What’s Screening: May 6 – 12

The San Francisco International Film Festival is over. Whew! But the Epidemic Film Festival runs Friday and Saturday, and the Crossroads Festival opens Thursday.

In the meantime, the Castro is screening two films on my Very Best Films of All Time list, one of them on a double-bill with something that almost made the list. But the Pacific Film Archive is closing until June 9.

A- Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Kabuki (in 3D and 2D), opens Friday. Only Werner Herzog would ask a scientist about his dreams. But that’s precisely why Herzog was the perfect choice to make this documentary about very ancient cave paintings—amongst the earliest works of art in existence, and works that show significant talent. Herzog’s movie goes beyond the conventional archeology documentary (although it is certainly that). The filmmaker’s unique narrative voice, the eerie beauty of the caves themselves, and the haunting score by Ernst Reijseger combine to turn Cave into an homage to what makes human beings special: the artistic, creative spark. And yes, the 3D is justified. In fact, I strongly recommend you go out of your way to catch it in 3D. Read my full review.

Cinematic Titanic, Castro, Friday. The creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000 return to the Castro for live commentary on very bad movies. I don’t know anything about the movies up for verbal punishment (Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World and Rattlers), but I can tell you about Cinematic Titanic here and here. This SF Sketchfest event isn’t cheap: $35 for each movie or $60 for the double-bill.

A Taxi Driver, Roxie, Friday and Saturday. When I think of the 1970s as a golden age taxidriver1of Hollywood-financed serious cinema, I think of Robert De Niro walking the dark, mean streets of New York, slowly turning into a psychopath. Writer Paul Schrader and director Martin Scorsese put together  this perfect study of loneliness as a disease. Travis Bickle isn’t lonely because he hasn’t found the right companion, or because society has failed him, or because he doesn’t want intimacy. He’s lonely because he’s mentally incapable of relating to other human beings. This is a sad and pathetic man, with a rage that will inevitably turn violent. Columbia Pictures has recently restored Taxi Driver, and if the Blu-ray release (see my review) is any indication, the new 35mm print should look fantastic.

A+ , Castro, Thursday. Funny, exhilarating, perplexing, and tragic, is not only the greatest film ever made about writer’s block and the ultimate cinematic statement on the male midlife crisis, it’s also a movie about making a movie, where the movie being made appears to be 8½. Filled with one memorable and unique scene after another, Fellini’s autobiographically surreal comedy lacks nothing except a coherent plot, and it has no use for that. One of the greatest films ever made.

A+ Double Bill: The Godfather & The Godfather, Part II, Castro, Sunday. Francis Coppola, taking the job simply because he needed the money, turned Mario Puzo’s potboiler into the Great American Crime Epic. Marlon Brando maygodfather have top billing, but Al Pacino owns the film (and became a star) as Michael Corleone, the respectable son inevitably and reluctantly pulled into a life of crime he doesn’t want but seems seems very well suited for. Great as it is, the sequel (which is also a prequel) tops it. By juxtaposing the rise of Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in the first film, a young Robert De Niro here) with the moral fall of his son Michael (Al Pacino again), Puzo and Coppola show us how the decision a seemingly good man makes to care for his family will eventually destroy the very people he loves. Both films have undergone a major restoration by the master of the craft, Robert A. Harris.

B+ Hair, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. The original, Broadway “tribal love-rock musical” was plotless, depended on audience participation, and was pretty much unfilmable. So screenwriter Michael Weller and director Milos Forman created their own story for the songs, the characters, and the time. One of the best films about the late 1960’s counterculture—perhaps because in 1979, the whole bizarre thing could be viewed with both perspective and nostalgia. And the songs are great.

A The African Queen, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:15. Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run. They face rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately-attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. Paramount recently restored the film and issued this new print. Judging from the Blu-ray release (see my review), it should look fantastic.

B+ True Grit (2010 version), Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. The Coen brothers take on the most classic American genre and treat it with surprising reverence and respect. They allow only slices of their wry wit to invade the story, along with some barely PG-13 slices (literally) of their equally distinctive grotesque violence. Forget about Jeff Bridges as the alleged star. This movie belongs to 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who’s in every scene as a determined youngster willing to undergo any hardship to avenge her father’s death.