What’s Screening: November 28-December 4

Wow! No festivals. But we still have some movies worth watching.

A Century Ago: The Films of 1908, Rafael, Thursday, 7:00. One hundred years ago, movies were just about to discover they were an art form. And Thursday night, the Rafael will screen about two hours of shorts from the year D.W. Griffith first started working in the medium. Organized and presented by Randy Haberkamp, Director of Educational Programs for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.

Our Hospitality, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:00. Three years before he made The General, Buster Keaton mined the antebellum South for comic gold in this almost gentle comedy about a Hatfield/McCoy–type feud. Still adjusting to the long form of the feature film (this was only his second), Keaton fills Our Hospitality with funny gems that have little to do with the story–like the journey from New York to the backwoods on a very early train (the movie is set around 1840). When Buster finally arrives at his destination, he finds himself a guest in the home of men sworn to kill him. Luckily, the code of southern hospitality forbids killing a guest…as long as he’s in your house. As one of the PFA’s Movie Matinees for All Ages, the PFA will screen Our Hospitality with Keaton’s short, The Haunted House. Judith Rosenberg will accompany both on piano.

Burn After Reading, Red Vic, Friday through Sunday. The Coen brothers are back to their old tricks, mining the dark comic prospects of a crime gone wrong. While Burn After Reading lacks the humanity of Fargo and the blazing, non-stop lunacy of Intolerable Cruelty, it still provides 95 very entertaining minutes. Read my review.

Double bill: The Maltese Falcon and To Have and Have Not, Stanford, all week. Dashiell Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon had been filmed twice before, but screenwriter and first-time director John Huston did it right with the perfect cast and a screenplay that sticks almost word-for-word to the book. The ultimate Hammett picture, the second-best directorial debut of 1941 (after Citizen Kane), an important precursor to film noir, and perhaps the most entertaining detective movie ever made. On the other hand, Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not has almost nothing to do with the book (or so I’ve been told; I’ve never read it). It’s best known for igniting the Bogart-Bacall romance, which itself ignites the screen.

Patti Smith: Dream of Life, Red Vic, Thursday through the following Saturday. Director Steven Sebring spent over a decade following Patti Smith around with a camera (okay, I’m not sure how much of that time he actually devoted to the project), trying to get to the core of the cutting-edge rocker, poet, and generally arty person. He succeeds–with a great deal of help from Smith herself–in introducing us to a very nice woman. But aside from an innate need to express herself and her strong political feelings, we know little about what motivates her to do what she does. Read my full review.