This Week’s Movies

To the Stars by Hard Ways, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:45. I saw this environmentally-themed space adventure, the Soviet Union’s answer to Star Trek and Star Wars, many, many years ago. I remember being impressed with the first half but less so as it went along. According to the PFA’s description, an English-dubbed version called Humanoid Woman appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’m a fan of the series, but I never saw that episode. Part of the series From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey Through Russian Fantastik Cinema.

Double Bill: Citizen Kane & The Maltese Falcon, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. It’s hard to think of two better first films by new novice directors–especially two from the same year. Despite the historical connection, they’re very different movies and thus make an odd double bill. But with two pictures this good, who cares?

Metropolis, Castro, opening Friday for a one-week engagement. The first important science fiction feature film still strikes a considerable visual punch. The images–workers in a hellish underground factory, the wealthy at play, a robot brought to life in the form of a beautiful woman–are a permanent part of our collective memory. Even people who haven’t seen Metropolis know it through the countless films it has influenced. But the beautiful imagery only make the melodramatic plot and characters seem all the more trite. The Castro will not, unfortunately, provide live accompaniment.

American Graffiti, Cerrito, Saturday, 6:00 and Sunday, 5:00. A long time ago, in a Bay Area that feels far, far away, George Lucas made an entertaining (and extremely profitable) movie without action, a big budget, or special effects. Talk about nostalgia. Another Cerrito Classic.

8 1/2, Washington Square Park, San Francisco, Saturday, 8:30. Funny, exhilarating, perplexing, and tragic, 8½ is not only the greatest film ever made about writer’s block as well as the ultimate cinematic statement on the male midlife crisis, it’s also a movie about making a movie, where the movie being made appears to be 8½. Filled with one memorable and unique scene after another, Fellini’s autobiographical surreal comedy lacks nothing except a coherent plot–something it has no use for. Unfortunately, this will be a DVD presentation.

Sabotage, Stanford

, Thursday and next Friday. One of many little thrillers Alfred Hitchcock made in England in the 1930s when he was, in retrospect at least, still learning his craft. The plot concerns the owner of a London movie theater committing acts of mayhem and destruction on the side, and the negative effect this has on his family life. Many years later, Hitchcock admitted regretting how he handled what everyone agrees is the best scene in the movie. Definitely the work of someone who was not yet the Master, but just the Apprentice of Suspense. On a double bill with Green for Danger.

Hairspray, Parkway, opens Friday. In the early 1960’s, Americans died horrible, violent deaths over issues of racial equality. And now it’s a musical! Well, why not? The Hollywood version of the Broadway musical based upon John Water’s original independent film celebrates the spirit of the civil rights movement by turning it into one big, happy dance contest on local daytime TV. The result is charming, upbeat, and very funny, with pleasant musical numbers, joyous dancing, political themes that would have been radically dangerous 45 years ago, and John Travolta in a fat suit and a dress. What’s not to like?