No festivals this week, which is kind of a relief. But I’m starting this newsletter with a wonderful gem I saw at the San Francisco International Film Festival:
A Headhunters, Clay, Shattuck, Piedmont, opens Friday. Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) leads the good life. He’s rich, powerful, and has a beautiful wife. But even his high-paying, high-status job can’t pay for his lavish lifestyle, so he moonlights as a burglar, breaking into homes and stealing expensive paintings. But then something goes seriously wrong. Then it gets worse. Much worse. Before long, avoiding the police is the least of his worries. The result is the most entertaining new movie I’ve yet seen this year–a thriller of Hitchcockian quality. Warning: This movie has several very violent scenes. See my full review.
Yellow Submarine, Elmwood, Thursday, 8:00 (with four additional screenings this month). The Beatles’ one animated feature–which to my knowledge hasn’t played the Bay Area in years–has been restored, and will receive special theatrical presentations. It’s been so long since I’ve seen this whimsical fantasy for me to issue a grade. If memory serves, Yellow Submarine is a wonderful movie for taking drugs, and equally wonderful for taking your kids. Just don’t take both.
A- Only Angels Have Wings, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. Cary Grant heads a team of mail plane pilots in a remote corner of South America. There’s little plot here, just a study of men who routinely fly under very dangerous conditions, and how they cope with death as an every-day part of life. The only non-comedy out of the five films that Grant made for director Howard Hawks, who is being honored in the Stanford’s extensive Hawks series (a similar series recently completed at the Pacific Film Archive). On a double bill with a Hawks film I haven’t seen, Air Force. Saturday night, David Thomson will introduce the film.
B The Graduate, Castro, Saturday and Sunday. Maybe it’s no longer the breakthrough movie it was in 1967, but The Graduate is still a well-made romantic comedy with serious overtones. And, of course, it gets Bay Area geography all wrong. The Castro is advertising a brand new 35mm print.
B- The Searchers, Cerrito, Thursday. A bitter Civil War veteran and racist (John Wayne) spends years searching for his niece, who was kidnapped by Comanches. At first he wants to save her, but as the years go by, he starts talking about killing her, because she’s now "more Comanche than white." Talk about an anti-hero. Shot in VistaVision, the movie looks splendid, has many great moments, and contains one of Wayne’s greatest performances. The closing shot itself is unforgettable. Most John Ford fans consider The Searchers his masterpiece. I disagree. It’s marred by a rambling plot and a very unlikable protagonist (probably Wayne’s least sympathetic character). Besides, color always seemed a handicap for Ford, upsetting the delicate balance between myth and realism he achieved so well in black and white.
B- The Dreamers, Castro, Thursday. More so than most cities, Paris exploded with youthful revolution in 1968. While others their age riot in the streets, three young people (Michael Pitt, Eva Green, and Louis Garrel), prefer to stay inside, smoking pot, discussing movies and Marxism, and making very close, exact, and detailed studies of each others’ naked bodies. In fact, they do the later in such detail that The Dreamers earned itself an NC-17 rating. The film works on two levels: simple eroticism, and baby boomer nostalgia for the days of sex, drugs, revolution, and passionate cinephilia. In other words, it’s not as deep as it thinks it is, but it’s still enjoyable. On a double bill with The Sheltering Sky.
B Tiger Shark, Stanford, Wednesday and Thursday. I like this minor Howard Hawks effort, despite Edward G. Robinson’s awful Portuguese accent. He plays the captain of a fishing boat –a skilled fisherman and a decent human being, but with a fierce temper and unlucky with the ladies. When he helps a woman in need (Zita Johann), she agrees to marry him out of gratitude. Of course she’s going to fall in love with his tall and handsome best friend (Richard Arlen). I discuss the film in more detail in Two By Howard Hawks. On a Hawks double bill with Barbary Coast.