The Valley of This Week’s Recommendations and Warnings

Presenting my first weekly Recommendations & Warnings Report created without benefit of weekly schedules.

New rule: I will no longer list films in wide release–even art-house wide release. This list will only include calendar screenings (a day to a week in one theater) very limited releases playing in only a couple of theaters.

Valley of the Heart’s Delight, Camera 7 Cinemas. San Jose; Grand Lake, Oakland, opens Friday. I hate saying anything bad about a locally-made independent film struggling to get national distribution. Based very loosely on historical events, Valley of the Heart’s Delight details the circumstances leading to the lynching of two kidnapping/murder suspects in San Jose in 1933. The lynching occurred with the active or passive endorsement of just about everyone who should have stopped it, from the local sheriff to the Governor of California. Writer/Producer John Miles Murphy believes the suspects were innocent, and has turned his theories into a work of fiction with completely original characters. Cinematographer Hiro Narita, Production Designer Douglas Freeman, and Costume Designer Cathleen Edwards all do a remarkable job creating 1933 San Jose out of modern day Bay Area locations and very little money. Unfortunately, Murphy and director Tim Boxell fail to fill that world with real people. Click here for my full review.

Bedazzled, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00. As members of Beyond the Fringe, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore helped lay the comic groundwork for Monty Python. In the one movie that truly belongs to them (they wrote and starred), Cook plays Satan to Moore’s pathetic, working-class Faust in what is probably the funniest version of the classic tragedy. Bedazzled doesn’t always work, but it’s best moments–especially the leaping nuns–rate as classics. Directed by Stanley (Singin’ in the Raiin) Donen, and not to be confused with the remake. Part of the Archive’s Look Back at England: The British New Wave series.

If . . ., Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 9:05. It’s been entirely too long since I’ve seen Lindsay Anderson’s tale of rebellious students in a British boarding school, but I loved it when my own education was still a recent memory. I don’t think this picture could be made in our post-Columbine society. Another part of the Archive’s Look Back at England: The British New Wave series.

The Valerie Project, Rafael, Wednesday, 8:00; Castro, Thursday, 8:00. Even
though I was in high school when “Jaromil Jires’ 1970 coming of age fantasy film” Valerie and Her Week of Wonders came out, I’d never heard of it until I read the Castro’s schedule. Judging from that description, it sounds bizarre and entertaining–a luminous dream narrative laden with vampires, doppelgangers, sinister characters and shimmering maidens.” Both the Rafael and the Castro are presenting a new 35mm print with live accompaniment (that’s right, live accompaniment for a 1970 movie) by a 10 piece ensemble, culled from members of Espers, Fern Knight, Woodwose, and Fursaxa.

The Cat and the Canary, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Friday, 8:00; Saturday, 7:30. Americans in the 1920s just couldn’t take haunted houses seriously. But they sure enjoyed laughing at them. Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charley Bowers all made very funny short subjects about them. And this feature, never intended to be taken seriously,provides plenty of good laughs as well. A fun way to get into the Halloween spirit. Friday night, David Giovacchini and the Tricks of the Light Orchestra will accompany the feature and additional shorts; Saturday night, Niles and PFA stable Judy Rosenberg will do the honors on the piano.

The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963–1965, Rafael, matinees Friday through Sunday. Held over! There have been plenty of Bob Dylan documentaries, and several concert film where Bob Dylan made an appearance, but not nearly enough films that simply catch him in performance. A record of Dylan’s performances at the 1963, ’64, and ’65 Newport Folk Festivals, The Other Side of the Mirror is a portrait of the artist as an evolving young man. In ’63, he’s so nervous that Joan Baez has to help him tune is guitar, and all of his songs are overtly political. By ’64 he’s commanding the stage and mixing the politics with the metaphysical issues of Mr. Tambourine Man. And in his legendary 1965 performance, he blew the lid off the entire folk scene (and offended most of his fans) by bringing the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on stage and rocking out. I’ve read about Dylan’s folk years from many sources; but there’s nothing like watching them–without narration or an overt viewpoint of the 21st century. You have to be a real Bob Dylan fan to love this movie, but since I’m a very real Bob Dylan fan, I’m giving it an A.

Winterland, Camera 12, San Jose, Friday, 9:30; California Theater, Berkeley, Sunday, 7:00. This quiet, low-key drama about Kurds in Norway examines a marriage off to a very bad start. Renas (Raouf Saraj) has been living in the rural north long enough to be comfortable and friendly with his Norwegian co-workers, although outside of work, his social life appears centered on other Kurds. Then he brings over a wife he never met from the old country (Shler Rahnoma as Fermesk). Neither of them have been exactly honest in their letters and phone calls. What’s more, the vast, cold, empty, but beautiful landscape alienates and depresses Fermesk. Slowly, with anger and difficulty, they have to work things out. Because of its short, 52-minute length, the Arab Film Festival will screen Winterland with Iraq, the Song of the Missing Men on Friday and with Rise and Shine and Rabia’s Journey on Sunday.

Click here for descriptionVHS – Kahloucha, Camera 12, San Jose, Saturday, 9:30; California Theater, Berkeley, Sunday, 3:30. This Making of documentary gets off to a slow start, but it grows on you. It’s subject is Mouncef Kahloucha, a Tunisian action movie auteur whose budgets make Roger Corman look like Cecil B. DeMille. We follow Kahloucha as he gathers friends and neighbors together to work on his latest opus, Tarzan of the Arabs, which, judging from the scenes we see, is every bit as silly as the name implies. He even distributes the completed masterwork himself, by renting his three or four copies to neighbors. The man appears to have no talent whatsoever, but his chutzpah wins you over. Part of the Arab Film Festival.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Cerrito, Saturday, 6:00, Sunday, 5:00. I’m not entirely sure why Universal’s 1948 genre mash-up remains so popular. Yes, it combines the studio’s massively successful comedians with the three most popular monsters on the back lot. But I’ve never been a huge Abbott and Costello fan, and the monsters were definitely running out of steam by the late 40’s. But it has enough laughs to avoid being a complete loss.

Cinema Paradiso, Cerrito, Thursday, 9:15. I haven’t seen this love letter to the movies in many years. I remember loving the first half and feeling bored and indifferent in the second half. In other words, I liked the kid, but found the teenager annoying. I should also point out that I haven’t seen the director’s cut (which I assume they’re showing), but I’ve read that it primarily adds more to the part I didn’t like. Nevertheless, it seems like a nice way to celebrate the Cerrito’s one-year anniversary.

The Monastery: Mr. Vig & The Nun, Roxie, opens Friday. A crusty old bachelor offers his castle to the Russian Orthodox Church for a monastery, then has to contend with a feisty nun. The plot of this documentary sounds like a sitcom. It might have made a good one, but it’s just not an interesting documentary. For one thing, it never really explains the old man’s relationship to the Church–spiritual, emotional, legal, and financial. The Monastery has a few funny scenes, and some moments of insight about this man’s loneliness, but not enough to fill a third of its 84 minutes.

The Lost Boys, Aquarius, Friday and Saturday, midnight. A clever and funny, and even occasionally scary teenage vampire movie shot in Santa Cruz. What do you do when peer pressure tells you to become an immortal bloodsucker? Hey, all the cool kids are doing it.