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

Los Angeles cinephiles can treat their Cannes envy this month with a variety of options, including James Dean classics, a tribute to late German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and works by Jonathan Demme and Maren Ade.


One of the strongest months in recent memory at the New Beverly brings a cornucopia of classics from across the spectrum of American cinema. The all-celluloid rep house’s unofficial series for the month focuses on actor James Dean, whose three most iconic roles will be showcased in multi-nights stands of George Steven’s Giant (May 7, 8, and 9, screening on an IB Tech print), Elia Kazan’s East of Eden (May 10 and 11, screening with the 2005 documentary James Dean: Forever Young), and Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (May 12 and 13, screening with Don Weis’ The Gene Krupa Story). Elsewhere there’s a provocative triple bill of films centered on sexually exploited young women, featuring Richard T. Heffron’s Trackdown, Paul Schrader’s Hardcore, and Robert Butler’s Night of the Juggler (May 3 and 4); a thematically paired double feature of Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Richard Compton’s Macon County Line (May 5 and 6); a three-night showcase of Otto Preminger’s star-studded epic Exodus (May 14, 15, and 16), featuring Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, and Ralph Richardson; two nights of John Ford’s late masterpiece Cheyenne Autumn (May 21 and 22, IB Tech print), with Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, James Stewart, and Dolores del Río (more on her below); a double feature of Elaine May’s mistreated comedic romps A New Leaf and Ishtar (May 28 and 29); and a pair of Robert Zemeckis’s early films, I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars (May 31). Plan accordingly. 

DOLORES DEL RIO AT LACMA | 5905 Wilshire Blvd.

This month at LACMA the museum’s Tuesday Matinee series is dedicated to Dolores del Río, the famed Mexican actress who made her name in Hollywood throughout the 1920s, 30s, and 40s while simultaneously making significant contributions to her home country’s own burgeoning film industry. Del Río’s striking features were utilized by an impressive list of storied studio directors and against a number of A-list actors during Hollywood’s Golden Age, whether alongside Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio (screening May 2, 35mm), or opposite Reginald Owen as Louis XV in  William Dieterle’s period piece Madame Du Barry (May 9 on 16mm). Subsequent Tuesdays find the actress starring in Lloyd Bacon’s love story In Caliente (May 19, DCP); among a cast of many in Norman Foster and Orson Welles’ Journey Into Fear (May 23, 16mm), featuring such Mercury Theatre staples Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick, and Agnes Moorehead; and, finally, in a key role in John Ford and Emilio Fernández’s The Fugitive (May 30, 16mm), with Del Río as a Native American woman conspiring to help an outlaw priest (played by Henry Fonda) escape execution in religiously-fraught, small town Mexico. 


The recently deceased German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus is paid tribute by the American Cinematheque this month with small retrospectives at each of their home venues, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Unsurprisingly, Ballhaus’ two most storied collaborators, Martin Scorsese and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, comprise the bulk of the offerings. While the Egyptian is hosting DCP presentations of Scorsese’s Goodfellas (May 13) and Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (May 12), the Aero is pleasingly showcasing 35mm pairings of two of Scorsese’s most underrated films, After Hours and The Color of Money (May 5), along with Fassbinder’s groundbreaking The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant and Beware of a Holy Whore (May 6), before capping the weekend on May 7 with perhaps Ballhaus and Fassbinder’s most impressive visual achievement, the 4-hour sci-fi television extravaganza World on a Wire.


With the bulk of the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s May calendar devoted to a series of contemporary Iranian cinema (with one choice older title, Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten, acting as an anchor for a wider consideration of the country’s current output), the month’s offerings of older films at the Billy Wilder Theater are largely relegated to one-off showings. Luckily, an absolute doozy is scheduled for May 15, when Fritz Lang’s 1938 social drama You and Me is presented on an exceedingly rare nitrate print. Lang’s third Hollywood film following a fruitful run of silent productions in his native Austria, You and Me combines two of the era’s most popular genres, the musical and the crime film, in a freewheeling capitalist critique that finds Sylvia Sidney and George Raft’s ex-cons-turned-lovers attempting to integrate themselves into a bourgeois class that feels rigged to maintain their status as social pariahs. The Archive’s 35mm nitrate presentation promises an ideal theatrical experience. 


A number of small-scale programs and single title events comprise the bulk of Cinefamily’s most interesting May offerings. On May 6, as part of the “No Great Women” series, there’s a 35mm screening of Sally Potter’s Virginia Wolfe adaptation Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane, followed that same evening by Peter Watkin’s fictionalized rock ‘n’ roll polemic Privilege; another series, “Fight the Power,” brings with it two urban cult classics, the Chicago-set heist film The Spook Who Sat By the Door (May 11), and Lizzie Borden’s epochal New York science fiction allegory Born in Flames (May 12, with Borden in person). Meanwhile, on May 13, the Saturday afternoon matinee series “The Silent Treatment” returns with Yazujio Ozu’s early family drama Tokyo Chorus, while two contemporary classics, Everyone Else (May 16), from Toni Erdmann director Maren Ade, and, in what’s sure to be an emotional tribute to the dearly departed maverick Jonathan Demme, a midnight screening of the Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs (May 19), round out the calendar. 

Source: Hollywood

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