Wednesday, September 18th is Art House Theater Day 2019! Launched by our friends and fellow art house cinemas of the Art House Convergence, this annual celebration of art house and indie theaters is celebrated by cinemas and communities across the nation, who band together to bring you special screenings and exceptional cinematic experiences – this year, the brand new 4K Restoration of Robert Downey, Sr.’s legendary 1969 satire Putney Swope, and an opportunity to experience Peter Strickland’s highly-anticipated follow up to The Duke of Burgundy, the “killer dress” giallo homage In Fabric!
In celebration of Art House Theater Day 2019, Reggie Peralta – a Frida Cinema volunteer since 2015, contributor to film collective LA Arts Society, and recent addition to our Staff as our trusty Content and Newsletter Editor – gives us his own Top 5 Favorite Frida Cinema Memories!
May, 2014 / June, 2019
One of my first memories of the Frida is five years ago, when they were brand new, when I watched the original Japanese Gojira (Godzilla) with my brother in an auditorium that was, save for one or two other people, entirely empty. Funnily enough, one of my favorite memories is when we screened it again with Los Angeles Arts Society last year. A lot had changed since that lonely screening of Gojira: there was at least 100 people the second time around, and they were all excited as could be. It was hectic on my end since I was helping run the event but even so I could tell how happy these people were simply because we were playing a Godzilla movie, much less the original. Making it all the more memorable was the post-film Q&A with Godzilla experts Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, who both had an incredible amount of knowledge about the movie and the series it inspired to share with our guests. I don’t know if any of us working that night were prepared for that level of enthusiasm from the audience, but it was certainly worth it for this lifelong Godzilla fan to see so many people sharing in the same excitement I felt watching these movies as a kid.
+ Q&A with Virginia Madsen, Lenny von Dohlen, & Rusty Lemorande
Before The Frida screened Electric Dreams, I admittedly had never heard of it. So you can imagine my surprise when I showed up that day to see 160 people had shown up for FlickrHappy’s presentation of it. Going in with only the knowledge that Candyman’s Virginia Madsen was in it and that it never received a US DVD or Blu-ray release, the film blew me far and away with its electro-pop, punchy dialogue, and shockingly touching story. As if getting to watch this rarely-seen movie wasn’t enough, stars Virginia Madsen and Lenny Von Dohlen, and screenwriter Rusty Lemorande, showed up for a Q&A afterwards! The discussion was both informative and entertaining, but the fun didn’t end there because all three stuck around to meet and greet with absolutely everyone who wished to – literally for like four hours. It was a special night filled with good vibes for everyone there, and one that reminded me of what a magical space The Frida is.
A monthly tradition at The Frida is for the Staff to name a Volunteer of the Month, and invite them to program a film. When I was named Director of the Month in February, I didn’t hesitate to select one of my favorite films by Ken Russell, the eccentric, avant-garde director behind Tommy (and a filmmaker that I hope to see make another one of The Frida’s monthly traditions one day — Director of the Month!)
A spiritual sequel to the aforementioned rock opera, Lisztomania takes the seemingly dry subject of classic music history and somehow outdoes its predecessor in absurdity. Packed with outlandish prog-rock, phallic imagery, and totalitarian iconography, it’s been a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine for years and made for a very interesting viewing experience in a theater filled with friends, family, and curious strangers. Fortunately for me, the audience had just as much of a blast as I did, alternatively guffawing and busting up at the inane insanity occurring before their eyes. The movie even got a stirring round of applause at the end and I got quite a few people thanking me for picking it on the way out! If this is anything to go by, maybe there’s hope for Ken Russell Month after all!
Stop Making Sense
When I first saw Stop Making Sense, I knew that it just had to be seen on the big screen. Putting aside my shameless love for Talking Heads, Jonathan Demme inventively directs the movie in a way that elevates it beyond a mere concert film and makes it a truly great piece of cinema. Luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one who thought so because the Frida ended up screening it not once, not twice, but thrice! — with me catching it two out of those three times!
Making use of darkness as much as light, Stop Making Sense is that rare kind of movie that actually feels made for the big screen, with its blacks and shadows blending in well with a dimmed theater. The fact that there were other people watching the film also lent itself to the material much better than viewing it at home by oneself might, furthering the impression that the audience was actually at a Talking Heads concert. Plus, the performances by the band are really just that good, with there being few concert films I’ve seen that have anything as powerfully raw as David Byrne feeling the spirit as he sings “Once in a Lifetime”.
Apocalypse Now / The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2
If you’re a Frida veteran like me, you might remember way back when the theater presented Apocalypse Now and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 along with other titles as part of a series in celebration of the great Dennis Hopper. The films were scheduled in such a way that one could make their own double-feature of it if they wanted to – and well, I certainly thought the experience would be epic. I have to admit I felt a bit apprehensive going in — Apocalypse Now was already close to 3 hours, so how would I be able to sit through it and another movie?
Well, perfectly fine as it turned out. I sat through Apocalypse Now as hooked as I was all the other times I had seen it before, and then hopped right into the other theater for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. Adding to the experience, I realized the two have something in common besides Hopper and unadulterated violence- namely, an overwhelming sense of momentum that, whether the viewer likes it or not, grabs them and takes them along for the ride. Kudos to The Frida for cooking up this crazy but awesome would-be double-feature, because Lord knows I sure wouldn’t have!