Noir City opens Friday night at the Castro and plays through the week (and well into the next one), and that’s worth mentioning on its own, even if there isn’t much there I’ve seen or even heard of. But isn’t that what makes it special?
DOUBLE FEATURE: The Lady Vanishes (1938) & Young and Innocent, Stanford, Friday through Monday. The best (and almost the last) film Alfred Hitchcock made in England before jumping the pond, The Lady Vanishes stands among his best. This is Hitchcock light–starting out as a gentle comedy and slowly building suspense, but never taking itself seriously. Only North by Northwest is more enjoyable. He also made Young and Innocent in England, but he didn’t do near as good a job. It has one fantastic shot, but is otherwise just the Master of Suspense going through the motions.
The Black Pirate, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. Douglas Fairbanks’ pirate swashbuckler isn’t the best of his work, but it’s fun. People mainly remember it for one spectacular stunt–Fairbanks sliding down a sail with a knife (it was recreated in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie)–and the color. This was one of the first features, and the first really big one, shot entirely in two-color Technicolor. As I write this, I have no information about the print, but I do know that Bruce Loeb, rather than the previously-announced Jon Mirsalis, will provide piano accompaniment.
Gun Crazy, Castro, Saturday. It’s been too long since I’ve seen this low-budget thriller, said to be inspired by the story of Bonnie and Clyde. And I mean “too long” in both senses of the term: It’s been so many years I don’t trust my memory enough to give it a recommendation, and I shouldn’t go so long without seeing such a good movie again. The plot concerns two sharpshooters who fall in love and go on a crime spree, despite the man’s abhorrence to turning his gone on any living thing. One of the many films from the 1950s written by the then-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo (original prints didn’t credit him; modern ones do).
Bamako, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:30. Better in parts than as a whole, Bamako mixes interesting vignettes of life in modern Africa with a preachy approach to its subject matter that wears you down. The bizarre concept puts the World Bank on trial, complete with formal court hearings, in a residential courtyard in Bamako, Mali. Around the trial, life goes on, and that life is the best part of the film. But as an attack on global economic policy, it’s more of a treatise than a motion picture, explaining what the problem is rather than showing you or involving you emotionally. Part of the PFA’s African Film Festival.