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

Photofest
'Lone Star'

Work from the Kuchars, Julie Dash, Charles Burnett, Ousmane Sembène, John Sayles, Larry Clark and the overdue U.S. release of a docufction by Chinese master Jia Zhangke beckon cinephiles this month.

MIKE KUCHAR, MANUEL DeLANDA AND CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN AT REDCAT | 631 W 2nd St.

For fans of classic experimental cinema, there are three screenings to make note of this month at downtown’s REDCAT theater. First, on Feb. 3, is a program of films by twin brothers Mike and George Kuchar. Legends of the 1960s New York Underground, the Kuchars produced a series of delightfully perverse re-imaginings of Hollywood melodramas that did as much as any films of that era to advance notions of camp and queer representation in cinema. Mike Kuchar himself will be in person to discuss the program, which will feature a selection of his and his late brother’s work in 8mm and 16mm (including 1960’s I Was a Teenage Rumpot and 1983’s Cattle Mutilations), alongside a few of his more recent digital experiments. Following on Feb. 24, the Mexican American filmmaker Manuel DeLanda will be on hand to present a selection of his own groundbreaking film and video work, including the wonderfully grotesque (and rarely screened) trio of 1977’s The Itch Scratch Itch Cycle, 1978’s Incontinence: A Diarrhetic Flow of Mismatches and 1982’s Massive Annihilation of Fetuses (aka: Judgment Day). Finally, on Feb. 29, the recently departed Carolee Schneemann will be paid tribute with a daylong program looking back at a body of work that redefined how female sexuality was depicted onscreen. Along with a panel discussion with filmmakers and artists Peggy Ahwesh, Maggie Nelson, Lauren Pratt and Kenneth White, the two-part program will feature films from throughout Schneemann’s career, including the early classics Fuses and Plumb Line (both screening on 16mm), and the late career videos Devour and Infinity Kisses — The Movie.

BLACK VOICES AND JOHN SAYLES AT THE AERO AND EGYPTIAN | 1328 Montana Ave.

This month the American Cinematheque is splitting a pair of notable programs between its Aero and Egyptian theaters. Comprising a selection of groundbreaking films by black directors, “Black Voices” begins Feb. 4 at the Aero with a restoration of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène's 1966 debut Black Girl, about a young West African woman who relocates to France to work for a well-to-do white couple. From there the series continues at the Aero on consecutive Tuesdays with matinee screenings of Charles Burnett’s 1990 masterpiece To Sleep With Anger (Feb. 11, DCP), starring Danny Glover as a mystical Southern drifter who slowly disrupts the lives of an old acquaintance's middle-class family; Sidney Poitier's 1980 prison comedy Stir Crazy (Feb. 18, 35mm), with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in two of their most memorable roles; and Julie Dash's lyrical turn-of-the-20th-century period drama from 1991, Daughters of the Dust (Feb. 25, DCP). Meanwhile, on Feb. 13, the Egyptian will host the series' one evening screening: a 35mm double feature of Car Wash and Cooly High, two mid-'70s classics by director Michael Schultz. Beginning the same night, the American Cinematheque and the UCLA Film and Television Archive begin a two-week tribute to American writer-director John Sayles. Featuring a number of events at the Billy Wilder Theater, the series' Egyptian screenings kick off Feb. 14 with a double bill of Piranha and The Howling, two films written by Sayles for genre maestro Joe Dante. The series then jumps to the Aero for a pair of double features: on Feb. 16, Sayles' 1996 neo-western Lone Star will share a bill with his 1999 Alaska-set drama Limbo, while Feb. 17 will pair the new digital restoration of 1987's Matewan, about the 1920 West Virginia coal miners' strike, with 1991’s capitalist critique City of Hope. Sayles will be appearing in person for all three screenings, where he'll also be signing copies of his new novel, Yellow Earth. For more on this expansive series, see the UCLA Film and Television Archive website.

LARRY CLARK AND CATHERINE BREILLAT AT THE JAMES BRIDGES THEATER | 235 Charles E Young Dr. East

This month’s Melnitz Movies program at the James Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus features two films rarely screened in their original format. On Feb. 13, the under-sung L.A. rebellion filmmaker Larry Clark will be appearing to present a 16mm preservation print of his incendiary 1977 jazz film Passing Through, a unique document of the African American musical community and its struggles within a largely white industry. Interspersed with scenes of feverish jazz improvisation, the film depicts a culture all too rarely represented in American cinema. Meanwhile, on Feb. 20, Catherine Breillat's controversial 1988 film 36 Fillette will screen on a 35mm print. Adapted from the director's semi-autobiographical novel, the film tells of a sexually curious 14-year-old girl's relationship with an ineffectual older man. Never one to refrain from explicit depictions of sexuality, Breillat takes what could be a run-of-the-mill spin on Lolita and turns it into a frank exploration of female agency. On hand to introduce the screening will be artist and writer Corina Copp.

I WISH I KNEW AT THE LAEMMLE GLENDALE | 207 N Maryland Ave.

Ten years after its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, Jia Zhangke's ravishing docufiction I Wish I Knew is receiving a belated U.S. release this month (in a substantially shorter new "director's cut") courtesy of Kino Lorber. Opening Feb. 14 at the Laemmle Glendale, the film finds the great Chinese filmmaker exploring the country's midcentury civil war and subsequent Cultural Revolution through the words and images of a number of civilians and filmmakers who survived the era. Told in Jia's typically laconic style, the film reflects on Shanghai's recent past through a combination of interviews (including a memorable conversation with Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien), movie clips and lightly dramatized sequences featuring the director's longtime muse, Zhao Tao. One of Jia's most beautiful and enlightening works, it's a film about memory and freedom that deserves to be better known — and not forgotten.

PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN AT THE LAEMMLE ROYAL | 11523 Santa Monica Blvd.

Opening on Feb. 21 at the Laemmle Royal is a new digital restoration of Albert Lewin's 1951 Technicolor drama Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Set in 1930 in the fictional Spanish port town of Esperanza, the film follows the romantic travails of a sultry nightclub singer (Ava Gardner) and a Dutch sea captain (James Mason), whose passion for one another threatens to upend their personal and professional lives. As they navigate between extreme displays of love and rebuke, the film builds to a feverishly melodramatic peak. Captured in a rich palette of oceanic blues by legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus), the film — whose 4K restoration was completed by the Cohen Film Collection in conjunction with OSC (France), using the photochemical restoration begun by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation in 2008, using the director’s personal 35mm print as a reference point—stands as one of British cinema's most singularly surreal achievements.