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

Lola Montes BW Still - Photofest - H 2019

Queer classics, Indian cinema masters, the Coen brothers and favorites of former New Yorker critic Pauline Kael are among highlights from the Los Angeles retrospective and revival scene this month.


The Leo S. Bing Theater, one of LACMA’s three original buildings and one of Los Angeles’ longest-running and most storied cinemas, is closing its doors at the end of June in anticipation of a years-long redevelopment project set to begin at the museum in the coming months. Appropriately, for its final month of programming the theater is screening a number of classics from across the annals of film history, movies of the sort that the theater built its reputation on. In addition to the regular Tuesday Matinee series — this month dedicated to three late-'60s/early-'70s crime films (Super Fly, June 4; The French Connection, June 11; and The Godfather, June 18) and the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch black comedy To Be or Not to Be (June 25) — and a special June 13 screening of Leo McCarey’s seminal screwball comedy The Awful Truth (presented, full disclosure, as the opening night of Locarno in Los Angeles, a film festival I help organize), the calendar is highlighted by a quartet of final films by legendary directors. Titles include Max Ophuls’ tragedy Lola Montes (June 7), Jean Vigo’s pioneering L’Atalante (June 10), Krystof Kieslowski’s seductive and mysterious Three Colors: Red (June 20; members-only screening) and, lastly, Yasujiro Ozu’s elegiac An Autumn Afternoon (June 27), one of the greatest of all final films and, as such, a poignant way to say goodbye to the Bing Theater.


A typically packed month at the New Beverly Cinema brings with it no less than three notable series, including a week of pioneering queer cinema, a quartet of Wednesday matinees dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock’s underappreciated ‘60s work and, in anticipation of Quentin Tarantino’s 1969-set Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a monthlong overview of films from that watershed year of American cinema. Beginning with a two-night stand (June 2 and 3) of the late Stanley Donen’s “sad gay story” Staircase and John Huston’s controversial Reflections in a Golden Eye, starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor as an unhappily married couple, the queer cinema overview swerves across a spectrum of registers and styles, and includes double features of John Waters’ Pink Flamingoes and Female Trouble (June 4); R.W. Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Fox and His Friends (June 5 and 6); Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances and Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche; and, perhaps most enticingly, Robert Aldrich’s lesbian drama The Killing of Sister George and John Flynn’s The Sergeant, the story of a military official (played by Hollywood tough guy Rod Steiger) who begins to develop feelings for one of his soldiers (John Phillip Law). Highlights of the Hitchcock matinees, meanwhile, include the 1966 political thriller Torn Curtain (June 19), starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, and perhaps the greatest of the Master of Suspense’s late films, the 1964 psychosexual thriller Marnie (June 12), featuring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. And of the remaining 1969 films, some titles to note include Jacques Demy’s Los Angeles-set Model Shop (June 18), Bob Fosse’s Shirley MacLaine-starring musical-comedy Sweet Charity and, finally, Alan J. Pakula’s offbeat romance The Sterile Cuckoo, featuring Liza Minnelli as a college freshman who begins to fall for a shy student at a neighboring school.


A quick but crucial two-night series of films by the great Czech director Vera Chytilova highlights the June calendar at the Egyptian Theatre. On June 28, Chytilova’s two most celebrated features, 1966’s feminist landmark Daisies and 1970’s hallucinatory spin on the Adam and Eve story Fruit of Paradise, will screen in digitally restored versions alongside Ceiling and A Bagful of Fleas, a pair of little-seen medium-length films from 1962 that presage the unruly personal and political force of the director's more recognized work. And following on June 30 is a second double feature of the rarely screened Panelstory, from 1980, a biting social satire set in a crumbling Czech housing block, and 1983’s The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun, a visually sumptuous, penetrating portrait of an aging lothario that will screen on an archival 35mm print. Chytilova, who died in 2014 at the age of 85, directed dozens of films over her half-century career; these are a handful of the very best.


A trio of enticing double features anchor the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s June calendar: First, on June 15, the great independent filmmaker Nina Menkes will bring the new digital restoration of her 1991 feature Queen of Diamonds to the Billy Wilder Theater for a double bill that will also include a 35mm presentation of that film's 1996 follow-up The Bloody Child. Two of the era’s most radical and affecting meditations on female identity and violence, Queen of Diamonds and The Bloody Child, each starring the director's sister Tinka and set in the deserts of the western United States, showcase the complexity of Menkes’ approach to narrative and her unique and uncompromising sense of cinematic time and space. And later in the month, Sandi Tan, director of the recent documentary Shirkers, will present two curated double features centered on doomed young people: On June 21, Leos Carax’s notorious 1999 Herman Melville adaptation Pola X, starring Catherine Deneuve and the late actors Guillaume Depardieu and Yekaterina Golubeva, will share a bill with Tim Hunter’s harrowing 1986 coming-of-age drama River’s Edge, featuring unforgettable performances from Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye and Dennis Hopper, followed on June 22 by the pairing of Jonathan Caouette’s bracing 2004 autobiographical documentary Tarnation and the great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 1996 gangster film Goodbye South, Goodbye. Tan will be on hand to introduce each program.


This month’s Projections program at the Bootleg Theater, co-presented in association with Vidiots, is set for June 23 and will feature classics by Satyajit Ray and Ishu Patel, two giants of Indian cinema. Beginning the evening will be Patel’s 1984 short Paradise, a lovingly detailed and richly animated work in which a lonely blackbird yearns to be as beautiful and adored as the local Emperor’s Bird of Paradise. (Quentin Tarantino fans will no doubt recognize the film’s music, which the director made memorable use of in Kill Bill Vol. 1.) Following in a restored 35mm print will be Ray’s 1964 feature Charulata, a tale of tragic romance between the unsatisfied wife of a newspaper editor and her visiting cousin-in-law. The film, which Ray considered the best of his own work, brought the director’s flair for feverish domestic drama and pointed sociopolitical commentary to new heights of allegorical enchantment.


This month at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, two short but sweet programs catch the eye. The first, dedicated to a handful of favorites of the critic Pauline Kael (who would’ve tuned 100 this year), runs from June 13-16 and features the digital restoration of Marcel Carne’s epic romance from 1945, Children of Paradise (June 13), a June 14 double feature of Arthur Penn’s 1967 landmark Bonnie and Clyde (screening digitally) and Robert Altman’s underrated 1974 Thieves Like Us (35mm) and, on June 15, a 35mm double bill of two early-‘80s American comedy classics, Barry Levinson’s nostalgic coming-of-age fable Diner, starring Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, and Kevin Bacon, and Jonathan Demme’s Melvin and Howard, which tells the incredible true story of an oddball service station employee (Paul Le Mat) who improbably befriended billionaire businessman Howard Hughes (Jason Robards). Kael, as it happens, was no fan of Joel and Ethan Coen, whose 1984 debut Blood Simple the writer famously panned. Critic Adam Nayman, author of the new book The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together, will lend a different perspective when he presents three Coen brothers double features at the Aero this month. On June 21, a digital restoration of Blood Simple will share a bill with a 35mm print of the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men, followed on June 22 by the 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski and 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There (both digital) and, on June 23, by 1996‘s iconic Fargo (screening on 35mm) and 2009’s still under-appreciated A Serious Man (digital). Nayman will be on hand to introduce and sign copies of his book before each program.