Wednesday, July 29, 2009

memories of lacma's wonderful weekend film program

I'm still getting over the news, announced yesterday, that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be discontinuing its weekend film series. Frankly, the only news that would have been worse would be LACMA deciding to do away with the Bing Theater altogether.

Some of my favorite moviegoing memories of the last 10-12 years are in that theater. Off the top of my head ...
  • Having the entire theater to myself for one whole day last summer when I reviewed the restored seven-hour version of Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace for L.A. Weekly. I got to live out some last-man-on-Earth fantasies that day.
  • Catching a double feature of Safe and the Bob Flanagan documentary Sick in the late '90s. During Safe, there was a weird buzzing going on -- was it the print? the speakers? -- that only added to that film's hypnotic hold on the viewer.
  • Seeing Robert Altman's Short Cuts for the umpteenth time and being convinced that this might be the greatest Los Angeles film ever.
  • Watching Jeanne Dielman for the first time this past April and being convinced that this might be one of the greatest films ever.
  • Sitting a row in front of Chris Parnell a few weeks later for Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light. The film's flaws aside, this is the sort of movie whose power simply cannot be duplicated on DVD. It's not that you need to be sitting by Parnell, but you need strangers around you, all silently soaking in the same images as you are at the exact same time.
  • Finally getting my wish to show my wife Edward Yang's Yi Yi last October. Again, it's a movie you have to see in a theater the first time.
  • Discovering 1946's The Murderers Are Among Us, the opening-night selection of LACMA's "Two Germanys" film series from this past winter. My wife just had a feeling it was worth seeing, so we went. She was right.
  • The Preston Sturges retrospective of the late '90s. From the sold-out audience's reaction to The Lady Eve, you'd swear the film was just as fresh and relevant as it ever was.
  • Being baffled by Don't Look Now on my initial viewing.
  • Seeing Sleeping Beauty again for the first time in forever.
  • Wishing I wasn't so exhausted while trying to absorb Robert Altman's Vincent and Theo.
  • Getting lost all over again with McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
I know I'm forgetting some, but I'll just stop right there. I didn't go every week or every month, but I liked knowing that LACMA's film program was there. Now it's gone. I wonder what it's like to have hobbies and passions that aren't constantly undermined by financial woes and fickle audience tastes. Must be nice.