The American Cinematheque plans to transport theater-goers back to rock ‘n’ roll’s vintage 1960s heyday with its Mods and Rockers 2006 film festival of rock documentaries, centered on groups from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Mods and Rockers 2006 will have screenings locally at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica from Saturday, August 19th, to Thursday, August 31st. Screenings are also currently being held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

The festival features new documentaries, including the Los Angeles debut screening of Who is Harry Nilsson, an enigmatic musician who rose to fame in the early 1970s after he was cited as The Beatles “favorite group.”

And the festival dusts off (for better or for worse) old Elvis standards like Viva Las Vegas and King Creole from the King’s early and mid-eras.

Other films scheduled to be screened deal with rock ‘n’ roll giants The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and David Bowie, as well as classic youth culture films such as Easy Rider, starring Dennis Hopper, and Beach Party, with music by surf rock progenitor Dick Dale and His Del-Tones.

The Aero Theatre is at 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. Information, (323) 466-3456.

At the Aero:

SATURDAY, AUGUST 19th — A double feature of Beach Party (1963), a film directed by William Asher and credited with (or blamed for) starting the whole beach movie craze, starts at 7:30 p.m., followed by The Girls on the Beach (1965), directed by William Witney and featuring music by The Beach Boys, Leslie Gore and the post-Buddy Holly Crickets.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 20th — A double feature screening at 7:30 p.m. examines the time when Elvis traded the stage for the screen. First up is King Creole (1958), directed by Michael Curtiz, about a New Orleans punk and high school dropout who stumbles into rock ‘n’ stardom. Next up is Viva Las Vegas (1964), directed by George Sidney, which shows Elvis trekking to Vegas to get his race car ready for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23rd — The Los Angeles debut of Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) is planned for 7:30 p.m. The premiere will feature a post-screening discussion with filmmakers John Scheinfeld and David Leaf about the rise and fall of Nilsson.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 24th — A screening of Don’t Look Back (1967) by “rock-umentary” filmmaker DA Pennebaker, which shows a young Bob Dylan in his prime during a concert tour of England in 1965, accompanied by Joan Baez, will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Also appearing in the film are Allen Ginsburg, Marianne Faithfull and John Mayall.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 25th — Considered the precursor to Woodstock and a defining event in rock history, the Monterey Pop Festival took place in the summer of 1967, featuring the bands that were to usher in the psychedelic and countercultural period of mainstream rock. Filmmaker Pennebaker caught such greats as Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Simon and Garfunkel, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar and one of the most unforgettably explosive performances of rock guitar god Jimi Hendrix on film. The footage was made into Monterey Pop, a 1968 film.

A double feature screening at 7:30 p.m. will include Monterey Pop along with Gimme Shelter (1971), a film directed by Albert and David Maysles, a film that details the violence that unfolded during The Rolling Stones set at a 1969 free live rock extravaganza at the Altamont Speedway.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 26th — A screening of Woodstock (1970), directed by Michael Wadleigh, a documentary about the concert considered to be the defining time capsule of the Love Generation, with performances by The Who, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Sly and the Family Stone, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The screening will be of the director’s cut of the film, which features footage of many of the acts cut from the original release.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 27th — A rare Los Angeles theatrical screening of Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary of Bob Dylan’s transformation from self-described Woody Guthrie “jukebox” to anthem-penning protest singer to fiercely independent, surrealist rock ‘n’ roll star at the center of a musical and pop revolution, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The 200-plus minute documentary, titled No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, shows rare and rarely seen footage of Dylan from 1961 to 1968, including his switch from acoustic to electric guitar for a 1966 tour. The film includes recent interviews with Joan Baez and Dylan himself.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30th — Isn’t This Time! A Tribute Concert to Harold Leventhal (2004), directed by Jim Brown, revisits Harold Leventhal’s influence on the legendary Weavers and early political protest folk music. The film features Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger and a “multigenerational family of artists who have stuck together through tumultuous times — never stymied by hardship, censorship or even generational gaps — to bring songs of simple and powerful humanity to the world.” The screening is at 7:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 31st — A 1977 concert in New York by Frank Zappa showed the full range of the artist’s talents as a composer, bandleader, conductor, satirist and ringmaster. Zappa’s idiosyncratic vision shown during that performance was made into a film, Baby Snakes (1979), with added Claymation sequences. The film will be screened at 7:30 p.m., followed by a post-screening discussion with Zappa’s widow, Gail Zappa, who is currently working on restoring the entire Zappa film and video archive.

A full-scale Frank Zappa film retrospective is planned as part of next year’s Mods and Rockers film festival.

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