The San Francisco International Film Festival is over for another year. But fear not, festival fans. Hola México started its six-day run at the Embarcadero last night, and I Still Wake Up Dreaming: Noir Is Dead! / Long Live Noir! starts its two-week run at the Roxie Thursday night.
So let’s see what else is playing.
A Chinatown, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:15. Roman Polanski may be a rapist, but you can’t deny his talent as a filmmaker. (Not that that in any excuses his actions as a human being.) And that talent never shown better than in this neo-noir tale of intrigue and double-crosses set in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Writer Robert Towne fictionalized an actual scandal involving southern California water rights, mixing a few personal scandals in, as well, and handed it over to Polanski, who turned it into the perfect LA period piece. One of the happily resurrected Cerrito Classics.
A Raging Bull, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. Martin Scorsese put a cap on 70’s cinema with this study of boxer Jake La Motta. It isn’t an easy film to watch; the experience is not unlike a good pummeling, but it’s absolutely worth it.
A- Only Angels Have Wings, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. Cary Grant heads a team of mail plane pilots in a remote corner of South America. There’s little plot here, just a study of men who routinely fly under very dangerous conditions, and how they cope with death as an every-day part of life. The only non-comedy out of the five films that Grant made for director Howard Hawks. Double-billed with Gunga Din, which many people love but I detest—the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom of the 1930’s.
B+ Don Q, Son of Zorro, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. Yes, they were already making sequels in the silent days, and Don Q is a really good one. In fact, this follow-up to Douglas Fairbanks’ first swashbuckler, The Mark of Zorro, is one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original. Fairbanks plays two roles: the original Zorro and the son in the title. Piano accompaniment by Judy Rosenberg.
B+ The Triplets of Belleville, Cerrito, Wednesday, 7:15. A modern, low-budget, dialog-free animated film for adults (and teenagers; it’s rated PG-13). The story involves a French champion bicyclist who’s kidnapped by mobsters and brought to America to…Never mind, it’s just too weird to explain. But who cares? The jokes are funny, the visuals are clever and original, and the music swings (the triplets of the title are an aging big band trio).
B The Last Station, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. Leo Tolstoy was famous in his day—as he’s remembered now—primarily as a novelist. But in his later years, he used his fame to promote pacifism, vegetarianism, socialism, and celibacy. His wife wasn’t happy about any of that. Everything comes to a head in this fictionalization of his last days, with the help of one of those British casts that Americans can only envy (Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, and token American Paul Giamatti). I’m not sure if I should blame that lone yank or writer/director Michael Hoffman, but Giamatti’s character is the weak link—a melodramatic villain (he even twirls his mustache) in a story that demands complexity.