The Edukators

Things are a little crazy for me, right now. My daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is a just over a week away. How badly is that eating into my life? Let me put it this way: As I write this on Wednesday, Lawrence of Arabia is playing in 70mm at the Castro. I’m not there.

But I want to take the time to give you one really big recommendation. Don’t miss The Edukators. Idealist young radicals have a way of turning into jaded, middle-aged capitalists, and this low-budget German gem pits both extremes against each other. Two such radicals, played by Daniel Bruhl (the star of Goodbye Lenin) and Stipe Erceg, have a novel form of civil protest: They break into expensive homes, where they don’t steal or damage anything, just rearrange the furniture and leave a note warning their “victims– that their “days of plenty– are numbered.

There’s a girl involved (of course there’s a girl involved; played by Julia Jentsch), and a love triangle. But things really get complicated when circumstances force them to kidnap a wealthy home-owner (Burghart Klaussner, who played Bruhl’s father in Goodbye, Lenin). What can they do? They can’t hold on to him forever. If they let him go, he’ll identify them. And they’re too decent to commit murder.

As the four of them hide out in a mountain cabin, the young kidnappers slowly let down their guard, and their middle-aged victim reveals (and perhaps relives) his own radical youth. Klaussner has the most interesting role–”you’re never quite sure if he’s stating what he really feels or just manipulating the young fools. He may not be sure, himself. And unlike a Hollywood movie, you don’t know how it’s going to end.

IFC Films is promoting The Edukators as a “sharp and funny social satire,– but it doesn’t really have many laughs. Neither did Hamlet; it’s still a good play. And yet, in ways that I can’t care to reveal without giving too much away, it feels like a comedy.

Director/co-writer Hans Weingartner shot The Educators with a handheld digital video camera and available light, and it shows. The low resolution and haphazard framing keep you from enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery. But this movie isn’t about beautiful mountains (even if much of it is set against them), and the low production costs doubtless helped Weingartner keep keep to his themes.

The Educators is playing for one week at the Lumiere in San Francisco and the Act 1 & 2 in Berkeley, so don’t put off catching this one. Unless you live on the Peninsula, that is; the Aquarius in Palo Alto has it for an open-ended run.

In other news, the Stanford is open again after some months closed for remodeling. Contrary to my earlier predictions, however, they’re not doing a silent every Wednesday–”just one every other Wednesday.

Also, both the Balboa and the Pacific Film Archive are doing Louis Malle festivals.

And here are this week’s best bets:

Recommended: Apocalypse Now, Castro, Friday. Two-thirds of a masterpiece is better than none. As Willard and his crew move up river, Apocalypse Now creates an amazing, hallucinatory feel of what it must have been like to fight in Vietnam. Then they get where they were going and the movie becomes ridiculous. But it’s still worth seeing, especially on the big screen. This is the original cut, which is far better than the recent Redux version. Part of the Castro’s 70mm series, this is how Apocalypse Now was originally meant to be seen: a 70mm blow-up from the original 35mm anamorphic negative.

Recommended: Don Q, Son of Zorro, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday night. Yes, they were already making sequels in the silent days, and Don Q is one of the best. In fact, this follow-up to Douglas Fairbanks’ first swashbuckler, The Mark of Zorro, is one of those few sequels that’s better than the original. Fairbanks plays two roles: the original Zorro and the son of the title. Piano accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis.

Recommended: The Wizard of Oz, Albert Park, San Rafael, Saturday night. You don’t really need me to tell you about this one, do you? Warning: This is a DVD presentation.

Recommended: The Philadelphia Story, Stanford, Saturday through Thursday. The Stanford reopens for business with one of the best early screwball comedies. This was the film that saved Katherine Hepburn’s career. If she had been in the musical remake, High Society, that might have ended it. On a double-bill with Laura, a film noir that some people consider a classic–”I find it okay.

Recommended: Ghostbusters, Castro, Sunday. Comedy rarely gets this scary or visually spectacular. Or perhaps I should say that special-effects action fantasies rarely get this funny. Either way, it’s not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As part of the Castro’s 70mm festival, they’ll be showing a 70mm blow-up from the 35mm anamorphic negative.

Noteworthy: Hello, Dolly!, Castro, Thursday. I’ve never seen Gene Kelly’s Barbara Streisand vehicle (he directed, she starred), nor have I ever heard anyone say it’s good. But I have heard from reliable sources that this is one amazing 70mm print, so if you’re enough of a big format geek, it might be worth seeing just for that. On the other hand, the print is allegedly so fantastic because the Todd-AO, 65mm negative is in great condition–”a positive side effect of the movie being an utter bomb. Part of the Castro’s 70mm festival. UPDATE, Sunday, August 7: Twentieth-Century Fox has canceled this screening of Hello, Dolly. That beautiful print, apparently, has been damaged beyond acceptability. In its place, there will be another screening of Vertigo. The Castro has also added matinée screenings of Vertigo on Monday and Tuesday (I’m obviously in the minority about this one).