it’s been a very busy week for me, with visiting family, changes in my PC World column, and a major hardware upgrade. So please excuse me if I missed a few things, like the new Pacific Film Archive schedule. I will get to them, hopefully, early next week.
West Side Story, Castro, playing all week. I haven’t seen this classic in so long I dare not review it, but it’s worth noting that this strange mixture of Shakespeare, ballet, and ’50s urban liberalism will screen in all it’s 70mm glory.
I Served the King of England, Embarcadero, opens Friday. For more than half of its runtime, Jiríh Menzel’s clever and entertaining comedy celebrates the joys of serving the filthy rich. We accept this empty and amoral theme because the movie is funny and visually pleasing, but even more because Ivan Barnev is engaging and likeable as the story’s ambitious waiter protagonist. But just as the fun and games begin to tire us, the Nazis arrive. Jan falls in love with a German girl, collaborates with the enemy, and shows us just how low he can go. Told mostly in flashbacks, I Served the King of England maintains its light tone throughout; even when events get very dark. Read my full review.
Yojimbo & The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00. I’m not listing this officially as a DOUBLE BILL because the PFA charges separate admissions, but they’re showing the two films on the same night and they should go very well together. In Yojimbo, a masterless samurai (who else but Toshiro Mifune) wanders into a small town torn apart by rival gangs, and uses his wits and amazing swordsmanship to play the sides against each other. In the hands of Akira Kurosawa, the result his an entertaining action flick, a parody of westerns, and a nihilistic black comedy all rolled into one. The last film in the PFA’s The Long View: A Celebration of Widescreen series. The biggest and the best of Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti” westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was the Pulp Fiction of its day, reveling in its own amorality and bringing you along to enjoy the ride. It’s violent, beautiful, iconic, and funny, with the best performance of Eli Wallach’s career and that incredible Ennio Morricone score. Part of the PFA’s United Artists: 90 Years series, although it’s another great widescreen movie.
The Ten Commandments (1956), Stanford, Saturday through Thursday. How do you grade a movie that you really love, but is–let’s face it–not very good? Cecil B. DeMille’s last epic is corny, melodramatic, and theologically ridiculous. It also raises pomposity to a whole new level. But in addition to being unintentionally hilarious (I could probably write an MST3K script for it in my sleep), it’s also beautiful to look at, and never, ever boring–no small feat for a flick that runs 220 minutes. There are even moments, few and far between, when the power of the original story overwhelms the silly shenanigans and takes hold of your heart.
Double Indemnity, Rafael, Saturday, 7:00. Rich but unhappy (and evil) housewife Barbara Stanwyckh leads insurance salesman Fred MacMurray from adultery to murder in Billy Wilder’s noir thriller. Not that she has much trouble doing it (this is not the MacMurray character we remember from “My Three Sons”). A good, gritty thriller about sex (or the code-era equivalent) and betrayal. Part of the Rafael’s Fred MacMurray 100th Birthday Salute.