The Tiburon and Oakland International Film Festivals closes today (Friday). But you’ll have almost a week to cross the bay, where the San Francisco International Film Festival opens on Thursday. And The San Francisco Underground Short Film Festival, Victoria Theater, Friday, 7:30. Hosted by Peaches Christ. Should be unusual and fun.
Oddly, this seems to be a B+ week. Don’t know why.
B+ Bullitt, Castro, Friday, 7:00. Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. It seems more pedestrian than it once did. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. Another marker: To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word "bullshit" marks the first time anyone said such a word in a Hollywood movie; Bullitt was released precisely two weeks before the rating system replaced the old production code, offering a new degree of freedom. On a double bill with Freebie and the Bean, which I haven’t seen.
B+ The Ten Commandments (1956), Castro, Sunday. I enjoy a strange relationship with the biggest commercial hit of the 1950s. With its simplistic characters, corny dialog, and overriding atmosphere of pomposity,The Ten Commandments is the ultimate unintentional comedy. And yet, it’s also a rich, generous, and entertaining spectacle, and a visually lovely motion picture. It has one truly impressive, low-key performance (Cedric Hardwicke as Sethi). At times, it even succeeds in its simplistic spirituality. Besides, it’s a great way to get in the mood for Passover. The Castro will be screening it digitally. Considering how terrific the Blu-ray release looks (read my review), that’s very promising.
B+ This is Spinal Tap, Castro, Saturday, 7:30. On a scale of one to ten, This is Spinal Tap rates an eleven. And if you didn’t understand what you just read, you haven’t seen the parody that put all “rockumentaries” in their place. That can, and should, be remedied. And this time, it can be remedied with a rare, original 35mm print being flown in from France. The third of five movies in another MiDNiTES for MANiACS marathon.
B+ Wings of Desire, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 3:10. Wim Wenders’ fantasy about angels in Berlin offers a view of the city as a land of interior monologues. Two angels (Bruno Ganz, and Otto Sander) watch over the people, listen to their thoughts, and comfort them in their pain. Then one of them (Ganz) falls in love with a trapeze artist, and finds himself longing for mortality. Wenders couldn’t have known it when he made the film in 1988, but he was capturing the last months of a divided city; the wall seen in the film would soon come down. With Peter Falk as an unnamed American actor who is, I suspect, supposed to be Peter Falk. This is the second time this month that Wings plays the PFA; this time, it’s part of the series and class, Film 50: History of Cinema.
B+ The King’s Speech (PG-13 version), Red Vic, Friday and Saturday). Although I haven’t actually seen this version, I’m lowering my grade from my original A in protest of the recent censorship. Here we have a film with no sex, no violence, and no nudity that nevertheless received an R rating because of one scene where the main character says fuck several times as part of his speech therapy. I wouldn’t hesitate to show King’s Speech to a 10-year-old. But now the Weinstein Company (the film’s American distributors) have recut it to receive the PG-13 rating it should have had in the first place. Reviews of the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray edition list it as rated R, I’m glad to see. If you still need to learn something about the original version, read my full review. And for more on my thoughts on this film’s ratings, see Ratings, Censorship, and the Weinstein Company.
B The Big Lebowski, Red Vic, Tuesday through Thursday. Critics originally panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to the Coen’s previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as the Coen’s masterpiece, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie. It’s also built quite a cult following; The Big Lebowski has probably played more Bay Area one-night stands in the years I’ve been maintaining this site than than any three other movies put together.