just around the corner, the American Cinematheque pays tribute to David Lynch throughout February at their flagship Egyptian Theatre with a retrospective pairing seven of the director’s most beloved films (all but one screening on 35mm) with other works from throughout the history of cinema that share odd affinities with Lynch’s originals. Some of the correlations are more obvious than others, but each makes for an inspired double feature. Of the more immediate bedfellows, there's Mulholland Dr. and Sunset Boulevard (Feb. 3), which share not only geographic proximity, but a palpable psychodramatic essence. As do Blue Velvet and All That Heaven Allows (Feb. 4), two films enamored with midcentury American artifice. Elsewhere, the coupling of The Elephant Man, starring the late John Hurt, with Tod Browning’s Freaks (Feb. 16) is almost too on-the-nose, while Wild at Heart is essentially a retelling of The Wizard of Oz (Feb. 11), albeit a sadistic one. Even more intriguing are the final three double bills: Lost Highway alongside Luis Buñuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire (Feb. 17), two works acutely interested in the male-female dialectic and existential issues of identity, is perhaps the best one-two punch of the series, while Eraserhead back-to-back with the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona (Feb. 18) should highlight the absurdist humor of the former as much as the dark undertones of the latter. And if that’s not enough, the closing night pairing of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (Feb. 19) suggests parallels almost too uncomfortable to reasonably anticipate.


Throughout February at the Billy Wilder Theater (located at the Hammer Museum), the UCLA Film and Television Archive will present “What a Difference: Women and Film in the 1970s and 1980s,” a revelatory program dedicated to an era in which arguably the least opportunities in history were afforded to female filmmakers in Hollywood. In their commercial stead, however, was a flowering of independent artists from around the globe. Opening on Feb. 4 with a new digital restoration of Donna Deitch’s landmark lesbian romance Desert Hearts (Deitch will be in attendance at the screening), the series zigzags across continents and between styles, speaking to the breadth of activity happening just out of view of the mainstream. Alongside such canonized feminist classics as Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman (Feb. 12) and Barbara Loden's Wanda (Feb. 24) are an array of rarities: On Feb. 5, a double bill of Joan Micklin Silver’s intimate New York immigrant saga Hester Street and Sally Potter’s radical work of surrealist pastiche, Gold Diggers; Susan Seidelman’s rebellious new wave time-capsule Smithereens (Feb. 17); Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s radical, psychoanalytic essay film Riddle of the Sphinx (Feb. 19); Betty Gordon’s Variety, a bracing vision of the sexual underbelly of early '80s Manhattan (Feb. 22, with Gordon in person); and, finally, Yvonne Rainer’s stylish meditation on the body, representation and their shared utility in the life of a disillusioned everywoman, titled, simply, A Film About a Woman Who … (Feb. 25).


Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s international profile has risen in recent years on the back of the well-received narrative features My Joy and In the Fog. Among wider cinephile circles, however, he’s most known for nearly 20 years' worth of work in politically charged, experimental nonfiction. A handful of highlights from Losnitza’s early years, all Los Angeles premieres, will be presented throughout February courtesy of Los Angeles Filmforum. First, on Feb. 12 at Filmforum's regular home at the Egyptian Theatre, a double bill of two of the director’s most contemplative films: Portrait, composed of black-and-white still images of anonymous Russian residents, and Landscape, a drifting tableau of sequence shots observing crowds of people as they await a bus in the dead of winter. And on Feb. 25, also at the Egyptian, the trio of Train Stop (a languid montage of travelers asleep as noisy locomotives speed by), The Letter (comprising silent images captured on the grounds of a remote mental institution) and Blockade (made up entirely of rare archival footage of the Seige of Leningrad) will screen with Loznitsa in person to discuss his delicate process of research, observation, and historical reclamation. (Note: a number of Loznitsa’s more recent features, including The Event and Austerlitz, will screen concurrently throughout the city at a variety of venues, including Cinefamily and UCLA.)


On Feb. 28 at the Getty Museum, the Art on Screen initiative presents a restored 35mm print of Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s 1968 postrevolution classic Memories of Underdevelopment. The film, a groundbreaking hybrid combining found footage and documentary elements with a fictional story of a disillusioned young man facing down the Fidel Castro administration with equal parts consternation and consideration, was amongst the first to bring images of the fraught conditions in Cuba to U.S. screens. With its real-life images of the Bays of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crises complementing a stark yet vivid narrative of perseverance and resistance, Memories of Underdevelopment remains as vital and topical a statement as any film of the modern era. On hand following the (free) screening will be actress Daisy Granados and editor Nelson Rodríguez, sitting down with the Getty Research Institute's Rani Singh to discuss the film and its legacy.


Once again with no retrospective or series this month, the New Beverly calendar is free to cast a typically wide net. Essential titles abound, but they’re spread far and wide: On the afternoons of Feb. 4 and 5, Peter Bogdanovich’s Oscar-winning Paper Moon screens as part of the theater’s “Kiddie Matinee” program, bookending on either side an already sold-out midnight screening of Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 the evening of Feb. 4. (Come early — there will be a stand-by line.) Bogdanovich pops up the next week as well, with his underrated musical At Long Last Love, screening Feb. 10 and 11 on a double bill with current Oscar frontrunner La La Land. (If you haven’t see Damien Chazelle’s tribute to the bygone era of the song-and-dance film, you might as well catch up with it on 35mm). Elsewhere on the docket there’s Tony Scott’s cult vampire saga The Hunger (Feb. 11 at midnight); four nights throughout the month (Feb. 7, 14, 21, and 28) dedicated to director Chang Che’s wuxia classics The One-Armed Swordsman and Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (the latter screening on a new 35mm print that, according the theater, is the only known copy of the film in existence); a one-off triple bill of the early Woody Allen comedies Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, and Sleeper (Feb. 18); and, finally, a pair of stand-alone showcases for Marcel Carne’s midcentury classic Children of Paradise (Feb. 24 and 25).

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