The Irish Film Festival, the Latino Film Festival, and Hong Kong Cinema all continue through Sunday.
B+ Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Embarcadero, Shattuck, Piedmont, opens Friday. The nature of the civil rights movement changed dramatically in the mid-to-late 1960’s, and this American/Swedish documentary tracks the black power movement from Stokely Carmichael’s heyday until heroin ravaged Harlem. The film’s Swedish origin is something of a gimmick. Most of the footage consists of news footage shot by Swedish crews for Swedish television. Occasionally we get the original narration with English subtitles. Most of the narration is made up from recent interviews with African-American activists, and the point of view is definitely theirs. The result is an intriguing and informative overview, if considerably one-sided. Little attention is given to the bad decisions, reverse racism, and raging sexism that warped the movement. Read my full review.
A Psycho, Oakland Paramount, Friday, 8:00. Contrary to urban myth, Alfred Hitchcock didn’t really want people to stop taking showers. He was, however, inspired by the television show he was then producing to make a low-budget movie in black and white. Note: I incorrectly listed this for last week. I hope I didn’t cause anyone inconvenience.
Red State, Balboa and Camera 3, Sunday. Kevin Smith—the writer and director of cheerfully offensive, dialog-heavy comedies like Clerks, Dogma, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno —has made a thriller. Well, why not? John Huston made a musical comedy. The story involves a trio of teenage boys who take a journey hoping for sex and find themselves prisoners of evil Christian fundamentalists—just like our country. Smith is distributing the film himself, and part of the process will be simultaneous screenings in multiple theaters this Sunday. Smith will be on hand via live webcast to answer questions.
B+ Shaolin, New People, Wednesday and Thursday. The Buddhist monks in Benny Chan’s new period piece hate bloodshed, but they still get to beat up a lot of bad guys. The story concerns a ruthless warlord (Andy Lau) who will do anything to gain and hold power. But when he’s betrayed and overthrown, he finds himself at the mercy of the monks in the Shaolin Temple, a holy place which he recently desecrated. Luckily, the monks are good at forgiveness…and at fighting. They help the general learn to be a decent, peaceful human being. They also help him fight the new—and even worse—warlord who has taken his place. With Jackie Chan providing comic relief. Read my full review.
Manhattan Short Film Festival, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:00. Ten short films will be screened for audiences around the world this week. Then the audiences vote on the best short.
A Lawrence of Arabia, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. Lawrence isn’t just the best big historical epic of the 70mm roadshow era, it’s one of the greatest films ever made. Stunning to look at and terrific as pure spectacle, it’s also an intelligent study of a fascinatingly complex and enigmatic war hero. T. E. Lawrence—at least in this film—both loved and hated violence, and tried liberating Arabia by turning it over to the British. No, that’s not a flaw in the script, but in his character. This masterpiece isn’t worth seeing on DVD, and loses much in 35mm, which is how the UA will screen it. Shot in Super Panavision 70, it takes 70mm film projected onto a giant screen to fully appreciate Lawrence. If the UA was able to show it that way, I would have given it an A+. See Great Projection Saturday, Part 2: 70mm & Lawrence of Arabia for more information.
B+ Tree of Life, Castro, Thursday. Terrence Malick made a career of going out on a limb (if someone who has made only five films in 40 years can be said to have a career). But sometimes, when you go out on a limb, the branch breaks. His latest film works beautifully when it concentrates on a loving but troubled family in the 1950s—a story with no plot and many conflicts. The contemporary scenes with Sean Penn as one of the young sons, now a middle-aged man, don’t play as well. Few are as convincing as Penn at looking miserable, but Malick provides us with so little about his current life that we’re not sure what he’s miserable about. And then there are the scenes that are just plain weird. But it’s a Malick film, so at least it’s always beautiful to look at.