A lot of festivals going on. Berlin & Beyond continues through Wednesday, and Docfest continues through the end of the week. Both the Children’s Film Festival and the Petaluma Film Festival open Friday and run through the weekend. United Nations Association Film Festival also opens Friday, but continues through the end of the month. French Cinema Now opens Thursday. The Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival opens Sunday and continues, in fits and starts, for nearly a month.
The Bridge School Benefits, Embarcadero, Monday, 7:00. If you live in the Bay Area and care at all about rock music (or education), you’ve probably heard of Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefits, where major rockers perform acoustically to raise money for a school for impaired children. This film, which I haven’t seen, contains performances from throughout the concert’s 25-year history. It will play just this one night before being released on DVD.
A The Last Picture Show, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:40. This film put director Peter Bogdanovich on the map (as well as Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd), and he never again made a picture half this good. Filmed in deep-focus black and white, it studies a group of teenagers in a small Texas town in the early 1950s. The town appears to be blowing away (the title refers to the community’s single movie theater, struggling to stay open). There’s no conventional plot; the youths work, play, experiment with sex, and dream of their lives to come. Think American Graffiti (made two years later), set eleven years earlier, and played for reality rather than laughs. A somber and sexy examination of a dying town, a country in transition, and the behavior of people everywhere. Part of the series The Outsiders: New Hollywood Cinema in the Seventies.
A To Kill a Mockingbird, Stanford, Saturday & Sunday. The film version of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel manages to be both a nostalgic reverie of depression-era small town Southern life and a condemnation of that life’s dark and ugly underbelly. Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch is the ultimate decent and moral father, a character so virtuous he’d be unbelievable if the story wasn’t told through the eyes of his six-year-old daughter. (Had there been a sequel set in her teen years, Atticus would have been an idiotic tyrant.) On a double bill with something called Black Legion; I haven’t seen it, but the IMDB description has me curious.
B+ Powell, Cardiff, & Pressburger & Technicolor double bill: The Red Shoes & Black Narcissus, Castro, Saturday & Sunday. The Red Shows, a 1948 Technicolor fable, examines the sacrifices one makes for art. The story starts well but devolves into more melodrama than even a well-acted film can bear. On the other hand—and this is why The Red Shoes remains a classic—the 20-minute ballet at the center is amongst the greatest dance sequences ever filmed, and no other picture used three-strip Technicolor this expressively. See War and Ballet @ the PFA for more on this. Not much more than a well-done but silly melodrama, Black Narcissus is nevertheless a must if you love old-fashioned three-strip Technicolor. No one could work emotional magic with that clumsy but beautiful medium like cinematographer Jack Cardiff, and this is amongst his best work.
Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis, Castro, Camera 3, Thursday. Now that you’ve had a chance to see Metropolis as it was originally meant to be seen, you can catch the wrong version. For this 1984 reissue, Moroder put together what was then the best possible Metropolis restoration. But then he added bright tints, subtitles in place of the intertitles, and a rock soundtrack to mask the sound of Fritz Lang spinning in his grave. Actually, I haven’t heard the soundtrack, but long ago I saw this version with live accompaniment by the Club Foot Orchestra. It held up, but the alterations didn’t make me happy.
A Budd Schulberg/Elia Kazan Double Bill: On the Waterfront & A Face in the Crowd, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday. It’s best to look at On the Waterfront as a drama about finding the courage to do what’s right. Marlon Brando brilliantly plays a half-bright longshoreman torn between his moral obligation to testify against a corrupt union and the serious and dangerous consequences of being a stool pidgin. On that level, it’s a brilliant motion picture. But things get uglier when you put it into a political and autobiographical context. Both writer Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan named names to get off the anti-Communist blacklist, after which they made this film to justify their acts of cowardice. A Face in the Crowd isn’t at the same level, but Andy Griffith gives a strong dramatic performance as a hobo turned into a media sensation.
Pre-Halloween Double-bill: Nosferatu & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Sunday, 4:00. I really don’t know what to make of this presentation, which is why I’m not giving Nosferatu it’s usual A. It seems normal enough that the Silent Film Museum would, in late October, screen these two classic, German, silent horror movies. But they’re promising a “New score, dialog [yes, dialog], and sound effects by HobGoblin” that promise to be “Tongue-in-cheek.” It could be fun, but it could also turn into a disaster like last year’s San Francisco Film Festival screening of the silent 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, only with better films to ruin.
A- Young Frankenstein, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00. Once upon a time, Mel Brooks had talent. And never more so than in 1974, when he made this sweet-natured parody and tribute to the Universal horror films of the 1930′s (specifically the first three Frankenstein movies). Gene Wilder wrote the screenplay and stars as the latest doctor to be stuck with the famous name (which he insists on pronouncing “Frankenshteen). But blood is fate, and he’s destined to create his own monster. Wilder is supported by some of the funniest actors of the era, including Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle as the monster. To my knowledge, Young Frankenstein was only the third Hollywood-financed black and white feature made after 1967. A Cerrito Classic repeat screening.