A- Teenage, Roxie, Sunday, 7:01; Wednesday, 7:00. Using a combination of archival footage and dramatic recreations, Matt Wolf’s documentary explores British, German, and American youth from 1904 through 1945. Through excerpts from diary entries, read by young actors, we get to know the youngsters who fought two world wars, the flaming youth of the 20s, sub debs, swingers, help cats, Hitler Youth, and Rosie the Riveters. Driven by Bradford Cox’s art-rock musical score, Teenage documents not facts but emotions, tracking the feelings of those stuck between childhood and adult responsibility. Part of SF IndieFest.
B+ The Thin Man, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00. Here we have a murder mystery, a screwball comedy, a wallow in classic MGM glamour, and a 93-minute commercial for alcohol as the secret to a happy marriage. Also the start of a very long franchise. William Powell and Myrna Loy make great chemistry as Nick and Nora Charles, the rich, drunk-and-in-love couple with a little murder to clear up. The mystery and the comedy never quite jell, but it’s so fun to watch Powell and Loy together that you really don’t care.
B+ The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Elmwood, Wednesday, 7:00. A well-made documentary about a great subject, The Trials of Muhammad Ali looks at a man who is arguably the most important athlete of the last 50 years. At the age of 22,with very little experience, Cassius Clay became the heavyweight champion of the world. A devout member of the Nation of Islam, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, took on controversy, and risked both jail and a destroyed career for resisting the draft ("No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger"). Eventually, he would return to the ring and more triumphs. Director Bill Siegel has made a competent and conventional documentary, but Ali’s story and charisma makes it a very moving and exciting tale.
A Fargo, Castro, Wednesday. The ultimate crime-gone-wrong thriller and theCoen Brothers’ masterpiece, Fargo treads that thin line between the horrific and the hilarious while never forgetting the humane. With star-making performances by William H. Macy, as a man in way over his head, and Frances McDormand, as a very pregnant cop with a lot of empathy and common sense. Also starring the the bleakest snowscapes in American cinema. Read My Thoughts on Fargo. On a double bill with The Man Who Wasn’t There, which I haven’t seen since it was new (I liked it then).
B+ The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Balboa, Saturday, 10am. The first and best of Ray Harryhausen’s three Sinbad movies. In fact, of all his movies, only Jason and theArgonauts is better. The stop-motion animation is splendid, and the story, while trivial, is fun. Not a must-see like Jason, but still an entertaining escape into a fantasy past. 7thVoyage is an important movie in Harryhausen’s career; his first in color, his first period piece, and his first out-and-out fantasy after a series of sci-fi pictures involving aliens or monsters wreaking havoc on major metropolitan areas. I discuss the movie in more detail in Earthquakes and Monsters.
B+ Vivre sa vie, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:30. Very formal in structure, this early Goddard feature uses intertitles to separate its 12 "scenes." Together, they explore the main character’s journey from music store clerk to prostitute. Occasionally charming, funny, sexy, and informative, Vivre sa vie can also at times be quite boring. You definitely develop an attachment to the lead character, but you don’t get to know her in depth. Goddard seems completely neutral here, without the didactic political preaching that would mar his later works. Part of the series Jean-Luc Godard: Expect Everything from Cinema.
A+ Singin’ In the Rain, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 3:10. In 1952, the late twenties seemed like a fond memory of an innocent time, and nostalgia was a large part of Singin’ in the Rain’s original appeal. The nostalgia is gone now, so we can clearly see this movie for what it is: the greatest musical ever filmed, and perhaps the best work of pure escapist entertainment to ever come out of Hollywood. Take out the songs, and you still have one of the best comedies of the 1950′s, and the funniest movie Hollywood ever made about itself. But take out the songs, and you take out the best part. Part of the series Film 50: History of Cinema.