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A magical telling of Bard's 'Dream'

October 17, 2002|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

In honor of the Los Angeles visit of Dagmar Havlova, first lady of the Czech Republic, the UCLA Film and Television Archive is presenting tonight a rare screening of Czech animation genius Jiri Trnka's exquisite 1959 magic puppet film of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Playwright Howard Sackler's 1961 English-language version is narrated by Richard Burton and voiced by renowned British actors.

Trnka's original version had no dialogue -- but then, his film could be described as a fantasy ballet. Trnka's fanciful world envisions an Athens with a baroque touch and an enchanted forest as a gossamer paradise.

Shakespeare's convoluted plot involves four conflicted couples: Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons; Oberon, King of the Fairies, and his queen, Titania; and young lovers Hermia and Lysander, and Demetrius and Helena. But a night in the woods, with a sprinkling of fairy dust that straightens everything out.

Perhaps most breathtaking is the image of Trnka's voluptuous, doe-eyed Titania, clad only in a garland of roses, and a train composed of a zillion fairies, their wings beating like a multitude of butterflies. Especially poignant is Bottom and his friends' staging of the "Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe."

Also screening tonight, at the Egyptian, is Allan Dwan's "Robin Hood," starring Douglas Fairbanks, to mark the 80th birthday of Hollywood Boulevard's first movie palace, which opened with this film.

Yet another offering tonight, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is "Mala Noche" (1985), which kicks off "The Essential Gus Van Sant" retrospective. This is a film of rare tenderness and longing in which a skid-row grocery clerk (Tim Streeter) falls hard for a macho teenager, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. On Saturday and Sunday, the UCLA archive presents as part of "Ida Lupino: Hard, Fast and Beautiful" the Lupino-directed "Not Wanted" (1949) and "Never Fear" (1950), tackling, respectively, unwanted pregnancy and polio. Also screening is a great Warners double feature: Raoul Walsh's "They Drive by Night" (1940) and Michael Curtiz's "The Sea Wolf" (1941), which feature the feisty Lupino. The American Cinematheque presents a seven-day run at the Egyptian beginning Monday of George Ratliff's "Hell House," which documents how an Assembly of God church in Dallas has turned Halloween into an opportunity to terrify teens onto the path of righteousness. Its Grand Guignol tableaux, including the effects of a botched abortion and death from AIDS, represent a deeply disturbing conflation of primitive hellfire-and-damnation convictions and technology.




"A Midsummer Night's Dream," tonight, 7:30 p.m., James Bridges Theater, UCLA's Melnitz Hall, 405 Hilgard Ave., L.A. (310) 206-FILM.

"Robin Hood," tonight, 7 p.m. Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 466-FILM.

"Mala Noche," tonight, 7:30 p.m., Bing Theater, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. (323) 857-6010.

"Not Wanted" and "Never Fear," Saturday, 7:30 p.m. James Bridges Theater, UCLA. (310) 206-FILM.

"They Drive by Night" and "The Sea Wolf," Sunday, 7 p.m. James Bridges Theater, UCLA. (310) 206-FILM.

"Hell House," Monday-Friday, 7 and 9 p.m.; next Saturday, 5 p.m.; next Sunday, 4 p.m. Egyptian Theater, (323) 466-FILM.

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