Overdrive: L.A. Modern, 1960-2000
Co-presented with the National Building Museum
February 8-April 17
*Introduced by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen on Feb. 8
"Every city has had its boom, but the history of Los Angeles...should be regarded as one continuous boom punctuated at intervals with major explosions."–Carey McWilliams, "Southern California: An Island on the Land" (1946)
In the latter half of the twentieth century, Los Angeles evolved into one of the most influential industrial, economic and creative capitals in the world. Between 1960 and 2000, Hollywood reflected the upheaval caused by L.A.'s rapid growth in films that wrestled with competing images of the city as a land that scholar Mike Davis described as either "sunshine" or "noir." This duality was nothing new to movies set in the City of Angels; the question simply became more pronounced–and of even greater consequence–as the city expanded in size and global stature. The earnest and cynical questioning evident in films of the 1960s and '70s is followed by postmodern irony and eventually even nostalgia in films of the 1980s and '90s, as the landscape of modern L.A. becomes increasingly familiar, with its iconic skyline of glass towers and horizontal blanket of streetlights and freeways spreading from the Hollywood Hills to Santa Monica and beyond.
Inspired by the National Building Museum's exhibition, "Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990" (organized by the Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum)–on view through March 10–AFI Silver presents "Overdrive: L.A. Modern, 1960-2000," the second of two series exploring L.A.'s modern architectural legacy in film.
Co-presented by AFI Silver and the National Building Museum. Special thanks to the National Building Museum for its collaboration, including Curator Deborah Sorensen, Director of Public Programs Paul Killmer and Vice President for Education Scott Kratz. For information on the National Building Museum's "Overdrive" exhibition, visit nbm.org.
Select shows feature introductions by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen and noted film scholar Foster Hirsch–see listings below.
AFI Member passes accepted at all screenings in the Overdrive series.
Hardboiled private detective Paul Newman is hired by smoky millionaire Lauren Bacall to find out what's happened to her uniformly despised missing husband. There is no short supply of suspects and double-crossers in this all-star cast: sexpot daughter Pamela Tiffin and her freeloading boyfriend Robert Wagner, drug-addicted musician Julie Harris, aging actress Shelley Winters and her unstable husband Robert Webber. Janet Leigh also has a turn as Newman's long-suffering wife. Newman gets an eyeful of L.A. sites, from Bacall's ostentatious mansion and Wagner's ultra-hip bachelor pad to a truly bizarre astrologically inspired bedroom and mountaintop cult compound. William Goldman's sharp script and Conrad L. Hall's luxe photography further elevate this mod detective story.
DIR Jack Smight; SCR William Goldman, from "The Moving Target" by Ross Macdonald; PROD Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner. US, 1966, color, 121 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
*Introduced by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen on Feb. 8
Sat, Feb 8, 7:30*; Mon, Feb 10, 7:00
Double-crossed by his gang, stoic, implacable Lee Marvin, "an anachronism from the '50s transported to San Francisco and L.A. of the '60s, a world of concrete slabs and menacing vertical lines..." (TimeOut Film Guide), methodically hunts down those who betrayed him–starting with the partner who left him for dead, then stole his money and his wife. The film is a violent and vivid fusion of French New Wave style and hardboiled noir substance. Director John Boorman's eye for locations is spot-on: "I wanted an empty, sterile world, for which Los Angeles was absolutely right." Marvin trails his targets across the city, through parking garages and the L.A. River up to a stunning "Japanese-Alpine" house in the Hollywood Hills, where the riveting Angie Dickinson unleashes her fury upon the ice cold killer.
DIR John Boorman; SCR Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse, Rafe Newhouse, from "The Hunter" by Donald Westlake (as Richard Stark); PROD Judd Bernard, Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler. US, 1967, color, 92 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Sat, Feb 8, 10:00*; Sun, Feb 9, 9:45; Mon, Feb 10, 9:30; Tue, Feb 11, 9:00
Former Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown provides a different take on Donald Westlake's Parker antihero, memorably portrayed by Lee Marvin in POINT BLANK (there with the name changed to Walker, here McClain), leading an all-star cast in this entertaining heist flick. With help from mastermind Julie Harris, Brown uses some rather unconventional tactics to assemble a team of criminals–including a snide Donald Sutherland in an early role. The surly crew manages to successfully rob the Los Angeles Coliseum during a Rams game, only to turn on Brown when the money goes missing. More straightforward than the fractured, psychedelic POINT BLANK, THE SPLIT bursts with colorful '60s scenery and is paced by Quincy Jones' funky score. Gung-ho cast support provided by Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll and James Whitmore.
DIR Gordon Flemyng; SCR Robert Sabaroff, from "The Seventh" by Donald Westlake (as Richard Stark); PROD Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler. US, 1968, color, 91 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sun, Feb 9, 7:45; Wed, Feb 12, 9:15
One of the key underground zeitgeist films of the 1980s, Alex Cox's cult classic boasts a scorching soundtrack including Iggy Pop, Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies. Disaffected "white suburban punk" Emilio Estevez finds his calling repossessing autos in the seedier parts of L.A., apprenticed to coke-snorting repo man Harry Dean Stanton. He's on the lookout for a mysterious 1964 Chevy Malibu with a $25K bounty, but so are Estevez's evil punk friends (led by Dick Rude), rival repo outfit the Rodriguez brothers and the FBI. Oh, and don't look in the trunk...
DIR/SCR Alex Cox; PROD Peter McCarthy, Jonathan Wacks. US, 1984, color, 92 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sat, Feb 15, 10:30; Sun, Feb 16, 9:00; Mon, Feb 17, 8:45
They influence our decisions without our knowing it. They numb our senses without our feeling it. They control our lives without our realizing it. THEY LIVE. A rugged loner (pro wrestler-turned-actor Roddy Piper) stumbles upon a terrifying discovery: ghoulish creatures are masquerading as humans while they lull the public into submission through subliminal advertising messages. Only specially made sunglasses make the deadly truth visible. Equally enjoyable parts action, sci-fi and subversive social commentary, this campy John Carpenter gem demands discovery (or re-discovery).
DIR/SCR John Carpenter, from the story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson; PROD Larry J. Franco. US, 1988, color, 93 min, 35mm. RATED R
*Introduced by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen on Feb. 22
Fri, Feb 21, 9:20; Sat, Feb 22, 9:45; Wed, Feb 26, 6:30 (Montgomery College Show)
In this valentine to the City of Angels, Steve Martin is unlucky-in-love TV weatherman Harris K. Telemacher who discovers his tuba-playing dream girl in Brit journalist Sara, played by then wife Victoria Tennant. The film's quirky cast, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Marilu Henner and Richard E. Grant as variously competing love interests, seems blind to the city's magic, as talking freeway signs and freakish weather inexorably draw Martin and Tennant together. Even the smog sparkles under Martin's loving Angeleno eye, as he travels from iconic locations (noshing at Tail o' the Pup hot dog stand; roller skating through LACMA) to more imaginary venues (both restaurants, Dalmars and L'Idiot, were created at the then-empty, now demolished, Ambassador Hotel). Surrealist touches abound, imbuing the romantic comedy with its playful off-kilter energy.
DIR Mick Jackson; SCR Steve Martin; PROD Daniel Melnick, Michael I. Rachmil. US, 1991, color, 95 min, digital presentation. RATED PG-13
LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF
10th Anniversary! Digitally Remastered!
Introduced by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen
Sat, Feb 22, 8:00*--note new time!; Tue, Feb 25, 9:30
Filmmaker and Cal Arts academic Thom Andersen's acclaimed documentary pays passionate tribute to the city of Los Angeles and how it has been historically represented (and misrepresented) on film. Moving far beyond familiar fantasies about L.A., Andersen provides a wealth of sharp, personal observations on how the urban identity of Los Angeles has been manipulated or revealed onscreen. Intended as "a defense of the idea of realism and the tradition of neo-realist filmmaking," Andersen makes his case powerfully, through thousands of mainstream and independent film clips which combine to create a politically charged city symphony unlike any other.
DIR/SCR/PROD Thom Andersen. US, 2004, color, 185 min including 15 min intermission, DCP. NOT RATED
Studio exec Tim Robbins fights boardroom threats from hotshot rival Peter Gallagher, but his fight in a parking lot with embittered screenwriter Vincent D'Onofrio results in the latter's accidental death. It turns out that getting away with murder is a useful skill for the rising Hollywood exec. Director Robert Altman packs in a wealth of celebrity cameos, hitting all the late '80s/early '90s hotspots and iconic locations as well, including the art deco St. James Club (now Sunset Tower), Geoffrey's in Malibu, LACMA and the now-closed Rialto Theater. In true Hollywood fashion, Altman got the chance to direct THE PLAYER (the success of which launched his comeback) while trying to find a buyer for another L.A. opus, SHORT CUTS, released the following year to resounding critical acclaim.
DIR Robert Altman; SCR/PROD Michael Tolkin, from his novel; PROD Nick Wechsler, David Brown. US, 1992, color, 124 min, Blu-ray. RATED R
HICKEY & BOGGS
*Introduced by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen on Mar. 9
Fri, Feb 28, 9:30; Thu, Mar 6, 9:30
"Nobody came. Nobody cares. It's not about anything." Robert Culp and Bill Cosby trade in their playful I SPY repartee for more sardonic commentary in this rarely seen neo-noir to end all noirs–the big screen directorial debut from multi-talented Culp, with a lean script from action director Walter Hill. As Al Hickey and Frank Boggs, Cosby and Culp are down-on-their-luck private investigators who stubbornly refuse to back down from a fight, even when hopelessly trapped between the mob and competing black and chicano activists, who are themselves fighting over stolen cash. The film's extensive location work reveals a sunbaked, car-filled L.A. landscape of useless cops, seedy bars and beach houses falling off cliffs–all shot in gorgeous deep focus by Bill Butler. Running gags about the pair's unwieldy guns provide some dark comic relief, while Rosalind Cash shines as Hickey's conflicted ex.
DIR Robert Culp; SCR Walter Hill; PROD Fouad Said. US, 1972, color, 111 min, 35mm. RATED PG
SAVE THE TIGER
Sun, Mar 9, 4:00*; Mon, Mar 10, 9:30; Tue, Mar 11, 9:15
Jack Lemmon stars as Harry Stoner, a tormented WWII vet and beleaguered garment manufacturer in this critically acclaimed slice of '70s ennui from future ROCKY director John Avildsen. Lemmon earned an Academy Award for his moving portrayal of Stoner, who struggles to reconcile past glories with present disappointments in smog-bound L.A. In the end, Stoner's nostalgia for 1940s music and baseball's greats cannot protect him from a day that includes an attempted bribe gone horribly wrong and a delusional plot to save his business by destroying it. Shot in sequence and on-location, Stoner's desperate journey leads from an impeccable Beverly Hills home down to the aging industrial heart of downtown, and out to the end of the world at a hippie's shambolic beach house. Oscar-nominated Jack Gilford is superb as the business partner–and would-be conscience–who stands witness to Stoner's disintegration.
DIR John G. Avildsen; SCR/PROD Steve Shagan; PROD Martin Ransohoff. US, 1973, color, 100 min, digital presentation. RATED R
THE SAVAGE EYE
Introduced by film scholar Foster Hirsch
Sun, Mar 9, 8:40; Tue, Mar 11, 7:10
This award-winning "dramatized documentary" by experimental filmmakers Ben Maddow (screenwriter of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE), Sidney Meyers and Joseph Strick (MUSCLE BEACH, ULYSSES) is a lyrical exploration of self-estrangement and alienation that offers vivid details of midcentury urban American life. As Judith, stage actress Barbara Baxley is shown wandering the bizarre landscape of L.A. as she awaits the finalization of her divorce. From the airport to the city's bars, burlesque clubs, evangelical churches and beauty parlors, Baxley functions as silent witness to an array of ugly situations and broken faces, all filmed with unflinching scrutiny by cinematographers Jack Couffer, Helen Levitt,and Haskell Wexler over a period of four years. By the film's conclusion, Baxley has undergone a radical transformation in both body and spirit, a process that similarly transforms the film from a bleak study in isolation to a remarkable celebration of human connection.
DIR/SCR/PROD Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers, Joseph Strick. US, 1960, b&w, 68 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
*Introduced by film scholar Foster Hirsch on Mar. 16
In Walter Hill's stark, stripped-down neo-noir, Ryan O'Neal is a stoic getaway man known only as "The Driver" (as was Ryan Gosling in Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE). Hill's love of Alexander Jacobs' script for POINT BLANK is evident in the film's emblematic style, as O'Neal upholds his personal code while eluding The Detective (played with psychopathic glee by Bruce Dern). Although critics decried the film's overt symbolism and terse dialogue, the director always intended the film to be "pure fantasy" set within a "hollow, lonely city." With its mythic story structure, enigmatic characters and neon-bathed night photography–Hill's minimalist approach to the genre is one that Michael Mann would use wonderfully in his own thrillers (HEAT, COLLATERAL). Underrated and rarely seen, this film bristles between silence and intense action, including a legendary underground garage scene in which O'Neal methodically dismembers the car he's driving at top speed.
DIR/SCR Walter Hill; PROD Lawrence Gordon. US, 1978, color, 91 min, DCP. RATED R
Introduced by the National Building Museum's Deborah Sorensen
Sun, Mar 16, 5:00*; Fri, Mar 21, 9:45; Tue, Mar 25, 9:30; Thu, Mar 27, 9:30
This laconic and moody little-known film from director Franco Rossi presents a compelling outsider's perspective, following Italian attorney Vittorio Ciocchetti (Enrico Maria Salerno) over two days in the City of Angels. Stumbling upon several expatriates from his homeland, Ciocchetti is shown the vast and enigmatic city through their eyes, from Los Angeles International Airport and Pierre Koenig's Stahl Residence (both newly built) to the oil wells of Culver City. Ciocchetti's encounters reveal a stark contrast between the liberated lifestyle of midcentury Los Angeles and the struggles of postwar Italy. (Note courtesy of The Getty Center 2013)
DIR/SCR Franco Rossi; SCR Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa, Ugo Guerra; PROD Goffredo Lombardo. Italy, 1962, b&w, 92 min, digital presentation. In English and Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED
When saxophonist Fred (Bill Pullman) finds a video tape on his front doorstep that depicts him standing over the murdered body of his wife (Patricia Arquette), he is utterly confused and has no recollection of the events. Eventually jailed for the crime, Fred suffers an intense headache and wakes the next morning as a young auto mechanic named Pete (Balthazar Getty). Then things really start to get strange...Lynch utilizes his own self-designed and ultra-modern Hollywood Hills house as the couple's home-turned-crime scene in this violently twisted "Möbius strip of a movie."–David Lynch.
DIR/SCR David Lynch; SCR Barry Gifford; PROD Deepak Nayar, Tom Sternberg, Mary Sweeney. France/US, 1997, color, 135 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sun, Mar 30, 9:20; Tue, Apr 1, 7:30
Amnesiac actress Laura Harring wanders into Hollywood-hopeful Naomi Watts's apartment after surviving an assassination attempt, with no recollection of who tried to kill her or why. Playing detective, the two discover some shady doings in the movie biz, a volcanic attraction to one another and the idea that they may just be two characters in someone else's dream. In many ways the culmination of David Lynch's oeuvre, masterfully revisiting his signature themes of identity, desire and dream logic, this surrealistic film noir's subject is nothing less than the allure and danger of Hollywood itself.
DIR/SCR David Lynch; PROD Neal Edelstein, Tony Krantz, Michael Polaire, Alain Sarde, Mary Sweeney. France/US, 2001, color, 147 min, 35mm. RATED R
Mon, Mar 31, 7:00; Wed, Apr 2, 9:00
Hollywood icons Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are onscreen together for the first time in this stylish and suspenseful thriller from director Michael Mann. Pacino's seasoned L.A. detective is obsessed with tracking master thief De Niro, who wants to make one last score before retirement. Mann weaves their two stories together, setting the noisy action of pursuit against the quiet humanity of the moment, when detective meets thief face-to-face. Mann's legendary attention to detail is reflected in the film's intensive use of locations, from Kate Mantilini's influential Beverly Hills restaurant to the original Bob's Big Boy in Burbank, as well as forays into Koreatown, the Los Angeles Harbor and the grounds of LAX for the film's expressionist conclusion.
DIR/SCR/PROD Michael Mann; PROD Art Linson. US, 1995, color, 170 min, 35mm. RATED R
Wed, Apr 9, 6:30 (Montgomery College Show)
Adapted from Elmore Leonard's "Rum Punch," Quentin Tarantino directed this star vehicle for Pam Grier, creating a heartfelt homage to the Blaxploitation genre and one of its icons. Struggling to make ends meet, Grier works as a flight attendant on a regional airline who smuggles money on the side for mobster Samuel L. Jackson. Pinched by ATF agent Michael Keaton, Grier is bailed out by Jackson via bondsman Robert Forster, and love blooms between the kindred souls over drinks and The Delfonics' "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time." Caught between the law and the mob, Grier and Forster plot to play one against the other, pocket a big score and walk away free.
DIR/SCR Quentin Tarantino, from "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard; PROD Lawrence Bender. US, 1997, color, 154 min, 35mm. RATED R
THE BIG LEBOWSKI
Fri, Apr 11, 2:00; Sat, Apr 12, 7:30
"The Dude abides." A case of mistaken identity embroils slacker Jeff "the Dude" Lebowski (a sublimely comic Jeff Bridges) in a kidnapping case and throws him into the role of hapless detective in the Coens' cockeyed homage to Howard Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP. The shaggy-dog shenanigans and pixilated dialogue deliver gut-busting hilarity from start to finish; the stellar cast, all playing with great comic gusto, includes John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Sam Elliott, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro as bad-ass bowler "Jesus."
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US/UK, 1998, color, 117 min, 35mm. RATED R
Fri, Apr 11, 10:00; Sat, Apr 12, 10:30; Tue, Apr 15, 9:40;
Thu, Apr 17, 9:30
Tom Cruise is Vincent, a hitman who unloads his personal baggage on cab driver Max, played with understated grace by Academy Award nominee Jamie Foxx. The smiling and hyper-controlled Vincent is a killer whose hubris is challenged by Max's humanity, as the latter is forced into chauffeuring the hitman from job to job for one night. Director Michael Mann's (HEAT) love affair with the neon blue nightscape of Los Angeles has never been put more vividly on display. The pair is shown endlessly gliding over highways as Vincent's meticulous plans unravel and the tables start to turn between the two men. The film shifts into overdrive when Max finally takes action to protect himself and one of Vincent's targets (Jada Pinkett Smith), a prosecutor he can see being stalked in her office tower from his vantage point on a parking garage far below–just one of the standout sequences in a movie steeped in Mann's distinct visual style.
DIR/PROD Michael Mann; SCR Stuart Beattie; PROD Julie Richardson. US, 2004, color, 120 min, 35mm. RATED R
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.
Oscar-winning filmmaker William Friedkin directs William Petersen and Willem Dafoe in a visceral game of cat and mouse between a secret service agent and the counterfeiter extraordinaire who murdered his partner. An obsessive stickler for authenticity, Friedkin and his skeleton crew filmed almost exclusively on location across the Los Angeles region. In addition to its dramatic use of the L.A. River, Vincent Thomas Bridge and LAX, the film includes a café frequented by actual U.S. Secret Service agents and the former home of legendary MGM art director Cedric Gibbons as Rick Masters' Art Deco abode.
DIR/SCR William Friedkin; SCR Gerald Petievich, from his novel; PROD Irving H. Levin. US, 1985, color, 116 min, 35mm. RATED R
Mon, Apr 14, 9:30; Wed, Apr 16, 9:30