What’s Screening: August 12 – 18

I missed this earlier, but From Britain with Love has moved across the Golden Gate to be Rafael. And over the weekend, VIZ Cinema @ New People presents An Asian American Film Retrospective. No other festivals this week.

A+ Ikiru, VIZ Cinema @ New People, Friday, 7:00. One of Akira Kurosawa’s best, and one of the greatest serious dramas ever put up on the screen. Takashi ikiruShimura gives the performance of his lifetime as an aging government bureaucrat dying of cancer. Emotionally cut off from his family–including the son and daughter-in-law that live with him–he struggles to find some meaning in his life before he dies. A deep and moving meditation on mortality and what it means to be human, Ikiru manages to be deeply spiritual without ever mentioning God or religion. Kurosawa followed Ikiru with Seven Samurai, a very different and even better masterpiece, and one where Shimura got to play an action hero. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry.

RiffTrax Live: Jack the Giant Killer, various theaters around the Bay, Wednesday, 8:00. RiffTrax, a troupe of Mystery Science Theater veterans, now riffs on bad movies before live audiences. This Wednesday they’re going the simulcast-in-many-theaters route. The movie they plan to deconstruct for your amusement, Jack the Giant Killer, is a low-budget fantasy from 1962 which I just might have seen in theaters as a very young child. You can read about my one live RiffTrax experience. (RiffTrax shouldn’t be confused with Cinematic Titanic, another troupe of MST3K veterans doing pretty much the same thing.  You can read about my Cinematic Titanic experiences here.)

A Taxi Driver, Camera Cinemas 3, Saturday.  When I think of the 1970s as a goldentaxidriver1 age of 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, a theatrical presentation should look fantastic.

B- The Dreamers, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00. More so than most cities, Paris exploded with youthful revolution in 1968. While others their age riot in the streets, three young people (Michael Pitt, Eva Green, and Louis Garrel), prefer to stay inside, smoking pot, discussing movies and Marxism, and making very close, exact, and detailed studies of each others’ bodies. In fact, they do the later in such detail that The Dreamers earned itself an NC-17 rating. The film works on two levels: simple eroticism, and baby boomer nostalgia for the days of sex, drugs, revolution, and passionate cinephilia. In other words, it’s not as deep as it thinks it is, but it’s still enjoyable. Part of the series Bernardo Bertolucci: In Search of Mystery.

A+ The General, Stanford, Friday, 7:30. Buster Keaton pushed film comedy like no  generalone else when he made this one. He meticulously recreated the Civil War setting. He mixed slapstick comedy with battlefield death. He hired thousands of extras and filmed what may be the single most expensive shot of the silent era (then used that shot as the setup for a gag whose punch line is a simple close-up). The result was a critical and commercial flop in 1926, but today it’s rightly considered one of the greatest comedies ever made. The Stanford will precede The General with one of Keaton’s best shorts, “One Week.” Dennis James will accompany both on the Stanford’s Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ.

A Hitchcock Double Bill: Shadow of a Doubt & Dial M for Murder, Stanford, Saturday through next Friday. In Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock’s first great American film and the movie that earns this double bill an A), a serial killer (Joseph Cotton) returns to his small-town roots. When his favorite niece (Teresa Wright) begins to suspect that all is not right with her beloved Uncle Charlie, her own life is in danger. The locations were shot in Santa Rosa. Dial M—the only 3D film made by an important auteur until Avatar–isn’t great Hitchcock, but it’s passable. Unfortunately, the Castro will not present the movie in 3D.

B+ I Live In Fear, VIZ Cinema @ New People, Saturday, 11:50am. Also known as  Record of a Living Being, this is easily the worst work from Kurosawa’s best period iliveinfear(1952 –1965), which still makes it very, very good. The story concerns an aging industrialist (Toshiro Mifune, made up to look twice his 35 years) driven insane, or at least irrational, by his fear of the the atom bomb. Convinced that only people in South America will survive World War III, he wants to move his entire family to Brazil. That family, meanwhile, wants him declared mentally incompetent before he wastes all of his money on this endeavor. You can read my Kurosawa Diary entry for more information.

B The Big Lebowski, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. Critics originally big_lebowski[1]panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to their previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as the Coen’s masterpiece, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie. It’s also built quite a cult following; The Big Lebowski has probably played more Bay Area one-night stands in the years I’ve maintained this site than than any three other movies put together.