The Mill Valley Film Festival, which opened last night, runs through this week and into the next. I’ve placed festival events at the end of this newsletter. And the Arab Film Festival opens Thursday at the Castro before moving to less grand locations around the bay.
Left in the Dark Book Events. Photographer R.A. McBride’s new large-format book Left in the Dark: Portraits San Francisco Movie Theatres celebrates the Bay Area’s film presentation history. Three local events help launch the book this week. First, there’s a party with a full bar, exhibition, and continuous slide show at Space Gallery (Sunday, 6:00 to midnight). Next…well, what San Francisco-themed literary release is complete without a book signing at City Lights (Tuesday, 7:00). Finally, there will be a slide show presentation at SF Camerawork (Wednesday, reception at 5:00; slide show at 7:00).
A Dr. Strangelove, Red Vic, Wednesday and Thursday. We like to look back at earlier decades as simpler, less fearful times, but Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things once were. Thank heaven we no longer have idiots like those running the country! It’s also very funny.
A- Throne of Blood, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00. Kurosawa stands Shakespeare on his head with this haunting, noh- and kabuki-inspired loose adaptation of Macbeth.Toshiro Mifune gives an over-the-top but still effective performance as the military officer tempted by his wife (Isuzu Yamada) into murdering his lord. The finale–which is far more democratic than anything Shakespeare ever dared–is one of the great action sequences ever. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry. Part of the PFA’s Shakespeare on Screen series.
Watch Horror Films! Keep America Strong!, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:00. If you lived in the Bay Area before the advent of home video, you remember Creature Features—channel 2’s late Friday night thing. Host John Stanley (who replaced Bob Wilkins as the show’s host) and Ernie Fosselius (of Hardware Wars fame) will be on hand live to celebrate the program.
C Rosemary’s Baby, Cerrito, Thursday. Some things are scarier than Woody Allen.Roman Polanski’s first American film barely works. Mia Farrow looks fidgety and nervous as a pregnant wife who slowly begins to suspect that she’s carrying the devil’s spawn, and that everyone she thought she could trust is in on it. Slow enough to let you see what’s coming a mile off, it never quite builds the sense of dread that the material, and the director, were capable of bringing to it. This month’s Cerrito Classics entry.
B Donnie Darko, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. How many alienated-teenager-in- suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers have to deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun.
A- The Empire Strikes Back, Century Cinema, Corte Madera, Tuesday, 6:30. In honor of the second (and in most people’s view, best) Star Wars movie’s 30th anniversary, the festival will be screening…what I assume is the 1997 altered version (the festival describes it as a digital restoration). If they were playing the original, I’d give it an A+. Even so, the chance to see it on the big screen is tempting, and I couldn’t think of a better screen to see it in than the giant, curved one in Corte Madera. Now if only Lucas would screen a vintage 70mm print from the original release.
A The King’s Speech, Rafael, Saturday, 12:15. George VI (the Duke of York through much of the film, and Bertie to his family) doesn’t want to live in the limelight. But fate forces that job onto the shy, reluctant man with a very bad stammer. Terrified, he turns to Australian immigrant Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush at his most impish) for help with his speech impediment. The relationship doesn’t start well. Logue begins with asking him personal questions, telling him not to smoke, and insisting they be on a first-name basis. For a man raised to believe in the importance of formal ceremonies meant to elevate his family above everyone else, this commoner’s disregard for tradition and class structure is shocking and confusing. And for the audience, it’s hilarious. While not quite a comedy, The King’s Speech manages to deliver far more laughs than the average drama, capturing the conflicts and absurdities of modern monarchies with grace, humor, and a fine rebellious streak.
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, Sequoia Theatre – Mill Valley, Thursday, 6:00. Another I haven’t seen. But Cardiff was a great cinematographer, and a master of early Technicolor. Should be interesting.