The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre will present six features (and several shorts) made in the dye-transfer Technicolor process (a.k.a. I.B. or “imbibition”), beginning tonight, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m. The series ends on Saturday, Sept. 26.
The screening features are Blake Edwards’ comedy The Party, starring Peter Sellers; the 1947 Danny Kaye vehicle The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, co-starring Virginia Mayo; Dave Fleischer’s animated features Mr. Bug Goes to Town and Gulliver’s Travels; and the James Bond flicks On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, starring George Lazenby, and the Sean Connery starrer From Russia with Love – by far the best of the Connery films, chiefly because of two great supporting players: Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya.
Schedule and synopses from the American Cinematheque’s website.
Thursday, Sept. 24 - 7:30 PM
Comedy Technicolor Double Feature:
THE PARTY, 1968, MGM Repertory, 99 min. Dir. Blake Edwards. For most of its length, THE PARTY is a wonderfully restrained homage to Jacques Tati, with Peter Sellers in perfect pitch as an awestruck Indian actor who disrupts a chic Hollywood gathering with the help of French songbird Claudine Longet. The final 15 minutes prove that any great joke deserves a totally outrageous punchline. Cinematography by the great Lucien Ballard (THE WILD BUNCH).
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, 1947, MGM Repertory, 110 min. Dir. Norman Z. McLeod. Danny Kaye’s comic talent finds its perfect showcase in this story of a shy man who lives in two worlds – one real, the other the product of his fanciful imagination. Virginia Mayo and Boris Karloff co-star in this classic (and very loose) adaptation of James Thurber’s short story.
Friday, September 25 - 7:30 PM
Animated Technicolor Double Feature:
MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN (a.k.a. HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN), 1941, Paramount, 78 min. Dir. Dave Fleischer. The residents of Bugville have enough trouble dealing with the villainous C. Bagley Beetle, but their problems increase when they learn a skyscraper is to be built on the vacant lot they inhabit. Together the bugs try to find a way to save their homes in this delightful animated musical.
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, 1939, Paramount, 74 min. A pioneering animated classic from brothers Max and Dave Fleischer (who created Betty Boop and brought Popeye to the screen.) GULLIVER’S TRAVELS was a brave attempt to match the phenomenal popularity of Walt Disney’s SNOW WHITE. Adapted from the first part of Jonathan Swift’s satirical fantasy, the story follows Gulliver as he lands in the miniaturized land of Lilliput and finds that prejudices come in all sizes. Plus, some surprise short films. Animation historian Jerry Beck will introduce the screening.
Saturday, September 26 - 7:30 PM
Technicolor Double Feature:
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, 1969, MGM Repertory, 140 min. Dir. Peter Hunt. When Sean Connery decided to take a hiatus from the role of Bond, producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman turned to former male model George Lazenby to play Ian Fleming’s super-spy – and wound up with one of the most satisfying (and underrated) of the 1960s Bond films. Lovely Diana Rigg proves more than Bond’s match as the two team up to topple scar-faced Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas) in the Swiss Alps.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1963, MGM Repertory, 118 min. Dir. Terence Young. Sean Connery’s second 007 outing more than lives up to expectations, with Bond scouring exotic Istanbul for the elusive Lektor decoding machine. He’s helped by sly Pedro Armendariz and seductive Russian spy Daniella Bianchi as he is hunted by Aryan super-killer Robert Shaw and sinister, butch Lotte Lenya as stiletto-toed Rosa Kleb. The nerve-shredding fistfight between Connery and Shaw aboard the Orient Express is not to be missed.
‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ Hollywood Screening
The director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will be screened at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 5:30 pm. Pre-show elements begin at 5 pm.
As per the Cinematheque’s press release, “this program will review the full spectrum of Star Trek‘s visual achievements and its contributions to the art of narrative design for science fiction. Production Designers John Jefferies, Joseph R. Jennings, Herman Zimmerman and Scott Chambliss, along with moderator and VFX artist Darin R. Dochterman, will take us on a journey using visual clip pods based on design themes such as the ships, the bridge, alien worlds, gadgets & gizmos, and production challenges.
“Collaborating with Dochterman in the selection of the content for this program are Designers Michael and Denise Okuda, authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Included are pre-recorded guest speaker clips from such Star Trek veterans as a concept artist, VFX artist, set decorator, costume designer, graphic artist and producer. The panel and clip show will be presented first.
I know that many people (and critics) were disappointed with Robert Wise’s big-screen version of Star Trek. As usual, I’m in the minority as I actually liked the film. I thought the visual effects were quite well made, and there was a certain retro-futuristic charm to the proceedings. And then there’s that whole mystical-romantic subplot involving Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta, warped time/space continuum, and lots of bright lights. Some found it way tacky; I thought it was totally cool.
Schedule and film info from the American Cinematheque’s website.
Sunday, Sept. 27 - 5:30 PM
STAR TREK: 40 Years of Designing the Future
Director’s Cut! STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, 1979, Paramount, 132 min. Director Robert Wise, ably assisted by Harold Michelson’s (DICK TRACY) otherworldly production design, Jerry Goldsmith’s stirring score and a special effects team including Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra and Ramon Sanchez, delivers the first STAR TREK film as a profound meditation on man’s struggle to survive against the negative forces in the universe. With William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Persis Khambatta.
Pre-show 5:00 PM, Program 5:30 PM, Film 8:00 PM.
Sun Xun: The Dark Magician of New Chinese Animation
According to the REDCAT’s press release, “Sun Xun: The Dark Magician of New Chinese Animation” will feature “a program of shorts ranging from a witty experiment in body art (Lie of Magician,2005) to the creation of an expansive imagistic world that evokes China’s checkered voyage toward technological and political modernity.”
The text below is from the REDCAT’s release:
After studying printmaking at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, Sun founded the animation studio Pi in 2006. To make his meticulous animations, Sun uses traditional calligraphy techniques to produce drawings on canvas, silk and printed matter; these are then hand-copied frame by frame to create flickering effects and complex, multilayered textures. Sun’s films have been shown in festivals in China, France, Germany and at New York’s Anthology Film Archives. His original drawings, meanwhile, have been exhibited in galleries and museums in China, Europe and the U.S. A major show of his work will open on November 7 at Max Protetch Gallery in New York.
In some of Sun’s earlier animated works such as Mythos (2006) and Requiem (2007), the recurring figure of a magician in a top hat wanders through a strange historical palimpsest of fervent dreams, apocalyptic fires and remnants of revolutionary texts. Nostalgia bleeds inexorably into brutality in more recent films like Coal Spell, about the artist’s grim industrial hometown of Fuxin in northeastern China.
REDCAT is proud to present Sun Xun’s work at a turning point in his career, i.e. in the wake of his first show in an American museum: for over a week in July 2008, the artist inhabited the UCLA Hammer Museum’s Vault Gallery to develop a new, animated, site-related video and drawing installation on the “New China.” While his paintings are exhibited and represented by China’s foremost contemporary art gallery, ShanghART, Sun relocated his animation studio, Pi (which employs 16 assistants), from Hangzhou to Beijing in the spring of 2009. He has gained, in developing and promoting his animated films as well as his fine arts work, a growing reputation as a leading member of China’s new generation of interdisciplinary artists.
Schedule, synopses, and Sun Xun bio from the REDCAT press release:
“When we sleep deeply, everything becomes history.” - Sun Xun
All film notes below are adapted from the artist’s own descriptions.
Chinese Words: War (2005, 2:12 min.)
A war about Chinese words.
Lie of Magician (2005, 4:14 min.)
The lie of a magician or the lie of god?
Shock of Time (2006, 5:29 min.)
Memory empties when man is in a state of shock. The shock of time can also be called the shock of history. The film is composed from old newspapers from the 1950s and ’60s in which important events pertaining to China were recorded. This is history I can never get close to, so I have turned it into a doubtful legend. Our conception of history is fragmentary; it is like a placebo, molded by passivity and submission. There are lies, secrets and maybe farce behind it all …. History reflects the way we think but not the way things are.
Lie (2006, 7:20 min.)
China’s first atomic blast, jubilation, jubilation… the beautiful mushroom cloud destroys history, plaza, the crowd, rulers, magician, this is mythology, every huge disaster is romantic.
Mythos (2006, 5:15 min.)
Strange mythos, his, theirs, yours, ours, and the storyteller’s manifesto and clamor. In the empire that has no border and the city that has no port, history is cut into countless fragments, the distant signal fire and the elder’s memory… Everyone is a king, everyone is a magician. In each moment of enslavement, history is an infinite number of chairs, waiting motionless. The dictionary of mythos is the law.
Requiem (2007, 7:21 min.)
I’m infatuated with imagined history… I want to know what is invented, and what is true in the past that I imagine…. What drives my infatuation? The ongoing experience of going between truth and fiction, similar to a requiem that keeps repeating itself and playing for all who share those memories.
Heroes No Longer (2008, 9:04 min.)
The “hero” is a kind of historical complex…. “History” appears to us as a mental image, or a virtual reality.
Coal Spell (2008, 7:56 min.)
Coal Spell is inspired by an old five-Yuan renminbi note, on which was recounted the rise and fall of Fuxin, an old industrial coal city located in northeastern China….
In a mysterious dark city, yellow sandstorms wreak havoc. In the city center, several huge smokestacks pierce the sky, emitting black fumes that block the sun. Political slogans blast away daily, drowning out any form of curiosity about the outside world. The city is a tremendous prison where history is boxed up like a brutal, fierce monster. One day, a screeching Soviet excavator is forced to gouge the land, gradually closing the heart of the city…
The people’s money; the pattern is just an illustration.
The New China (2008, 5:19 min.)
[The inspiration for this work comes] from a small book titled New China, given to me by a friend. The book, probably published before World War II, was written by a missionary, who had lived many years in China and knew the culture well. The general thrust of this book was to teach people how to love their country, how to construct their country, and how to be a useful person, in addition to addressing China’s revolution at that time.
Everyone knows that China was called New China after 1949, but it is interesting to me that this appellation existed even before the war. After I read this book and examined China’s recent history, I found that the country actually runs in a circle, that history is round and infinitely recurrent. We are used to creating a boundary between the present and the past. But actually, history has no such boundary. – adapted from the Artforum translation by Dawn Chan
On Sun Xun
Eight years of Cultural Revolution after Nixon’s historic visit [to China in 1972], Sun Xun was born in Liaoning Province, along the northeast coast of China. While most of the country was once again in the throes of reinventing itself - this time along the tenets of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform and opening-up policies, which declared, “to get rich is glorious” - the new country that Sun grew up in was essentially the same old country. The effects of China’s momentous shift from socialism to capitalism were slow in coming to this peripheral mining county, and so Sun was raised in the folds of a historical lapse. Propaganda still blared from loudspeakers every morning, bringing the factory complex where he grew up to attention, just as it had done for the past few decades. Uniformed workers shuffling against chimney stacks and fluttering flags colored the environment of Sun’s childhood, as did reams of newspapers that disseminated the same good word of an altogether “New China” still in its infancy.
Sun Xun’s work plies the uncontested surface of politicized truth. By tying together the tenets of academic drawing with political cartoons and projecting them into the realms of installation and film, he manifests his multifaceted imagistic world as improvisational theater. His broken narratives, peopled with pedagogues as magicians and infectious insects that plague the world, work on the viewer’s emotional response to fear - fear of the unknown, of the undiscovered country that Shakespeare, Nixon, and each of us cower before. But it is the ambiguous era in which he sets his stories that further mystifies the viewer. Sun’s world lies suspended in anonymous twentieth-century eternity, a past riddled with legacies of modernity at its most extreme, a film noir testimony to absolutism. His flickering images crystallize into a gritty, dystopian urban overture to revolution; it is the industrial revolution as much as it is the Cultural Revolution. But Sun’s work, muddled in this overlapping and obsolete modernity, idles at the brink of revolution without spilling over. His aim is to scratch the surface of political history, a history continuously conflated into myth, in order to expose the past as being in a state of constant becoming. His vision is the pregnant pause of mythology in the making….
Perhaps Sun’s suspicion of mediated truth comes with the territory. The China that he grew up in was in a constant state of reinvention and denial…. When Sun was still in grade school, the “East Is Red” changed its tune to “Balls Under the Red Flag” [a hugely popular song and album by Cui Jian, China’s “father of rock and roll”] as the end of the 1980s saw the shock of yet another China. Taking the seventy-year anniversary of the May Fourth Movement (instigators of the twentieth-century’s original “New China”) as their cue, students occupied Tiananmen Square in an effort to reform what they saw as a government out of step with the current needs of society. The outcome of this standoff was yet another New China, which violently crushed individual liberties while simultaneously promoting individual wealth and unbridled consumerism. Today China is intoxicated with its newfound prosperity but has yet to confront its recent past, revise its politics, or fulfill the spiritual needs of its people. In the wake of this erratic social transformation, a sense of collective historical amnesia has begun to set in. Sun’s work is an expression of this amnesia. – Mathieu Borysevicz, Shanghai correspondent for Artforum
Curated by Bérénice Reynaud and Steve Anker
Thanks to ShanghART Gallery and the Pacific Film Archive.
Funded in part with generous support from Wendy Keys and Donald Pels, with additional support from Max Protetch Gallery.
REDCAT is located at 631 West 2nd St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 - in downtown Los Angeles at the corner of 2nd and Hope Streets, inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. Parking is available in the Walt Disney Concert Hall parking structure and in adjacent lots.
Tickets are $9 for the general public, $7 for students with valid ID. Tickets may be purchased by calling 213.237.2800, at www.redcat.org, or in person at the REDCAT Box Office on the corner of 2nd and Hope Streets (30 minutes free parking with validation). Box Office Hours: Tue-Sat | noon–6 pm and two hours prior to curtain.