The United Nations Association Film Festival wraps Sunday. French Cinema Now continues through Wednesday, and Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival keeps going through this week and beyond.. Cinema by the Bay opens Thursday.
And, of course, there are a lot of Halloween events this week. I’ve placed them at the end of this newsletter.
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 highly unbelievable melodrama. 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 so 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. Note: I listed this double bill last week in error.
B+ Forbidden Planet, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday. Nothing dates faster than futuristic fiction, and with its corny dialog and spaceship crewed entirely by white males, Forbidden Planet is very dated. But MGM’s 1956 sci-fi extravaganza still holds considerable pleasures. The Cinemascope and Eastmancolor art direction pleases to the eye, Robby the Robot wins your heart, and the story—involving a long-dead mystery race of super-beings—still packs some genuine thrills. It’s also an interesting precursor to Star Trek. On a double-bill with the 1960 version of The Time Machine, which I haven’t seen in a very long time.
A Budd Schulberg/Elia Kazan Double Bill: On the Waterfront & A Face in the Crowd, Stanford, 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. When they made this picture, both writer Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan had recently named names to get off the anti-Communist blacklist; the movie can be interpreted as justification for 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.
B The Man Who Laughs, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. Lon Chaney had already moved to MGM, so Universal cast Conrad Veidt as The Man Who Laughs. Not that the character’s so happy; as a child his face was intentionally disfigured, leaving it stuck in a huge grin. Between Veidt’s reputation (he usually played villains) and the sinister look of his makeup (which later inspired the creation of Batman’s Joker), you’d expect him to be an evil genius who must be defeated. But this time, Veidt gets to play a disfigured hero. Set in 17th Century England and dealing with circus acts, evil monarchs, and lecherous aristocrats, The Man Who Laughs entertains in that big, fun Hollywood way. Shown with three shorts, and all accompanied by Jon Mirsalis on the Kurzwell.
Halloween Spooktacular, Roxie, Friday through Wednesday. Six nights of mayhem and oddities. The shows include The Hunger, a three-film tribute to Twin Peaks, and a rarely-seen movie called Some Guy Who Kills People.
Bal-O-Ween Spooktacular, Bal Theatre, San Leandro, Saturday, 6:00. A costume contest, John Stanley (late of Creature Features), the first ever award of the Bay Area Horror Hall of Fame, and “every person in attendance will have the chance to win A REAL DEAD BODY!! Raffled off right from the stage!! LIVE!!” (It doesn’t promise a human body.) And two movies: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and The Little Shop of Horrors (I’m not sure which version).