A The Mill and the Cross, Embarcadero, Shattuck, opens Friday. Painting with the wide palette that 21st century cinema allows, Lech Majewski creates a masterwork about Bruegel creating one of his masterworks, The Way to Calvary. True to Bruegel’s style, the film starts with the day-to-day lives of ordinary, 16th-century peasants. But life isn’t a rustic paradise for these commoners. Flanders is part of the Spanish Empire and its Inquisition. Using nature, paint, and digital effects, Majewski creates not a realistic biopic but a visual feast that moves from the world of Bruegel’s experience to the world of his imagination. Bruegel made his statement about religious intolerance. Majewski made his about Bruegel. Both are worth looking at. Read my full review.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 9:10. I have an interesting personal history with Melvin Van Peebles’ ground-breaking work. My step-father, John H. (Hans) Newman, cut the sound effects on it. Of all the directors Hans worked with, Van Peebles (I still think of him as “Mel”) was on the only one who came to our home and became a friend of the family. “A mensch” my mother said, years later. The only time I saw Sweetback, it was a rough cut in a Columbia Pictures screening room; I’ve yet to see the final version.
A The Maltese Falcon, Lark, Monday, 7:00. Dashiell Hammett’s novel had been filmed twice before, but screenwriter and first-time director John Huston did it right with the perfect cast and a screenplay that sticks almost word-for-word to the book. The ultimate Hammett picture, the second-best directorial debut of 1941 (after Citizen Kane), an important precursor to film noir, and perhaps the most entertaining detective movie ever made. Author Jeffrey Meyers will introduce the film.