274 – New Beverly Cinema

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There are two types of cinephiles in Los Angeles: the Cinefamily folks and the New Beverly crowd. In my time here I have exclusively been a Cinefamily guy. I was introduced to the theater through Doug Benson’s movie interruptions, but I quickly came to appreciate their programming and even became a member. Without Cinefamily I probably never would have seen some really great movies like The Act of Killing or Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen. But the New Beverly has always stood by as a constant reminder of what I’m missing in the world of L. A. cinema.

Both theaters are revival houses, but they traffic in very different movies. When Cinefamily plays old stuff, it is mostly for mocking purposes, which I have a hard time getting behind. I rarely attend screenings of older movies there, as I consider hate-watching to be an incredible waste of time. But the New Beverly (“New Bev” to its friends) seems more interested in actually showing and preserving quality pictures.

Quentin Tarantino bought the building that houses New Bev in 2007, in order to ensure it would remain open, but he allowed others to continue programming the schedule. But just last month – reportedly due to the purchase of a digital projector – Tarantino decided to take over altogether. The theater went dark during September and re-opened tonight with a Paul Mazursky double feature.

Tarantino apparently programs everything now, down to the music played before and between the films. My secret hope that he would be present was quickly dashed as a woman whose credentials I immediately forgot about stood up to welcome everyone on his behalf. Still, it was an interesting night regardless. Tarantino has an extensive collection of 35 mm prints – and that’s not just feature films. The night opened with a retro concession stand advertisement and a Droopy Dog short. Both were interesting relics of their time. Tonight’s double feature included Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Blume in Love.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was Mazursky’s 1969 debut feature and it is practically flawless. It is composed of several long, patient scenes between two couples with completely different approaches to their marriages. The movie is funny and resonant and still thought-provoking, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Blume in Love, on the other hand, is deeply troubling. Somehow Mazursky lost a significant portion of his progressive touch in the four years between Bob and Blume. His main character (played by George Segal) is a truly awful human being, but not in a way that feels intentional. We are aupposed to continue identifying with the man, even after he SPOILER ALERT rapes his ex-wife (this is ostensibly a comedy). The craziest part? No one in the movie seems to think this is really that big of a deal. I guess 1973 was a different time, but it almost makes the movie unwatchable, and it makes me wonder how much of Mazursky’s oeuvre is actually worthwhile. I mean Blume is so tonedeaf to present day sensibilities that I was certain up to the very end that it was going to turn into a revenge thriller.

I wonder why Tarantino chose Blume to accompany Mazursky’s superior debut. Surely he knew it would be a controversial choice. I like to think he was hoping to inspire conversation – Tarantino loves to talk about film, and what conducts livelier discussion than an upsetting turn of events? I have faith that the man knows what he’s doing, even if the prints he is screening aren’t always in the best condition. The director is superseding the film lover even here, as he tries to craft a movie-going experience for the audience, rather than just passively letting one occur. Have no fear, Q. T., you did your job. I will be back. Less rape next time, please (he said, seeing Pulp Fiction on the schedule).

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