The Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival starts Friday night and runs through the weekend. And Frameline also finishes up Sunday. And the San Francisco United Film Festival, which I just found out about while preparing this newsletter, opens today and runs through Thursday at the Roxie.
A- Live Theater on the Big Screen: The Importance of Being Earnest, Elmwood, Tuesday, 7:00. Actually, it’s pre-recorded live theater, but the experience is pretty much the same. Oscar Wilde’s thoroughly silly and hilarious stage play gets the expert comic treatment in the hands of director Brian Bedford. Bedford is the best thing in this production (after Wilde’s brilliant script, of course); in addition to directing, he plays the extremely proper and commanding Lady Bracknell to perfection. This isn’t a drag shtick, but simply an actor nailing a great comic character; the fact that the actor and character are of different genders is irrelevant. But I occasionally had problems with Santino Fontana’s Algernon, who seemed too aware of how funny he was.
B+ The Music Man, Oakland Paramount, Friday, 7:00. One of my childhood favorites doesn’t quite look like a masterpiece anymore. But it’s still big, dazzling, funny, and filled with catchy tunes. Robert Preston carries the picture as Professor Harold Hill, the conman who pretends to be a music teacher, and deep down wants to be one. The cast is rounded out with Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, and the Buffalo Bills (this may be the only major Hollywood movie with a featured barbershop quartet). Shot in Technirama–a process that used twice as much film for each frame than standard 35mm–The Music Man really should be experienced on a large, wide screen.
Little Big Man, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 5:30. I haven’t seen this comic western epic in many, many years, but I recall liking it very much. One of the “anti-westerns” of the late 60s and early 70s, it follows a somewhat hapless young man (Dustin Hoffman) as he moves back and forth between the worlds of white settlers and the Cheyenne whom the settlers threaten. Along the way, he manages to be in the right place at the right time for such historical events as Wild Bill Hicock’s death and the Battle of Little Big Horn. I remember it being very funny most of the time, and occasionally shocking in its violence. I also remember liking it a lot.
Centre Forward, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Thursday, 7:30. I’ve never seen a North Korean film, and I have a hard time wondering what one would be like. If you’re in the same situation, you can check out this "story of a young soccer player and his brutal training regime” from 1978. I have no idea what this will be like.
C+ The Blue Angel, Castro, Wednesday. Josef von Sternberg’s one German-language film was meant as a vehicle for Emil Jannings, who had just returned to Germany after the talkies put a lid on his American stardom. But everyone remembered his co-star, Marlene Dietrich, as the singer who seduces him to his doom. Historically fascinating, neither its clumsy use of sound (it was one of Germany’s first talkies) nor its Victorian morality have aged well. The Castro promises a newly-restored print which includes Dietrich’s screen test added on to the end. The first of several Sternberg/Dietrich collaborations, the Castro will screen it on a double bill with the last, The Devil is a Woman.