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A cause for celebration: This week offers not one but two chances to see Thom Andersen's Get Out of the Car, the finest American film of 2010. A loose follow-up to 2003's Los Angeles Plays Itself, Andersen's film, an act of both cartography and art history, moves through the supposed backwaters of Los Angeles via its endless stream of signage. In the process Andersen charts the ways that advertising becomes art (late capitalism decays into the ragged beauty of the palimpsests found on out-of-use billboards) and art becomes advertising (the necessity of grasping the city as a puzzle built of uniquely flavored cultural centers, fit together here through precisely photographed and edited studies of their self-presentation via murals). Andersen's wit and humor marry his political commitment and his love for the city in a perfect union. Get Out of the Car screens Thursday at USC's Cinematheque 108 and Sunday at Filmforum; both events feature other essential viewing, and are covered below.
Screening with Get Out of the Car at Cinematheque 108 is Andersen's first feature-length work, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975). Both a study of protocinema pioneer Muybridge's process and a philosophical reflection on the nature of the moving image — it begins with a quote from Mao Zedong: "Man's knowledge of matter is knowledge of its forms of motion, because there is nothing in this world except matter in motion and this motion must assume certain forms" — this is one of the greatest works ever made on the topic of filmmaking.
The New Beverly offers up a double bill of Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake features from 1942, This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key. Directed by two solid journeymen directors, Frank Tuttle and Stuart Heisler, and adapted from novels by Graham Greene and Dashiell Hammett, respectively, these aren't revelations, but certainly worthwhile viewing.
The screens of Los Angeles will offer you and a loved one plenty of time to revel in the feel-bad love story of the Gondry-Kaufman masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with multiple screenings at the Arclight Hollywood and one at the Downtown Independent this week. The most appealingly romantic option comes from Devil's Night, the drive-in series located right in the heart of downtown (search "Devil's Night Los Angeles" for more information).
If you're not looking for a date, or just prefer your love stories more of the familial variety, Echo Park Film Center will be screening Alamar as part of its new "Film Journeys" series, which hosts screenings of contemporary films followed by group discussions on the new cinematic techniques being used.
The second Get Out of the Car screening comes via Filmforum's "New Urban Observations" program, packaged with at least one other masterpiece, Eva Weber's The Solitary Life of Cranes (2008). Composed of shots from and of London's numerous cranes and narrated by several dozen of their operators, Weber's film runs from sad reflections on the monotony of city to humorous asides about naked elderly women vacuuming in the middle of the night. The rest of the evening includes films by Jack Cronin, Laura Kraning, Steven Day and Tomonari Nishikawa.
"Insanity is close to revelation," noted animation artist Martha Colburn, in an interview with Cinema Scope about the confluence of her technique with the acts of the stop-motion junkies and priests who populate her 2008 Myth Labs. Films in her REDCAT program "Animating Mayhem" bear this out: From her early found-footage works through her latest stop-motion epics, Colburn makes politically and socially astute movies with the same manic energy of invention as the finale of Irma Vep.
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