In festival news, Frameline LGBT continues through Sunday.
A- Oslo, August 31, Kabuki, Embarcadero, Rafael, opens Friday. Anders, a recovering drug addict living in a clinic in the country, gets a day’s leave to return to Oslo for a job interview. The trip will also give him a chance to catch up with some friends. But he feels lost, has no idea how to reconnect with the outside world in a safe way, and suffers from constant temptation. Over the course of the day and night, his story moves from difficult but hopeful to harrowing and depressing. Filmmaker Joachim Trier takes us on a journey into Anders’ world and, even scarier, his mind. It’s one thing to read about drug addiction. Oslo, August 31makes you feel the strain of wavering between a difficult recovery and a lifelong disaster. Read my full review.
A+ Rio Bravo, Stanford, through Sunday. In his second western (more than a decade after Red River) Howard Hawks went for a much lighter touch, and achieved an entirely different kind of greatness. The story concerns a small-town sheriff (John Wayne at his most cuddly) holding a frontier jail against the well-financed crooks who want to free the murderer inside. His only deputies are a drunk (Dean Martin) and an old man with a bad leg (Walter Brennan). Rick Nelson turns up as the coolest, calmest variation on that western archetype, The Kid, and sings a couple of songs with Martin. Angie Dickinson plays Wayne’s love interest, and their scenes together border on another Hawks specialty, screwball comedy. Funny, suspenseful, and largely character-driven, with some great action, Rio Bravo is the ultimate escapist western. On a Hawk’s double bill with Man’s Favorite Sport?. Film historian David Thomson will introduce Saturday’s 7:30 screening.
A- Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Castro, Tuesday and Wednesday. Only Werner Herzog would ask a scientist about his dreams. But that’s precisely why Herzog was the perfect choice to make this documentary about very ancient cave paintings—amongst the earliest works of art in existence, and works that show significant talent. Herzog’s unique narrative voice, the eerie beauty of the caves themselves, and the haunting score by Ernst Reijseger combine to turn Cave into an homage to what makes human beings special: the artistic, creative spark. And yes, the 3D is justified. Read my full review. On a 3D documentary double bill with Pina in 3D.
A The African Queen, United Artists Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00. Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately-attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. Beautifully restored.
B- The Searchers, Kabuki, Wednesday. A bitter Civil War veteran and racist (John Wayne) spends years searching for his niece, 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.
A To Kill a Mockingbird, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 4:45. The film version of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel manages to be both a nostalgic reverie of depression-era small town Southern life and a condemnation of that life’s dark and ugly underbelly. Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch is the ultimate decent and moral father, a character so virtuous he’d be unbelievable if the story wasn’t told through the eyes of his six-year-old daughter. (Had there been a sequel set in her teen years, Atticus would have been an idiotic tyrant.) Part of the series Gregory Peck: An Agreeable Gentleman.
A- Your Sister’s Sister, Albany, Aquarius, opens Friday. This romantic sex comedy kept surprising me. I thought it was shallow; then the characters deepened. I figured out whom was going to end up with whom, and what artificial crisis would end the second act. Boy, was I wrong! It just kept getting better–more surprising, more character-driven and realistic, and funnier, because the humor came from a knowledge of real human behavior. So many movies start promising and deteriorate; it was nice to see one that just kept getting better. Read my full review.
Yellow Submarine, Elmwood, Saturday, noon, Thursday, 8:00. The Beatles’ one animated feature–which, to my knowledge, hadn’t played the Bay Area in years–has been restored, and has lately been 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.