If you were independently wealthy and had no friends, you could spend all of your time at Bay Area film festivals. Of course, if you did that, you probably wouldn’t stay friendless for long; you can meet some great people at these events.
No sooner is the San Francisco International Film Festival over then Docfest rears its non-fiction head. Now Docfest is gone for another year and what do we get? Another Hole in the Head (a horror and sci-fi festival put on by SF Indie) and Frameline30 (AKA, The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival), almost on top of each other. Someone needs to find a really gruesome gay horror movie to let these two festivals merge.
Time constraints have kept me from previewing any of the films in either festival, but a number of selections have caught my eye. Among Hole in the Head’s promising-sounding titles are The Last Eve, a “unclassifiable genre-bending, time-traveling, religious epic,– and The Hamiltons, about a nice family adjusting to a new community, some of which are chained in their basement. Among the revivals are The Beast, from 1975 France, and described tongue-and-cheek in the program as “one of the greatest sexploitation monster movies ever made.–
As I skimmed Frameline’s lineup, the most interesting titles were all documentaries. These include Wrestling With Angels, about playwright (and Munich screenwriter) Tony Kushner, and God & Gays: Bridging the Gap. Among the more promising fiction choices are Love Life, about a seemly conventional married couple (i.e., a man and a woman), both closeted gays. There’s also a kids’ showing of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
On a very different note, the Parkway is dipping its toe into the revival business for a week-long series of cult favorites called the Parkway Pizza Party. If you want a chance to see Fight Club or Donnie Darko on the big screen, this is the time.
We’re also coming into the Bay Area’s Silent Movie Season, and schedules for The Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival (June 23-25) and The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (July 14-16) are now up. If you like live music with your movies, check them out.
And put some of these on your schedule for this week:
Recommended: Lawrence of Arabia, California Theatre, San Jose, through Saturday. To call Lawrence the best big historical epic of the 70mm roadshow era would be damning it with faint praise, so let me be more precise: It’s one of the greatest films ever made. Stunning to look at and entertaining as pure spectacle, it’s also intelligent, exploring the career of a fascinatingly complex and enigmatic war hero. T. E. Lawrence–at least in this film–both loved and hated violence, and tried liberating Arabia by turning it over to the British Empire. This masterpiece isn’t worth seeing on DVD and barely worthwhile in 35mm. Shot in Super Panavision 70, Lawrence should be experienced in 70mm. And yes, the California is showing it that way.
Recommended: Over the Hedge, Presidio, now playing. Like any good, child-oriented, computer-animated feature, Over the Hedge keeps you laughing at the jokes and dazzled at the visuals. It even makes you care a bit about the characters. But it goes beyond those commercial requirements, saying something real and important about the damage that our consumer-oriented culture does both to us and to the natural world on the outskirts of our civilization. Besides, you’ve got to love a kids’ movie that undercuts the obligatory “families stick together– speech.
Recommended: United 93, Elmwood, opening Friday. We can enjoy the vicarious thrill of movie theater fear because glamorous but familiar faces, Hollywood sheen, witty dialog, and genre conventions all conspire to remind us that it’s only a movie, and that it will end in triumph and redemption. Paul Greengrass’ harrowing 911 retelling gives us no such reassurance. There is no glamour in this cast of unknowns. The grainy, up-close, handheld camerawork doesn’t glow. No one is especially witty. And we know going in that something very close to this really happened and that no one came get out of it alive. The result is the most nerve-wracking experience I’ve ever had in a movie theater. It isn’t fun, but it leaves you with greater appreciation of what those people went through.
Recommended: Fight Club, Parkway, Friday and Saturday. Strange flick. Edward Norton wants to be Brad Pitt (who wouldn’t?), not only because he’s shagging Helena Bonham Carter, but also because he’s a free-spirited kind of guy and a real man. Or maybe he’s just a fascist? Or maybe…better not give away one of the strangest plot twists ever written, even if it strains credibility more than a speech by George W. Bush. And Bonham Carter gets to say the most shocking and hilariously obscene laugh line in Hollywood history. A Parkway Pizza Party presentation.
Not Recommended: Lady Windemere’s Fan (1925), Stanford, Saturday and Sunday. Ernst Lubitsch adapting Oscar Wilde? How could that miss? Here’s how: Even Lubitsch couldn’t find a way to transfer Wilde’s wit into silent film (there was a conscious decision to avoid Wilde’s dialog in the title cards). The result is lifeless and uninteresting. As part of its Ronald Colman series, the Stanford is presenting Lady Windemere’s Fan accompanied by Jim Riggs on the Wurlitzer pipe organ. On Saturday, it’s on a double-bill with Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.
Recommended, with Reservations: Sir! No Sir!, Lark, opens Saturday. Today’s mythology vilifies Vietnam-era protesters for mistreating returning veterans. David Zeiger attempts to set the record straight, using old footage and new interviews to remind us that it was the soldiers fighting that war and the veterans coming home who started the anti-war movement. There’s nothing exceptional here as filmmaking, and the picture never really hooks you on an emotional level. Still, we’d do a lot of good if we could get people to see Sir! No Sir! who don’t already agree with it’s message.
Recommended, with Reservations: CSA: The Confederate States of America, Red Vic, Sunday and Tuesday. Kevin Willmott’s mockumentary starts with a quote of George Bernard Shaw’s: “If you are going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you.” Willmott better watch his back, because his alternative history of the South winning the civil war hits painfully close to the bone as it examines our country’s cultural and institutional racism, but it just isn’t all that funny. It tries, with mock commercials for slave security devices and fake clips from imaginary movies, but only occasionally succeeds (the Home Shopping Network parody is priceless). Still, it’s nice to see someone do a mockumentary about something more important than dog shows and musicians.
Noteworthy: Oklahoma!, California Theatre, San Jose, Sunday through Thursday. Few films as mediocre as Oklahoma! are as historically or technically significant. Based on the stage play that revolutionized the Broadway musical, it was the first movie shot in 65mm and the first released in 70mm with six-track magnetic stereo sound–a format that dominated big Hollywood releases for the next 40 years. What’s more, the image was improved further by shooting and projecting the extra-wide film at 30 frames per second; 25% faster than the standard 24fps (a 24fps Cinemascope version was shot for wide release). The California is screening a 70mm, 30fps print, which is, according to one Bayflicks reader who has attended it, in very good condition. Note: This listing has been altered since I first posted it.
Not Recommended: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Parkway, Tuesday and Wednesday. Oh, how Terry Gilliam has fallen! Monty Python’s token Yank made three of the best movies of the 1980’s, then his career collapsed and took his talent with it. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas reeks; a confused, ugly, and meaningless exercise–which would be forgivable, if it also wasn’t boring and witless. A Parkway Pizza Party presentation.