No festivals this week.
B+ Thérèse, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday. In the late 1920s, Thérèse (Audrey Tautou of Amélie) marries the rich and conservative Bernard. It’s a good match economically, but she almost immediately regrets the loveless and stifling relationship. When Bernard blocks his younger sister (Anaïs Demoustier of Living on Love Alone) from marrying a Jew, Thérèse fails to be the heroine that she might have been. Both the character and the film are emotionally remote, yet that’s not really a flaw. Claude Miller’s final film examines a woman who has been robbed of her character and her ethics, and forced to become an accessory to her husband’s world view. This is a dark, sober film with patches of dry humor and some surprising turns.
B Employees’ Entrance, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. Like a good department store, this pre-code gem serves up a little of everything–comedy, drama, ruthless capitalism, sexual harassment, and a lead character who’s both hero and villain (Warren William). Loretta Young plays not-so-innocent ingénue who cheats on her fiancé because she really has no other choice. Two years later, a movie this honest could not have been made. On a double bill with another pre-code Warren William vehicle, Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day.
The Harder They Come, Elmwood, Thursday, 8:00. The film that introduced reggae to American audiences returns for its 40th anniversary. When I first saw it in 1973, it was exciting, amazing, electrifying, and scored with a truckload of incredible music. Today, the music is still incredible, but I frankly couldn’t tell you if anything else holds up.
A+ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am. I agree with common wisdom:Raider of the Lost Ark is a masterpiece of escapist action entertainment. But I split with the herd on this second sequel; to my mind, it improves on near-perfection. The action sequences are just as well done, but the pacing is better; this time Spielberg knew exactly when to give you a breather. Best of all, adding Sean Connery as the hero’s father humanizes Jones and provides plenty of good laughs. Just don’t confuse The Last Crusade with the wretched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
A The French Connection, various CineMark theaters, Sunday afternoon, Wednesday; Kabuki, Wednesday. Perhaps the grittiest, filthiest, most realistic contemporary drama to ever win the Best Picture Oscar (and only two years after Midnight Cowboy, the other contender for that honor). Basically a mystery, the film works best as a character study, examining a foul-mouthed, violent, and borderline racist police detective (Gene Hackman in the best performance of his career). The French Connection sinks you into a dirty business and the people who make a living off that dirt. It also includes one of the best car chases in movie history.
B+ The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:15. When we think French New Wave, we imagine grainy, black-and-white stories filled with angst and alienation. Yet Jacques Demy, shooting a completely believable story in real locations, created a lush, colorful and sublimely romantic musical. A movie like few others, with an astonishingly young and beautiful Catherine Deneuve (as opposed to the astonishingly well-aged and beautiful Catherine Deneuve of today). Part of the series Tales of Love: The Enchanted World of Jacques Demy.
C- Vertigo, Castro, Friday through Monday. Presented in 70mm. I recently revisited everybody else’s Alfred Hitchcock film, officially now the greatest film ever made, and I liked it better this time, so much that I’m bringing its grade up from D to C-. My main problem with the movie is that neither the story nor the characters make any sense, whatsoever. I don’t believe anyone’s motivations. The film contains one wonderful, believable, and likeable character, Barbara Bel Geddes’ Midge, but we don’t see enough of her. Yes, the film is very atmospheric, but that’s just not enough. I don’t need to stare at a screen to experience San Francisco’s fog.