Yet another Bay Area week without a single film festival.
A The Mill and the Cross, Castro, Wednesday. Painting with the wide palette that 21st century cinema allows, Lech Majewski creates a masterwork about Bruegel creating The Way to Calvary–one of his masterworks. True to Bruegel’s style, the film starts with the day-to-day lives of ordinary, 16th-century peasants. But life isn’t a rustic paradise for these commoners. Flanders is part of the Spanish Empire, and the Inquisition is enforcing Catholicism on the populace. Using nature, paint, and digital effects, Majewski creates not a realistic biopic but a visual feast that moves from the world of Bruegel’s experience into the world of his imagination. Bruegel made his statement about religious intolerance. Majewski made his about Bruegel. Both are worth examination. Read my full review.
B- Hell’s Hinges, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. William S. Hart, the first cowboy star to break into features, had a formula: a bad man turned good by the love of a beautiful woman. He carries that formula into the realms of dark vengeance and Christian proselytizing in this highly-regarded 1916 western. His character, Blaze Tracy, is among the roughest men in a very rough, ungodly town. The inept preacher who comes from the east to reform the west proves exceedingly weak. But the preacher’s sister brings Blaze to the Good Book. Just don’t expect the feel-good happy ending that would become the norm in later westerns. The short subjects include George Melies’ 1910 “The Doctor’s Secret.” In honor of Hugo, most of the Niles programs for January and February include a Melies title. Federick Hodges will accompany everything on piano.
Community Cinema: Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock, Elmwood, Wednesday, 7:00. The Elmwood kicks off its new Community Cinema series with this documentary on the pioneering civil rights leader and feminist.
A+ Casablanca, Stanford, Saturday through next Friday. What can I say? You’ve either already seen it or know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece; it was just another movie coming off the Warner assembly line. But somehow, just this once, everything came together perfectly. And that, astonishingly enough, is about it. On a double bill with Lubitsch’s World War II comedy, To Be or Not to Be (not to be confused with the Mel Brooks remake); I haven’t seen this one in a very long time but I remember liking it.
Weekend (1967), Castro, Friday through Sunday. I saw Jean-Luc Godard’s satire many years ago. I don’t remember it well enough to give it a grade, but if I did, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a high one. I initially found Weekend mildly amusing as it attacked obvious targets. But it quickly bogged down into agitprop. I’m sorry, but two workmen staring into the camera, eating their lunch, while an unseen narrator gives the audience a lecture on Marxism doesn’t qualify as good art, good entertainment, or even good agitprop. But then, with the single exception of Breathless, I’ve yet to see a Goddard film I could stand. New 35mm print.