What’s Screening: February 1 – 7

Noir City continues through Sunday. Then, after three festival-free days, IndieFest opens Thursday night.

imageThis is also a big week for Mary Pickford. With film historian Christel Schmidt plugging her new book, Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, it’s time for the theaters to spotlight this early and immensely important producer and star. The Rafael did their screening last night, and we’ve got two others before Sunday.

Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, Roxie, Friday, 7:15. In a rare period piece, Mary Pickford plays a young noblewoman in 16th century England who refuses to go along with an arranged marriage. Christel Schmidt will be there in person.

Mary Pickford Short Film Program, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. The Library of Congress will provide, in 35mm prints, a sampling of Pickford shorts that helped launch both her career and the movie industry as we know it.  Schmidt will be on hand to autograph her book. Bruce Loeb will provide piano accompaniment.

A+ Groundhog Day, New Parkway, Saturday, 10:00. Spiritual, humane, and hilarious, Groundhog Day wraps its thoughtful world view inside a imageslick, Hollywood comedy. Without explanation, the movie plunges its self-centered protagonist into a time warp that becomes his purgatory, living the same day over and over for who knows how long (it could be thousands of years). Bill Murray’s weatherman goes through stages of panic, giddiness, and despair before figuring out that life is about: serving others. And yet not a frame of this movie feels preachy. Fast-paced and brilliantly edited, it’s pure, inescapable but not escapist entertainment. Even in its darkest, most hopeless moments, something comes up to make you laugh–usually Sonny and Cher singing "I’ve Got You, Babe." I’ll have more on Groundhog Day in a post that goes live tomorrow.

3D Film Noir double bill: Man in the Dark & Inferno, Castro, Friday, 7:30. I haven’t seen either of these movies and I have no idea if they’re any good, but I just like the idea. The first 3D movie craze hit its peak in 1953 (and died early in ’54), putting it right in the middle of the classic noir period. So here are two noir films shot in old-fashioned 3D (involving two strips of 35mm film) and now restored digitally. Should be fun.

A American Splendor, Roxie, Tuesday, 9:00. Directors Shari Springer  Berman and Robert Pulcini mix biopic and documentary methods to tell the story ofGraphicNovel_AmericanSplendor[1] Harvey Pekar, a frustrated, angry, and intelligent man who found modest fame but little fortune as the writer (but not the illustrator) of a series of biographic comic books. For most of the film, Paul Giamatti plays Pekar and Hope Davis plays his wife, Joyce Brabner. But the real Pekar and Brabner also appear in the film, discussing the actual events and their cinematic recreation. And yes, this strange misplacement works, in large part because Pekar is as great a subject as Giamatti is an actor, and both have the same strange, unattractive charisma. Part of SF Sketchfest, with cast members and producer Ted Hope (now running the San Francisco Film Society) in person.

Animal House, Roxie, Wednesday, 6:00. It’s been decades since I last saw this classic ’70s comedy (on my then-new VCR), so I’m not giving it a grade. But I remember liking it a whole lot. I also remember it being the reverse side of American Graffiti; both were set in 1962, but Lucas’ movie looked back, and was thus about the end of the 50s. Animal House looked forward, and suggested the birth of the 60s. Rebellious, impolite, and very funny, John Belushi and his gang of misfits refuse to let anyone stand in the way of their tasteless, outrageous, and antiauthoritarian fun. Part of SF Sketchfest, with director John Landis in person.