January Festivals

German-language films, foreign films that aren’t in German, and the dark side of Hollywood all come to Bay Area theaters next month.

The 13th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival opens at the Castro January 10 for a one-week, 35-film run. The opening night feature, The Edge of Heaven, follows a father and son and a mother and daughter as their lives unfold and intersect in Germany and Turkey. According to the program, “Paternal, maternal, heterosexual and lesbian love are juxtaposed with questions of family and Heimat” (if that last work confuses you, check Wikipedia–I did). Other promising titles include Fashion Victims, The Red Elvis, and Nothing Else Matters. A tribute to the recently deceased actor Ulrich Mühe includes three films, including his best-known work in this country (and the only film in this festival I’ve already seen), The Lives of Others. Following festival tradition, Berlin & Beyond will show one silent, a comedy called The Oddball, with live organ accompaniment by Dennis James.

The day after Berlin & Beyond opens, the Rafael starts its regular For Your Consideration series of films eligible for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. (To be eligible, a film must be submitted by its country of origin.) The films include On the Wings of Dreams from Bangladesh, Jar City, from Iceland, and from Canada, the follow-up to The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions, Days of Darkness (The Age of Ignorance. The series runs through January 24.

Which means it’s over just in time for Noir City, which opens January 25 and runs through February 3 at the Castro. Eddie Muller, the Bay Area’s resident noir expert, has put together another selection of obscure cheapies celebrating bad men, worse women, and shadowy black and white photography. As usual, there’s only one movie in the group I’ve seen, Gun Crazy (it was a long time ago but I liked it very much), half of a double bill honoring screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The other film, The Prowler, was directed by Joseph Losey and has just been restored. (The blacklisted Trumbo didn’t receive screen credit for either film.) The festival opens with a two-picture tribute to actress Joan Leslie, who will appear in person.