What’s Screening: August 5 – 11

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, although out of San Francisco, continues around the Bay Area through Monday. Festival films are at the end of the newsletter.

Days of Heaven, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00. I was blown away by this movie when it first opened–Nestor Almendros’ atmospheric cinematography turned the simple story of lovers posing as siblings into something approaching a masterpiece. But that was nearly 30 years ago and I don’t know if I would have the same reaction today. Besides, back then, the spectacular photography was enhanced by 70mm presentation. At least the Cerrito has a large screen. Part of their monthly Cerrito Classics series.

Last Living Silent Movie Star to Speak, Koret Auditorium (San Francisco Main Library), Sunday, 2:00. When she was a child, the world knew Diana Serra Cary as “Baby Peggy.” As far as I know, she’s the last silent movie star still breathing. She’s also written a very good book on stunt horseback riders called The Hollywood Posse. She’ll be speaking, answering questions, and signing books. A short film will be screened.

A Mary Poppins, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. The best live-action moviemarypoppins Walt Disney ever made, and one of the great all-time children’s pictures. Julie Andrews may have won the Oscar through a sympathy vote, but she really lights up her first movie appearance, managing to upstage Dick Van Dyke and some wonderful special effects. So what if it takes liberties with the books?

A Hitchcock Double Bill: North by Northwest & Strangers on a Train, Stanford, Friday. Alfred Hitchcock’s nbnwlightest, most entertaining masterpiece, North by Northwest stars Cary Grant as a suave and witty everyman in trouble with evil foreign spies (who think he’s a crack American agent), and with the police (who think he’s a murderer).  On the bright side, he gets to spend some quality time with Eva Marie Saint. Strangers on a Train is one of Hitchcock’s scariest films. A rich, spoiled psychotic killer (the worst kind) convinces himself that a moderately-famous athlete has agreed to exchange murders. The athlete soon finds himself hounded by suspicious cops who think he’s killed his wife and a psycho who thinks the athlete owes him a murder.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

B+ Mabul (The Flood), Rafael, Saturday, 4:20; Oshman Family JCC, Sunday, 6:15. The plot is similar to A Serious Man and Sixty Six, but Guy Nattiv’s drama about a Bar Mitzvah in a dysfunctional family couldn’t be more different. Bar Mitzvah boy Yoni sells completed homework to other kids, can’t please the rabbi (you’d think a Bar Mitzvah would be easy for a native Hebrew speaker), and deeply resents his parents—with good reason. His mother is having an affair and his father is an irresponsible pothead. To make matters worse, his extremely autistic brother, who really belongs in an institution, comes to live with them. Nattiv doesn’t leaven the story with humor, or even with much warmth, resulting in a harrowing, merciless look at a family coming apart at the seams. The last act, with a suspenseful climax and a somewhat upbeat ending, feels tacked on.

C+ Next Year in Bombay, Roda Theatre, Saturday, 2:20; Rafael, Sunday, 11:20am. Did you know there are Jews in India? Not once-British Jews who stayed behind when the NextYearinBombayEmpire collapsed, but people who are racially and ethnically Indian, yet identify themselves as Jews and practice the religion. For too much of this too-short documentary, filmmakers Jonas Parienté, and Mathias Mangin seem content to let us marvel at that very fact. But in its second half, as it looks at a small, Jewish peasant village (seen through the eyes of a young, urban, educated Bombay Jew), and then deals with questions of immigration to Israel, it dips into profound issues of Jewish identity. But it doesn’t give these issues the time they deserve. The festival will precede this 55-minute feature with a 19-minute short, “Starring David.”

C In Heaven Underground: The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery, Roda Theatre, 4:40.  The last thing you’d expect in Berlin is an old Jewish cemetery that the Nazis left alone. You might even guess that a documentary on this Britta Wauer Film Weissensee Friedhofsubject would go into detail about this enigma, but director Britta Wauer gives it only seconds. The rest of the movie tells us about people who are buried there, people who visit deceased relatives, people who work or once worked there, and even people living on the premises. Some of the stories are fascinating, but others just seem to mark time. This made-for-TV documentary makes a reasonably interesting way to kill 90 minutes, if you have nothing better to do.