L.A.'s Not-So-Silent Movie Theater

March 30, 2009
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L.A. is a city rife with movie screens, from the Cinerama Dome to the Nuart to the Directors' Guild and more. It's hard not to get wrapped up in cinema in this town. Sometimes I take it for granted; every time Lawrence of Arabia comes on Turner Classics at home, I skip it—"It'll be playing on the big screen somewhere in L.A. within the next month or two," I advise myself. You can't say that for most cities.

Even more valuable than catching a David Lean epic in all its widescreen glory—and something I don't take for granted—are the movie houses that really dig up the lost gems. Perhaps my favorite theater in town is located just up the street from LACMA: the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater. Cinefamily has some of the most idiosyncratic film programming in the city—from Thin Man double features and classics from Lubitsch, Cukor, and Sturges to obscure exploitation films of the '70s, contemporary documentaries, and bizarre cult films. It's always worth keeping an eye on their calendar. Wednesdays in April will feature Buster Keaton double-features, while weekends will see a series dedicated to the psychedelic films of '60s filmmaker Tinto Brass and the late works of Danish director Carl Dreyer. Personally, I'm always most excited about the theater's Thursday-night offerings, invariably dedicated to music films. April is the second of a two-month series, Post-Punk Junk, which features documentaries, vintage home recordings, and feature films centered around the U.S. and European punk bands of the late '70s and early '80s. These guys take it seriously: back in January Tom Verlaine, of the legendary band Television, performed live on stage, scoring avant-garde silent shorts. Can it get better?

Scott Tennent