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Special Screenings : Disney Retrospective At Museum

July 07, 1986|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

Somehow, it seems as appropriate as sunshine, ice cream sodas or a Saturday at the beach. For the rest of the summer, the County Museum of Art will present "Disney Magic: The Animated Features," a retrospective of all 26 Disney Studio animated features--from the 1937 classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" through the studio's latest, "The Great Mouse Detective."

Spicing up the series: a liberal selection of Disney shorts, snippets and fragments (including 18 seconds of 1946 animation by Salvador Dali) and four behind-the-scenes seminars with the film makers.

The piece de resistance of the whole festival comes this weekend: On Friday , the movie Walt Disney himself usually mentioned as his favorite, "Snow White." And, on Saturday, the one Disney, and many others, judged his finest technical and artistic achievement, "Pinocchio." (There's a "Snow White" seminar Sunday.)

If anything, they look better now. "Pinocchio" seems even more a virtuoso triumph than it did in 1940--only a brief decade removed from the first primitive black-and-white Disney sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie."

"Snow White" had a charm and primal sweetness which transcended its novelty. It summoned up an eternal childhood world, a halcyon woodland refuge with a madly diverse dwarf septet sheltered briefly from the travails of worldliness and wicked witches, united in high spirits.

"Pinocchio," Disney's masterpiece, is a gorgeously mounted cautionary tale about a puppet who wants to be human, the knockabout cricket who acts as his conscience and the bad influences (a devious fox and conniving cat) who keep leading him astray. Perhaps the most eye-poppingly lavish piece of sustained animated storytelling, before or since, it was a movie audiences had to catch up with later. In 1940, it was, like the equally ambitious "Fantasia", a financial setback for the studio.

Perhaps the emotional force of "Pinocchio"--compared with the sugary lyricism and sheer adorability of "Snow White"--alienated some 1940 audiences. At times, it becomes genuinely terrifying but, like all fairy tales, "Pinocchio" scares only to soothe. Never again, however, would the Disney studio dig so deeply into childhood's dark and light sides.

Jean Renoir never had Disney's impact on the public at large--but he shares with him a protean place in film history: probably the French film industry's greatest single figure. Fittingly, UCLA's Film Archives has chosen three Renoirs to commence its retrospective on the Classic French Film, beginning tonight at UCLA's Melnitz Hall: 1928's "La Petite Marchande d'Allumettes" (based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, and starring Renoir's then-wife, Catherine Hessling), and two from 1936--"Une Partie de Campagne" (based on Maupassant's tale of rural eroticism), and "Les Bas Fonds" (with Jean Gabin and Louis Jouvet, based on Gorky's "Lower Depths"). All three are still luminous, fresh and alive: masterful paeans to love, community or the prickly solaces of fantasy, by a matchless film artist.

The closing film on the "Anne Frank in the World" series, sponsored by The Goethe Institute and the Martyrs' Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, screens tonight free at Barnsdall Park's Art Gallery Theatre (4800 Hollywood Blvd., 213-653-5979) Michael Verhoeven's 1982 "The White Rose."

A huge hit in West Germany, "The White Rose" disturbingly recreates the 1942 anti-Nazi student resistance movement at the University of Munich--which ended with the execution of all five young underground members and their professor-mentor. Though not a great film--it doesn't delve deeply enough into the quintet, shown as perhaps too handsome, beautiful or idealistic-heroic--it has a scrupulous factual underpinning. And it's ultimately moving and painful.

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