Los Angeles is about to have a whole bunch of great, innovative films headed its way. Last week, film critic Jordan Cronk announced a new screening series called Acropolis Cinema, an “independently owned and operated screening series and microcinema dedicated to bringing classic and contemporary experimental films to screens across Los Angeles.” Acropolis Cinema is committed to showcasing underrepresented films from a variety of different arts communities in order to better improve general cinematic discourse.
Founder Jordan Cronk’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, such as Cinema Scope, Sight & Sound, Reverse Shot, The Hollywood Reporter, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Criticwire recently sat down with Cronk to talk about what he hopes to accomplish with Acropolis Cinema.
What do you hope to accomplish with Acropolis Cinema? In what ways will it differ from other screening series?
The goal for Acropolis is pretty simple: to bring great films to Los Angeles, ideally ones that haven’t screened locally for whatever reason. Los Angeles’ two primary facilitators of non-commercial cinema, Cinefamily and Los Angeles Filmforum are essential organizations, but in some respects they cater to varying extremes of the cinephile market. Filmforum primarily hosts your textbook avant-garde cinema: shorts and medium-length films, along with older works from the heyday of the American avant-garde (REDCAT works a similar vein, though they only run seasonally and therefore have a much more limited schedule). Cinefamily – despite graciously and noticeably working to expand their programming – still largely covers genre, cult, and the otherwise more willfully exotic ends of international cinema. They also began booking first-run films a few years ago, which has certainly helped bring a lot of interesting work to Los Angeles that wouldn’t have otherwise made it out here. But by their own admission, they’re a repertory theater first and foremost, essentially only booking first-run films out of either necessity or sheer passion to get these films in front of Los Angeles audiences.
What that leaves is an entire sector (or, really, multiple sectors) of art house cinema without a proper outlet – particularly, what for lack of a better term we might call experimental narrative cinema. Acropolis’ interests are rather vast, and no doubt overlap a bit with both Cinefamily and Filmforum’s typical programming (we’ll be announcing shorts programs and things like this in the near future), but initially our hope is to help bring some of these underrepresented kinds of films to Los Angeles. For example, a film like Pedro Costa’s “Horse Money” is receiving its belated local premiere later this month courtesy of Filmforum, which doesn’t generally program narrative films. So again, this was done out of necessity – in this case the programmers were as interested to finally see the film as audiences! Other recent examples would be Tsai Ming-liang’s “Stray Dogs,” Albert Serra’s “Story of My Death,” and Aleksei German’s “Hard to Be a God,” the latter of which did eventually receive three screenings at Cinefamily. But there’s a problem when cinephiles have to rely on rep theaters to bring new films to town. I spent time on an article earlier this year about the state of the Los Angeles art house scene, and as I researched the piece and spoke with many of the distributors of these types of films (Cinema Guild, Kino Lorber, etc.) one thing kept coming up, and that was the hesitancy on the part of local programmers to book many of their titles. This is an issue I would like to address, even if I can’t grant the films a proper week-long engagement. There is certainly enough audience interest to at least accommodate a single screening.
In your manifesto, you mention that the “Los Angeles art house scene is, in our view, less something to be fixed than fortified.” How do you hope to strengthen the scene with your series?
The scene will be strengthened by simply making many of these films available to local audiences. That said, I plan on complimenting our screenings with printed material (programs notes and things of that nature), authoritative introductions (whether with critics or programmers or historians), and, eventually Q&A’s with the filmmakers themselves. Also, we’ll have pre- and post-screening receptions. Not terribly original concepts I realize, but things that can help foster and cultivate our cinephile community and take the conversation outside the confines of the cinema.
The first film in the series is “La ultima pelicula” (Directed by Raya Martin and Mark Peranson). Why did you choose this film in particular to kick off the series?
Well, like most of the titles mentioned above, “La última película” is a film that couldn’t get booked out here. Which always struck me as strange. The film has played a number of major international film festivals, opened the inaugural Art of the Real series last year at Lincoln Center, eventually received a theatrical engagement in New York earlier this year, and in the process earned strong reviews. Also, the entire concept of the film seems to lend itself so easily to various programming options – it essentially has built-in advertising. But no theater was interested in exploiting this potential, let alone booking the film on its own. So it’s something I chose to do on my own, which may be a blessing in disguise: The screening is now being held in Los Feliz, on the East side of Los Angeles, an area which isn’t well served by the scarcity of theaters in that part of town and which a program like this can hopefully accommodate.
What other films do you hope to include in the series?
Thus far the problem hasn’t been finding films to screen. I have the next four or five programs already set. But as I’ve already learned, finding the appropriate venue for each will likely prove the more difficult task. And which venue we choose will be dictated by the kinds of films we’re programming. “La última película” can work in fairly big theater since it’s a fairly accessible movie as far as these things go. Our next few screenings are more typical avant-garde titles, and thus are probably more suited to art spaces and smaller venues. I have a number of films on my radar. “Horse Money” was one! I”m working on a few I’ve seen at recent festivals. But ultimately it’ll come down to what’s being booked at other theaters. I can’t compete with the other established organizations I’ve mentioned – let alone Laemmle – but I can gauge the market and pick up what I feel are important titles that slip through the cracks and give them the showcase they deserve.