What I Don’t Have Time to Watch

Inevitable death isn’t the only problem with mortality; there are also the time constraints. I simply don’t have enough decades to read every good book, meet every interesting person, or see every movie that arouses my curiosity.

That last one has been bugging me, lately. I’ve only managed to spend one day at the International Buddhist Film Festival and seen one film at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. I have yet to catch The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, The Merchant of Venice, or even House of Flying Daggers. And let’s not even talk about the movies sitting on my TiVo!

But I did manage to see Moolaadé, and it is fantastic. Writer/director Ousmane Sembene pulls off something amazing–an entertaining drama about female genital mutilation. The story is simple: In a small, Muslim village, one woman protects four girls who refuse to be “cut.” The sense of place, the rich tapestry of characters, the urgency of the conflict, and the vibrant, African colors make Moolaadé one of the cinematic treasures of the year.

We Bay Area lefties tend to view the third world as virtuous, pure, and in danger from the corruption of Western, technological civilization. Clearly Sembene thinks otherwise. In this remote corner of the world, everything modern, especially the much coveted radios, open closed minds and instigate change for the better.

On a very different note, the one movie I caught at the Independent Festival was Blackball, aka National Lampoon’s Blackball, probably the least independent film there. It’s a very British snobs vs. slobs comedy about the game of bowls (think bowling, played on a manicured lawn by the insufferably polite). Blackball’s no The Full Monty or Animal House, but it’s a good evening’s entertainment.

Blackball was released in England in 2003, and was recently picked up by National Lampoon for a modest American release. But I caught the only planned screening in the Bay Area. So if you want to see it, you’ll have to get the soon-to-be-released DVD.

In other news, I’ve given the Balboa a permanent spot on the calendar. Run by Gary Meyer of U.C. Theater fame, the Balboa has recently started playing revival and other art-house fare.

On the subject of double bills, Art Rothstein writes that “The Parkway rates an award, even if they charge separate admission, for Beyond the Sea and The Life Aquatic. Perhaps they could play Ray Charles during intermission, singing Drown in My Own Tears, just to see if anyone gets the connection.”

Finally, one last comment on Clash of the Wolves. Reader Derek Boothroyd has informed me that it has been shown the Bay Area in recent years. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival screened it in 2000.

This Week’s Footnotes

The Pacific Film Archive starts its Preservation Week tonight, with some great shows lined up. Among the most promising are Thursday’s lecture by UCLA’s chief film preservationist Robert Gitt on the History of Color, Stanley Kubrick’s first masterpiece, Paths of Glory on Friday, and a Vitaphone evening (a program of shorts, followed by a recently-rediscovered feature) next Sunday.

Free Pie at the Parkway
This Tuesday is Audience Appreciation night at the Parkway, with a free showing of American Pie (but you’ll still have to buy your own pizza). It’s easy to dismiss a Hollywood-financed horny teenager comedy as commercial schlock (especially one followed by two sequels), but American Pie is an entertaining and reasonably accurate look at young, male sexuality. I know; I’ve been there.

Other Recommendations

  • If you haven’t caught Ray yet, it opens Wednesday at the Lark.

  • Annie Hall is playing today and tomorrow at the Red Vic.

  • The Stanford continues its Marx and Sturges series of double bills, with Duck Soup and The Lady Eve. Comedy doesn’t get any better than that.