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

Frederick Wiseman - High School - Screenshot - H - 2016
Screenshot/Austin Film Society/YouTube

Leave the late-summer drek at the multiplex and challenge yourself with a classic from Frederick Wiseman or Michael Cimino instead.


Inaugurating one of the city’s most ambitious repertory programs, Cinefamily has begun presenting the complete works of master documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Set to roll out over the next four years, the series is now underway with both 16mm and 35mm prints of the director’s first 10 films, originally released between 1967 and 1976. Highlighting the month is a new restoration of High School (Sept. 2, 3, 5, 7 and 16), Wiseman’s intimate snapshot of late-‘60s academia, followed throughout the month by the incendiary Law and Order (Sept 10), a disconcertingly prescient portrait of the American police state; Hospital (Sept. 16), set in Harlem’s Metropolitan Hospital; and Basic Training (Sept. 24), an on-the-ground study of Fort Knox and its troops as the Vietnam War looms in the periphery. Forgoing interviews, voiceover and other tired tropes of documentary cinema, Wiseman helped pioneer the notion of observational nonfiction, capturing America in rich, troubling detail. 


In the wake of the death of American iconoclast Michael Cimino this past summer, there’s been no shortage of quickly assembled retrospectives and revival screenings of his most notable films. This month the New Beverly pays tribute to Cimino with 35mm archival presentations of a few of his lesser-known works. Screening on Sept. 2-3 are a pair of the director’s most notorious post-Oscar productions, The Sicilian and Year of the Dragon, crime films that take idiosyncratic approaches to iconic sources and settings alike (in the case of the former, the Mario Puzo novel of the same name; in the latter, New York’s neon-streaked Chinatown neighborhood). Following on Sept. 11-12 is a double bill of Cimino’s debut, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in one of the most beloved of all action-comedy pairings, and the little seen Desperate Hours, the director’s penultimate film starring his late-career muse Mickey Rourke as a sadistic gangster who holds a father (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his family hostage in futile attempt to flee the country.  


On Sunday, Sept. 18 legendary experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger will visit downtown’s Regent Theater for a program of four films, followed by a live performance by Technicolor Skull, the director’s touring multimedia project with musician Brian Butler. The screening, presented digitally and comprised of a quartet of Anger’s most iconic films, will include Scorpio Rising, Lucifer Rising, Invocation of My Demon Brother and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome; the performance, meanwhile, will feature Anger on theremin and Butler on guitar and electronics. At 89 years old, Anger remains one of Los Angeles’ most influential artists, helping popularize underground cinema throughout the 20th century. His film work, which this selection of films wholly epitomize, represents some of the most transgressive and groundbreaking cinema of its era. 

KIRK DOUGLAS AT THE HAMMER | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.

The UCLA Film and Television Archive’s season-long tribute to Kirk Douglas comes to a close this month at the Hammer Museum with three evenings comprised of a handful of the actor’s most notable collaborations. First up, on Sept. 11, the mid-century westerns The Indian Fighter and Last Train from Gun Hill, directed by Andre de Toth and John Sturges, respectively, will screen as a double bill, followed on Sept. 18 by a pair of noirs by Lewis Milestone and Jacques Tourneur, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Out of the Past. Closing the series on Sept. 30 in grand, if very different, fashion are two Vincente Minnelli classics, The Bad and the Beautiful, co-starring Lana Turner, and Two Weeks in Another Town, featuring Douglas alongside Edward G. Robinson in a self-reflexive tale of creative rejuvenation set against a backdrop of MGM’s most elaborate sets in one of Minnelli’s richest dramas. 

PETER HUTTON AT MOCA | 250 S. Grand Ave. 

On Sept. 8 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Filmforum pays special tribute to experimental veteran Peter Hutton, who died this past June at the age of 71. The Detroit-born Hutton, whose career spanned over four decades, was, among other things, one of the great chroniclers of industrial advancement. His films, wordless reveries shot in extreme environments all across the globe, capture with unparalleled reverence the geographic and material grandeur of settings where human presence is dwarfed by natural and physical phenomena. Filmforum’s 16mm program features a trio of Hutton’s early New York-set films, including New York Near Sleep for Saskia and New York Portrait, Chapters I and II, along with a pair of landscape works from the 1990s, In Titan’s Goblet and Study of a River.