Originally published in the Locarno in Los Angeles 2019 program
Welcome to the third edition of Locarno in Los Angeles. Things are a little different this year. First, the dates: as you are no doubt aware, this year’s festival is taking place in June, rather than in April as in year’s past. This wasn’t planned, but we’d like to think it was meant to be. And the reason for that is because the second thing you’ve probably noticed about this year’s festival––the change in venues––wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. That’s right: venues. This year Locarno in Los Angeles emanates from two different locations: the Bing Theater at LACMA and the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. So while it pained us to delay the festival for a couple of months, we hope you enjoy the comforts of two of Los Angeles’ premier arthouse cinemas. We think it will be worth the wait.
Which brings us to our partners. More than ever this year’s edition is a tribute to our many collaborators, both new and old. First, we want to thank the Locarno Film Festival and their new artistic director Lili Hinstin for encouraging us to keep this project going. We’d like to thank Film at LACMA and Laemmle Theatres for allowing us the time and space to bring a taste of Locarno to Los Angeles audiences. Thank you to Thomas Schneider, Swiss Consulate General of San Francisco, for his ongoing support, as well as our donors Hanns and Angelika Hederer. Also, our long-time sponsors MUBI, back for this third edition to offer not only crucial support, but to give our audience a chance to see adventurous movies year-round in both cinemas and the comfort of their own homes. And finally, thank you to the UCLA Film & Television Archive, without whom our opening night festivities would not be possible.
Speaking of opening night: if there’s a theme to this year’s program, it’s comedy. Who better, then, to pay tribute to than director Leo McCarey, Hollywood’s master comedic craftsman and subject of last year’s Retrospective program in Locarno. For the first time Locarno in Los Angeles will include a film from Locarno’s annual retrospective when we open on June 13 with McCarey’s 1937 screwball classic The Awful Truth, screening on a beautiful, restored 35mm print provided by the Archive. With the Bing Theater set for demolition later this summer, our opening night festivities will double as a bittersweet sendoff to one of Los Angeles’ most iconic cinemas.
From there we move to the Music Hall. From June 14-16 we’ll be presenting our regular hand-curated selection of highlights from the previous year’s Locarno. Our Centerpiece Selection this year was clear from the outset: Mariano Llinás’ 14-hour passion project La Flor, which will screen in three parts over the course of the weekend. Since premiering last summer, La Flor has been one of the most talked about films on the festival circuit––and for good reason. Shot over 10 years with four of Argentina’s most talented actresses (Laura Paredes, Elisa Carricajo, Pilar Gamboa, and Valeria Correa), La Flor tells six individual stories in six different genres; an ode to cinematic storytelling itself, it’s one of contemporary cinema’s most compulsively watchable and unique theatrical experiences––truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Recipient of last year’s Pardo d'onore Manor lifetime achievement award at Locarno, the great French director Bruno Dumont will be featured in our lineup with his new two-part miniseries Coincoin and the Extra-Humans. A sequel to Dumont’s landmark 2014 comedy series P'tit Quinquin, Coincoin picks up a few years later. Now grown up, the title character is questioning his place in the local community, while the lovely dopey duo of Captain Van Der Weyden and Carpentier stumble upon evidence of an alien invasion. Absurd and insightful in equal measure, the film is an uproarious comedy that has more to say about contemporary France than most social dramas.
The two remaining selections, both from Locarno’s Filmmakers of the Present program, take a more allegorical approach to their subjects. In Sophia Antipolis, French director Virgil Vernier takes the temperature of his country’s current cultural climate through a sci-fi-tinged tour across a mysterious technology park. In circular fashion, Vernier, shooting on shimmering 16mm, follows a handful of loosely connected characters through the park as they yearn for emotional connection in this most sterile of environments. And in Fausto, winner of a special mention from the Locarno jury, Canadian filmmaker Andrea Bussmann travels to the Oaxacan coast of Mexico for a hallucinatory spin on the Faust legend. Shot digitally and transferred to rough-hewn 16mm, this unique hybrid film finds modern resonances in Goethe’s parable, playing like a ghost story in which history and myth become one and the same.
All genre films of a sort, our lineup suggests something not often associated with the film festival world: that art cinema can not only be intellectually stimulating, but fun to boot! One thing we can promise you is that this weekend you will be entertained. That, after all, was cinema’s first purpose, and it’s something we’re thrilled to keep alive for another year.
Have a wonderful festival!
Artistic Directors, Locarno in Los Angeles/Acropolis Cinema