What’s Screening: March 23 – 29

In festival news, Cinemadness starts tonight and ends Sunday (more on that below). But this week really means one thing for Bay Area film lovers:

Napoleon, Oakland Paramount, Saturday and Sunday (plus Saturday and Sunday next week), 1:30. To call this the biggest Bay Area movie event in recent memory would be napoleona gross understatement. Napoleon was last shown here 30 years ago, and this version is longer by more than a third. Kevin Brownlow considers this the greatest and most innovative film ever made, and the special three-strip Polyvision makes it extremely difficult and expensive to screen. Add to that Carl Davis (a hero to lovers of silent film accompaniment) conducting the Oakland Symphony performing his own score. So it’s surprise that these aren’t just the Bay Area’s only Napoleon screenings; they’re the only planned screenings in North America! Miss this experience, and you’ll probably never get to see Napoleon again. Did I mention that Kevin Brownlow considers this the greatest, and most innovative film ever made? I’ve got a ticket for Saturday, and will let you know if I agree with him on Sunday.


Cinemadness, Roxie, various programs Friday through Sunday. The Roxie goes up against Napoleon with a series of little-known, bizarre works co-sponsored by LA’s Silent Movie Theater. Features include Robert Altman’s Nixon movie Secret Honor, a documentary on George Kuchar, and—starting off the festivities Friday night—something called 100 Most Outrageous F—ks, which promises “the most outrageous clips of copulation across the history of film!” Now that’s something that Abel Gance never shot in Polyvision!

A- Sergeant York, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00. No other event ever challenged commitments to pacifism like World War II. So it’s no surprise that, as America entered that horribly necessary inferno, Howard Hawks filmed the story of WWI hero Alvin C. York. According to Hawks, York was a deeply religious and pacifistic Christian (after he grew out of his irreverent troublemaker phase) who first objected to serving, then went on to prove extraordinary skills and courage on the battlefield, capturing a large number of German soldiers alive. The screenplay, whose four writers include Howard Koch and John Huston, takes the pacifist argument seriously, even if it ultimately comes down against it. Part of the series Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man.

B+ Sing-Along Wizard of Oz, Castro, Friday through Sunday. For those with kids too impatient for Napoleon, and too young for 100 Most Outrageous F—ks. I don’t really have to tell you about this one, do I? Well, perhaps I have to explain why I’m only giving it a B+. Despite its clever songs, lush Technicolor photography, and one great performance (Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion). The Wizard of Oz never struck me as the masterpiece that everyone else sees. It’s a good, fun movie, but not quite fun enough to earn an A. I haven’t experienced the sing-a-long version.

A The Artist, Lark, opens Friday. Michel Hazanavicius just made a silent movie about the death of silent movies. Even more amazing than that, he pulls it off, creating a warm, funny, heartfelt, and occasionally sad story of a Hollywood star’s fall from grace as talkies ruin his career. Meanwhile, a struggling actress who loves him becomes a star in the new medium of talkies. Hazanavicius fills the picture with funny bits that illuminate the characters, the setting, and the medium. A black-and-white, narrow-screen, silent film is a hard sell in today’s market, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that The Artist found an audience. Read my full review.