Tell us your favorite ten films of 2021 for a chance to win a Gift Card valid at all eight Laemmle locations and at home on watch.laemmle.com! The deadline for submission is February 21, 2022.
For inspiration, here’s Greg Laemmle’s Top 10 list:
For inspiration, here’s Greg Laemmle’s Top 10 list:
Michael Ordona’s piece in today’s L.A. Times Calendar section — headlined “Movie theater safety during COVID, the sequel: This time it’s personal” —
and the latest newsletter from the National Association of Theatre Owners got Laemmle Theatres President Greg Laemmle thinking about the state of American arthouse exhibition:
“In addition to #CinemaSafe measures, Laemmle Theatres is providing a one-seat lateral buffer even though this is not required. You never have to share an armrest with someone who isn’t part of your party. And in addition to the distancing benefit, the reduced capacity also likely enhances the ability of the ventilation system to clear the air.
“For those who are vaxxed and boosted, there’s arguably a greater risk to one’s health in driving to the theatre than the likelihood of getting sick from an infection acquired while in the theatre (or other “regular” activity). And that’s not me saying that. See journalist David Leonhardt’s quote in the New York Times daily email for January 25, 2022:
“It’s a remarkable disconnect between perception and reality. A majority of the boosted say they are worried about getting sick from Covid. In truth, riding in a car presents more danger to most of them than the virus does.”
“If people want to wait another week or two to let numbers continue to drop, I can’t argue with that. But with Oscar nominations coming on February 8, and absent a new variant, now is the time to show that arthouse audiences still want to support the theatrical experience. With that show of support, distributors will feel confident that movie theatres are back for all audiences and all types of films. Without that show of support, you can expect a future where going to a movie theatre is just for blockbusters like SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.”
Learn more about Laemmle Theatres’ health and safety measures to combat the pandemic here.
“An eyeball-slicing polemic by a bomb-throwing provocateur.” ~ Josh Kupecki, Austin Chronicle
“Amid so many earnest, forgettable COVID-era and COVID-acknowledging movies around the world, here’s one that truly goes for it.” ~ Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“The film first appeared out of long discussions with friends. On a few occasions we discussed real-life stories from Romania and other countries, of teachers being expelled from schools where they were teaching because of what they were doing in their private lives: live-cam sex chat or posting amateur porn recordings on the internet. The discussions were so heated, it made me think that although the topic seems trivial and shallow, there must be a lot more behind it if reactions to it are so powerful. Then I decided to make a film – so now I have the last word in front of my friends, they cannot come up with something like that.
“The film has three parts which engage each other in poetic ways – understanding “poetic” according to Malraux’s definition: “Without doubt all true poetry is irrational in that it substitutes, for the ‘established’ relation of things, a new system of relations.”
“While the film title is mostly self-explanatory, its subtitle, ‘a sketch for a popular film’, could benefit from an explanation. Malraux once noted that “Delacroix, though affirming the superiority of the finished painting over the sketch, kept many of his sketches, whose quality as works of art he considered equal to that of his best paintings.” The idea struck me as relevant and I decided to apply it in filmmaking and try to see what a film would look like if its form was left open, unfinished, like a sketch. And yes, “popular”, since I believe the film could be easy like a summer breeze and because of its tabloid-like topic. But it is not a real popular film. Only a sketch of a possible one.”
On shooting in COVID times:
“The first lockdown ended in Romania at the end of May and we were supposed to film in October and November. When we saw that the second wave of Covid-19 was coming (at the beginning of July), me and the producer Ada Solomon had to decide: either we stick to the plan (which meant also applying for extra funding), with the risk of postponing the shooting in case the crisis worsens, or we film sooner with the money we have. We opted for the latter and started to prepare the film. The number of cases was rising, so I had also to decide how to interact with people. I strongly believe that, as a director, you have a certain responsibility towards the cast and crew.
“When I was young, I really admired all the crazy shoots I read about: Way Down East, Aguirre, Apocalypse Now etc. I still admire them, but I am too weak: I try not to risk the life or health of anybody when it comes to shooting. I don’t think any film in the world is worth someone contracting even a common cold, and my bad films – even less. With these in mind, I did all the casting, and all the rehearsals on Zoom and decided to have the crew wearing masks. And also, even the cast. Firstly, because the film was supposed to be contemporary and the masks were part of our daily life and I wanted to capture this moment, to find the anthropological aspect of the mask-wearing. Secondly, because I cared about the health of the people involved. You know, many of them are in the film at my invitation. I was the host and I felt responsible. Most of the people agreed with these safety regulations. Some of them, more vulnerable, agreed to do the film only because I promised them that the rules of social distancing and protection will be severely respected. We all tested for Covid-19 before shooting and two times more.
“If you went down on the street during this time, the signs that remained — posters for concerts, empty restaurants, and so on and so forth — were already signs of a non-existent reality. Cinema has this possibility to capture things, to capture the signs of the time passing, to make a capsule of the moment in many ways.
“In the first shooting day, Ada Solomon, our producer, explained to everyone that wearing the mask is mandatory on set for the whole film, that we must change it every 4 hours (they were provided free by the production), that we have only sandwiches as catering (for obvious reasons). Everybody (literally: everybody) agreed. And most of us respected the rules, although it was exhausting, and wearing a mask in severe heat for 12 hours a day can be horrible. Then, there were some crew or cast members sometimes not respecting the rules, which made our shoot more challenging than it could have been. I am not against people who break the rules, on the contrary, if it involves only their bodies. I am against breaking the rules when you endanger or harm others. The great thing on a film set (or on my sets, anyway) is that everyone has the same rights as everyone else: the same working hours (apart from special situations, like a more time-consuming make-up etc.), the same food, the same accommodation or transport. So, it was quite disappointing to have a few people every day taking off the mask whenever they could. I see it as a lack of respect for their colleagues, a kind of “Fuck you, I don’t care about anyone else, I want to feel good even if I can infect you.” This sometimes made the atmosphere on the set tense, but that’s it. I felt relieved when the shooting ended, and we were all healthy.”
“What is obscene and how do we define it? We are used to acts which are much more obscene, in a way, than small acts like the one that set off the uproar we see in the film.
“This was my idea — to clash these two types of obscenity, and to see that the one so-called obscenity in the porn video is nothing compared with what is around us, but that we don’t pay attention to.
“The film tells a contemporary story, a small one, a little story. If history and politics are part of the film, that is because the story itself has a deeper meaning if we see it in a historical, societal and political context.
“Obscenity is the theme of this film and the viewers are constantly invited to compare the so- called obscenity of a banal amateur porn video with the obscenity around us and the obscenity we can find in recent history, whose traces are all around. So, the viewers should make this montage operation. Georges Didi Huberman wrote something very important regarding montage and it could apply to our film as well:
“Le montage sera précisément l’une des réponses fondamentales à ce problème de construction de l’historicité. Parce qu’il n’est pas orienté simplement, le montage échappe aux théologies, rend visibles les survivances, les anachronismes, les rencontres de temporalités contradictoires qui affectent chaque objet, chaque événement, chaque personne, chaque geste. Alors, l’historien renonce à raconter ‘une histoire’ mais, ce faisant, il réussit à montrer que l’histoire ne va pas sans toutes les compléxités du temps, toutes les strates de l’archéologie, tous les pointillés du destin.” *
* “Montage will be precisely one of the fundamental responses to this problem of constructing historicity. Because it is not oriented towards simplicity, Montage escapes theologies, and has the power to make visible the legacies, anachronisms, contradictory intersections of temporalities that affect each object, each event, each person, each movement. Thus, the historian renounces telling ‘a story’, but in doing so, succeeds in showing that history cannot be, without all of the complexities of time, all the archaeological strata, all of the perforated fragments of destiny.”
“All film lovers were saddened by the passing of director Peter Bogdanovich last week, but I may have felt it a bit more keenly. Peter joined us for an Anniversary Classics screening of The Last Picture Show in December of 2016 at the Fine Arts Theatre, and he shared incisive memories about the making of the movie and about many of his other encounters with Hollywood legends over the decades. We were all impressed with how well his film held up after 45 years. As many people commented, it didn’t seem dated at all. The evocation of a dying Texas town in the early 1950s remained incisive and poignant.
“That was not my first encounter with Bogdanovich. I first met him when I was a graduate student at UCLA film school in the late 1960s and he taught a class on Howard Hawks, one of his friends and idols. I remember we got into a bit of an argument when I suggested that Hawks’ To Have and Have Not was not quite as original as he claimed but might have owed something to Casablanca, which came out a couple of years earlier and was directed by non-auteur Michael Curtiz. Anyway, Peter cheerfully dismissed my criticisms. Around the same time, I saw his first film, Targets, which impressed me greatly. Its portrayal of a mass shooter was way ahead of its time, and this story was welded skillfully to an inside-Hollywood tale starring the legendary Boris Karloff in one of his last screen performances. After that came The Last Picture Show and two other huge hits, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon. We are hoping to pay tribute to Peter with a 50th Anniversary screening of Doc this year.
“Not all of his later movies were as successful, but he continued working productively, and he also scored successes as an actor and as a film historian. His books of interviews with directors and actors were enormously valuable to all film students and film lovers.
“In the 50 years between that UCLA class and the screening of The Last Picture Show, I encountered Peter on several occasions, and he was always warm and engaging. When I was writing a story about Cher in the 1990s, he shared some incisive memories of directing her in Mask, even though he spoke quite candidly about the tensions between them. Although he was a lover of old Hollywood, he saw the blemishes as well as the triumphs; he was a most clear-eyed observer. Hollywood did not always treat him any better than it treated some of his idols, like his good friend Orson Welles, but he survived to tell the tales, and he never surrendered to bitterness. I feel fortunate to have known him and to have shared a stage with him at that memorable anniversary screening five years ago.”
~ Stephen Farber was president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association from 2012-2016. He is currently a critic for The Hollywood Reporter, a curator of Laemmle’s Anniversary Classics series and co-author of Cinema ’62: The Greatest Year at the Movies.
1. DRIVE MY CAR
2. THE POWER OF THE DOG
3. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
4. SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
7. THE CARD COUNTER
8. THE DISCIPLE
9. WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY
Winner of the Grand Prix and François Chalais Award and a nominee for the Palme d’Or at the last Cannes Film Festival, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s new film A Hero follows Rahim, on a two-day leave from debtor’s prison. While out, he tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint. But things don’t go as planned. We open the film Friday at the Royal, Playhouse and Town Center and at our Claremont, Glendale and Newhall theaters on January 21.
“In Mr. Farhadi’s hands it’s a deliciously ironic, exquisitely complex and mysteriously stirring tale of a man, his son and family, and the staining of multiple reputations by what seems, at the outset, to be a fairly minor lie.” ~ Joe Morgenstern Wall St. Journal
“A superb morality play that immerses us deeply in a society’s values and rituals and keeps us guessing right to its powerful final shot.” ~ Dave Calhoun, Time Out
“As it takes more and more twists, the story veers on the edge of Shakespearean tragicomedy, with darkly funny results. But the dominant tone is dramatic, and occasionally tense and painful, as we watch our hero make dubious choices.” ~ Anna Smith, Deadline Hollywood Daily
Interview with Asghar Farhadi:
Q: How did the idea for A Hero come about?
A: I had been reading stories like this in the press for some time. Those of ordinary individuals, who briefly made newspaper headlines because of an altruistic act. These stories often had common peculiarities. A Hero was not inspired by a specific news item, but while writing it, I had these stories in mind that I read in the press.
Q: Why locate this story in Shiraz?
A: The answer to this question is given by the film’s theme. There are many historical remains in Shiraz, important and glorious traces of the Iranian identity. The main reason for choosing this city is the specificity of the plot and the characters. But the secondary reason was my wish to distance myself from the tumult of Tehran.
Q: How did the writing process go?
A: At the beginning, I had a vague idea from these true stories. Over the years, the idea grew. I always work the same way. The spark can come from an image, a feeling, a succinct plot which will develop thereafter. Sometimes all of this can stay in a corner of my mind, without my suspecting that it will one day lead to a screenplay. Time is an important ally. Some of these seeds disappear on their own, others persist, grow and stay in you in a state of unfinished process, waiting for you to dedicate yourself to them. It is at this stage, through scattered notes, that an idea begins to emerge. Then comes the research and the first sketches which themselves dictate the path to take. Almost all of my stories have developed in my mind in this progressive way. I do not remember ever having been able to conceive of a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end from the outset.
Q: Do you know the full biography of your characters?
A: The scattered notes I mentioned are largely part of the exploration of the characters’ past. This step, which always takes a long time, mostly concerns the main characters. For months, I note all the ideas related to the story I am developing on colored notecards. I choose one color for the ideas I am sure I will somehow incorporate into the script, another for those of which I am less sure. Many of these cards will not be used directly in the writing phase. They do not provide clear information for the script, however they help me to better understand my characters. During this preparatory phase, many aspects of the characters’ backgrounds are developed and leave more or less visible traces in the film.
Q: There is a great ambiguity in the character of Rahim. For example, the smile that hardly ever leaves him.
A: It seems to me that the realistic approach of the film required this complexity in the characters. As in real life, people are made of multiple dimensions, and in each situation, one dimension takes over and becomes more visible. One could say that these characters are “gray” – they are not stereotypical or one-dimensional. Like any real person in everyday life, they are made of contrasts, antagonistic tendencies or conflict at the time of their decision-making. Rahim’s smile is part of a set of traits that appeared gradually over months of rehearsals; while seeking to define the nature of the actor who embodied it, the role was inscribed in everyday life so as to give Rahim this quality of a “gray” character.
Q: What is your method for your group scenes to be so natural, especially the family scenes?
A: This results mainly from the writing. It is an unconscious process. When one takes special care to make every detail of the scene plausible and authentic, the whole team, especially the actors, want to bring the script to life. With the characters’ behaviors and their dialogues being realistic and not built on clichés, the actors in their interpretation strive not to fall into the trap of artifice. There is certainly a risk that the search for naturalness itself constitutes an artifice. The line is fine and subtle and you have to be very vigilant not to cross it. Daily life can be repetitive and boring. As a director, one has to take care that the search for a realistic impression of the scene, almost like a documentary, does not induce the slow and uneventful pace of real life.
Q: Siavash lives with his uncle and aunt, and Farkhondeh stays with her brother. There is real solidarity in these extended families, which sometimes becomes a burden. Is this something very common in Iran?
A: Like in many other countries, I guess this is less observed in the capital or in large cities. But elsewhere, the pace of life is less hectic, families have lost less of their identity, their traditional ways of life and therefore these extended families are more frequent. Affective and family relationships are more developed, so if a family member is in trouble, everyone feels concerned. I grew up in this type of socio-cultural environment. Twenty years ago, the sentence “This is not my problem” did not exist in the Iranian language. However, this sentence has now been imported and characterizes a new relational mode in our society.
Q: Bahram’s character, the man to whom Rahim owes money, is also very ambiguous…
A: Classically, because of the obstacles he creates for the main character, he should have been unsympathetic and the villain in the movie. But as I mentioned before, due to the treatment of the characters, he has also his own reasons for acting the way he does. When he finally expresses them, they seem to us quite justified and his behavior understandable. It is perhaps this aspect, which goes against the stereotypical figure of the villain that allows us to feel closer to him.
Q: As in A Separation, the eyes of the children are important.
A: Once more, in this movie too, the children are the witnesses. They observe adults’ difficulties and their conflicts. They are unable to grasp the complexity of these difficulties. This is why, as in the previous movies, the children are dazed witnesses of the events. Their perception of the crisis experienced by the adults is purely emotional. Yet in this movie Nazanin, Bahram’s daughter, who is older than the other children, commits an act that creates an even more complex situation.
Q: Most of the characters communicate through social media. Is this a new and powerful phenomenon in Iran?
A: Like everywhere in the world, social networks in Iran occupy an important place in the lives of individuals. This phenomenon is quite recent, but its impact is such that it has become difficult to remember what life was like before its appearance. My personal experience makes me think that the omnipresence of social networks in everyday life is even more obvious in Iranian society than elsewhere. This can be explained by the country’s current socio-political situation.
Q: At the end of each of your films, the viewer does not have all the answers to the questions raised by the plot. Are you a filmmaker of the undecidable?
A: As I already said, this specific characteristic common to the films I have made is not intentional. This ambiguity, even this part of mystery, sometimes sets in during the writing and I have to say that I like it. This aspect makes the relationship between the film and the viewer more lasting beyond the screening. It gives the viewer the opportunity to think more about the film and to dig further into what you call the undecidable. I always take great pleasure in seeing Rashōmon again, precisely because of this mysterious dimension. To combine this ambiguity with an everyday story was an interesting challenge.
Q: Do you know this famous quote from Jean Renoir: “In this world, the truly terrible thing is that everybody has their reasons.” It seems to fit most of the characters of A Hero…
A: I totally agree. Everyone has their reasons for acting the way they do, even if they are not necessarily aware of these reasons. If asked to list them, they would be unable to do so. Sometimes they are not clear or easy to summarize. They are a mass of contradictions. In reality people can take years to find within themselves the reasons for their actions, deeply buried within their past. Furthermore, I must specify that for me, this sentence does not mean that all actions are justified. It is not a question of legitimacy, but understanding. Understanding does not mean to legitimize. By taking note of the reasons that prompted an individual to act, we can understand it, without necessarily agreeing with it.
Fine art is healing and considering the pain of the past two years, some palliative movies are in order. We have finalized the January-March schedule for our Culture Vulture series — featuring films about art and artists, opera, dance, stage, classical music and more . See them on the big screen every Monday at 7:30 PM and Tuesday at 1 PM at our Claremont, Glendale, Newhall, Playhouse and Royal theaters. Without further ado:
January 24-25 SO LATE SO SOON
January 31-February 1 SECRET IMPRESSIONISTS
February 7-8 THE NINTH SYMPHONY BY MAURICE BEJART
February 14-15 MAVERICK MODIGLIANI
February 21-22 no Culture Vulture screenings (Presidents’ Day)
February 28-3/1 ROMEO AND JULIET
March 7-8 NAPOLEON: IN THE NAME OF ART
March 14-15 CONCERTO: A BEETHOVEN JOURNEY
March 21-22 FRIDA KAHLO
March 28-29 IN SEARCH OF HAYDN
April 4-5 TBA
April 11-12 EASTER IN ART
Updated: The 12/29 Q&A with JOCKEY star Clifton Collins Jr. and Laemmle Theatres president Greg Laemmle has been cancelled.
The highlight of the poignant new drama Jockey is the performance by Clifton Collins Jr., the prolific character actor here in the title role as an aging jockey training for a final championship. At Sundance earlier this year he earned the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for acting. We open the film Wednesday at the Royal, January 21 at the Playhouse and Town Center, and February 4 at the Claremont, Glendale, Newhall and NoHo.
“An evocative study of American life on the fringes that unfolds alongside the grand mysticism of stallions. Clifton Collins Jr. delivers a haunting, profoundly poignant performance.” ~ Tomris Laffly, Harper’s Bazaar
“Bentley’s intimate character study shows a man coming to terms with his vulnerability, resting on a career-best performance from Clifton Collins Jr, who navigates the role of athlete and father with subtle but striking conviction.” ~ Emily Maskell, Little White Lies
“Jockey is a modest, intimate film, to be sure, but an impressively assured one. It finds a lovely, low-key groove early on and maintains it, and draws performances from its key players that are terrific and true.” Todd McCarthy, Deadline Hollywood Daily
“You’ve certainly seen [Collins Jr.] before, but never quite like this.” ~ Carlos Aguilar, TheWrap