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Screening Room: February brings women in film, unexpected romance and David Lynch

Screening Room: February brings women in film, unexpected romance and David Lynch
Helen Shaver, left, and Patricia Charbonneau in the 1986 film "Desert Hearts." (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

The UCLA Film & Television Archive's series "What a Difference — Women and Film in the 1970s and 1980s" looks at two decades that featured a breakthrough of creativity from female filmmakers. Spurred by feminism and a surge in independent film, directors such as Julie Dash, Joan Micklin Silver and Susan Seidelman made their marks.

The series opens with Donna Deitch's 1986 lesbian romantic drama "Desert Hearts," set in 1959 Reno. Helen Shaver stars as an uptight East Coast academic awaiting a divorce, who is swept away by free-spirited Patricia Charbonneau. The film screens with three early shorts by Deitch, who will be in attendance.

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"What a Difference — Women and Film in the 1970s and 1980s," UCLA Film & Television Archive, Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 206-8013 www.cinema.ucla.edu/events "Desert Hearts" (1986). Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Series continues through Feb. 27.

Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in the 1934 movie "It Happened One Night."
Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in the 1934 movie "It Happened One Night." (Columbia Pictures)

"La La Land" notwithstanding, big screen romance has been on the wane in recent years, so it makes perfect sense with Valentine's Day looming that we turn our attention to the past for our fix of on-screen eros. Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum offers "Unexpected Romance," a series of four films from different decades that examines the comedic potential of the old axiom "opposites attract."

"It Happened One Night," Robert Riskin and Frank Capra's 1934 romantic comedy that won five major Academy Awards the following year, features wealthy wild girl Claudette Colbert fending off the reportorial intentions of rascally Clark Gable and his lack of an undershirt.

The series includes Howard Hawks' 1941 "Ball of Fire" with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck; Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in 1967's "Barefoot in the Park," based on Neil Simon's Broadway hit; and Hal Ashby's 1971 black comedy "Harold and Maude" featuring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort.

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"Unexpected Romance," Norton Simon Museum, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 449-6840 www.nortonsimon.org. "It Happened One Night" (1934). Friday, 5:30 p.m. Series runs weekly through Feb. 23.

Laura Elena Harring, left, and Naomi Watts in the 2001 movie "Mulholland Dr."
Laura Elena Harring, left, and Naomi Watts in the 2001 movie "Mulholland Dr." (Melissa Moseley/SMPSP / Universal Pictures)

The anticipated buildup to the return of "Twin Peaks" to television in May makes this an ideal time to sample some of David Lynch's cinematic offerings. Beginning Feb. 3, the American Cinematheque presents "Pie and Coffee — David Lynch Plus," a series pairing works by the director with films that either inspired or were inspired by the idiosyncratic filmmaker.

First up, a couple of landmark L.A. roadways that do not actually intersect in real life cross paths with Lynch's 2001 "Mulholland Dr.," starring Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring, meeting Billy Wilder's 1950 "Sunset Boulevard," with Gloria Swanson and William Holden. Noirish with a sense of the macabre, both films offer a nightmare vision of a carnivorous Hollywood where the price of fame may be your sanity or your life.

Other double bills, some where the connection is obvious, others less so, include "Blue Velvet" and "All That Heaven Allows"; "Wild at Heart" and "The Wizard of Oz"; and "Eraserhead" and "Raising Arizona."

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"Pie and Coffee — David Lynch Plus," American Cinematheque, Egyptian Theatre, 7612 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-3456, www.americancinemathequecalendar.com. "Mulholland Dr." (2001) and "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Friday, 7:30 p.m. "Blue Velvet" (1986) and "All That Heaven Allows" (1955). Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Series continues through Feb. 19.

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