‘It is ironic but true that those who most love cinema see the least number of movies.’
Gene Youngblood, legendary reviewer and cultural theorist who died in April 2021, began a series of film reviews in the LA Free Press in 1967. Many of these reviews formed the basis of parts of his book ‘Expanded Cinema‘ which is now seen widely as a foundational document of post-psychedelic cinema. Blackmass Movies is proud to begin the process of collecting Youngblood’s reviews in one place for the first time. Youngblood’s TV interview with a young George Lucas is here.
One of the most ambitious retrospective film exhibits to be screened commercially here in years is under way at the NuArt Theater in West Los Angeles.
It’s a nine-week 27-film series which includes such rarely seen works as Alf Sjoberg’s “Torment” (1943, script by Ingmar Bergman), Teinosuke Kinugasa’s “Gate of Hell” (1953), Andrzej Wajda’s “Ashes and Diamonds” (1958) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura.”
There, in microcosm, is the scope and quality of this superb exhibit; from Sweden to Japan to Poland to Italy; a sweeping view of world cinema through the eyes of the most gifted filmmakers ever to squint into a viewfinder.
Most serious film patrons depend almost exclusively on this type of programming for their film fare, because nearly all domestic movies and an increasing number of imports seldom are worthwhile.
It is ironic but true that those who most love cinema see the least number of movies. Just consider the newspaper theater guides: there is perhaps one serious cinematic effort for every 20 commercial “entertainments.” In so neglected an art as cinema, to be discriminating is to be deprived. The serious film patron does not love movies for the sake of movies; he loves the art of cinema, and there is comparitively little cinematic art.
The NuArt exhibit is, admittedly, not perfect. Perhaps four of the 27 works on view could not be considered “classics” or “masterpieces.” They are Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), Bryan Forbes’ “Whistle Down the Wind” (1965), Agnes Varda’s “Le Bonheur” (1964) and Clive Donner’s “The Caretaker” (1964). If short of genius, these films do, however, express a sense of experiment and sophistication that is far above the average.
And, too, one could complain of a certain imbalance: nine of the 27 are by Ingmar Bergman and have been screened here regularly for the last several years. On the other hand, there are no Godard films in the series, no Fellinis, no Viscontis, nothing by Resnais (“Muriel” hasn’t been screened for a long time), nothing by Demy (“Bay of the Angels” for instance) and nothing from Czechoslavakia.
However, these exceptions should not be taken as flaws. A series can only have so much, and there is a wealth of cinematic artistry and contemporary philosophy to be had in this one. I point out what I consider to be shortcoming only because I am so grateful that such programs exist at all: I know they can be better and better. (Perhaps, starved for cinema, I ask too much.)
Myron Talman, general manager of the Jack Flack Theaters, was responsible for programming this series. He is to be congratulated. With the exception of the Bergman imbalance, this exhibit certainly does not follow the usual filmfest pattern, It is much broader in scope and selective in choice. For example, in the French Cinema segment — Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 — we are offered Louis Malle’s delightful “Zazie dans he Metro,” Varda’s “Le Bonheur” and Renoir’s “Rules of the Game.” A unique triad of Gallic film-making, an illuminating cross-section of artistry.
If there are things about this current series that might displease some more seasoned film patrons, it doesn’t really matter. Talman informs me that the Nu-Art will become the NuArt Repertory Theater, screening the classics of cinematic literature on a regular basis, year-round. There will be plenty of time to see all the works mentioned above, and more.
And we are in store for some excellent viewing, if Tatman’s arrangement of the current program is any indication. He has divided the nine weeks into nine self-contained units, orchestrating his images, as it were.
For example, this week is titled “The Essence of Bergman,” with “The Magician,” “The Seventh Seal” and “Torment.” (Let me make it clear that I have nothing against Bergman: he is one reason we all love cinema as much as we do.)
A segment called “The British Cinema” begins next Wednesday (“The Lady Vanishes,” “Oliver Twist,” “Whistle Down the Wind”). That will be followed on Oct. 18 by “The Classic Directors” (both parts of “Ivan the Terrible,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Blue Angel”). On Nov. 8, “Gate of Hell” will open the Japanese Cinema portion, including”Rashamon” and “Yojimbo.”
The eighth week is called” The Contemporary Directors,” and will include “The Caretaker,” “L’Avventura” and “Ashes and Diamonds,” Nov. 22 through Nov. 28. And finally Truffaut–“Shoot the Piano Player,” “Jules and Jim,” “The 400 Blows.”