No festival activity this week until Thursday, when Another Hole In the Head opens.
A- Midnight in Paris, Kabuki, Embarcadero, Albany Twin, Piedmont, opens Friday. I didn’t think Woody Allen still had it in him. He hasn’t made a film this funny, this wistful, and this heartfelt in decades. And I don’t think he’s ever made one this upbeat. Owen Wilson stars as your basic neurotic, romantic, witty, oversexed, and not quite intellectual Allen protagonist in a movie that slightly resembles Allen’s 1985 Purple Rose of Cairo. As with that film, the protagonist’s intense desire to escape into a fantasy world alters reality. But this is a much more optimistic movie, one where fantasy can help one handle reality. Read my full review.
A 12 Angry Men, Castro, Thursday. Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t the only director to make a great one-set film in the 1950’s. Sidney Lumet did it in his very first leap from the small to the big screen. (Come to think of it, Akira Kurosawa did it too, in The Lower Depths.) In 12 Angry Men, Lumet brilliantly stages a jury as it considers its verdict in a murder case. Limited people in a limited space, yet it never feels like limited drama. But it’s definitely 1950’s liberal optimism, as the one juror more interested in truth then vengeance (Henry Fonda) argues with the others. On a Lumet memorial double-bill with Network, which I haven’t seen since it was in first run.
A+ Gene Kelly Double Bill: Singin’ in the Rain & The Pirate, Stanford, Saturday through Monday. The A+ goes to Singin’ in the Rain. There’s nothing meaningful, insightful, or propagandistic about the greatest of all Hollywood musicals, which happens to be about the birth of Hollywood musicals. But I’d be hard pressed to find another movie that’s more fun. The Pirate, on the other hand, is not one of Kelly’s best, but it’s still a splendid entertainment. The mistaken-identity story debunks one romantic myth (pirates) while building up another (actors).
B 42nd Street, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Friday, 8:00; Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday. This isn’t just a backstage musical; it’s the backstage musical, complete with the chorus girl ingénue whose big chance comes when the star breaks her ankle. A close second to Gold Diggers of 1933, with good humor and spectacular Busby Berkeley dance numbers that could never happen on a real Broadway stage. Co-staring Ginger Rogers as Anytime Annie, who “only said no once, and then she didn’t hear the question.” The Niles screening is the first in a series of musicals (none silent, obviously), playing Friday night through the summer. The Stanford is screening it on a double bill with Babes in Arms.
It, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. I’ve never seen the movie that made Clara Bow a big star and gave her the title “The It Girl,” but I’m guessing it’s a lot of fun. Bow usually was. Bruce Loeb will accompany the movie on piano.
D The Warlords, 4-Star, Thursday. Huge, cumbersome, and melodramatic, The Warlords succeeds primarily in being loud. Set during theTaiping Rebellion, it stars Jet Li as a general who turns a group of bandits into an unbeatable army with the help of two bandit leaders who become his blood brothers. There’s a love triangle, as well. The battle scenes are big, but seldom thrilling and often laughable. Li’s General Pang commits multiple atrocities, but we’re supposed to forgive him because he cries as he does them. When the movie ended with a quote from itself, “Dying is easy. Living is harder,” I suppressed the desire to finish the old cliché properly: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” On a double bill with an earlier Li adventure, The Shaolin Temple, which will be dubbed.