No festivals this week, but these screenings may help you get over your withdrawal.
Early Kubrick and Altman Double Bill, Roxie, Sunday, 7:00. The Film on Film Foundation presents early, low-budget works by future great directors: Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire and Robert Altman’s the Delinquents. Both movies will be presented in 35mm prints. Should be interesting.
John Ford Western Double Bill: The Searchers & Fort Apache, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. Most fans of John Ford and John Wayne consider The Searchers their masterpiece. I disagree. It’s visually splendid and has one of Wayne’s greatest performances, but it’s marred by a rambling plot and a very unlikable hero. Besides, color always seemed a handicap for Ford, upsetting his delicate balance between myth and realism. The lesser-known Fort Apache, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. In one of his few unsympathetic parts, Henry Fonda plays an arrogant calvary colonel who’s disdain for the Apaches leads to war. This time, John Wayne plays the open-minded man of reason. I can’t look at Wayne’s face in the final scene at not think of Colin Powell.
The Godfather, Cerrito, Saturday and Sunday, 4:30. Francis Coppola, taking the job simply because he needed the money, turned Mario Puzo’s potboiler into the Great American Crime Epic. Marlon Brando may have top billing, but Al Pacino owns the film (and became a star) as Michael Corleone, the respectable son inevitably and reluctantly pulled into a life of crime he doesn’t want but fits him perfectly. A masterpiece, newly restored.
Lemon Tree, Rafael, Albany Twin, Opera Plaza, opens Friday. When the new Israeli Defense Minister moves next door to a Palestinian lemon grove, and his security people decide the grove must be destroyed, the widow who owns the grove (Hiam Abbass) takes the case to court. Filmmakers Eran Riklis and Suha Araf wisely avoid clichés in their Israel vs. Palestine drama, concentrating instead on how the struggle effects the lives of everyone involved. Lemon Tree will probably receive a regular theatrical release in the coming months.
Z, Castro, opens Friday for one-week engagement. Gee, should this be on a double-bill with W.? Seriously, I haven’t seen this political thriller since it was new (it was the first subtitled film I ever saw), but I remember it being taut and suspenseful. Or maybe I just liked it because I agreed with what it said.
Shakespeare in Love, Rafael, Wednesday, 7:00. This 1998 crowd pleaser may be the ultimate Indiewood crossover hit. A young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) just coming into his own as a playwright falls head-over-heals in love with a beautiful fan (Gwyneth Paltrow) in a bittersweet romantic comedy about the writing and original staging of Romeo and Juliette. Often silly, occasionally sexy, and often-times sentimental, makes a very rewarding and romantic night out. I should know; I saw it on a first date, and now I’m married to her. Novelist Isabel Allende will be on hand for the screening; she had nothing to do with making the movie, but she picked it for the Rafael’s Films of My Life series.
Short Subject Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. The monthly collection of comedy shorts includes my favorite Harold Lloyd two-reeler, “Never Weaken.” The Laurel & Hardy contribution, “Leave ’em Laughing,” is also one of their best silents. The Chaplin and Keaton contributions (“The Pawnshop” and “The Blacksmith”) are also pretty good.
Fargo, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. The ultimate crime-gone-wrong thriller and the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece, Fargo treads that thin line between the horrific and the hilarious while never leaving the humane. Both William H. Macy, as a man in way over his head, and Frances McDormand, as a very pregnant cop with a lot of common sense, became stars thanks to this movie.
The Big Lebowski, Piedmont, Friday and Saturday, midnight. Critics originally panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to the Coen’s previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as Fargo, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie. It’s also built quite a cult following; The Big Lebowski has probably played more Bay Area one-night stands in the years I’ve been maintaining this site than than any three other movies put together.