Forbidden Lie$, Roxie and Shattuck, opens Friday. I have mixed feelings about documentaries that recreate scenes with actors, but Anna Broinowski’s doc about author/con-artist Norma Khouri justified them beautifully. None of the events recreated in the film actually happened, and Broinowski reminds us of that by showing us the freshly murdered girl, covered in stage blood, sit up and laugh with her “murderers” after a take. Not only is it just a movie, but it’s a movie about lies. Khouri became famous when she wrote a memoir about the honor killing of her best friend in Jordan. The trouble is that she grew up in Chicago, her real name is Norma Bagain, and she left the US one step ahead of the law after defrauding an old lady. Extremely entertaining, with jokes, old film clips, special effects, and rock and roll. Read my full review.
Opera Jawa, Kabuki, opens Friday. Astonishing sensual, works like a dream. Things don’t connect the way they do in the real world (or in a conventional film), but that doesn’t bother you in the slightest. As the title implies, Opera Jawa is a tale told in music. Characters sing of their hopes and travails, and dance their emotions. Especially dance. They dance in bed, on tabletops, and in violent revolution. They dance with abandon and hypnotic power. There’s a story in here somewhere, about adultery in a time of economic trouble and class warfare, but Opera Jawa is about the dance, and about the imagery–giant straw hats, countless candles, and the televisions carved out of solid rock. Unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it. Read my full review.
Red Heroine, 4Star, Friday, 8:30. I haven’t seen this 1929 Chinese martial arts movie, but according to the press materials, it’s about a young woman rescued from an evil army by a Daoist hermit named White Monkey. Thanks to White Monkey’s training, she can soon fight villains, fly, disappear in a puff of smoke, and perform other assorted tricks of the trade. You know, that doesn’t sound too different from a modern martial arts movie. Accompanied by the Devil Music Ensemble.
West Side Story, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. West Side Story swings erratically from glorious brilliance to astonishing ineptitude. The songs and dances–especially the Jerome Robbins-choreographed dances–create a world of violent intensity and eroticism that both carry the story and shine in their own right. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better choreographed widescreen movie. It also contains magnificent supporting performances by Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, and especially Rita Moreno. But the dialog is often stilted and stage-bound, and juvenile lead Richard Beymer is so bad he sinks every scene he’s in–even the songs.
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Castro, Saturday. Tim Burton’s first feature revels in its own silliness. Pee-Wee Herman, before children’s television and indecent exposure, is a strange, almost neurotically innocent creature. The movie is uneven, and most of the jokes are extremely dumb, but the oddball charm cannot be denied. Besides, the last sequence, reworking the plot as a Hollywood action film, is alone worth the price of admission. On a double bill with Edward Scissorhands (which I haven’t seen in a very long time) as part of a Burton series.
Youssou N’Dour: Return to Gorée, Kabuki, opens Friday. It’s sad when a great idea and an himportant subject lose their way. Such is the case with Pierre-Yves Borgeaud’s documentary of singer/songwriter Youssou N’Dour’s African Diaspora tour. N’Dour travels the world (actually only the USA and Europe), gathering musicians whose work clearly comes from African roots (as long as they’re jazz musicians or gospel singers). This is all leading up to a big concert at a former slave trading post, which is a bit like a Klezmer concert at Auschwitz. It’s a long wait before the concert finally starts…just in time for the closing credits. You’ll find my full review here.
Midnight Movie: The Princess Bride, Piedmont, Friday and Saturday night, midnight. William Goldman’s enchanting and funny fairy tale dances magically along that thin line between parody and the real thing. There’s no funnier swordfight anywhere.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Red Vic, Thursday. 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 wasn’t also boring and witless.
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