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American Mavericks, 1979


Early Fridays in January at 8pm

American Mavericks, 1979

1979. It is the twilight of the New Hollywood forged by the “Raging Bulls and Easy Riders,” but well before Sundance will provide a platform for independent cinema. Regional film artists, working far outside of the commercial film industry on shoestring budgets, are making daring, singular and uniquely personal work. Enter Sam Kitt, an indie-film mover-and-shaker who conceived of the traveling "American Mavericks" film festival. This series gathers together four of Kitt's greatest discoveries, revisiting a moment in American film history when indie filmmakers measured costs in the thousands, not the millions. By the close of the ‘70s, the New Hollywood had buckled under the blockbuster, but works like Killer of Sheep and The Whole Shootin' Match, filmed on borrowed time, money and equipment, weren't made to be bought and sold, but for the sheer love of creation. Pulsing with regional authenticity, the "American Mavericks" tell stories of shared experience in the face of an uncertain future: from the despondent humanism of Northern Lights to the dead-end poetry of Last Chants for a Slow Dance, these fugitives of the "Me Decade" offer a vibrant, diverse portrait of American life on the margins.

January 4th - 8:00 pm


Charles Burnett's debut and UCLA thesis film offers an impressionistic portrait of Black American life cut by the jagged edges of Watts in the mid-1970s. Working class Stan finds himself caught in a continual state of wakefulness, killing sheep by day and counting them by night. The slaughterhouse where he works looms over his peace of mind, and vexes his familial happiness. The neighborhood-driven vignettes unfold to tell a larger story of stasis and mobility, and the social tension fueling the futile yet biding dream of "trying to get ahead." Hailed as one of "the most essential films" of all time by the National Society of Film Critics, Killer of Sheep was previously relegated to underground and festival screenings due to the costly music rights of its blues soundtrack. The film's recent theatrical release marks an event in its history as Burnett's beautiful and desolate images finally get the screen and brilliantly restored print that they deserve.
Dir: Charles Burnett, 1979, 35mm, 83 min.
Tickets - $10

January 11th - 8:00 PM


Jon Jost’s experimental feature debut stands with Badlands and Barbara Loden’s Wanda as one of the most original crime films of the ‘70s. Shooting in Montana on a $3000 budget, Jost tells a bitter tale of a sociopathic drifter (Tom Blair) who reveals his utter contempt for married life, work and society in a series of caustic monologues and brutal encounters. Last Chants toys with the boundaries between realism and lyricism, with a playfully abstract use of color offsetting Blair’s disconcertingly vivid portrayal of a casual misanthrope. Making brilliant use of the long take, from dizzying verite zoomfests to claustrophobic, static interior shots, Last Chants is a true original: a down-and-dirty experimental film delivering powerful images, complex characters, and a caustic critique of the American West.
Dir: Jon Jost, 1977, 16mm, 90 min.
Tickets - $10

January 18th -8:00 PM


"The look of the winter landscape during a funeral, the mourners black silhouettes and the sun a dim white disk in a gray sky; the faces of the farmers as they listen to Ray's organizing speech, the jokes and songs at family celebrations. These things have the truth of reportage of a very high order."—The New York Times on Northern Lights

Shot on a tiny budget with farmers who had never acted, Northern Lights won the Caméra d'Or (best first film) at Cannes in 1978. This stark, rigorously composed film is based on the diary of Ray Sorenson, who traveled North Dakota politicizing other poverty-stricken farmers and enlisting them into the Nonpartisan League. First-time directors Rob Nilsson and John Hanson were brave both for having nonprofessionals in costume improvise scenes, and for successfully shooting a period piece with no money. Beautifully captured in black and white, Northern Lights effectively transplants the viewer into a cruel reality, conveying a struggle against injustice that still resonates.
Director Rob Nilsson will be in attendance.
Dirs: Rob Nilsson & John Hanson, 1978, 35mm, 95 min.
Tickets - $10

January 25th - 8:00 PM


In the universe of regional cinema, Eagle Pennell was the pole star of Texas-- remaking the modern western with cowboy indolence and borrowed grace. This shaggy dog horse opera nails that special brand of epic underachieverdom and aspirational decay that 15 years later Slacker would turn into an anthropological treatise. Lou Perry and Sonny Carl Davis play a couple of Mutt-and-Jeff loser/dreamers whose harebrained schemes and bald-faced lies – which they mainly tell themselves – barely get them through the day. Or that and enough liquid courage to put them both in the alcohol of fame. Director Pennell, no stranger to strong drink and its winnowing effect (he died in 2002, just shy of his 52nd birthday) suffuses his lush black-and-white photography with an underground river of sadness, and the sloppy-drunk romanticism walks a perilous ledge between cornpone and suicidal. Newly restored.
Dir: Eagle Pennell, 1979, HDCAM, 109 min.
Tickets - $10