What’s Screening: January 3 – 9

Still no festivals. But they’re coming. Expect one next week.

A Valley Girl, Castro, Friday. Was there ever a less promising film to become a classic? Made on a miniscule budget, financed by people more concerned with tits than story, and with a title ripped off from a recent novelty song hit, Valley Girl was intended to be just one of many teenage sexploitation movies glutting the early-’80s drive-ins. Yet writers Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane and director Martha Coolidge turned it into an updated version of Romeo and Juliette, and the ultimate teenage romantic comedy. Valley Girl sports Nicolas Cage in his first major role (before he got weird) and makes some of the best use of rock ‘n’ roll ever in a movie that isn’t actually about music. On a double bill with Raising Arizona, which I saw and liked long ago.

C+ Suspicion, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00. If there ever was an Alfred Hitchcock film ruined by the studio, it was his imagethird American movie, Suspicion. And the sad part is that it could have been one of his best. Joan Fontaine stars as a young bride who begins to suspect that her new husband, Cary Grant, just may be a serial killer, and that she’s in line to be his next victim. Alas, the powers that be felt that Hitchcock’s original ending was a little too much of a downer, and not sufficiently positive about the sanctuary of marriage. The result is a thriller that falls apart so badly at the end that it negates everything that came before.

C+ Sweet Dreams, New Parkway, opens Friday. This upbeat, everything-turns-out-okay documentary tries to tell three different stories in 84 minutes. While it imagehas its high points, it doesn’t do justice to any of its multiple topics. The setting is modern Rwanda, not quite 20 years after the genocide. But Sweet Dreams is only peripherally about the scars of mass murder. It concentrates mostly on drumming and starting an ice cream parlor. Especially the ice cream parlor. I wanted depth. I wanted sustenance. But for too much of Sweet Dreams’ running time, I just got ice cream. Great drumming, though. Read my full review.

B- Alfred Hitchcock Double Bill: Rebecca & Suspicion, Stanford, Through Sunday. Rebecca earns this double bill it’s B-. With its few fleeting moments of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film feels little like a Hitchcock movie.image Basically a weepie, it stars Joan Fontaine as a young American who marries a British aristocrat (Laurence Olivier), only to find that she has to compete with the memory of his dead first wife. Although it’s not what Hitchcock fans expect, it’s still an entertaining melodrama, with a fine, over-the-top performance by  Judith Anderson as the brooding servant who cannot bear to think that a usurper has replaced her lady (her performance provides the most Hitchcockian moments in the picture). This was Hitchcock’s only Best Picture Oscar winner. See above for more on Suspicion.