Princely double-bill at the Aero

Film · Music

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PURPLE RAIN
1984, Warner Bros., 111 min, Dir: Albert Magnoli
35mm print with Dolby 4-track Magnetic Audio
Prince’s big-screen debut as The Kid, frontman of rock-R&B band The Revolution. Burdened with a troubled home life, The Kid also must contend with a rival bandleader (Morris Day) out to steal both his slot at a Minneapolis nightclub and his new girlfriend (Apollonia Kotero). Plenty of electrifying performances here, and Prince’s Oscar-winning score includes such classics as “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry” and the title song.

SIGN ‘O’ THE TIMES
1987, 85 min, Dir: Prince, Albert Magnoli
35mm print
Concert film shot while on tour to promote “Sign o’ the Times.” With dramatically staged vignettes linking the songs, the Purple One roars through the bulk of the critically acclaimed double album, fronting a sizzling post-Revolution band including drummer Sheila E.

Prince Tribute Double Bill | Aero Cinema, Santa Monica | Sun July 3, 7:30

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William Friedkin and his French Connection

Featured · Film

french-connection

Reverence reigned in the room; it was a stirring evening of movie worship. A dazed and enthralled audience emptied onto Wilshire Boulevard only at 11:30 pm, following the 45th anniversary screening of THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) hosted by film critic Stephen Farber for Laemmle’s Anniversary Classics. In a post-screening Q & A, the movie’s director, William Friedkin, at 81 a giant of a man, held forth from the stage of the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre. Clutching a hand mike, he ruled the roost in a strident, borderline-boisterous manner. It was such a memorable night.

french connectionAnd that movie — a hurtling spitball of masculine determination and obsessiveness electrified by high tension (film doesn’t merely include a great car chase; the entire movie is itself a massive chase scene). Its in-your-face title sequence to sour jazz sprinklings shrieks a greeting; it then careens toward its violent and ambiguous finish with force.

Splashed on a big screen, flick emits a fragrant bouquet of sweat, acid-coffee, sleeplessness, cheap cigarettes, grimy precinct houses, bars where only bad things could happen, cruddy cars, tired women, burnt-out cops for whom “career change” is not an option, all redolent of New York in the seventies. Those were the good old days!

And Friedkin. How as a young filmmaker he met Howard Hawks and how Hawks did not encourage him to make The French Connection. How Peter Boyle turned down the role of Popeye Doyle. How far down the list was Gene Hackman and how Friedkin had to push Hackman to take more risks in his performance. How casting Fernando Rey was a total error, a balls-up. How the car chase got shot without proper permitting. (“We had no permission to do any of that except shooting on the elevated train. We just went out and ‘stole the shots.'”)

friedkin-farber“We had one camera over his shoulder, one in the passenger seat, we had one take going 90 mph, driving the wrong way down the street. I would never do that today. I was very stupid, arrogant and I had no respect for human life — neither my own or anyone else’s.”

How a guy named “Fat Thomas” (Friedkin met him through writer Jimmy Breslin) helped find New York City locations. How the narcotics cops of the era were not racist, but “This is how they worked. That’s what they did. A lot of it was survival. They held court in the street and they got away with it. These guys were not bad eggs. They made a lot of collars.” Subsequently, “we’ve lost the war on drugs.”

How winning his Oscar for best direction affected him: “I didn’t expect it. It made me even more arrogant,” he said, explaining, “That’s when I realized I was an artist.”

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The joy … of ‘Enjoy Yourself’

Dance · Music

So beautiful, in viewing Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to Off the Wall, Spike Lee’s documentary now available on Showtime, the sight of MJ au natural, his face unmarred by surgery, his youthful and impassioned spirit intact. The doc tours the great Quincy Jones-produced album “Off the Wall” with superb talking heads.  This video by The Jacksons, “Enjoy Yourself,” preceded “Off the Wall,” which was, of course, a solo effort. In displaying MJ’s genius unfettered, doc leaves mystery. What on earth happened to Michael Jackson?

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Dark days. Can the arts address what ails our nation?

Featured · Language & ideas · Music
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Saturday night’s attack on a benign throng of club dancers, all young people on a fun night out not hurting anyone, is only somewhat ameliorated by the memory of yet another gathering, in Los Angeles, at the beginning of the week. Last Monday evening, I arrived to the marquee of the Kirk Douglas Theatre for ...

Cindy Sherman, Broadly speaking

Featured · Visual arts
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“As a man, it makes me agitated to see images of women looking so distressed,” a fellow critic remarked to me as we inched through the progressively disturbing galleries of The Broad‘s first dedicated special exhibition. “Imitation of Life,” a 120-image, encompassing career retrospective, showcases the prodigious output of renowned self-portraitist/performance artist/photographer Cindy Sherman. As ...

Koplowitz’s ‘Learn Capture Repeat’ fun feature @ Dance Camera West

Dance · Film
koplowitz piece
This nice-looking guy, Stephan Koplowitz, a valued member of the Los Angeles dance community, is ready to give you your three seconds of fame in Learn, Capture, Repeat, his proprietary video project slated for this weekend’s Dance Camera West Festival. Wait till you see what Steve and his colleague, software designer Alan Price, can do ...

A b*stard by any other name: Robert Cenedella

Film · Visual arts
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The painter of the work above, Robert Cenedella, is the subject of a new documentary, ART BASTARD, soon to open in Los Angeles. Film is touted as the tale of a rebel at odds with today’s art world. Directed by Victor Kanefsky, “Bastard” is a portrait of New York artist, a contemporary of Andy Warhol who ...

You’re under arrest … for good dancing

Dance · Featured
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Dancing cops … seems unusual. But according to dance historian Jennifer Homans in her seminal book from 2010, Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, classical ballet had its origins not with white-tutu’ed swans on pointe, but with drilling military men, much like the dancing Columbian cops seen in the video above. Writes Homans: Dance was ...

It’s in the details: California photographer Brett Weston @ PMCA 2

Featured · Visual arts
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brett weston
You’re forgiven if the mention of an exhibition of historic photographs by an artist named Weston suggests Edward Weston (1886-1958). The pioneering photographer gave a modernist profile to Southern California with his soft-focus studies of light and texture and their attendant implied narratives. The Pasadena Museum of California Art currently hosts a potent show of ...

Death of a dancer: Muhammad Ali

Dance
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When he floated like a butterfly, he was a dapper dancer. Like this? Read more: Death of a dancer: Albert Evans Farewell Violette Death of a great one, June 25, 2009