SF Art & Film for Teenagers

Ronald Chase doesn’t complain about young people not knowing or caring about classic cinema. He does something about it. Through his non-profit organization, SF Art & Film for Teenagers, Chase presents classic films to teens (and even pre-teens) every Friday night during the school year.

“We have difficulty convincing kids that this is something they should be doing. But after a few times, they’re hooked,” Chase told me when I interviewed him back in June. His fall program starts this Friday with The Seven Samurai.

Who can attend? “Anyone who finds it interesting. We don’t ask any questions.” Age-wise, “Our youngest are around eight years old. We [once] had a seven-year-old who sat awake [all through] Barry Lyndon.”

Chase doesn’t worry too much about whether a film is child appropriate. “A lot of the movies we show are about young people. One of the ironies is that teenagers aren’t allowed to see [realistic] movies about teenagers; they’re usually NC-17.” Art & Film puts out a parental warning if the film might offend, but “In eight years we have never had a complaint. We always know that the parental warning films will be packed,” he adds

Chase is often surprised at what the students like most. “Early on, we asked [students] to vote [on the films]. Cries and Whispers came up as one of the best.” Their largest audience was for Apocalypse Now, although they also got big attendance for The Crowd. “One of my joys was introducing kids to silent films.” In addition to Seven Samurai, planned films for this year include Dr. Strangelove, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, and The 400 Blows.

Most screenings are at the Randall Museum, with one screening a month at Dolby Labs. And yes, you’re invited, “as long as you realize that you should stay afterwards and take part in discussions.” About these discussions, “People say they’ve never heard young people talk about films so enthusiastically,” Chase enthuses.

Art & Film offers kids more than a movie-going experience. There’s also a film production workshop, Saturday daytime excursions to museums, current films, and other cultural destinations. And every three years, Chase tries to put together a trip to Europe for select students on a scholarship basis.

What can you do to help? Like all non-profits devoted to the arts, Art & Film needs money. You can send a tax-deductible check to

SF Art & Film program for teenagers
Ronald Chase
540 Alabama St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

And here are a few less expensive recommendations for the coming week.

Recommended: The Seven Samurai, Randall Museum, Friday evening. If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours and watch Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story–a poor village hires warriors to defend it from bandits–has been retold many times since, but none of the remakes even came close. This is an action film with almost no action in the first two hours. But when the fighting finally arrives, you’re ready for it, knowing every detail of the people involved, the terrain that will be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. Part of Art & Film’s Cineclub series, this DVD screening is actually intended for teenagers, but anyone willing to take part in the discussion afterwards is welcome.

Recommended: Au Revoir les Enfants, Pacific Film Archive, Friday night. Malle was one of the great directors of children–maybe as good as Spielberg but far more mature in his choice of stories. In this autobiographical tale, he tackles both the end of innocence and the Holocaust (without getting graphic). During the occupation, a young boy in a Catholic boarding school (Gaspard Manesse) begins to suspect that his new friend is Jewish and in danger. Part of the Archive’s Risk and Reinvention: The Films of Louis Malle series.

Recommended: Atlantic City, Pacific Film Archive, Friday night. Malle’s American masterpiece stars Burt Lancaster in his last great performance, as a mellowed, aging gangster who was probably never as dangerous as he likes people to believe, and a ravishingly beautiful Susan Sarandon as a croupier-in-training with a past that threatens her job. The story involves Sarandon’s jerk of a husband and a heroin deal gone wrong, but Atlantic City isn’t about the story. It’s about how time changes places and people’s dreams. Part of the Archive’s Risk and Reinvention: The Films of Louis Malle series.

Recommended: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Parkway, open run starts Friday. Who thought George Lucas still had it in him? After two humdrum Star Wars chapters, he finishes his prequel trilogy with a movie every bit as good as the ones that made him famous a generation ago. Dark, moody and character-driven, it also provides plenty of cool fights and special effects. Click here for more on this film.

Recommended: North By Northwest, Union Square, San Francisco, Saturday night. Alfred Hitchcock’s light masterpiece, not as thoughtful as Rear Window or Notorious but more entertaining than both of them combined. Cary Grant plays an unusually suave and witty everyman mistaken by evil foreign spies for a crack American agent, and by the police for a murderer. A great movie for introducing pre-teens to Hitchcock. Warning: This visually beautiful, VistaVision movie will be presented on DVD, not film.

Recommended: Citizen Kane, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. How does a movie survive a half-century reputation as the Greatest Film Ever Made? By being really, really good. True, there are films more insightful about the human condition, pictures more dazzling in their technique, and movies that are more fun. But I’d be hard pressed to name many this insightful that are also this dazzling and fun. Now I’ll identify Rosebud: It’s a McGuffin. On a double-bill with All About Eve.

Recommended: The President’s Analyst, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday night. The 1960’s saw a lot of spy movies, and a lot of spy movie parodies, but few of the parodies were this good. When the President’s psychiatrist (James Coburn) can’t handle the pressure of the job and goes AWOL, every spy agency in the world is after him. Godfrey Cambridge and Severn Darden are particularly wonderful as American and Russian agents who would rather collaborate than fight. The denouement is way ahead of its time–from the vantage point of the 21st century it looks downright prophetic. Part of the Archive’s For Your Eyes Only: Operatives, Surveillants, and Saboteurs In Cinema series.

About This Site

My daughter’s bat mitzvah is over, things are back to something resembling normal, and I have time to write again for Bayflicks.net. I’ve also added the 4 Star and Presidio Theaters to my coverage. In other news, the Castro has added live organ accompaniment to three films in their Harold Lloyd series.

I thought I’d spend my blog space this week talking about this site. As you go through the weekly listings, you may have noticed both black and green blocks in the calendar grid. A black block means the theater is closed that night, or not showing something I deem worthy of mentioning here. A green block is one that I hope to fill in as soon as I have the appropriate schedule..

What’s the difference between a movie I mark as Recommended (Recommended) and as Noteworthy (Noteworthy)? Recommended is pretty explanatory: I’ve seen it, I liked it, and I can recommend it. Noteworthy means that I can’t recommend it, but I still want to talk about it. Perhaps the film has historical significance. Or everyone else loves it so much that I feel I need to justify my lack of enthusiasm. Maybe I saw it and liked it, but that was so long ago that I don’t trust my memory. Or perhaps I just find the description interesting.

With these and the other icons I use (personal appearance for a personal appearance, Silent movie with live musical accompanimentfor a silent movie with live accompaniment, and Special print (newly restored or archival) promised if there’s something special about the print), there’s an extra message inside. Hover your mouse cursor over the icon for a pop-up caption. But Recommended and Noteworthy are also, usually, links that will take you to their descriptions here in the Lincoln Log.

Now that you know what Recommended and Noteworthy mean, here they are for this week:

Recommended: Girl Shy, Castro, Friday night. Harold knows all about seducing women; in fact, he’s written the book on it. Too bad that, in real life, he’s absolutely terrified of them. One of Harold Lloyd’s funniest films, the Castro is showing it on a double-bill with Safety Last!, the Lloyd vehicle with his most iconic image–hanging from the clock far above the street. Part of the Castro’s Harold Lloyd series, the movies will be shown with recorded, not live, accompaniment.

Noteworthy: The 400 Blows, Creek Park, San Anselmo, Friday night. When I saw François Truffaut’s first feature back in college, it blew me away. But I haven’t seen this story of an alienated youth on the verge of delinquency in over 30 years and I don’t trust my memory enough to give it a wholehearted recommendation. Besides, this is a DVD, not a film, presentation.

Recommended: Au Revoir Les Enfants, Balboa, Friday and Saturday. Malle was one of the great directors of children–maybe as good as Spielberg but far more mature in his choice of stories. In this autobiographical tale, he tackles both the end of innocence and the Holocaust (without getting graphic). During the occupation, a young boy in a catholic boarding school (Gaspard Manesse) begins to suspect that his new friend is Jewish and in danger. Part of the Balboa’s Films of Louis Malle series, it’s on a double-bill with Lacombe, Lucien.

Noteworthy: Elevator To the Gallows, Lumiere and Act 1 & 2, opening Friday for a week-long run. Louis Malle’s first feature, newly restored.

Recommended: The Freshman, Castro, Saturday. This very human and extremely funny tale of a young man who desperately craves popularityis Harold Lloyd’s best-known film after Safety Last. It’s by far the better of the two, and one of the great masterpieces of silent comedy. Part of the Castro’s Harold Lloyd series, The Freshman will be accompanied live by Warren Lubich on the Wurlitzer pipe organ. On a double-bill with Speedy, which use recorded, not live, accompaniment.

Recommended: Some Like it Hot, Old Oakland Outdoor Cinema, Saturday night at sunset. A few years ago, the American Film Institute called this the greatest American film comedy. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s definitely in my top twenty. Warning: The presentation will be on DVD, not film.

Recommended: Bride of Frankenstein, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. If anyone ever tells you that sequels are always inferior to the originals, point them to James Whale’s masterpiece. Sticking close in spirit, if not in plot, to Mary Shelley’s novel, Whale paints Karloff’s great monster as a tragic figure–the ultimate outsider. The Stanford is showing this with Sunset Boulevard–another great film but a strange choice for a double bill.

Recommended: Sunset Boulevard, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. Billy Wilder’s meditation on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly is the flip side of Singin’ in the Rain (now that would make a great double bill). Norma Desmond is very much like Lena Lamont–after twenty-two years of denial and depression. And Gloria Swanson gives one of the great over-the-top performances in history. Showing with Bride of Frankenstein.

Noteworthy: Welcome Danger, Castro, Sunday. This 1929 comedy is best known as Harold Lloyd’s first talkie (well, part talkie, anyway), but the Castro will be showing a recently discovered silent version. Part of the Castro’s Harold Lloyd series, Welcome Danger will accompanied live by Warren Lubich on the Wurlitzer pipe organ. On a double bill with Why Worry?, which will have recorded accompaniment.

Recommended: The Kid Brother, Castro, Tuesday. This Harold Lloyd comedy was the first silent film I ever saw theatrically, and I even saw it with live musical accompaniment. More than 30 years later, it’s still one of the best; hilarious, exhilarating, and even mildly satirical. Part of the Castro’s Harold Lloyd series, this presentation will accompanied live by Warren Lubich on the Wurlitzer pipe organ. On a double bill with the talkie The Cat’s Paw.

Recommended: Nosferatu, Stanford, Wednesday. Now this would have made a good double bill with Bride of Frankenstein–the two best black-and-white horror films directed by European homosexuals. Okay, they also happen to be two of the best horror films ever made. F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is the first (unauthorized) film version of Dracula, and you can forget about sexy vampires, here. Max Schreck plays Count Orlok (renamed in a failed attempt at lawsuit avoidance) as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it’s probably the creepiest. Not be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Accompanied by Dennis James on the Wurlitzer pipe organ.

Recommended: Grandma’s Boy, Castro, Thursday. Harold Lloyd found his character’s potential in what is, to my knowledge, the first feature-length film by any major comedian. This sweet fable about the power of self-confidence avoids excess sentimentality by the simple (but actually quite difficult) trick of never letting up on the laughs. This is one of the few films in the Castro’s Harold Lloyd series with live accompaniment, by Warren Lubich on the Wurlitzer pipe organ. On a double bill with the talkie The Milky Way.

Recommended: Employees’ Entrance, Stanford, Thursday and Friday. Like a good department store, this little-known pre-code gem serves up a little of everything–comedy, drama, ruthless capitalism, sexual harassment, and a lead character who’s both hero and villain. Two years later, a movie this honest about staying employed in the depression could not have been made. On a double bill with Baby Face.

The Edukators

Things are a little crazy for me, right now. My daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is a just over a week away. How badly is that eating into my life? Let me put it this way: As I write this on Wednesday, Lawrence of Arabia is playing in 70mm at the Castro. I’m not there.

But I want to take the time to give you one really big recommendation. Don’t miss The Edukators. Idealist young radicals have a way of turning into jaded, middle-aged capitalists, and this low-budget German gem pits both extremes against each other. Two such radicals, played by Daniel Bruhl (the star of Goodbye Lenin) and Stipe Erceg, have a novel form of civil protest: They break into expensive homes, where they don’t steal or damage anything, just rearrange the furniture and leave a note warning their “victims– that their “days of plenty– are numbered.

There’s a girl involved (of course there’s a girl involved; played by Julia Jentsch), and a love triangle. But things really get complicated when circumstances force them to kidnap a wealthy home-owner (Burghart Klaussner, who played Bruhl’s father in Goodbye, Lenin). What can they do? They can’t hold on to him forever. If they let him go, he’ll identify them. And they’re too decent to commit murder.

As the four of them hide out in a mountain cabin, the young kidnappers slowly let down their guard, and their middle-aged victim reveals (and perhaps relives) his own radical youth. Klaussner has the most interesting role–”you’re never quite sure if he’s stating what he really feels or just manipulating the young fools. He may not be sure, himself. And unlike a Hollywood movie, you don’t know how it’s going to end.

IFC Films is promoting The Edukators as a “sharp and funny social satire,– but it doesn’t really have many laughs. Neither did Hamlet; it’s still a good play. And yet, in ways that I can’t care to reveal without giving too much away, it feels like a comedy.

Director/co-writer Hans Weingartner shot The Educators with a handheld digital video camera and available light, and it shows. The low resolution and haphazard framing keep you from enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery. But this movie isn’t about beautiful mountains (even if much of it is set against them), and the low production costs doubtless helped Weingartner keep keep to his themes.

The Educators is playing for one week at the Lumiere in San Francisco and the Act 1 & 2 in Berkeley, so don’t put off catching this one. Unless you live on the Peninsula, that is; the Aquarius in Palo Alto has it for an open-ended run.

In other news, the Stanford is open again after some months closed for remodeling. Contrary to my earlier predictions, however, they’re not doing a silent every Wednesday–”just one every other Wednesday.

Also, both the Balboa and the Pacific Film Archive are doing Louis Malle festivals.

And here are this week’s best bets:

Recommended: Apocalypse Now, Castro, Friday. Two-thirds of a masterpiece is better than none. As Willard and his crew move up river, Apocalypse Now creates an amazing, hallucinatory feel of what it must have been like to fight in Vietnam. Then they get where they were going and the movie becomes ridiculous. But it’s still worth seeing, especially on the big screen. This is the original cut, which is far better than the recent Redux version. Part of the Castro’s 70mm series, this is how Apocalypse Now was originally meant to be seen: a 70mm blow-up from the original 35mm anamorphic negative.

Recommended: Don Q, Son of Zorro, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday night. Yes, they were already making sequels in the silent days, and Don Q is one of the best. In fact, this follow-up to Douglas Fairbanks’ first swashbuckler, The Mark of Zorro, is one of those few sequels that’s better than the original. Fairbanks plays two roles: the original Zorro and the son of the title. Piano accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis.

Recommended: The Wizard of Oz, Albert Park, San Rafael, Saturday night. You don’t really need me to tell you about this one, do you? Warning: This is a DVD presentation.

Recommended: The Philadelphia Story, Stanford, Saturday through Thursday. The Stanford reopens for business with one of the best early screwball comedies. This was the film that saved Katherine Hepburn’s career. If she had been in the musical remake, High Society, that might have ended it. On a double-bill with Laura, a film noir that some people consider a classic–”I find it okay.

Recommended: Ghostbusters, Castro, Sunday. Comedy rarely gets this scary or visually spectacular. Or perhaps I should say that special-effects action fantasies rarely get this funny. Either way, it’s not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As part of the Castro’s 70mm festival, they’ll be showing a 70mm blow-up from the 35mm anamorphic negative.

Noteworthy: Hello, Dolly!, Castro, Thursday. I’ve never seen Gene Kelly’s Barbara Streisand vehicle (he directed, she starred), nor have I ever heard anyone say it’s good. But I have heard from reliable sources that this is one amazing 70mm print, so if you’re enough of a big format geek, it might be worth seeing just for that. On the other hand, the print is allegedly so fantastic because the Todd-AO, 65mm negative is in great condition–”a positive side effect of the movie being an utter bomb. Part of the Castro’s 70mm festival. UPDATE, Sunday, August 7: Twentieth-Century Fox has canceled this screening of Hello, Dolly. That beautiful print, apparently, has been damaged beyond acceptability. In its place, there will be another screening of Vertigo. The Castro has also added matinée screenings of Vertigo on Monday and Tuesday (I’m obviously in the minority about this one).

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