Signposts of the '60s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The American Cinematheque's "Mods & Rockers!: Groovy Movies From the Shag-a-Delic Sixties!" continues at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theater at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, tonight at 7 with that era landmark "Performance," with Mick Jagger. It will be followed at 9:15 p.m. by two for the time capsule from defunct quickie teen and thrill mill American International Pictures: "Psych-Out" (1968) and "Riot on Sunset Strip" (1967). The second reflects AIP's emphasis on topicality, cashing in on the actual riots as quickly as possible, with Mimsy Farmer getting mixed up with Sunset Strip druggies, much to the chagrin of her cop father, Aldo Ray. It's lurid business, good for laughs and nostalgia, and does have a Standells soundtrack.

"Psych-Out" is another matter, having been directed by Richard Rush, no less. While it's not without unintended humor and some roughness around the edges, "Psych-Out" is among those films from AIP that actually dealt with issues concerning young people at a time when the majors rarely if ever acknowledged that the Vietnam War was raging, and that young people were increasingly protesting it and drawn to the hippie lifestyle. Before you laugh it off as camp, know that it did connect with its era in its probing of why young people were drawn to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. It doesn't shirk the squalor that lurked just beneath the colorful surface of the neighborhood at the time, and in one sequence it persuasively evokes the terrifying effects of a bad LSD trip.

This picture is notable for its gorgeous kaleidoscopic imagery, worked out by Rush and his gifted cameraman, Laszlo Kovacs, and its equally vivid score by Ronald Stein, which incorporates songs by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Seeds and the Boenzee Cryque.

The late Susan Strasberg plays a beautiful, deaf runaway searching for her brother (Bruce Dern), a martyr to the cause of making love instead of war, and Jack Nicholson is the likable musician with whom Strasberg seeks refuge. In support are such stalwarts as Dean Stockwell and the late Adam Roarke.

On Friday, Russ Meyer will appear with the 7 p.m. screening of his notorious "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" (1970), and former Monkee Mickey Dolenz will appear with the 1968 Monkees movie "Head," directed by Bob Rafelson (his feature debut) and co-written with Jack Nicholson. They plunge the Monkees, the hottest pop group in the country at that moment, into a freewheeling series of surreal adventures. But "Head" is more than that, for Rafelson defines his own sense of reality the way many of us do--with images from the movies we grew up on. When he places the Monkees in snatches of westerns, war pictures or even Maria Montez harem epics, he is not spoofing these genres but making us aware of what our pop culture tells us about ourselves--and how the media condition our perceptions.

The series is chock-full of fun pictures, and culminates in a pair of British pop rarities on Sunday at noon: "Summer Holiday" (1963), featuring Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and marking the directorial debut of Peter Yates, and "Having a Wild Weekend" (1964), featuring the Dave Clark Five and marking the feature debut of John Boorman. (323) 466-FILM.

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"World Cinema" continues at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. with Zhou Xiaowen's "The Emperor's Shadow," a sweeping epic about China's ruthless first emperor, whose determination to unite the country echoes the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. It's entertaining but exceedingly brutal and violent. It will be screened July 10 and 11 at 11 a.m. at the Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica. Sunset 5: (323) 848-3500; Monica 4-Plex: (310) 394-9741.

The Monica 4-Plex on Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 11 a.m. is screening Louis Malle's 1981 "My Dinner With Andre," which was written as well as acted by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. Malle pulled off the formidable challenge of making a movie consisting entirely of two old friends in conversation over dinner. The film is a cerebral comedy of ideas in which Shawn and Gregory play themselves, more or less.

As Shawn--that rumply, balding cherub--proceeds to the rendezvous, a Continental-style Manhattan restaurant, he tells us via voice-over that he's a struggling playwright and sometime actor and that he's agreed to meet Gregory, who was the first director to stage Shawn's work, but they had had a falling out years earlier. Shawn is therefore understandably apprehensive, but when Gregory arrives at the restaurant he is jovial. This elegant man of 47, informally but handsomely dressed, launches into a virtual monologue about his recent mind-expanding experiences.

For nearly an hour of this nearly two-hour film, Gregory bombards Shawn--and us--with his bizarre experiences with, among others, Jerzy Grotowski, the theater experimentalist, and his acting commune in a Polish forest. He says he needed these experiences to regain a sense of self, a sense that he was no longer acting out his life but actually living it.

At this point Shawn finally gets more than just a word in edgewise, and the men find themselves agreeing that most people are hopelessly self-absorbed, living in a dream world and in ignorance of the lives of others.

For all its wit and humor, "My Dinner With Andre" simply asks us to take stock of our lives. It is lots of things--one of the things it is not is a filmed play--but it is most important as an instance of two people talking their way past the neurosis that is the climactic impasse in most serious contemporary plays and films. It suggests that life may have some meaning after all, if an attempt to know is balanced with an acceptance of the unknowable. It's clearly no improvisation, no work of cinema verite, but is as beautifully structured as a fine piece of music or poetry.

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"Sergio Leone's America" commences Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the L.A. County Museum of Art's Bing Theater, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., with the two spaghetti westerns that made Clint Eastwood a star: "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964) and "For a Few Dollars More" (1966). Leone brought an existentialist vision to the western, replacing its traditional good-versus-evil morality with shades of gray, which continued in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966), in which Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach took the title roles; it screens Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Screening at 7:30 p.m. July 9 and July 10, respectively, are Leone's two greatest epics, the grand horse opera "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968), with Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards, and his glorious gangster saga "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), with Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern and Tuesday Weld. (323) 857-6910.

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To tout its "Movie Palace Memories: 75 Years of Columbia Pictures," the American Cinematheque is borrowing that famous observation, attributed to Red Skelton, made at studio co-founder Harry Cohn's funeral: "It goes to show that if you give people what they want, they'll turn out for it." People did--and do--turn out for Columbia pictures, and the studio's Michael Schlesinger and the Cinematheque's Dennis Bartok have assembled a selection designed to lure you to the Egyptian, where 32 features, dozens of shorts, a complete serial, "The Spider's Web," starring Warren Hull, and various rarities, spanning a 45-year period, will unspool from Wednesday to July 25. A restored version of George Sidney's 1957 film of Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey," starring Frank Sinatra and the studio's two love goddesses, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak, launches the series Wednesday at 8 p.m. (323) 466-FILM.

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The Los Angeles Conservancy's annual "Last Remaining Seats" series, which features vintage movies in vintage downtown movie palaces, concludes Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater, 842 S. Broadway, with Clara Bow in "It." When popular British novelist "'Madame" Elinor Glyn descended upon Hollywood in the mid-'20s, she famously pronounced that Clara Bow possessed "It." Madame Glyn was forever redefining this quality, which was sex appeal with a little something extra. The irrepressible Bow had sex appeal in abundance, plus vulnerability and spontaneity. Indeed, few stars have ever shone with such radiance.

Inevitably, Bow would appear in a picture simply called "It," based on a story by Glyn, who also appears briefly in the 1927 movie.

Directed by Clarence Badger with a breezy, throwaway charm, the effervescent "It" is the quintessential shopgirl fantasy with Bow, a department store lingerie saleswoman, setting her cap for the store owner's handsome son (Antonio Moreno). William Austin and Priscilla Bonner co-star. (213) 896-9114.

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