B The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, Castro, Thursday, 7:00. Basically a lesbian Merchant-Ivory picture set in early 19th-century England, this film dramatizes the actual diaries of the real Anne Lister. As close to out of the closet as one could be in 1815, Anne suffers heartbreak when the love of her life marries an old man for his money, destroying her dream of a secret marriage. Writer Jane English and director James Kent show grace and economy in the telling her story, which they fill with top hats, bustles, corsets, very proper diction, and great British actors behaving civilized and polite while barely keeping their passions in check. Not an earth-shattering piece of art, but very good. Frameline’s opening night show.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s London Calling: Live In Hyde Park , Balboa, Thursday. This new HD concert video gets its Bay Area premiere at this benefit for the Danny Fund/Melanoma Research Alliance. Recorded last summer in Hyde Park, this 90-minute “theatrical cut” includes 13 songs, including Badlands, Born to Run, and American Land. The DVD version, apparently, will be longer.
Tokyo Story, VIZ Cinema, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. I’m not giving this film a grade because, frankly, it’s been way too long since I’ve seen it. But I suspect I would give it an A. Shot in that simple, direct, Ozu style, it examines an elderly couple and their children as life is coming to an end. If I recall it properly, the direct approach makes the story all the more heart-rending.
The rest is Kurosawa:
A The Lower Depths, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00. Kurosawa’s follow-up to Throne of Blood succeeds on almost every level, despite it’s feeling like a filmed stage play (which it is). Set in a grim flophouse in the 19th century (and based on the play by Maxim Gorky), the film examines several characters at the very bottom of the economic ladder. It’s depressing, of course, but it’s also warm, sardonic, and funny. A rare Kurosawa period piece without swordplay. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry. Part of the PFA’s Akira Kurosawa Centennial.
A Red Beard, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 7:15. Akira Kurosawa never stated his central theme, the importance of kindness and charity in a cruel universe, more powerfully or directly than in this three-hour, 1965 epic. A samurai movie without swordfights (but with one fantastic judo fight), Red Beard concentrates on human suffering and what must be done to relieve it. Toshiro Mifune, in his last performance for Kurosawa, plays a doctor in a mid-19th century slum clinic, desperately fighting corruption and exploitation as well as disease. The story is told through the eyes of an arrogant young intern (Yuzo Kayama), shocked to discover that he’s been assigned to work with patients he views as beneath him. I haven’t yet gotten to Red Beard in my Kurosawa Diary, so there’s no entry for it. Another part of the PFA’s Akira Kurosawa Centennial.
B+ I Live in Fear, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:35. Also known as Record of a Living Being, this is easily the worst work from Kurosawa’s best period (1952 – 1965). The story concerns an aging industrialist (Toshiro Mifune, made up to look twice his 35 years) driven insane, or at least irrational, by his fear of the the atom bomb. Convinced that only people in South America will survive World War III, he wants to move his entire family to Brazil. That family, meanwhile, is trying to declare him mentally incompetent before he wastes all of his money on this endeavor. You can read my Kurosawa Diary entry for more information. Yet another part of the PFA’s summer-long Akira Kurosawa Centennial.