No festivals this week. But there are some good movies.
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls, Balboa, Tuesday and Thursday, 7:30. A Rolling Stone concert from 1978–well before they became respectable old men. Introduced with a recent interview with Sir Mick Jagger (see what I mean).
A+ Double Bill: Sunrise & Freaks, Castro, Sunday. Haunting, romantic, and impressionistic, Sunrise earns my A+ by turning the mundane into the fantastic and the world into a work of art. The simple plot of adultery, contemplated murder, and reconciliation becomes modern myth through stylized sets, beautiful photography, and talented performers. A morality tale set in a circus sideshow, Freaks presents actual, severely deformed people, and dares you to look at them and accept them as full human beings. It also gives you a good scare. Certainly one of the strangest films ever to come out of that most conservative of studios, MGM.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, SFMOMA, Thursday, 7:00. I saw this famous and groundbreaking horror film only once, long ago, and I didn’t really care for it very much. But here’s a rare chance to see it in 35mm on the big screen.
A The African Queen, Castro, Wednesday. Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment inJohn 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. On a John Huston double bill with The Man Who Would be King, which I haven’t seen since it was new but like at the time.
A+ Singin’ in the Rain, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. In 1952, the late twenties seemed like a fond memory of an innocent time, and nostalgia was a large part of Singin’ in the Rain’s original appeal. The nostalgia is gone now, so we can clearly see this movie for what it is: the greatest musical ever filmed, and perhaps the best work of pure escapist entertainment to ever come out of Hollywood. Take out the songs, and you still have one of the best comedies of the 1950′s, and the funniest movie Hollywood ever made about itself. But take out the songs, and you take out the best part. On a double bill with An American in Paris, which I haven’t seen in a long time and only moderately liked it then.
B- Earth-Shaking Double Bill: San Francisco & Earthquake, Castro, Saturday, 1:00. The B- goes to San Francisco, a big, silly, melodramatic special effects vehicle made before people thought of movies as special effects vehicles. A classic example of code-era Hollywood trying to have it both ways, San Francisco celebrates the non-conformist, hedonistic, open-minded joy of the city by the bay, but covers itself in a thick layer of Christian moralizing that’s as annoying as it is laughable. But the earthquake, fire, and title song make it worth watching, anyway. The lesser-known Earthquake is a big, star-studded, silly disaster movie from 1974. The screenplay reads as if it were written by an automatic cliché generator. Yet I can’t help feeling that this whole double bill should have happened a little closer to April 18.
RiffTrax Live: ‘Manos’ The Hands of Fate, a great many theaters, Thursday. ‘Manos’ The Hands of Fate, one of the weirdest low-budget horror flicks of the 1960s, gets sarcastic and (hopefully) funny commentary from the Mystery Science Theater veterans at RiffTrax. But here’s the weird thing: MST3K did Manos years ago, and the result wasn’t one of my favorite episodes. But they promise "all new riffing" this time, so maybe it will be better. For more on RiffTrax, see RiffTrax Report and RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 from Outer Space.
B+ The Tree of Life, Castro, Tuesday. Terrence Malick made a career of taking risks (if someone who has made only five films in 40 years can be said to have a career). But sometimes, when you go out on a limb, the branch breaks. His latest film works beautifully when it concentrates on a loving but troubled family in the 1950s—a story with no plot and many conflicts. The contemporary scenes with Sean Penn as one of the young sons, now a middle-aged man, don’t play as well. Few are as convincing as Penn at looking miserable, but Malick provides us with so little about his current life that we’re not sure why he’s so upset. And then there are the scenes that are just plain weird. But it’s a Malick film, so at least it’s always beautiful to look at.
A- Live Theater on the Big Screen: Frankenstein, Elmwood, Tuesday, 7:00. Finally, something directed by Danny Boyle that I actually liked! Playwright Nick Dear starts his adaptation with the monster’s lonely birth, putting the focus on the creature. This poor child-man’s journey, and his inevitable clash with his arrogant creator, make up the heart of the play. A lot of philosophy and religion get discussed, but it never feels forced. In some screenings, Jonny Lee Miller plays the monster and Benedict Cumberbatch plays Frankenstein. In others, they switch roles (I saw it with Cumberbatch as the monster). For more on this, see Live Theater on the Big Screen and Frankenstein.