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

Cinema V/Photofest
'The Cool World' (1964)

Among options for SoCal cinephiles this month are a new digital restoration of an early Fellini classic, a series of films featuring Oscar-winning performances, classics from Scorsese and Miyazaki and more.

AMERICAN NEOREALISM AT THE BILLY WILDER | 10899 Wilshire Blvd.

Running throughout January and into early February at the Billy Wilder Theater is the first of a two-part series exploring the influence of Italian neorealism on post-war American independent cinema. Co-curated by UCLA Film and Television Archive programmer Paul Malcolm and former Archive preservationist Ross Lipman, the series begins Jan. 10 with a double bill of J.L. Anderson’s 1967 feature Spring Night, Summer Night, one of Lipman’s most notable restorations during his time at the Archive, and a new video essay by Lipman about the film’s troubled production and unlikely rediscovery. Of the month’s remaining double and triple bills, one should make special note of a Jan. 12 program of three midcentury docudramas by Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, Ray Ashley, James Agee and Sidney Meyers; a double feature, on Jan. 18, of Shirley Clarke’s lyrical portrait of Harlem gang life The Cool World and Michael Roemer’s Nothing But a Man, an incisive depiction of racial discrimination in Jim Crow Alabama; a Jan. 23 pairing of Kent MacKenzie’s landmark portrayal of Native American life in Los Angeles, The Exiles, and the 1960 cinema verite experiment The Savage Eye, co-directed by Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers and Joseph Strick; and a double bill of Eagle Pennell’s Texas-set drama The Whole Shootin’ Match and John Hanson’s little-seen 1978 feature Northern Lights, a World War I-era period piece centered on a farmer who becomes an activist for the region’s labor union.

THE WHITE SHEIK AT THE LAEMMLE ROYAL | 11523 Santa Monica Blvd.

Opening on Jan. 17 at the Laemmle Royal is Rialto’s new digital restoration of Federico Fellini’s classic comedic romance The White Sheik. Originally released in 1952, the Italian maestro’s first solo feature follows a newlywed couple whose honeymoon in Rome slowly goes awry when the starry-eyed wife (Brunella Bovo) heads off in search of the hero of her favorite fumetti novels while the husband (Leopoldo Trieste) is left to appease his eager family who hope to meet the bride. Several degrees lighter and more humorous than the swooning dramas that would make the filmmaker’s name in the mid-‘60s, The White Sheik stands apart in the director's filmography with its freewheeling charm and ramshackle energy — and is all the better for it. Fellini would go on to make more personal and ambitious films, but few can match The White Sheik’s ingratiating combination of the familiar and the fantastic. Of additional note for Fellini fans: On Jan. 22, Laemmle will be hosting one-night-only screenings of 1969's Fellini Satyricon at the Royal, Glendale and Playhouse 7 theaters.

SUZAN PITT TRIBUTE AT REDCAT | 631 W 2nd St.

On Jan. 20, Film at REDCAT will pay tribute to the late artist Suzan Pitt with a special program of her groundbreaking film work. Pitt, who died last June, pioneered a form of analog animation that combined elements of surrealism and psychodrama into strangely intoxicating narrative dioramas. Featuring films from throughout her four-decade career, REDCAT’s program will spotlight the range and versatility of Pitt’s practice. Four of the evening’s seven titles will be screening on either 16mm or 35mm, including the early short Jefferson Circuit Songs; 1979’s macabre featurette Asparagus, Pitt's first 35mm work and a film that spent two years traveling the midnight movie circuit with David Lynch’s Eraserhead; 1995’s hand-painted marvel Joy Street, about a woman who begins to re-experience life’s small pleasures with the help of a friendly street mouse; and 2006’s El Doctor, a nightmarish descent into a Mexican hospital run by a drunken doctor. Despite the unsettling content, Pitt’s work radiates a rare sense of wonder and empathy with the natural world and those less fortunate, a quality that continues to find resonance in contemporary times.

SCORSESE, MIYAZAKI AND OSCAR-WINNING PERFORMANCES AT THE NEW BEV | 7165 Beverly Blvd.

A variety of mini series and themed programs highlight the New Beverly’s January calendar. Chief among these is a run of Saturday midnight screenings of four films by Martin Scorsese and four weekend afternoon showings of animated classics by Hayao Miyazaki, with 35mm prints of Raging Bull (Jan. 18) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (Jan. 18 and 19) being the most noteworthy inclusions. Weekday matinees, meanwhile, are given over to films featuring Oscar-winning performances. Highlights include Rod Stieger’s role as a racist police chief Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (Jan. 8); Ernest Borgnine’s lovably lonely title character in Delbert Mann’s Marty (Jan. 22); and Jane Fonda’s seen-it-all call girl in Klute. Also of note are a series of studio-era double bills paired by director. These include two late films by Joseph Losey, Secret Ceremony and Boom! (Jan. 8 and 9); two early-1940s epics by Cecil B. DeMille, Unconquered and Reap the Wild Wind (Jan. 20 and 21); and a pair of adventure classics directed by Henry Hathaway, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Jan. 28), starring Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney, Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda among them.

TSAI MING-LIANG AND CY ENDFIELD AT THE JAMES BRIDGES THEATER | 235 Charles E. Young Dr East

Late last year, Christina Jang, director of UCLA's campus-based screening series Melnitz Movies, brought on new repertory programming director Micah Gottlieb — and the move is already paying dividends. Following a recent 35mm presentation of Michael Mann’s Manhunter, Melnitz returns to the James Bridges Theater in January with a pair of noteworthy screenings: On Jan. 9, Tsai Ming-liang’s 2001 feature What Time Is It There? will screen on a 35mm preservation print, followed on Jan. 30 by a restored 35mm print of Cy Endfield’s 1950 noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me!). While completely different on paper — Tsai’s film, about a street vendor who becomes obsessed with setting every clock in Taipei to Paris time, represented the great Taiwanese director’s international breakthrough, while Endfield’s mid-century crime thriller was his final film before being blacklisted as part of Hollywood’s fight against communism — the two pics nonetheless speak to the range of the efforts of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, who have worked to preserve each of these seminal titles. As always, Melnitz screenings are free and open to the public.

I.B. TECHNICOLOR AT THE EGYPTIAN | 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

On Jan. 18 and 19, the Egyptian Theatre will present a five-film program of Hollywood classics shot on I.B. Technicolor film stock. In use until 1974, I.B. Technicolor involved a painstaking three-color dye-transfer process that resulted in vivid color saturation — a look synonymous with a bygone era of studio filmmaking. Beginning the afternoon of Jan. 18 with Richard Fleischer’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the weekend-long series should provide a crash course in the technology’s singular palette of textures and pigments. Other titles include Marlon Brando’s sole directorial effort, One-Eyed Jacks, a feverish Western set in rural Mexico; Peter Fonda’s own spin on the Old West, The Hired Hand (screening on an actor-director double bill with Brando’s film the evening of Jan. 18); Terence Young’s first entry in the James Bond series, Dr. No (Jan. 19); and Alfred Hitchcock’s unmatched urban thriller Rear Window (Jan. 19), featuring the duo of James Stewart and Grace Kelly in two of their most iconic roles.