C- Elles, Bridge, Shattuck, opens Friday. This NC-17 French/Polish co-production has a lot of sex, and a lot of nudity (both male and female), but is in no way erotic. That’s odd, because it stars Juliette Binoche, who could be erotic cleaning a cat box. In this self-important yet shallow drama, she plays a freelance journalist researching an article about young prostitutes working their way through college. Binoche does her best, which is always excellent. But the screenplay gives her so little to go on that she appears to be emoting in a vacuum. Read my full review.
A+ Children of Paradise, Castro, Saturday through Monday. Shot while the Nazi occupation of Paris fell apart, Children of Paradise may be the most ecstatically French film ever made. A three-hour epic set in the theater scene of early 19th-century Paris, it follows the life of a beautiful woman (Arletty) and four men who fall under her spell—each in his own unique way. The story is rich, romantic, and deeply in love with theatrical traditions. In this version of Paris, even the violent thugs see their lives as works of art. Written by Jacques Prévert and directed by Marcel Carné. Newly restored, the Castro will be screening Children of Paradise in DCP. That was how I saw it in March, and it never looked so wonderful. In fact, based on the restoration, I’ve upgraded Children of Paradise from an A to a rare A+. I discuss it in more detail here.
A- Milk, Castro, Tuesday, 7:30. Yep, I’m always a sucker for a historical epic, especially one set in a time and place that I can remember. Sprawling but never boring, and inspiring without preaching. I’ve always known that Sean Penn was a great actor; it’s nice to know that he can do “happy” as well as more tragic emotions. James Franco is also very good as what in a more conventional film would be called the "chick" part. A fund raiser for the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy.
A Monty Python and the Holy Grail, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00. Bump your coconuts together and prepare the Holy Hand Grenade, but watch out for the Killer Rabbit (not to mention the Trojan one). The humor is silly and often in very bad taste, and the picture has nothing of substance to say beyond ridiculing the romantic view of medieval Europe. But the Pythons’ first feature with an actual story (well, sort of) keeps you laughing from beginning to end. The funniest film of the 1970s—and the 1070s.
A- Howard Hawks double bill: Sergeant York & To Have and Have Not, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. The A- goes to Sergeant York. No other event morally challenged pacifists like World War II. So it’s no surprise that, as America entered that horribly necessary inferno, Howard Hawks filmed the story of a deeply religious and pacifistic Christian (Gary Cooper) who first objected to serving, then went on to prove extraordinary skill and courage on the battlefield. Not quite that good, To Have and Have Not ignited the Bogart-Bacall romance, which itself ignites the screen. Aside from the considerable charisma and sexual sparks, it’s an entertaining tale of war-time intrigue, with a couple of great scenes. David Thomson will introduce Saturday’s 7:30 screening.
B- Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, Camera 3, Saturday & Sunday, 9:30. Steve Jobs was a brilliant, charismatic figure who drastically changed the world we live in. But does that mean you’ll enjoy a 16-year-old, 70-minute, videotaped interview consisting of a single close-up? Surprisingly, the answer is Yes—up to a point. That charisma, combined with the simple fact that Jobs had some interesting things to say in 1995, make this a reasonably entertaining and informative document. But there’s no filmmaking craftsmanship whatsoever here, and there’s a limit to how much time you can watch a single close-up. Thus, the Lost Interview begins to wear out its welcome well before it’s through. Read my full review for more.
Harold and Maude, Castro, Wednesday. After Woodstock, this comedy about a young man and a much older woman is the ultimate cinematic statement of the hippie generation. At least that’s how I remember it. I loved it passionately in the 1970′s. But I haven’t seen it in a long time and I’m not sure how well it’s aged. On a double bill with Brewster McCloud, which I only saw once, about 40 years ago, and I hated it then.
Yellow Submarine, Elmwood, Saturday, noon. The Beatles’ one animated feature–which to my knowledge hasn’t played the Bay Area in years–has been restored, and is receiving special theatrical presentations. It’s been too 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.
D+ Darling Companion, Shattuck, opens Friday. I hate watching good actors struggle through a bad script. This particular bad script concerns a long-married couple (Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline) and several relatives searching for a missing dog. It’s supposed to turn into a search for self-discovery, but the people are too shallow and contrived to be worth discovering. The result is a character-driven comedy almost entirely lacking in believable characters, or laughs. If it were not for the inspired cast, which also includes Dianne Wiest and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, the movie would be an entire loss. Read my full review.
F Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Camera 3, Saturday. Oh, how Terry Gilliam has fallen! Monty Python’s token Yank made three of the best movies of the 1980’s, then his career collapsed and took his talent with it. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas reeks; a confused, ugly, and meaningless exercise–which would be forgivable, if it also wasn’t boring and witless.