The Latino Film Festival closes today. The Oakland Underground Film Festival continues through Sunday. The Iranian Film Festival plays through the weekend. And the biggest one of the season, the Mill Valley Film Festival, opens Thursday.
B+ Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version), corner of Oxford and Center streets, download Berkeley, Friday, 8:00. Free. The people of San Francisco are acting strange (even by 1978 standards). No one can put their finger on why. Maybe it’s the aliens replicating everyone’s bodies. Not quite as good as the original, but still an enjoyable thriller and a parable about paranoia and the necessity of never putting down your guard . Part of the Pacific Film Archive‘s Endless Summer Cinema series of outdoor movies.
B The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. Two big stars of the day, Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer, carry this pleasant romantic melodrama about a prince who falls in love with a commoner. It has some wonderful moments–such as when Shearer takes time to drink in this new young man’s good looks–and no really bad ones. On the whole, an entertaining way to spend an evening, and as good an example as any of the fun fluff that MGM was turning out in the late silent era. Preceded by a newsreel and a Charlie Chase two-reel comedy. With Jon Mirsalis accompanying everything on the Kurzwell.
A Boogie Nights, Castro, Saturday. In Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic story of the porn industry in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, we watch as cinema’s most disreputable genre transitions from gutter chic to soulless video.This tale of pornographers with delusions of talent provides us with several heart-wrenching characters, from Mark Wahlberg’s nice, well-endowed, but not-too-bright young man to Julianne Moore’s a porn queen/mother hen (an Oscar-winning performance). The excellent cast also includes Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. On a double bill with Thank God It’s Friday.
C- The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Castro, Sunday. In 3D! Set in a previously-unexplored tributary of the Amazon–that looks suspiciously like the Universal back lot–Creature follows a small group of scientists, plus a colorful local fisherman, as they search for fossils and find something stranger–a sort of man-fish highbred that doesn’t appear to be particularly well-adapted for anything. All very silly and unintentionally funny. Read my longer comments. On a triple bill with the recent documentary "Watch Horror Films–Keep American Strong, and House of Wax, generally considered one of the best 3D movies of the 1950s. Both features are presented in modern, digital 3D.
A+ The Third Man, Stanford, Thursday through next Sunday. Classic film noir with an international flavor. An American pulp novelist (Joseph Cotten) arrives in impoverished, divided post-war Vienna to meet up with an old friend who has promised him a much-needed job. But he soon discovers that the friend is both a wanted criminal and newly dead. Or is he? Writer Graham Greene and director Carol Reed place an intriguing mystery inside a world so dark and disillusioned that American noir seems tame by comparison. Then, when the movie is two thirds over, Orson Welles comes onscreen to steal everything but the sprocket holes. On a double bill with The Big Sleep.
A+ Rear Window, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday. Alfred Hitchcock at his absolute best. James Stewart is riveting as a news photographer temporarily confined to his apartment and a wheelchair, amusing himself by spying on his neighbors (none of whom he knows) and guessing at the details of their lives. Then he begins to suspect that one of them committed murder. As he and his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) begin to investigate, it slowly begins to dawn on us that they’re getting into some pretty dangerous territory (something they don’t realize until it’s almost too late). Hitchcock uses this story to examine voyeurism, urban alienation, and the institution of marriage, as well as to treat his audience to a great entertainment.
C- Vertigo, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday afternoon & Wednesday; Kabuki, Wednesday. I recently revisited everybody else’s favorite 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.
B To Have and Have Not, Stanford, through Sunday. This production ignited the Bogart-Bacall romance, which itself ignites the screen. Aside from the considerable charisma and sexual sparks that its stars set off, it’s an entertaining tale of war-time intrigue but not really an exceptional one. A good movie with a couple of great scenes. On a double bill with Out of the Past.