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The pre-millennial anxiety of ‘Run Lola Run,’ plus more of the week’s best films in L.A.

A woman with red hair stares down the camera.
Franka Potente as Lola in the movie “Run Lola Run.”
(Bernd Spauke / Sony Pictures Classics)
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Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies. I was away to the East Coast visiting with family last week and was so happy to unexpectedly come across two really great (and very different) video stores in Connecticut: Best Video Film and Cultural Center in Hamden and The Archive in Bridgeport.

We don’t ever really need an excuse around here to talk about Elaine May, as when we recently spotlighted a series of screenings of her film “The Heartbreak Kid.” So you can imagine just how excited we all are for Carrie Courogen’s new biography, “Miss May Does Not Exist,” which sheds new insights on May’s life and work, from her groundbreaking comedy in partnership with Mike Nichols to her participation in varying capacities on films such as “A New Leaf,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Reds,” “Tootsie” and the once-shunned, now rightly beloved “Ishtar.”

Marc Weingarten spoke to Courogen about the process of writing the book, including her many attempts to speak to the notoriously private and inscrutable May, who recently turned 92. As Courogen put it (regarding May’s relationship to her own legacy), “She has kept herself in the shadows as a choice, yet I kept looking around and seeing work that is so clearly indebted to Elaine. She’s done so much, yet no one knows much about her at all.”

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Vidiots will be screening May’s 1976 film “Mikey and Nicky” starring Peter Falk and John Cassavetes on Monday. Actor, comedian and podcaster Paul Scheer will be there to introduce the movie.

Getting up to speed with ‘Run Lola Run’

A woman with red hair stares down the lens.
Franka Potente as Lola in the movie “Run Lola Run.”
(Bernd Spauke / Sony Pictures Classics)

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of its U.S. release, Tom Tykwer’s film “Run Lola Run” is returning to theaters in a new 4K restoration. The film’s star, Franka Potente, will participate in Q&As at L.A.’s Nuart Theatre following the 7:30 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday.

The movie captured the pre-millennial tension of its moment. Tykwer’s stylish, furious filmmaking was as notable as Potente’s shock of bright red hair. The plot follows three possible outcomes when Lola, a young woman in Berlin, receives a phone call informing her that her bungling boyfriend has 20 minutes to come up with a large sum of money or he will be killed.

In his original review for The Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, “Not only does Lola run, she takes this hyperkinetic pop culture firecracker of a film with her. Writer-director Tom Tykwer’s restless, inventive work, the most energetic from Germany in recent years, is about the playful inventiveness inherent in the medium itself. Cinema is a contest without rules, a place where anything can happen, and if you don’t believe it, just keep watching.”

Reporting from Berlin, Carol J. Williams wrote about how the film captured its very specific moment in time.

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“What I like about making movies is that, unlike in life itself, you can beat time,” Tykwer said then. “Everyone has experienced that feeling of wishing he could turn the clock back just 20 minutes and do something differently. You can actually do that in a film.”

Remembering Richard Roundtree

An actor in a blue jacket and hat addresses the camera.
Richard Roundtree, photographed in the Los Angeles Times photo studio during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The American Cinematheque is launching a tribute series to Richard Roundtree this weekend. Roundtree, best known for his role as detective John Shaft, died last year at age 81.

The program will include the first two films in which Roundtree played the iconic character, both directed by Gordon Parks: 1971’s “Shaft” and 1972’s “Shaft’s Big Score.”

Also playing as part of the series will be Tim Reid’s 1995 “Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored,” Larry Cohen’s 1982 “Q: The Winged Serpent” and a preview of Roundtree’s final role in the upcoming “Thelma.” That screening at the Egyptian will include a Q&A with writer-director Josh Margolin and actors June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Clark Gregg and Nicole Byer.

A man and a woman calmly leave a burning room.
Richard Roundtree and June Squibb in the movie “Thelma.”
(Magnolia Pictures)
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Roundtree’s performance in “Shaft” would earn him a Golden Globe nomination for new star of the year. In a 2019 interview with The Times, Roundtree recalled his interview with Parks for the role that took him from male model to actor. “I was sitting in his office and he’s saying, ‘We’re kind of looking for a guy who looks like this,’ ” Roundtree said. “And I look over, and it’s an ad that I had done. ‘That’s me!’”

The Times’ original 1971 review by John C. Mahoney asserted that, “There is formidable talent invested in ‘Shaft.’ Richard Roundtree, bedding and brawling in the title role, forever defining himself solely in terms of color and function, makes a commanding screen-starring debut.”

In reviewing “Shaft’s Big Score” in 1972, The Times’ Kevin Thomas wrote, “ ‘Shaft’s Big Score’ is very good to look at, with its sharp, graphic imagery, and succeeds in creating its own fantasy world out of its real-life New York exteriors that have been photographed in a stylized way to blend with the flossy movie-movie interiors.” Of the film’s star, Thomas added simply, “Roundtree is just as macho as ever.”

Other points of interest

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s ‘Beijing Watermelon’

Two people with a watermelon wait in an office.
A scene from Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “Beijing Watermelon.”
(Kani Releasing)

On Saturday afternoon, Acropolis Cinema will be present the L.A. premiere of a new 2K restoration of Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1989 “Beijing Watermelon.” Obayashi, who died in 2020 at age 82, has become best known for his wild 1977 child-horror film “House,” but his filmmaking extends well beyond that movie.

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Based on a true story, “Beijing Watermelon” follows a Tokyo greengrocer who befriends a group of Chinese exchange students, sharing produce with them when they cannot afford it.

The Times’ Kevin Thomas wrote about the film when it first played in L.A. in 1990, being the final title to open at the Little Tokyo Cinemas before the venue closed. Declaring the film “quirky, original and unpredictable,” Thomas added, “Obayashi’s warmth and populist sentiment’s bring to mind the films of Frank Capra. … ‘Beijing Watermelon’, a treasure of wry, telling observations, is an eloquent commentary on the magic of the cinema itself.”

Luchino Visconti’s ‘The Leopard’

Several people assemble in a Sicilian drawing room.
Burt Lancaster, second from left, in a scene from Luchino Visconti’s movie “The Leopard.”
(Cannes Film Festival)

Next Wednesday, the Academy Museum will present a 4K restoration of Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film “The Leopard,” starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. Adapted from the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and set in 19th century Sicily, the film examines how to know when your time is over, as one aristocratic era ends and another begins. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, the movie was also nominated for one Academy Award, for Piero Tosi’s costume design. For me personally it is a film that only grows in stature, its overwhelming beauty overtaken by a sense of mournful resignation.

Writing about the film in 2010 for The Times, Sam Adams said, “Perhaps the most overtly dialectical of Visconti’s movies, ‘The Leopard’ embodies the contradictions inherent in his identity. As a wealthy aristocrat with Marxist leanings — not to mention a gay man whose sexual partners included Coco Chanel — Visconti was a cauldron of conflicting impulses that make themselves felt in ‘The Leopard’s’ mixture of nostalgia and revolutionary fervor. The movie’s opulent sets and Giuseppe Rotunno’s limpid cinematography transmit a palpable yearning for the gilded palaces and gala balls of a bygone era. But Visconti pines equally for the squandered potential of Garibaldi’s revolution, which in “The Leopard” amounts to nothing more than an exchange of cultured noblemen for a new political class of wealthy boors.”

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in 1994, Kevin Thomas said this of the film: “A glorious triumph of personal expression, it is an example of the historical epic as an art film. Burt Lancaster is superb as a Sicilian aristocrat who laments the passing of his privileged world yet understands why it must inevitably be destroyed.”

In other news

Tracing the Hollywood history of the LGBTQ+ community

As part of a package of stories known as “Our Queerest Century” examining 100 years of LGBTQ+ history, Matt Brennan wrote an essay on the community’s legacy in Hollywood and the impact of queer representation onscreen and in the culture at large.

As Matt put it, “To understand the LGBTQ+ contribution to American culture is not to ask why we were erased from it, belittled in it, tokenized by it, but to ask why we continued to love it nonetheless. … For a century we’ve been told we weren’t wanted or needed, that we couldn’t or shouldn’t, and we were shamed when we did. But we kept at it, quietly or loudly, in code or by megaphone. Queer people didn’t change the culture, certainly not with a single sitcom, even one endorsed by a sitting vice president. We are the culture. Everyone else is just living in it.”

The ‘L.A. Influential’ project

The Times recently unveiled a project known as “L.A. Influential,” meant as a snapshot of who has power and influence in the city right now. As Gustavo Arellano put it in an introductory essay, “What does influence even mean anymore in Los Angeles when anyone with a social media account can amass a following of hundreds of thousands? Is it the people who are in charge of how the city runs — the politicians, the bureaucrats, the nonprofit leaders? Is it the individuals who tell us what to view, read, listen to and eat? The folks who work behind the scenes that few know about but who are legends in their world? Those who have huge influence outside Southern California but wouldn’t even be recognized at the In-N-Out drive-through? Yes.”

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The list will be revealed over a number of weeks. Naturally many folks in the initial group announced come from the world of entertainment, including Ava DuVernay, Eva Longoria, Kevin Feige, Ryan Murphy, Steven Yeun and Jordan Peele.

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