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March 25 - April 3 2005

California Stars: Los Angeles on Film

With the recent release of the documentaries Los Angeles Plays Itself, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, the City of Angels has moved beyond its standard role as backdrop for the dream factory and has become a legitimate subject of filmic discourse. This collection of nonfiction and experimental work examines the culture and environment of the city and its surroundings. Although the city film is often associated with New York and the great urban capitals of Europe, these works present Los Angeles as a rich and viable subject with many layers beneath its oft-scrutinized surface.
This series is presented in conjunction with the Brattle Theatre’s spring program, Dark Side of the Sun: L.A. Noir.

March 25 (Friday) 7 pm
March 27 (Sunday) 7 pm

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Directed by Xan Cassavetes
US, 2004, color, 120 min.

If you lived in L.A. in the 1980s, loved movies, and watched cable television, then you probably spent most of your waking hours viewing the eclectic programming of Z Channel, a precursor to IFC and the Sundance Channel, programmed by manic film fanatic Jerry Harvey. Director Xan Cassavetes looks back on the short history of the channel which became a showcase for international and independent cinema, as well as “misunderstood” Hollywood epics such as Heaven’s Gate and Once Upon a Time in America. Drawing on extensive interviews with those who loved to watch including Quentin Tarantino, Alexander Payne, and Robert Altman, Cassavetes thoughtfully examines the unusual circumstances in which a vanguard enterprise could find success in the corporate establishment of television programming.

March 25 (Friday) 9:15 pm
March 29 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Tarzan and Jane Regained…Sort of

Directed by Andy Warhol
US, 1964, b/w, 80 min.
With Dennis Hopper, Naomi Levine, Taylor Mead

This road movie represents Warhol’s first attempt at making a narrative film, and bears very little resemblance to his subsequent films. The most striking aesthetic anomaly of this film–when compared to the rest of his work–is the constantly moving camera, which would end up on the tripod and rarely move in his later films. Starring Taylor Mead as Tarzan and Naomi Levine as Jane, the film demonstrates both Warhol’s excitement with the medium and with Hollywood itself as he travels to Los Angeles. He was intrigued by a “vacant, vacuous Hollywood” in transition between old and new.

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March 26 (Saturday) 7 pm
March 27 (Sunday) 9:15 pm

Mayor of the Sunset Strip

Directed by George Hickenlooper
US, 2003, color, 94 min.

This documentary generates exposure for a music impresario who is celebrated by a large cross-section of musicians, but is virtually unknown outside of Los Angeles. Rodney Bingenheimer, a radio D.J. on KROQ, is responsible for promoting and breaking bands as disparate as Blondie and Van Halen. Although the film is somewhat melancholic in its evocation of his relative decline in significance, it is more a celebration of his love of pop music, and the ability of innumerable artists to detect his sincerity and befriend him. The film is directed by George Hickenlooper, who co-directed Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

March 26 (Saturday) 9 pm

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein
US, 2002, color, 93 min.

The story of the rise and fall of producer Robert Evans plays like a slimmed-down highlight reel of his autobiography of the same name, with Evans' tough-talking, wise-cracking voice telling the tallest of Hollywood tales. Evans started out as the eponymous “kid" when Darryl Zanuck saved his acting job in 1957, eventually becoming “the man” who would make such pronouncements as the head of production at Paramount in the 1970s. Through archival footage, interviews with his contemporaries, and narration by Evans himself, the film tells Evans' version of the story behind the making of big hits such as The Godfather and Love Story, with enough time to drop every name, curse every enemy, and tell at least one story about each of his seven wives.

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March 28 (Monday) 7 pm


Directed by James Benning
US, 2000, color, 90 min.

Benning designed Los as the urban companion piece to his earlier film, El Valley Centro. A portrait of Los Angeles that avoids the city proper in favor of the urban landscapes that make up its peripheral sprawl into the desert, the film evokes the intertwined complexity of the many societies and topographies that comprise Los Angeles.

Pasadena Freeway Stills

Directed by Gary Beydler
US, 1974, b/w, 6 min.

No filmic study of Los Angeles would be complete without addressing the inescapable life of the freeway. Gary Beydler’s experimental animated short uses hand-held still photographs to reflect on the joys of traffic.


Directed by Fabrice Ziolkowski
US, 1980, b/w, 88 min.

A true city film, L.A.X. combines majestic aerial shots of the hills and skylines with grittier footage shot on the streets of Hollywood to construct a truthful reflection of the many disparate elements that comes together as the city of Los Angeles. Described by film scholar David James as “a disabused, skeptical rendering of the city’s grittier underside” which reveals “the noir realities behind the sunshine," Ziolkowski’s work marked a high point in the burgeoning L.A. avant-garde film scene of the 1970s.

March 29 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Los Angeles Now

Directed by Phillip Rodriguez
US, 2004, color, 60 min.

Los Angeles, once the whitest city in America, is now the most multicultural city in the world. Yet the city’s cultural transformation has been largely overlooked by the movies, the media, and even by many of its residents. The entertainment industry continues to churn out outdated images of L.A. while ignoring the many new stories emerging from the city’s increasingly diverse populations. A rare and thoughtful evocation of a city, Los Angeles Now looks beyond "Baywatch" and Blade Runner to create a fresh and candid portrait of America’s second largest city following the close of its “Anglo century.”
This screening is co-presented with the Boston Latino International Film Festival.

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April 1 (Friday) 7 pm
April 3 (Sunday) 7 pm

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Directed by Thom Andersen
US, 2003, color, 169 min.

One of the most acclaimed films of the past year, Los Angeles Plays Itself compiles footage from a wide range of sources to present a modern portrait of the oft-maligned mecca of the movie industry. Drawing from 1950s B-movies, science fiction classics, and urban films noir, Thom Andersen deconstructs both filmmaking and viewing in a work which posits the artifice of Hollywood imagery as factual documents. In the tradition of the great film essayists such as Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnes Varda, Andersen creates an entertaining, epic film essay in which setting becomes a character in its own right.

April 2 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Decay of Fiction

Directed by Pat O’Neill
US, 2002, color, 74 min.

California-based artist Pat O’Neill is a photographer and sculptor who turned to filmmaking in the 1960s, where his interest in space and imagery took on the kinetic shape of cinematic experimentation. In this intersection of fact and hallucination set in the abandoned Ambassador Hotel, ghosts of images from films past haunt the halls of the decaying luxury getaway. With masterful optical printing, O’Neill creates a densely layered tapestry of visuals which are superimposed against the deteriorating surface of the once-grand hotel. Loosely organized by a noir-ish narrative, O’Neill’s work blends fact and fiction to construct a thoughtful meditation on myth and memory.

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April 2 (Saturday) 7 pm

Water and Power

Directed by Pat O’Neill
US, 1989, color, 58 min.

Water and Power is a study of Pat O’Neill’s native Los Angeles, brilliantly transformed through layers of imagery, superimposition, optical printing, and a wry spirit. O’Neill has explained that “Water and Power was made over a period of years, without a script, relying on the chance confluence of places, people and conditions. It turned out to be very much about water, in all of its physical states, and about cyclic motions... Stories and progressions rose up out of the material, the written texts appeared, and the ending became the beginning––several times.”

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700