What’s Screening: October 29 – November 4

Festival news: Berlin & Beyond continues through Saturday. United Nations Association Film Festival ends Sunday. French Cinema Now continues through Wednesday.

A- Bonnie and Clyde, Castro, Wednesday. This low-budget gangster movie, produced by and starring Warren Beatty , hit a nerve with young audiences in 1967 and became one of the big surprise hits of the year. Shocking in its time for its violence and sexual frankness (matching a horny Bonnie with an impotent Clyde), it still hits below the belt today. Here the historical bank robbers of yesterday become alienated youth, glamorous celebrities, good kids who made a bad decision, selfish jerks, and tragic heroes with a sealed fate. And we root for them, fear for them, and suffer with them every step of the way—even while we’re horrified by their actions. On a double bill with Night Movies, which I’ve never seen and have no opinion about.

A The Kids are All Right, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. Lisa Cholodenko’s serious comedy  about a middle-aged lesbian couple, their kidsallrightteenage children, and the very heterosexual man who ambles his way into their lives could just be the best film of 2010. Few movies have caught with such fidelity the love, stress, joy, and day-to-day battles of an endangered but not altogether lost marriage. And even fewer have done it in such a funny, sexy, entertaining package. But why Cholodenko picked a title that would be easily confused with the Who rockumentary is beyond me.

C+ Charlie Chan at the Opera, Stanford, Saturday through Monday. The only Charlie Chan movie I’ve ever seen (I picked this one because someone told me it was the best of the lot) is a pretty typical B mystery from the 1930s. Aside from its moderate entertainment value, its chief interest is its treatment of Chinese Americans, shocking by today’s standards (the title character is played by Euro-American Warner Oland in heavy makeup and heavier accent) but progressive for its time. After all, the Chinese hero is smarter and kinder than any white person on screen. The fact that his sidekick—his grown son—appears far more integrated into American culture suggests the sort of immigrant experience familiar to white minorities at that time (the son is played by a Chinese-American actor, Keye Luke). And William Demarest plays bigotry for laughs as a cop who rants about the “Chinks” while Chan solves the murder.

A- Howl, Castro, Thursday. What did you expect–a howlconventional biopic? Would that do justice to the Allen Ginsberg epic poem with which the film shares its title? Like the poem, Howl is challenging, cutting-edge, and unconventional. By weaving together an extended interview with Ginsberg (James Franco), scenes from publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s obscenity trial, and an illustrated reading of the titular poem, Howl gives an overview of Ginsberg’s early life, celebrates the work itself, and cherishes the freedom that made the poem possible. I’ve never read Ginsberg’s poem; this film makes me want to read it. And you might want to read my full review.

Macbeth (1948), Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 9:30. I saw Orson Welles’ version of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy decades ago at the PFA, and found it laughably bad. The characters spoke in a Scottish brogue that sounded both fake and impenetrable, and the production values were so cheap that at one point actors cast their shadow upon the sky. But maybe I’m remembering it wrong. Part of the PFA’s Shakespeare on Screen series.

Miracle in Milan, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 4:00. I haven’t seen Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realistic fantasy/comedy in a very long time, but I remember it fondly. And I’m pretty sure my oxymoronic description is accurate. Visually, it’s as bleak and poverty-centered as The Bicycle Thief, but its playful fable of a story seems closer to Peter Pan. Part of the series Days of Glory: Revisiting Italian Neorealism.

Finally, we’ve got several Halloween specials happening: