Monday, July 21, 2014

Thoughts on A Streetcar Named Desire and The Books “Brando’s Smile” and “Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait”

By Lola, French intern

Legendary director Elia Kazan’s  A Streetcar Named Desire screened at the Egyptian Theatre on the 16th of July.

I saw this masterpiece for the first time when I was 18. I was looking for a movie to watch, so I Googled “100 movies you need to see before you die” and I decided to  randomly choose A Streetcar Named Desire. Not that randomly, actually. At that age, I only knew Marlon Brando for his performance in The Godfather and Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind. I’d never seen a movie before with young Marlon Brando and I wanted to see what Vivien Leigh was able to do after her incredible performance in Fleming’s movie, rewarded by the Best Actress Oscar. I got a high school degree in Literature, so I heard a lot about the 1947 play written by Tennessee Williams during my classes.

Today, a lot of things made me want to see A Streetcar Named Desire one more time. First, it’s the 10th anniversary of Marlon Brando’s death, and it was a golden opportunity to see one of his best performances on the big screen. Marlon Brando remains one of the most important actors because of the way he had to get into roles. He was one of the first actors of his generation to apply Stanislavski’s techniques, which let the actors explore their own feelings and use their life experiences to play characters. Method acting results in very real performances, and this is why I’d wanted to watch Brando’s performance in this movie one more time. Knowing what I know now, it’s been interesting to better understand Brando’s powerful and deep performance in this movie and to see it in a different way. This time, I paid attention for more things in the movie than I did the first time.

A couple days ago I entered Skylight Books, a great bookstore in Los Feliz Village, and there was a book displayed on a shelf: “Marlon Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought and Work,” written by Boston University English teacher Suzan L. Mizruchi, who painted an informative portrait of the Legend.

In it she explained how Marlon Brando used his past experiences to get into the roles he played all his life, and how he liked to observe people to understand better human behaviors.

Wednesday’s screening of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Egyptian Theatre was introduced by writer Suzan L. Mizruchi herself, whose book I’d been so excited to discover. If Marlon Brando used his own feelings and experiences to play the scary but very virile Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar, I‘m fascinated to understand to what extent his personal life and feelings influenced his other performances in masterpieces such as The Godfather or Apocalypse Now. His animal performance was incredible to see on the big screen. “Heyyyy Stellaaaaaaa”!

But that’s not all! This movie also confirms Vivien Leigh’s talent after seeing her in the 1939 Best Picture Oscar Winner Gone with the Wind. Vivien Leigh carries the movie. I was very moved by her performance in Streetcar. She is both fragile and strong, trying to struggle with her old fears. Her performance as Blanche Dubois is so real.

Today, Hollywood has advanced in the representation of women in film. In many films, producers and directors give women very strong roles. They save the world, they fight for causes and they can be real heroes, and real people. This hasn’t always been the case, so it’s interesting to see older films that focus on complex female characters. In this movie, we can see the weaknesses and the strengths of a woman and this is what I found very moving. At the time this movie was made, Vivien Leigh was struggling with a mental illness, as Leigh’s biographer Kendra Bean explained us. She said that Vivien Leigh didn’t let her problems overwhelm her. She kept going and making movies.

A Streetcar Named Desire is the kind of movie driven by its actors. I was very excited to hear from two writers who have led research about these two screen icons.

Kendra Bean spoke alongside Brando’s biographer Suzan L. Mizruchi to talk about her book, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait. She is the only writer who has researched Vivien Leigh’s relationship with Laurence Olivier and about her medical state. After having watched Gone with the Wind, Bean was very moved by the character of Scarlett O’Hara, so she started to read many books about Vivien Leigh.

The introduction by the two authors was so interesting. They both had access to all kinds of resources that previous writers focusing on Brando and Leigh didn’t tell.

Kendra Bean explained that she had access to Laurence Olivier’s files and was the first writer who looked for Vivien Leigh’s life moments in Olivier’s biography. She was married to him for 20 years. Laurence Olivier saved everything from his life so thanks to Kendra Bean’s work we can see how difficult Vivien Leigh’s illness was for her, but also for people around her. I also learned that Vivien Leigh was more appreciated in America than in England. In England, she did theatre. Her small voice didn’t reach the back of the gallery and in film, it does not matter. The moderator said that we admire her for her 2 Oscar-winning roles but most American people don’t know much of the rest of her work. Now, I really want to see her whole filmography!

I was impressed by what Susan Mizruchi told during the introduction. She had access to Marlon Brando’s library. Indeed, Brando read around 4000 books in his library in his house on Mulholland Drive. He mostly had science and psychology books. Mizruchi found out that Brando was somebody with very spiritual conversations. She found a Ruth Thomas book (one of Brando’s favorite authors) in which he’d scribbled many comments like “Oh come on!”, “How do you know that?”. She also had access to Brando’s personal scripts. Mizruchi said that there were two writers who Brando considered behind him: Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams. So what we discover is that Brando used to rewrite his lines in movies. That’s why Elia Kazan was one of his favorite directors because he encouraged him to improvise. We didn’t know before Mizruchi’s work that Brando rewrote some of the best lines in The Godfather and now, we can explore that.
What is amazing is that she read everything Marlon Brando read. She has worked on this book for 6 years.

The moderator said he suspected that Marlon Brando did not win an Oscar for his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire because it’s not his film but Vivien Leigh’s film. For him, Elia Kazan wanted to make sure that the sympathy in the film was toward Blanche. But for Susan Mizruchi, Brando did not win this Oscar because he did not behave in Hollywood. He was from the beginning a rebel and an iconoclast.

I recommend Susan Mizruchi’s and Kendra Bean’s books on these fascinating figures because they show that no one is black and white.

“No one is holy evil and holy good,” -Tennessee Williams

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gordon Willis Tribute: Manhattan/Annie Hall Double Feature

I always cry at the beginning of Manhattan.

This would be a slightly more impressive opener if I was a tough-as-nails, streetwise, spunky type who never cries. In this case, it would be the pure cinematic beauty of George Gershwin’s swelling symphony, Gordon Willis’ beautiful black & white cinematography and Woody Allen’s witty yet sentimental writing coming together for full nostalgic effect that would break my typically impenetrably, tough urban demeanor and reduce me shockingly to tears. Unfortunately, I am the crying type, so of course the beauty of black and white New York, messy and harsh and crushing but still beautiful, gets to me.

That being said, it is a really, really great scene. And it’s one of quite a few reasons I’ll be at the Aero Theatre this Friday, despite the fact that I’ve seen Manhattan and it’s double bill partner Annie Hall countless times.
Another reason is that I can spend (and have spent) a happy amount of time reading from the Annie Hall IMDB quotes page, alternately laughing and getting a little misty-eyed (told you I was the crying type). My simply writing “it’s so funny” hardly does anybody justice, so take a moment and watch a bit of it:

This could be written off as personal bias- I grew up on these movies and loved them then and grew up to be a slightly neurotic, fast-talking, half-Jewish Humanities major who would, naturally, love them. This sort of thing is right up my alley. But it would be hard to do so because my own good opinion of these movies is backed by prominent critics, 4 Oscars and 7 nominations between them, Golden Globes and BAFTAS,  spots on AFI top lists, consistent spots on most other lists of Best Films and certainly Best Comedies or Romantic Comedies, and legions of fans.

But perhaps the main reason I’m going this Friday is because I’m dragging along a guest, because I want everybody I know to see my favorite movies and because there’s no better way to get somebody to sit down and watch your favorites than to get them to a movie theater, where it’s dark and cold, and a little bit magical if you’re a sap like me, and where it’s frowned upon to fall asleep or leave for longer than an urgent bathroom break.

So bring a friend and come out to the Aero tomorrow! Or bring yourself if you’ve never seen these movies, because there’s nothing like watching a great movie, but there’s really nothing like watching a great movie on a big screen, where the sun doesn’t glint off the TV screen and you can’t hear cars over the dialogue. And by all means, come if you’re like me and you’ve seen it a million times, but it’s just too good to pass up. It’ll be an excellent, laugh-filled Friday night and if that doesn’t convince you, think of the bragging rights. We can deny our self-promotional instincts as much as we like, but the satisfaction of a sleekly filtered Instagram picture and telling people we saw a Woody Allen double feature at the Aero Theatre, fancily placed “r” and all, is a wonderful way to kick off the weekend. And if you do Instagram, don’t forget to tag us!

-Miyako, Intern 

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - 7:30pm

Aero Theatre
1328 Montana Avenue 
Santa Monica, CA, 90403

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nick Cave Documentary '20,000 Days on Earth' Screens July 10 with Nick Cave In Person for Discussion & Rare Solo Piano Performance

The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre will be host to the Los Angeles date for an advance screening of 20,000 Days On Earth—the lyrical and inventive documentary on musician Nick Cave (from Drafthouse Films, the film distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Canadian distributor, filmswelike). The Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028) screening takes place July 10, 2014 and will be followed by an intimate audience-based conversation and a rare solo piano performance by Nick Cave, in which he will play a number of songs from his extensive catalog. Doors will open at 7PM and 20,000 Days On Earth screens at 8 PM with Nick Cave taking the stage immediately after the film finishes. Attendees will also be able to purchase an exclusive, limited edition commemorative poster designed by Mondo artist and art director, Rob Jones.

Additional dates for special, advance screenings of 20,000 Days On Earth will take place around the country, to coincide with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ North American Summer 2014 tour. The film will have a wider, traditional theatrical release this September.  

In association with Goldenvoice, three event screenings will take place at The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles (July 10th), The Phi Centre in Montreal (Aug. 1st) and The French Institute Alliance Francais’ Florence Gould Hall in New York City (Aug. 4th..) Each of these screenings will be followed by a conversation with the rock legend himself, during which Cavein a rare solo piano performancewill play a number of songs from his extensive catalog.

The rest of the advance screenings will take place in many of the same nationwide cities as Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ Summer 2014 tour, offering his fans the unique opportunity to watch the Sundance-winning film months before the release. As a nod of appreciation to his fans, pre-sale tickets to these exclusive advance screenings will first be made available to those on Nick Cave’s mailing list and website, starting this Thursday, June 5th – 24 hours prior to the general public on Friday. Tickets will be sold through Goldenvoice via

“I am among many who consider Nick Cave the unofficial poet laureate of the modern age,” says Drafthouse Films founder Tim League. “I am personally excited we are able to integrate screening this bold and riveting portrait of an artist with a series of musical performances by Nick for a truly unique experience.”

Fusing cinematic drama with reality by weaving a fictitious 24-hour journey through the life of musician and international cultural icon Nick Cave, the film is an intimate portrayal of the artistic process that speaks volumes to music fans, the art community and movie lovers alike. The debut directorial feature film of visual artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the film – which opens theatrically on September 17, 2014 – is set to an original score by Nick Cave and fellow Bad Seeds band mate Warren Ellis.

With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the genre-defying film examines what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit. The film made its World Premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded both “Best Directing” and “Best Editing” Awards in the World Cinema Documentary category.
Andrew O’Hehir of calls it “gorgeous and haunting…an unclassifiable and frequently spectacular documentary.” Rob Nelson of Variety says “simply astounding, razor sharp, dynamic” while Michael Dunaway of Paste Magazine proclaims, “just spending an hour and a half or so inside the mind of Nick Cave would be fascinating enough. But the themes of time and lifetime, and the 20,000-day take on it, make this one a must-see.”

Nick Cave will perform at a trio of exclusive events this summer in conjunction with advance screenings of 20,000 Days on Earth, the groundbreaking new film on the iconic rock legend, and winner of two awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
 More information on the special screenings can be found at Information about the screening at the Egyptian Theatre can be found here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kino Croatia: New Films Series Will Serve As A Fundraiser for Flood Victims in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The American Cinematheque in collaboration with HAVC - Croatian Audiovisual Center; with support from Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in Los Angeles, E.L.M.A. (European Languages and Movies in America) and Croatian National Association, presents KINO CROATIA: NEW FILMS (May 30 - June 1, 2014),a Fundraiser for Flood Victims in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzogovina. American Cinematheque is joining the humanitarian effort to help the victims of recent catastrophic floods in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Proceeds from the film series will be donated to the Kino Croatia's Floods Relief Fund. Additional fundraising will take place during the three days of screenings, May 30 - June 01, culminating with the in person appearance by actors Goran Visnjic and Miraj Grbic, leading the drive. KINO CROATIA's opening night takes place at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on May 30th and will continue with four more feature films and a short film at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica May 31 - June 1. The series is produced by Matko B. Malinger.


Croatian cinema combines a haunting, often savagely bleak outcry against political and personal repression with humor, lyricism and a tenderness born of constant conflict and adversity. However, it was little known before late 2000, when the American Cinematheque and CAMEO presented "Wednesdays in Croatia," the first comprehensive overview of Croatian cinema ever mounted on the West Coast.

This year's Kino Croatia series opens with the latest hit comedy from director Vinko Bresan, THE PRIEST'S CHILDREN. A reception for all ticket holders will follow the screening, in the Egyptian Theatre courtyard. A priest - albeit a phony one - plays a central role in Krsto Papic's FLOWER SQUARE. Dalibor Matanic's HANDYMEN follows a beleaguered housewife who becomes the object of three men's affections. Bobo Jelcic's tense look at the war legacy, A STRANGER, dominated the Pula Film Festival awards this year. VIS-À-VIS examines a subject close to home for director Nevio Marasovic - a filmmaker struggling with the autobiographical script for his next project.

Film Schedule:

Opening Night: 
Friday, May 30, 2014 - 7:30 PM 

Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028 

The Priest's Children (2013)



2013, InterFilm, 93 min, Croatia, Dir: Vinko Bresan

Catholic priest Don Fabijan (Kresimir Mikic) is distressed to see his island parish shrinking in population, so he enlists a condom vendor (Niksa Butijer) and a pharmacist (Drazen Kuhn) to sabotage birth control methods - a plan that produces quite a few unintended complications. Working with frequent collaborators including writer-composer Mate Matisic, director Vinko Bresan handles a touchy subject with humor that shifts from whimsical to sardonic, making this comedic cautionary tale one of the year's biggest box office hits in Croatia. In Croatian with English subtitles.

Discussion following the film with actor Niksa Butijer. Evening concludes with Opening Night Party for all ticket holders with finger foods, drinks and live music performed by international actors & filmmakers.  

Saturday, May 31 - 7:30 PM: Double Feature

Aero Theatre, 1328 Montanta Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Handymen (2013)



2013, HRT/Croatian Radiotelevision, 75 min, Croatia, Dir: Dalibor Matanic

Though housewife Keka (Areta Curkovic) feels her marriage to Baja (Niksa Butijer) may be out of steam, the attentions of inept handyman Ilija (Goran Bogdan) are little consolation. After a warring Baja and Ilija practically destroy her home, Keka escapes to a coastal village, where a third man (Bojan Navojec) enters the picture. As in his earlier CASHIER WANTS TO GO TO THE SEASIDE, writer-director Matanic mines plenty of humor from these characters' mundane lives, including some wonderful slapstick sequences. In Croatian with English subtitles.

Discussion between films with HANDYMEN director Dalibor Matanic and actor Niksa Butijer.

Flower Square (2012)



2012, Ozana Film, 101 min, Croatia, Dir: Krsto Papić

To keep his son out of jail, puppeteer Filip (Drazen Kuhn) agrees to help police in a sting operation against a hospitalized crime boss (Mladen Vulic). Disguising himself as "Father Lovro," Filip hears the man's confession - but when the ruse is discovered, divine intervention seems his only hope for survival. The black comedy of director Papic's earlier WHEN THE DEAD START SINGING gets even more absurd here as the pretend priest sinks deeper into desperation. In Croatian with English subtitles.

Sunday, June 1 - 7:30 PM: Double Feature

Aero Theatre, 1328 Montanta Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Special guests, actors Goran Visnjic and Miraj Grbic, will introduce the screenings, lend their support and give guidance for Kino Croatia's floods relief efforts.

The double feature will be preceded by a short film:

"Little Hands" ("Male Ruke")

2011, Chandelier Films, 11 min. Dir. Claire McCarthey.

Written and produced by Dinka Dzubur, Australian actress of Croatian and Bosnian descent, short film "Little Hands" focuses on a need to heal the wounds and help the victims in the aftermath of a major humanitarian disaster. The film is based on the real life experience Dinka had doing humanitarian workshops at the post-war orphanage in the city of Mostar. Featuring D. Dzubur, Miraj Grbic, Manon Bennett and 54 kids from the orphanage. In Croatian and Bosnian with English subtitles.

Vis-A-Vis (2013)


2013, Antitalent Produkcija, 81 min, Croatia, Dir: Nevio Marasovic

A young director (Rakan Rushaidat) struggling to make his autobiographical debut feature cloisters himself on the island of Vis along with his lead actor (Janko Volarić Popović) to get the script into shape. As the men's artistic struggles intertwine with their personal ones, writer-director Marasović (THE SHOW MUST GO ON) reveals an affinity for sharp, self-reflexive humor reminiscent of vintage Woody Allen. In Croatian with English subtitles 

A Stranger (2013)



2013, Spiritus Movens, 85 min, Croatia, Dir: Bobo Jelcic


This haunting drama swept the top awards at the most recent Pula Film Festival. In the Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar, ethnic fissures have not entirely closed two decades after the war, a fact underlined when one of Slavko's (Bogdan Diklić) old friends dies. Slavko and his wife (Nada Durevska) are Catholic and the deceased was Muslim; simply attending the man's funeral is an act fraught with peril. Stage stars Diklić and Đurevska capture the tense mood with every gesture, aided by some fine handheld camera work. In Croatian and Bosnian with English subtitles.


$11 General Admission

$9 Student/Senior

$7 American Cinemathque Member 

Event sponsors include:
Sponsored by: Tony's Food Service, Sunce Winery, Grgich Hills Estate, Shade Hotel, The Courtyard Kitchen, Café LuMar, Dalmatia®,, DOMA Restaurant, Jana Water, Karlovačko Pivo, Roxbury Café, Aroma Café, BIOTEST Anti-aging & Wellness, Dr. Bo - South Bay Dental Esthetics, Central Care Pharmacy, Artukovich, Inc., Dr. Amneris - Dental Esthetics Center, Books LA, and Cinema Without Borders.