With the fifth wave of the pandemic fading, we’re ready to restart Anniversary Classics Abroad, our repertory series of great foreign films. First up is the raucous sex comedy THE SEDUCTION OF MIMI. A tribute to Lina Wertmüller, who recently passed away and was the first female director to be nominated by the Academy, the film provides the best medicine, copious laughter. We’ll follow that up with Almodóvar’s TALK TO HER, Truffaut’s JULES & JIM and the Liv Ullmann-Max von Sydow drama THE EMIGRANTS. We are planning eight more films for the rest of 2022, titles to be announced!
Alfonso Cuarón’s sexy and provocative road movie, Y Tu Mamá También marked a homecoming as well as a breakthrough for Cuarón in 2001. After making his directorial debut a decade earlier in his native Mexico, Cuarón was drawn to Hollywood, where he earned strong reviews for A Little Princess and a modern-day reworking of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Then, however, Cuarón decided to return to Mexico to make a more personal film and he wowed the cinematic world with this coming-of-age drama. Y Tu Mamá También broke box office records in Mexico when it opened in the summer of 2001. It went on to win the Best Screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival and was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay the following year. Cuarón wrote the film with his brother Carlos Cuarón.
Cuarón cast two up-and-coming young actors, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, as teenage friends from different social classes. The working class Julio (Bernal) and the upper class Tenoch (Luna) are friends and rivals. They both become infatuated with an older woman (Spanish actress Maribel Verdú) and invite her to join them on a road trip to a spectacular, secluded beach. She accepts and they embark on an adventure that turns out to be a funny, sexy and revelatory experience for all three of them. Much of the film was improvised by the actors, with Cuarón’s encouragement.
In addition to the luscious cinematography and the sexual candor (it was released unrated in the U.S.), the film features narration in the style of some of the European films that inspired Cuarón, particularly Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, another landmark movie about a ménage à trois. Reviews were almost universally glowing. In Newsweek David Ansen wrote, “The movie has an emotional kick that lingers like a primal memory.” Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum called the movie “sad, funny, sexy, and altogether marvelous.” The New York Times’ Elvis Mitchell concurred, describing Y Tu Mamá También as “fast, funny, unafraid of sexuality and finally devastating.”
The film’s success propelled Cuarón to the front ranks of contemporary directors. He went on to helm the best Harry Potter movie (The Prisoner of Azkaban), the dystopian Children of Men, and earned an Oscar for his direction of the sci-fi adventure Gravity. When he returned to Mexico to make the autobiographical Roma, he earned a second Oscar as Best Director.
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present FRENCH CANCAN, one of the best late films created by master director Jean Renoir: a rousing tribute to the 19th century world that his celebrated father, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and other Impressionists created in their paintings. Set mainly in Montmartre and the original Moulin Rouge nightclub in the 1890s, the film chronicles the revival of the cancan that electrified Paris. This film marked Renoir’s return to filmmaking in France after a lengthy exile caused by World War II.
Renoir’s main character, a theatrical impresario named Henri Danglard, is portrayed by legendary French actor Jean Gabin, who had worked with Renoir in the 1930s in The Lower Depths, La Bete Humaine, and the director’s antiwar masterpiece, La Grande Illusion. Gabin, for decades the face of French cinema, creates a vivid character in FRENCH CANCAN, a producer who has the restlessness of an artist, always seeking new challenges—and new romances in his personal life. The principal women in his life are portrayed by Francoise Arnoul and Maria Felix, with the legendary singer, Edith Piaf, in a tasty supporting role.
One of the critics who endorsed the film in the 1950s was Francois Truffaut, who was writing criticism before he embarked on his directing career. Truffaut considered FRENCH CANCAN a milestone in the history of color cinema. He observed that one scene of a dance class “reminds us of a Degas sketch,” and he added that Renoir’s direction was “as vigorous and youthful as ever.”
Later reviews also endorsed the film, especially after footage cut from the initial release was restored. Leonard Maltin paid tribute to the “brilliantly beautiful restored version” and called the film “an impressive, enjoyable fiction about beginnings of the Moulin Rouge and impresario Gabin’s revival of the cancan.” Roger Ebert called the film “a delicious musical comedy that deserves comparison with the golden age Hollywood musicals of the same period.” In The Guardian Peter Bradshaw wrote, “The glorious final sequence, in which the cancan is finally unveiled to the rowdy audience, is some kind of masterpiece, perhaps the equal of anything Renoir ever achieved: wild, free, turbulent, exhilarating.”
This musical delight will play at 7 PM on Wednesday, October 13, at four Laemmle theatres: the Royal in West L.A., the Playhouse in Pasadena, the Laemmle Glendale, and the Laemmle Newhall.
We continue our Anniversary Classics series with Bertolucci’s stunner at 7 o’clock on Wednesday, September 29 at our Glendale, Newhall, Pasadena and West L.A. theaters. The film follows Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a member of the secret police in Mussolini’s fascist Italy. He and his new bride, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli), travel to Paris for their honeymoon, where Marcello also plans to assassinate his former college professor Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), an outspoken anti-fascist living in exile. But when Marcello meets the professor’s young wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda), both his romantic and his political loyalties are tested.
“It’s easy to overlook how stark THE CONFORMIST‘s political and allegorical message is because it’s just so damn beautiful.” (Aja Romano, Vox)
“Bertolucci’s masterpiece—made when he was all of 29—will be the most revelatory experience a fortunate pilgrim will have in a theater this year.” (Michael Atkinson, Village Voice)
“THE CONFORMIST is celebrated for cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s tumbling autumn leaves, but its emotional impact involves a tumbling soul.” (Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York)
“THE CONFORMIST is a beautiful and provocative film, and its theme could not be more timely.” (John Hofsess, Maclean’s Magazine)
It’s the 20th anniversary of Alfonso Cuarón’s impossibly sexy, funny Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN, which we’ll screen on December 8.
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present this month’s film in our popular Anniversary Classics Abroad program: Regis Wargnier’s compelling and increasingly timely thriller, East/West. Wargnier had won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his earlier historical epic, Indochine. The Oscar-nominated star of that movie, Catherine Deneuve, collaborated with him again in another fascinating historical drama with an exotic backdrop.
Inspired by true events, East/West tells a story of Russian émigrés living in Paris who were lured back to the Soviet Union after the end of World War II. Russian dictator Josef Stalin promised these refugees a complete pardon if they returned to their homeland. But when they actually returned, many of these refugees were executed or sent to labor camps or forced to live in squalor. The main characters in the story are a doctor (Oleg Menchikov) with a French wife (Sandrine Bonnaire). Deneuve has a vivid supporting role as a visiting French actress who ultimately plays a key role in helping the married couple.
At a time of increasing oppressiveness under the Putin regime in Russia, this reminder of harsh living conditions under the rule of an earlier dictator takes on renewed relevance. Wargnier wrote the screenplay for East/West with Louis Gardel and two Russian writers, Rustam Ibragimbekov and Sergei Bodrov. Bonnaire, the star of earlier French films Vagabond, La Ceremonie, and Monsieur Hire, confirmed her enormous appeal in this picture. Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle (A Little Princess, Sense and Sensibility, Gosford Park), who had worked with Wargnier on Indochine, again contributed a vibrant score.
The Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Thomas declared, “East/West has the scale and rich period atmosphere of Indochine while gradually evolving into an acutely suspenseful thriller.” Writing in Movieline magazine, Stephen Farber paid tribute to the director: “Regis Wargnier has a gift for making sweeping popular entertainment,” and he added, “Sandrine Bonnaire gives a marvelously expressive performance.” The New York Times’ A.O. Scott called East/West a “sumptuous, moving new film,” and Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald hailed it as “a suspenseful and hugely engrossing drama.”
Our 20th anniversary presentation of EAST/WEST screens Wednesday, March 18, at 7pm in Glendale, Pasadena, and West L.A. Click here for tickets.
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series launch 2020 and the new decade with the 50th anniversary of the American release of FELLINI SATYRICON, the first installment of our monthly Abroad program.
The provocative adaptation of Petronius’s Satyricon, written in the first century AD during the reign of Nero in imperial Rome, is our fourth presentation of the films of Federico Fellini, one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the history of cinema. Fellini garnered the third of four directing Oscar nominations for this effort; the Anniversary Classics Series has now showcased all of these nominated films, including La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, and Amarcord.
FELLINI SATYRICON, written by the Italian director with frequent collaborators Brunello Rondi and Bernardino Zapponi, is a freeform adaptation, emulating the fragmentary nature of Petronius’s work that survived. Petronius retold “degenerate” versions of Roman and Greek myth, and Fellini was fascinated by the gaps in the narrative, choosing a style that simulated hallucinatory dreams.
In the fevered tale, two students, Encolpius (Martin Potter) and Ascyltus (Hiram Keller), pursue the love of their young slave Giton (Max Born) through nine episodes of lurid hedonism. Petronius was a sensualist who celebrated and mocked decadence simultaneously, and Fellini matched that vision in the students’ travels and adventures in “grotesque drama and lurid fantasy,” as noted by Roger Ebert. Fellini achieved that effect through the vivid use of color, which was an ironic embrace of a medium the director disdained earlier in his career, preferring black-and-white hues in the 1950s and early 1960s in masterpieces like La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, and La Dolce Vita.
Another frequent collaborator, cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, fully realized Fellini’s vision; as described by TV Guide, “The masterful cinematography and stunning use of color, achieved through the use of deliberately artificial light sources, lend the film an almost hypnotic sheen.”
Fellini was questioned why he employed non-Italian actors to play the leads, and he elaborated on his casting choices, “They looked innocent…with Italians there is always a feeling of morality, but the Anglo-Saxon face has something detached, something crazy, something elegant.”
Critical reception varied from measured appraisals such as Rex Reed, who saw it as an “explosion of madness and perversion, designed like grand opera of the absurd,” to full endorsement from the New York Times’ Vincent Canby, calling it “the quintessential Fellini film, a travelogue through an unknown galaxy, a magnificently realized movie of his and our wildest dreams.”
In a retrospective review in 2001, Roger Ebert wrote, “It is so much more ambitious and audacious than most of what we see today that simply as a reckless gesture, it shames these timid times.”
See it Wednesday, January 22nd at 7pm in Glendale, Pasadena, and West L.A. Click here for tickets.
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present this month’s installment in our popular Anniversary Classics Abroad program: a landmark in the Italian neorealist movement and a special Academy Award winner in 1949, Vittorio De Sica’s THE BICYCLE THIEF.
De Sica and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, another of the key figures in this new wave of filmmaking, worked together several times over the course of their careers, on such films as Shoeshine, Umberto D, Miracle in Milan, Two Women, Boccaccio ’70, and the director’s final film, A Brief Vacation.
One of the hallmarks of the neorealist movement was to shoot on the streets of postwar Italy rather than in the studio and often to cast non-actors for increased verisimilitude. For THE BICYCLE THIEF, De Sica cast a newcomer and former factory worker, Lamberto Maggiaroni, in the title role.
The story, very loosely adapted from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, highlights the desperate circumstances of a working class family in Rome. The father finds a job as a courier, but when his bicycle is stolen, the family’s livelihood is threatened. He and his young son set out to find the thief and retrieve the bicycle, but there turn out to be no easy solutions for this family in crisis. Enzo Staiola plays the son, and Lianella Carell plays the hero’s wife.
In addition to its special Oscar (in the years before the Academy introduced a regular category for foreign-language films), THE BICYCLE THIEF earned a nomination for best screenplay.
Although some Italian critics disparaged the film for promoting a negative picture of postwar Italy, THE BICYCLE THIEF was embraced in most other parts of the world.
When it opened in America, the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther raved, “Again the Italians have sent us a brilliant and devastating film in Vittorio De Sica’s rueful drama of modern city life.”
In 1952 the British magazine Sight and Sound polled international critics to name the ten greatest movies in cinema history, and The Bicycle Thief topped the list.
Endorsements continued over the years. Pauline Kael wrote, “This neorealist classic, directed by Vittorio De Sica and written by Cesare Zavattini, is on just about everybody’s list of the greatest films.”
When a restored version was released in the United States many years later, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times observed, “This film manages to appeal to the better angels of our nature in a way that only deepens as we grow older along with the film.”
THE BICYCLE THIEF also inspired filmmakers in many other countries, including India’s Satyajit Ray and Britain’s Ken Loach.
Don’t miss our 70th anniversary screenings on Tuesday, November 19, at 7PM in Glendale, Pasadena, and West LA. Click here for tickets.