What’s Screening: October 30 – November 5

The 3rd I South Asian Film Festival opens Thursday for a four-day run at the Roxie and the Castro.

French Cinema Now also starts Thursday for a seven-day run at the Clay.

In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles
with The Lady From Shanghai
, Rafael, Monday, 7:00. The Lady from Shanghai is not one my favorite Welles films by a long shot, but this evening is much more than 35mm archival print of yet another of Welles’ many attempts to get back into the good graces of Hollywood. It’s a chance to meet his daughter, Chris Welles Feder, who’s currently hawking a book about her father.

A Standard Operating Procedure, Pacific Film Archive, 3:00. We all know Lynndie England–or we think we do. She’s the young, seemingly carefree standardoperatingprocedure soldier photographed taunting prisoners in those infamous Abu Ghraib prison photos. Errol Morris wants you to see England and many of her former companions in a different light. He interviews them extensively in Standard Operating Procedure, shows us the letters they wrote home, and uses actors to re-enact some of the most gut-wrenching scenes they witnessed and committed. The result isn’t an easy film to watch; it has you squirming in your seat, trying not to turn away your eyes. It also forces you to ask yourself some very tough questions. See my full review. Part of the series Watching the Unwatchable: Films Confront Torture. This will be followed by another film in the series that looks interesting–Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment. Separate admission required.

A Double bill: The Adventures of Robin Hood & Singin’ in the Rain, Stanford, Friday and Saturday. What a strange double bill—an action flick and a musicalrobinhoodflynn comedy. On the other hand, they were both shot in three-strip Technicolor, they were the first two films restored with Warner’s Ultra-Resolution process, and (most importantly) they’re two of the most entertaining escapist works ever to come out of Hollywood. Maybe it’s not such a bad double bill, after all.

A Double bill: The Bad and the Beautiful & Sunset Blvd., Stanford, Tuesday through Thursday. Sunset Blvd., Billy Wilder’s meditation on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly, is the flip side of Singin’ in the Rain (now that would make a great double bill). Norma Desmond is very much like Lena Lamon…after twenty-two years of denial and depression. And in the role of Norma, Gloria Swanson gives one of the great over-the-top performances in history. The Bad and the Beautiful (which Vincente Minnelli directed the same year he made The Bandwagon) isn’t that good, but it’s as realistic a look at how Hollywood changes and corrupts people as tinsel town has ever dared to make.

Ready, Set, Bag!; Elmwood, Tuesday & Wednesday, 7:00; Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00. A documentary on the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger Contest, and a benefit for the Alameda County Community Food Bank (Elmwood) and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano (Cerrito). The filmmakers will be there in person.

New PFA Schedule

Just as I started to write again, a new Pacific Film Archive schedule shows up in the mail. Plenty of stuff I’d like to see.

They’ve got a Ingrid Bergman festival with an interesting twist: nothing from Hollywood. Between November 4 and December 17, the PFA will screen nine  European features (and one collection of shorts) made in Europe before or after her 1940’s American heyday, ranging from the 1936 Intermezzo that made her a star (it was remade in Hollywood in 1939—her first American film) to her last theatrical feature, Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. (Curious how her career is bookended by two films where she played a classical pianist, each with a music reference title.) Other films include a 1935 sex comedy called Walpurgis Night and Stromboli, her first collaboration with Roberto Rossellini (Isabelle Rossellini is another of their collaborations, and they’re extramarital affair destroyed Bergman’s American career).

A series on torture (Watching the Unwatchable) includes Errol Morris’ excellent Standard Operating Procedure and Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment. There’s a series on New Spanish Cinema.

It wouldn’t be a PFA schedule without tributes to specific directors, and this time we have series for Alain Resnais, Miklós Jancsó, and Otto Preminger. The Resnais series opens with Last Year at Marienbad, which I saw in college and hated beyond measure. (I remember a friend saying it really needed a pie fight.) I’ve been thinking of giving it another chance; perhaps I’ll catch it on November 6. The Jancsó series includes The Red and the White, which the PFA screened only last year. You can read my comments here.

The series Jesters and Gestures looks at Yiddish cinema and culture. It includes Yiddish-language movies from Poland and Austria made in the 1930’s (I’ve seen several Yiddish films from that era, but only ones made in America), a 1923 silent, and more recent work.

Other interesting events include screenings of Vincente Minnelli’s Cabin in the Sky and Dodard’s Made in U.S.A., introduced by choreographer Mark Morris, a Readings on Cinema screening of Psycho, and a presentation of works by early cinema pioneer Alexander Black.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event

I missed the big, three-day festival in July, and I’m determined to make this one.

On Saturday, December 12, the Castro will come alive with crowds, film, and live music with four feature films—one a 162-minute epic—for the 5th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event.

It will start at 11:30 with Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, an ethnographic feature shot in Siam by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack six years before they made King Kong. This is a far more realistic look at life in the jungle, part staged and part documentary. Donald Sosin will accompany Chang on the piano.

Then comes the real treat (and the only film on the schedule I haven’t seen): The complete version of Abel Gance’s 1919 anti-war epic J’Accuse has never played in the United States, and hasn’t been available anywhere else for a very long time. Now this recently restored epic gets its American premiere. Screening at 2:00, with Robert Israel performing an adaption of his orchestral score on the Castro’s Wurlitzer.

We’ll all need a long break after that, and a long laugh. So the festival will reconvene at 7:00 for Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., a comedy about movies themselves and the dreams they inspire. Sherlock Jr. isn’t quite feature length, so they’re showing it with one of Keaton’s best shorts, The Goat. Dennis James will accompany both on the Mighty Wurlitzer, with percussionist Mark Goldstein adding sound effects.

Finally, the close the day on a dark note, at 9:15 we’ll get to watch West of Zanzibar, a Tod Browning/Lon Chaney melodrama set in the jungles of Africa.

What’s Screening: October 23 – 29

I haven’t done one of these in a long time, and I’m not really prepared, and I’m just trying to get my feet wet again, so bear with me.

Okay, festival news: I haven’t been following the festivals, but these ones are going on right now:

And here are a few movies and events worth checking out:

A Bringing Up Baby, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. Now here’s something strange. The last weekly newsletter I posted, more than four months ago, also included Bringing Up Baby, and it was also at the Stanford. Different double bill though. How does one define a screwball comedy? You could say it’s a romantic comedy with glamorous movie stars behaving like broad, slapstick comedians. You could point out that screwballs are usually set amongst the excessively wealthy, and often explore class barriers. Or you could simply show Howard Hawks’ frivolous and hilarious tale about a mild-mannered paleontologist (Cary Grant), a ditzy heiress (Katharine Hepburn), and a tame leopard (a tame leopard). On a double-bill with An Affair to Remember, which I saw a long time ago and didn’t care for.

A Let the Right One In, Red Vic, Wednesday and Thursday. Better than Horror of Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, and The Lost Boys, and maybe better than Nosferatu, this is one of the great vampire movies. What better place for a vampire than a Swedish winter? The nights are very long, snow covers everything, and people drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In is also a coming-of-age story, about first love between a boy about to turn 13 and a girl who has been 12 “for a very long time.”

Short Subject Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. A week before Halloween, and they’ve already got a scary vibe—well, a funny, scary vibe—with four haunted house comedies. I can vouch for Harold Lloyd’s “Haunted Spooks” (even though it gets a bit racist, as films from the ‘20s often do), as well as Buster Keaton’s “The Haunted House.” I think I may have seen Laurel and Hardy’s “Habeas Corpus” long ago, but I’m not sure.

Thrillville’s Halloween Gore ‘N Snorefest, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30. The Parkway and Cerrito are gone (at least the Cerrito in its Speakeasy version, but Thrillville continues. Will the Thrill and Monica the Tiki Goddess promise Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Zontar: The Thing from Venus, and assorted oddities.

I’m Back

More than four months after my last post (not counting the Soul Power review, which I’d written months before), I’m resurrecting Bayflicks. Without going into details, let’s just say I have a very busy summer, and not all of it was busy in a good way.

I got to very few movies during that time, and no festivals. As a blogger and as a moviegoer, I missed both silent film festivals, the Jewish Film Festivals, and Mill Valley. I’m currently missing Doc Fest. Even my mother-in-law said I need to get out to more movies.

I didn’t entirely miss the rebirth of the Cerrito, but I missed blogging about it—at least until now. I went to it twice over the summer (it’s in walking distance), but a lot of the flavor is gone. It’s now a first-run theater with couches and a good menu. When I was last there, it didn’t even have the menu, yet.

I even missed a chance to review the new (and already gone) Spike Lee joint, Passing Strange. That hurt.

Anyway, my life is returning to something resembling normal again. I intend to start seeing movies, in theaters, at home, and at press screenings. I’ll start paying attention to the festivals. I’ll even get back to my survey of Akira Kurosawa’s works.

It’s good to be back.