Okay, the San Francisco International Film Festival is over for the year. But today (Friday), the Roxie opens its annual festival of Noir, often crossed with other genres,
I Wake Up Dreaming. And the Playground Film Festival continues at various locations.
And then there are these:
A+ Powell & Pressburger Technicolor Double Bill: The Red Shoes & The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Castro, Sunday. The A+ goes to Colonel Blimp, which follows a career soldier in His Majesty’s army through four decades and three wars, from his dashing youth to a somewhat foolish old age. Along the way, filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger provide warmth, heartbreak, laughs, and several viewpoints on what it means to be a soldier, a patriot, a young man, an old man, and a decent human being. The Red Shows, set in the world of ballet, examines what it takes to be an artist. The cast and characters are all excellent, but the final hour weighs down with more melodrama than even a well-acted film can bear. On the other hand—and this is why The Red Shoes holds on to its classic status—the 20-minute ballet at the center is a masterpiece of filmed dance, and no other picture used three-strip Technicolor this expressively. I discuss Colonel Blimp in more detail in this article and this Blu-ray review; and The Red Shoes here.
A- The Master, Castro, Tuesday. Presented in 70mm! Paul Thomas Anderson loosely based The Master on Scientology and it’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. But this is no more a critique of Hubbard’s cult than Citizen Kane is an attack on Hearst newspapers. The story is really about an alcoholic drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) who finds himself in the circle of a charismatic cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Neither man is trustworthy; one steals from his hosts, the other runs what he may or may not consciously realize is a scam. Amy Adams gives The Master’s third great performance, as the "great" man’s wife–sweet on the outside but inwardly hard as nails. The film suffers from a weak third act. Shot in the 70mm format. For more on the film and the format, see The Master, by a Master, in Masterly 70mm and When You Least Expect It: The Return of 70mm,
B+ The Source Family, Rafael, opens Friday. Not what you’d expect from a documentary about an early 70s LA-based cult and hippy commune. Told almost entirely from the point of view of former commune members, the film paints a largely nostalgic picture of early new age spirituality and anti-materialistic idealism. But while it presents leader Jim Baker as a truly holy man whose insights improved the lives of his followers, it also shows how his megalomania and his libido compromised and hurt the family. Read my full review. Note: When I first wrote about this film last year, it was called The Source.
A+ Jaws, United Artists Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00. People associate Jaws with three men in a boat, but the picture is more than half over before the shark chase really starts. For that first half, it’s a suspenseful, witty variation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People, but with a central character more conflicted and less noble (Roy Scheider). Then the three men board the boat and the picture turns into Moby Dick. Jaws‘ phenomenal success changed how Hollywood operates, creating the summer blockbusters which are now all that the major studios care about. Yet by today’s standards, it’s practically an art film, albeit one that could scare the living eyeballs out of you. For more on Jaws, see my Blu-ray review and Book vs. Movie article.
B+ Bridge on the River Kwai, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday. The longer it’s been since you’ve seen David Lean’s World War II adventure, the better it gets in your memory. That’s because the brilliant story of an over-proud British POW (Alec Guinness) sticks in the mind. But to see the actual movie again is to be reminded that Guinness’ tale is just a subplot (the actor only received third billing). The bulk of Kwai is a very well made but conventional action movie with some uncomfortably Hollywoodish elements. Remember the Burmese porters who all just happen to all be beautiful young women? In one way, Kwai is like sex: When it’s good, it’s fantastic, and when it’s bad, it’s at least entertaining. Read my Blu-ray review.
B- Blazing Saddles, Kabuki and various CineMark Theaters, Wednesday. The most beloved western comedy of all time doesn’t do all that much for me. Sure, it has moments of great laughter as it lampoons everything from the clichés of the genre to institutional racism to the clichés of every other genre. But for every joke that hits home, two are killed by Mel Brooks’ over-the-top, beat-the-audience-over-the-head directing style. If you’re looking for western laughs, Paleface, Son of Paleface, Support Your Local Sherriff, and Shanghai Noon all beat Blazing Saddles.