FRIDAY, MARCH 20
Directed in three parts by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho, Tokyo! doesn’t expose the city so much as its citizens, sometimes quite literally. In the opener, Gondry’s “Interior Design,” an aspiring filmmaker’s girlfriend finds herself so useless in cosmopolitan Tokyo that she morphs into furniture. Carax’s “Merde” creates monster-movie terror via the bloody antics of a homeless gnome, who puts the city on edge with random killings and confounds the courtroom with leprechaun gibberish. The finale, Bong’s “Shaking Tokyo,” follows a recluse (hikikomori, in the vernacular) with a monklike penchant for stacking empty pizza boxes just so, who finally exits his house after 10 years only to find everyone else in the metropolis has shut themselves in. Odder than Japan itself, thanks to its decidedly non-Japanese directors, this cinematic triptych transforms Tokyo’s surreality into a nearly inexplicable study of disconnect in an ultra-urban world. (Actress Ayako Fujitani appears in person Friday, 7:30 p.m.) Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; runs Fri.-Thurs., March 20-26. (310) 281-8223. —Derek Thomas
WON’T YOU COME HOME, AL AILEY?
How appropriate that Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has included L.A. in the ensemble’s 50th anniversary tour. Before he founded his eponymous dance troupe 50 years ago, Alvin Ailey started his dance career with the legendary choreographer Lester Horton, whose L.A.-based company was one of the few racially integrated of that time. Ailey may have started here, but it was in New York that he established his troupe and in the gospel music of his Texas childhood that he found his choreographic voice in his masterpiece, Revelations. A half-century later, the Ailey tradition is helmed by one of his signature dancers Judith Jamison, and the company signature work, Revelations, concludes each of the four repertoire programs. Check www.musiccenter.org for the specific repertoire for the six performances. At the Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Wed.-Sat., March 18-21, 7:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun., March 21-22, 2 p.m.; $25-$105. (213) 972-0711. —Ann Haskins
LIGHTS! CAMERA! FLEET-FOOTED ACTION!
Gracefulness isn’t a prized commodity in contemporary fantasy-adventure films, so to see 1924’s The Thief of Bagdad, one of the pioneering films of the genre, is to be transported not just to a distant land but also to a bygone era of silent cinema, when mainstream entertainment could be this unashamedly balletic. Director Raoul Walsh’s film, now showing in a restored print, follows the exploits of the titular thief (Douglas Fairbanks, at his most impossibly pretty) as he tries to woo an Arabian princess (Julanne Johnston). Because this is a movie and not real life, those attempts at courtship don’t involve dinner dates and heartfelt talks but, rather, a series of physical challenges in order to acquire an elusive magic chest. The Thief of Bagdad’s three major selling points — William Cameron Menzies’ exceptional larger-than-life sets; Hampton Del Ruth’s innovative special effects; and Fairbanks’ grinning, athletic exuberance — remain undiminished after 85 years, but what comes across strongest is the film’s striking tonal contrast to the many popcorn movies that have followed in its path. Granted, the thief’s arduous quest recalls the videogame plotting of modern-day action films, and Walsh’s emphasis on spectacle over character has become a genre staple, but The Thief of Bagdad’s dashing, boyish charm displays none of the machismo overkill or kid-friendly preciousness that coarsens so many of its spiritual descendants. At a time when big-budget blockbusters are only getting more juvenile, The Thief of Bagdad stands apart as a wonderfully grownup adventure film: sweet of spirit, fleet of foot, and so delightfully quaint that for younger viewers its old-fashioned romantic sweep and wide-eyed joy will feel positively revelatory. Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri., March 20, 7:30 p.m.; $5. (310) 247-3600. —Tim Grierson
SATURDAY, MARCH 21
YOU CAN BÊTE YOUR NOIRE ON IT
Of its Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice tour, Esotouric host Kim Cooper says: “I enjoy the fruits of downtown’s resurgence as much as anyone, but for every cute little wine bar and restored architectural gem, there’s a century-thick layer of human struggles crying out to be remembered. I think our modern pleasures taste a little sweeter when washed down with the voices of the past. Some of them are screaming, some are hooting with lust, others cry softly. If you come along on this tour and close your eyes, you can hear them, too.” Hot cha! Meet at Cafe Metropol at 923 E. Third St., downtown; Sat., March 21, noon-4 p.m.; $58 (March babies ride for $3.33 with a fully paid companion.) —Libby Molyneaux
E.A.R. YE, E.A.R. YE
One night, composer Daniel Wohl awoke to an odd image on his TV. “The set was turned to a ‘nonchannel,’” he recalls, “and the screen was mostly filled with black-and-white static, except for a faded image of what looked like an old couple dancing. The image would come in strongly and then recede into the static.” The experience led to Wohl’s recent work, +ou- (plus ou moins), which he describes as “music heard through a veil of noise.” This week, you can hear +ou- and much more from our young American pioneers of new and experimental music when the California E.A.R. Unit takes over the stage at REDCAT, with a program as invigorating as it is challenging. Among the other works: Oscar Bettison’s seductive Gauze Vespers, a Zenlike flute meditation punctuated by jarring percussion and the tinkling commentary of toy pianos; Ryan Brown’s Our Friend Adam, a jazzy avant-garde combination of humor and existential curiosity that’s a takeoff on Our Friend Atom, a short film that introduced the atom bomb; Christine Southworth’s gamelan-inspired Jamu for ensemble and electronics; Clay Chaplin’s structured improvisation Rememories, in which music and 3-D video comment on the relationship between time and memory; and a new work from the “czar” of the Carlsbad Music Festival, Matt McBane. At Redcat, 631 W. Second St., downtown; Sat., March 21, 8:30 p.m.; $16-$20, student tickets available. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org. —Mary Beth Crain