[B] The Birth of a Nation, California Theater, San Jose, Friday, 7:00. A film that’s easy to love, easy to hate, and easy to love to hate. The historical influence of this 1915 Civil War and Reconstruction epic can’t be overestimated; it turned film into both a serious art and a big business. Esthetically, it’s still a rousing piece of cinematic historical fiction–if you can ignore its rabid racism. How racist is it? The Ku Klux Klan ride in to the rescue. It takes a certain amount of guts to show The Birth publically these days. Kudos to Cinequest for showing it here. With Dennis James at the Wurlitzer organ.
[B] Amarcord, Castro, Friday through Thursday. Federico Fellini’s nostalgic, autobiographical, yet decidedly weird comedy about village life in the late 1930’s celebrates horny teenagers, confused adults, and distracted clergy, and treats fascists as comic opera buffoons. Amarcord succeeds frequently but not consistently. And it succeeds best when it’s just trying to be funny. But the lack of a story, and the simplistic nature of many characters, slowly wear you down. Although filled with great moments, it’s not a great film.
Canary, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Sunday, 6:30. As a fan of Alejandro Adams’ excellent Around the Bay, I was naturally eager to see his latest feature. I’m sorry to say that–based on a work-in-progress disc Adams sent me some months ago–I was disappointed. A weird piece of science fiction involving corporate organ donating, it never lets you close to any of the way too many characters, or even gives you much of an idea what’s going on. The only thing that keeps me from giving it an F is that I have not seen the complete work. Part of Cinequest.
[A] Revolutionary Road, Cerrito, opens Friday. After a romantic prologue where an attractive couple meet and fall for each other, Revolutionary Road plunges you into a severely unhappy marriage–all the worse because the couple clearly still love each other. Thirtyish in 1955, the two are caught between their youthful, non-conformist dreams and the responsibilities of parenthood, made all the worse by the pressures to conform to a suburban norm. And the way they react to that pressure is making them incompatible. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, so romantic in Titanic, give raw, scraped-to-the-bone performances. Easily one of the best films of last year, but not a date movie.