“This is My Coachella”: Allison Anders on the TCM Classic Film Festival

The filmmaker will introduce “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” a film that’s particularly close to her heart

Film Comments

Like writing poems or praying, the obsessive consumption of classic films is most often done solo, usually late at night. You might be able to roust a spouse to see the newest cable drama but good luck prying your partner away from the Kindle to catch a Jean Arthur comedy made in 1937. And so those of us who love vintage cinema sit alone in the movie palaces of our mind—also known as the cable channel TCM—transfixed by faces from long ago flickering across flat screens made for Transformers. 

But for three days and four nights this week starting Thursday, when the TCM Classic Film Festival takes over the Hollywood Roosevelt and its immediate surroundings, we can assuage our loneliness. “Last year, the festival was very important to me,” says film and television director Allison Anders, who has been on hand for all but one edition of the festival, which is now in its fifth year. “I had breast cancer. I caught it early. I had just finished radiation. I remember calling my daughter and telling her how wonderful it was and how I was having the best time. I was almost crying. She was like, ‘I get it mom. It’s like your Coachella.’ And she’s right. This really is my Coachella.” 

The theme of this year’s fest is Family in the Movies: The Ties That Bind, and Anders will be on hand to introduce the 3 p.m. Friday screening of Martin Scorsese’s 1974 comic drama Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which earned Ellen Burstyn an Oscar for Best Actress. “I couldn’t believe they asked me,” says Anders. “I have to say what a perfect fit. This movie was the only movie I had to refer to for Gas Food Lodging [Anders’s 1992 film]. Besides Imitation of Life there were few movies that had a strong single mom just trying to get by while raising her child and navigating her sexuality. I couldn’t be happier.” (Fittingly, Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama will be showing immediately afterward in the same theater.)

The screening will mark the second time Anders, who went on to work with Scorcese when he produced her 1996 ode to the Brill Building songwriters Grace of My Heart, has seen Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore on the big screen in Los Angeles. “I saw it when it came out,” says Anders, on speakerphone while driving back from Santa Barbara, where she has served for over a decade as a distinguished professor in Film and Media Studies at UCSB. “I was a single mom. I believe I had to go to Westwood to see it. I didn’t have a car back then so I probably either wrangled my friend Ron to take me or I took the bus. I was a single mom and there was finally a story like mine I could watch. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

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