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Around Town: Roman Polanski, Elvis Presley and French film legend Claude Chabrol

January 27, 2011 |  5:00 am


Roman Polanski, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who is still a wanted fugitive in the U.S., is being feted this weekend at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre with a four-day retrospective.

The programming kicks off with his 1962 feature debut, the Polish thriller, "Knife in the Water," which was nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar, and his 1971 adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy "Macbeth," starring Jon Finch and Francesca Annis. Scheduled for Friday are  his seminal 1974 film noir, "Chinatown," which was penned by Robert Towne, and stars Jack Nicholson as private eye J.J. Gittes, and his creepy 1976 thriller, "The Tenant," in which he also stars.

Saturday's offerings are  1965's "Repulsion," Polanski's second film and first in English, starring Catherine Denueve as a woman who loses her mind, and his first American film, 1968's deliciously terrifying "Rosemary's Baby," starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes and Ruth Gordon in her Oscar-winning performance.

The festival concludes Sunday with the rarely seen 1966 thriller "Cul-De-Sac," starring Denueve's sister, Francoise Dorleac, and his 1967 comedy "The Fearless Vampire Killers," in which Polanski also stars with his then-wife Sharon Tate, who was tragically murdered two years later.

The Cinematheque's monthlong screen icons festival moves from the Egyptian to the Aero in Santa Monica Thursday evening with a terrific John Wayne western double bill: 1962's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," directed by John Ford, and Howard Hawks' 1948 "Red River," which also stars a young Montgomery Clift.

Two of James Dean's best-loved films -- 1955's "East of Eden," for which he received his first lead actor Oscar nomination, and 1955's "Rebel Without a Cause," which was released less than a month after his death -- are on tap for Friday evening. Saturday's offerings are a ring-a-ding-ding duo of Rat Pack flicks: 1964's "Robin and the Seven Hoods" and 1960's "Ocean's Eleven."

The curtain rings down on the festival Sunday with two of Elvis Presley's best early films, 1957's "Jailhouse Rock" and 1958's "King Creole." Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the songwriting team who penned numerous Presley tunes, will appear in person before the screenings across the street from the theater at Every Picture Tells a Story, signing copies of their autobiography, "Hound Dog." http://americancinematheque.com

Barry Gordon, who played the precocious son to Jason Robards' father in the 1965 comedy classic "A Thousand Clowns," will talk about the film at a screening Thursday at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre. Fred Coe directed the movie for which Martin Balsam earned a supporting actor Academy Award. The following evening, Cinefamily welcomes character actor Udo Kier along with a screening of his 1988 movie "Medea," directed for Danish TV by Lars Von Trier.

Cinefamily begins its celebration of "When Indies Rocked" Sunday evening with a 20th anniversary screening of Whit Stillman's acclaimed "Metropolitan," which was nominated for an original screenplay Oscar. Stillman will appear in person at the screening at the Silent Movie Theatre. On Tuesday, Cinefamily presents "Cartoon Noir," hosted by cartoon historian Jerry Beck. Featured will be cartoons spoofing film noir flicks and starring the likes of Bugs Bunny. And on Wednesday, Cinefamily commences its retrospective of silent movie superstar Douglas Fairbanks with a screening of his 1919 comedy "HIs Majesty, the American" and the 1916 quirky short "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish." Fairbanks historian Jeffrey Vance will introduce the films. http://www.cinefamily.org

The Korean Cultural Center presents the 1956 Korean comedy-drama "Hyperbola of Youth" Thursday evening. http://www.kccla.org

Meanwhile, the Echo Park Film Center catches "Island Fever: Puerto Rican Short Films" Thursday evening. Curator and filmmaker Daniela Swamp will be in attendance. http://www.echoparkfilmcenter.org

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art celebrates the career and legacy of renowned French director Claude Chabrol -- one of the founding fathers of the New Wave who died at 80 in September -- with a retrospective of eight of his thrillers. The suspense starts Friday with 1969's "La Femme Infidele," starring his then-wife Stephane Audran and Michel Bouquet, and 2004's "The Bridesmaid," with Benoit Magimel and Laura Smet.

Saturday's 5 p.m. program is 1958's "Le beau Serge," Chabrol's first feature, shot on location in Sardent. Chabrol is at the peak of his powers with 1995's "La Ceremonie," which screens at 7:30 p.m. Isabelle Huppert, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel, father of Vincent Cassel, star in this adaptation of Ruth Rendell's novel. Bisset will appear in person at the program. http://www.lacma.org

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" director Edgar Wright continues his programming at the New Beverly Cinema this Friday and Saturday with two youth-in-crisis flicks from 1979: "The Wanderers," directed by Philip Kaufman, and "The Warriors," helmed by Walter Hill. Wright will appear in person, schedule permitting, Friday. And schedule permitting -- of course -- Wright is introducing the screening Sunday of Michael Cimino's first feature, 1974's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in his Oscar-nominated role, and 1990's "Miami Blues," directed by George Armitage and starring Alec Baldwin. Both films also screen Monday. http://www.newbevcinema.com

The Los Angeles Filmforum celebrates its 35th anniversary Sunday at the Egyptian with "A Celebration of Kodachrome," the much-loved film stock that has been retired. There will be screenings of some films shot or printed on Kodachrome, including "The Secret of Wendel Samson," directed by Mike Kuchar, who will be attending the event. http://www.lafilmforum.org

The UCLA Film & Television Archive's vaudeville retrospective, "Mixed Nuts," features a 1930 comedy, "50 Million Frenchmen," starring Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson and 1942's "Who Done It?" with Abbott and Costello. Rounding out the bill is the 1944 Three Stooges comedy "Gents Without Cents." The films screen Sunday evening at the Billy Wilder Theater. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu.

-- Susan King

Photo: Jack Nicholson, left, and Roman Polanski on the set of "Chinatown." Credit: Paramount