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

Warner Bros./Photofest
Anjelica Huston in Nicolas Roeg's 'The Witches' (1991)

SoCal cinephiles can kick off the year in style with retrospectives devoted to Jean-Luc Godard and Nicolas Roeg, as well as a series of films made by female directors in the 1970s and much more.

WOMEN DIRECTORS OF THE 1970s AT THE BILLY WILDER | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.

Beginning in late January at the Billy Wilder Theater, the UCLA Film & Television Archive will present a monthlong series of films made by female directors in the 1970s. This era of American cinema, so often dominated in retrospective appraisals by the self-styled male “auteurs” of the New Hollywood generation, in fact holds an equally rich history of women working behind and in front of the camera. Inspired by Maya Montanez Smukler’s new book Liberating Hollywood: Women Directors and the Feminist Reform of 1970s American Cinema, the series kicks off Jan. 25 with a pair of films authored by Joan Tewkesbury: 1974's Thieves Like Us, her first of two screenplays for director Robert Altman, and 1979's Old Boyfriends, Tewkesbury’s directorial debut (with a script by Paul and Leonard Schrader), starring Talia Shire as a divorcee who sets off on a road trip to find her former lovers. The following night, Jan. 26, brings two films by writer-director Barbara Peeters that turn the exploitation genre on its head: In 1971's Bury Me An Angel, a real life female biker plays a woman out to avenge her brother’s murder, while 1975's Summer School Teachers follows a trio of Midwestern women who take summer teaching jobs in Los Angeles, wreaking playful havoc and upending all manner of gender discrimination along the way. Peeters and Tewkesbury will both be in person for their respective screenings, while Montanez Smukler will be on hand all weekend to sign copies of her book.

NICOLAS ROEG AT THE EGYPTIAN | 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

There’s plenty to recommend at the Egyptian Theatre this month, including a few choice pairings of films by genre masters Dario Argento and Brian De Palma (Jan. 24-26) and a one-off 35mm presentation of Samuel Fuller’s 1964 neo-noir The Naked Kiss (Jan. 27), with veteran actress Constance Towers in person. But the item that stands out most is a tribute to the late British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg, who passed away in November at the age of 90. The series begins Jan. 17 with a double bill of Roeg’s 1971 solo directorial debut Walkabout, screening on 35mm, and a 4K restoration of 1976s The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie in his most beloved onscreen role, with cinematographer Tony Richmond on hand to introduce both films. The following night, Jan. 18, actress Anjelica Huston will be in person to introduce a 35mm print of the 1991 cult classic The Witches, in which she stars as an evil coven queen, while the final two double bills, of Don’t Look Now and Cold Heaven (Jan. 19) and Bad Timing and Eureka (Jan. 20, all 35mm), bring together a number of Roeg’s most accomplished films, as he developed a unique flair for flitting between genres and emotional registers with formidable technical and narrative prowess.

JEAN-LUC GODARD AT THE AERO | 1328 Montana Ave.

With Jean-Luc Godard’s new feature The Image Book rolling out theatrically in the early in part of 2019, the American Cinematheque will bring a small, five-film series of highlights from the 88-year-old iconoclast’s New Wave period to the Aero Theatre in mid-January. (The Aero will also host The Image Book’s Los Angeles run in February.) Split almost evenly between 35mm prints and digital restorations, the series begins Jan. 18 with a double of 1963's landmark Contempt (DCP), starring an ever-radiant Brigitte Bardot, and the comparatively little-seen La Petit Soldat (35mm), Godard’s second feature from 1960, his first of many films with actress Anna Karina and the first evidence of his burgeoning political consciousness. Sharing a bill the following night, Jan. 19, are two later Karina collaborations, 1965's sci-fi-tinged Alphaville and 1966's color-coordinated crime comedy Made in U.S.A., while the final night, Jan. 20, brings the new restoration of Godard’s infamous 1968 Rolling Stones documentary One Plus One (a.k.a. Sympathy for the Devil), which spends as much time behind the scenes with the band as it does confronting the sociopolitical temperament of the day.

CANYON PASSAGE AT THE AUTRY MUSEUM | 4700 Western Heritage Way

As the Los Angeles repertory scene hit a bit of a low last year with the temporary closure of the New Beverly and the ongoing void left by the shuttering of Cinefamily, it was great to see the Autry Museum of the American West come into their own as a viable destination for classic cinema. And their run continues right at the start of 2019 with a 35mm presentation of Jacques Tourneur’s 1946 classic Canyon Passage. Screening the afternoon of Jan. 12, Tourneur’s Technicolor Western — his first foray into the genre following a celebrated run of horror films with producer Val Lewton — pits romance, greed and violence against the majesty of a remote Oregon mining town. Starring Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward and Brian Donlevy, the film confronts morality in starkly philosophical terms, turning the codes of the Old West into a complex negotiation of personal and political priorities.

GRIFFITH, GODARD AND MORE AT ECHO PARK FILM CENTER | 1200 N. Alvarado St.

Following a short hiatus, the invaluable Kino Slang screening series at Echo Park Film Center returns this month with another tantalizing evening of rarities from a range of revered film artists. Comprised, per Kino Slang’s listing, of “films on work, exploitation, commodities, production, theft, unemployment, consumer control, employment, life, death, and love,” this Jan. 26 program (to be presented digitally) brings together shorts by D.W. Griffith and Georges Franju (1909's The Song of the Shirt and 1956's Monsieur and Madame Curie, respectively), two films by veteran critic and filmmaker Luc Moullet (the companion pieces Always More and Always Less, from 1993 and 2010) and a medium-length work by Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville called The Darty Report. Rarely seen, this 50-minute video was apparently banned by the very corporation that funded it, the French appliance chain Darty.

ELVIS PRESLEY AND HAROLD LLOYD AT LACMA | 5905 Wilshire Blvd.

This month’s Tuesday Matinee series at LACMA is split between two movie stars: Elvis Presley and Harold Lloyd. The pair of Presley films, 1957's Jailhouse Rock (Jan. 8) and 1964's Viva Las Vegas (Jan. 15), both screening on 35mm, were built around their star’s magnetic charisma, as well as his songbook: Each of these quasi-musicals uses its scene-setting title tracks as anthemic accompaniment for inspiring tales of loss and redemption. Lloyd, meanwhile, gets the double-feature treatment: On Jan. 22, two of Lloyd’s earliest successes, 1922's Grandma’s Boy and 1923's Safety Last!, will share an afternoon bill, while The Freshmen and Speedy, two sports-related features from 1925 and 1928, close out the month on Jan. 29. All four Lloyd films will be presented digitally.