What’s Screening: January 30 – February 5

One festival closes, and a few days later, another opens. Noir City continues through Sunday at the Castro, and IndieFest opens Thursday for a 16-day run at the Roxie.

And the Roxie is closed for renovations.

I Was Born, But . . ., Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 3:00. Ozu’s late (1932) silent comedy/drama sees the world through the eyes of two bothers– sons of a man rising in the corporate world. They love and worship their father, and are shocked by his submissiveness to those above him in his job. Funny, touching, and very true. As part of the Film 50: History of Cinema series and class, the presentation will include a lecture by Marilyn Fabe. if you have any way of playing hooky from work on a Wednesday afternoon (I don’t), catch this one. Bruce Loeb on piano.

Wendy and Lucy, Rafael, Embarcadero, Shattuck, opens Friday. Wendy (Michelle Williams) hopes she can find work in Alaska, but first she has to get to Alaska. Traveling with her dog Lucy, she sleeps in her car and watches every penny. In other words, she can’t afford disaster. And when her car breaks down in a small Oregon town, one disaster leads to another. A sobering film for economic hard times. Read my full review.

Pre-Code Follies, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Friday, 8:30. Short subjects and clips from the few years between the birth of talkies and enforcement of censorship. And speaking about pre-code fun:

Double Bill: Gold Diggers of 1933 & She Done Him Wrong, Stanford, Saturday through Monday. Before A Hard Day’s Night, before Singin’ in the Rain, before Astaire and Rogers (well, before Astaire), Warner Brothers was putting out a whole different type of musical; smart, sassy, funny, definitely pre-code, and with BusbyBerkeley production numbers that defy description (and the laws of physics). Gold Diggers of 1933 is the best early-thirties’ Warners musical; upbeat, sexy, and entertaining, but never really letting you forget that there’s a depression going on out there. I can’t say as much for Mae West’s first starring vehicle, She Done Him Wrong. It has a few classic West lines, but not enough to save the dull, melodramatic plot. This double bill’s A definitely belongs to just one of the movies.

Stranded, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team and their friends and family crashed into a glacier high in the Andes. The survivors endured extreme cold, hunger, an avalanche, the deaths of loved ones, and the necessity of eating those loved ones’ corpses. Combining interviews with the survivors, re-enacted sequences, and some photography from the actual events, Gonzalo Arijon recreates the harrowing experience with dramatic intensity. I first saw Stranded at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and you’ll find my full report here.

Double Bill: The Killers and Sweet Smell of Success, Castro, Sunday. The Killers isn’t called the Citizen Kane of film noir because it’s the best of its genre, but because of its multiple flashback story structure. When a gas station attendant (Burt Lancaster) is murdered, starts asking questions and a life of crime is revealed. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Sweet Smell of Success for me to trust my memory with a wholehearted recommendation. But not by much. Lancaster risked his career by producing this exploration of the seamy side of fame and by playing a truly despicable character. The result, if I recall correctly, is fantastic. Tony Curtis co-stars, from a script by Ernest (North by Northwest) Lehman.

The Blue Angel, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 2:00. Josef von Sternberg’s one German-language film was meant as a vehicle for Emil Jannings, who had just returned to Germany after the talkies put a lid on his American stardom. But everyone remembered his co-star, Marlene Dietrich, as the singer who seduces him to his doom. Historically fascinating, neither its clumsy use of sound nor its Victorian morality have aged well. Part of the PFA’s Josef von Sternberg: Eros and Abstraction series.

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