Restored (and in one case somewhat redeemed), two movies by writer-director Elaine May at the Cinematheque

Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty on a camel in Elaine May’s 1987 movie Ishtar.

Elaine May is a gifted American comic performer, screenwriter, and filmmaker. This month, Cinematheque (1131 Howe St.)  is screening two films by May—including Ishtar, a feature that was a notorious bomb upon its release. Despite, or because, of the fact that she was one of the only women directing features in Hollywood in the 1970s and ’80s, both films happen to be buddy pictures.

Cinematheque is screening the two movies, both in restored versions, Sept. 13–15. Find out more about these two films, and May, below.

Mikey and Nicky (1976)—Elaine May’s third feature as director followed the comedies A New Leaf and The Heartbreak Kid, a 1972 film that starred Charles Grodin and was  remade in 2997 with Ben Stiller. Cinematheque describes Mikey and Nicky as “an emotionally harrowing crime drama featuring two superb central performances.” Those would belong to Peter Falk and John Cassavetes, regular collaborators in Cassavetes’s own films. They play small-time hoods and old boyhood chums. In a five-star review, the Guardian calls it “a tangy, talky classic.” (Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m.; Sept. 14 at 8:35 p.m.; and Sept. 15 at 8:35 p.m.)

John Cassavetes and Peter Falk in Mikey and Nicky.

Ishtar (1987)—Maligned on release, this dusty Dustin Hoffman-Warren Beatty starrer has, decades after release, found some measure of cinematic redemption. (Although not entirely: see this Guardian look back on the movie’s 30th anniversary.) A political satire, Ishtar is a throwback to those old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road movies, albeit with Beatty and Hoffman as untalented singer-songwriters caught up in a CIA-backed coup in the Middle Eastern country of Ishtar. Over-budget and press-savaged, the movie ended May’s directorial career. (Sept, 13 at 8:35 p.m., Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m.)

Last year, May became the second oldest performer to win a Tony Award for acting for her performance in The Waverley Garden, a Kenneth Lonergan play.

Performer/screenwriter/director Elaine May.

For tickets and info, visit

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