Quite a few festivals this week:
- The American Indian Film Festival continues through Sunday
- French Cinema Now also runs through Sunday
- And so does the San Francisco Dance Film Festival
- The South Asian Film Festival closes on–you guessed it–Sunday. But it will pop up again for one day next week.
- The Napa Valley Film Festival opens Wednesday and continues passed Sunday until the following Sunday
- The Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival plays most days through Wednesday, and will them pop up again for one day next week.
And here’s some individual films you might want to catch or avoid.
A- Force Majeure, Opera Plaza, Albany Twin, Rafael, opens Friday. The carefully controlled, not-quite-natural outdoor experience of a fancy ski resort becomes a metaphor for the veneer of a troubled marriage in this Swedish drama set in the French alps. When an avalanche threatens his family, Tomas fails to protect them as he should. Soon his wife loses all respect for her husband, and Tomas has lost all respect for himself. All this is set within a resort that appears to be just a bit more realistic than Disneyland. Force Majeure studies courage and fear, and the destructive behavior that can destroy a marriage. But it’s about the artificial worlds we create for our own enjoyment. See my full review.
The Best Years of our Lives, Castro, Tuesday, 6:00. I haven’t seen the 1946 Best Picture Oscar winner in too long a time to give it a grade, but I suspect the grade would be a high one. Running almost three hours, it follows the troubles of three returning World War II veterans trying to integrate themselves back into small-town American life. The most touching of the three is played by newcomer Harold Russell, who–like the character he plays–lost both hands serving his country. (The other two are played by Fredric March and Dana Andrews.) Director William Wyler understood something about returning veterans; this was his first film after returning from the war himself. On a very strange Veteran’s Day double bill with the first Rambo movie, First Blood.
A- Two Days, One Night, Vogue, Saturday, 7:00. The boss gives his employees a choice: Either Sandra (Marion Cotillard) keeps her job, or everyone else receives a large bonus. Over the weekend, Sandra must visit 16workers and convince a majority to sacrifice €1,000 for her sake. To make matters worse, Sandra is recovering from severe depression and has become dependent on pills. This latest film from the Dardenne brothers gives us modern capitalism in a nutshell. Workers, who would naturally be allies, are forced to fight over the limited resources available to pay non-management employees. Rather than becoming a political tract, this film feels like a very real situation, where everyone must make a difficult decision that will inevitably result in moral compromise. Part of French Cinema Now.
A Charlie Chaplin Selected Mutual Shorts, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00. Chaplin’s 12 two-reelers made for the Mutual company represent short silent comedy at its finest. The Cerrito will screen four shorts: The Pawnshop, The Rink, The Immigrant, and The Adventurer–all of them winners.For more on the Mutuals, see Chaplin at the Castro: My Report on a Wonderful Day and Silent Film Festival Winter Event. If the Cerrito was playing these films with live accompaniment, I’d be giving this screening an A+.
B+ Clouds of Sils Maria, Vogue, Sunday, 9:00. .A great actress (Juliette Binoche) reluctantly accepts a part in a revival of the play that made her famous. But this time, she’ll be playing a different, older character. To prepare for the role, the actress and her personal assistant (Kristen Stewart) take up residence in a remote house located in an astonishingly beautiful part of the Swiss Alps. As they run lines, they almost unconsciously work through their own complicated relationship, which only slightly echoes play’s characters. This isn’t quite a two-person film, but Binoche and Stewart truly carry the picture. also Part of French Cinema Now.
B The Pink Panther (original, 1963 version), Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday. The original Pink Panther was never intended to be an Inspector Clouseau movie, or a Peter Sellers vehicle. It was meant to be a charming European comedy of manners starring David Niven. But when Peter Ustinov dropped out at the last minute, Sellers was cast in the supporting role of the bumbling detective. It’s a tribute to Sellers’ performance that we now think of him as the star. But the scenes without him, which are most of the movie, are only okay.
B The Graduate, Castro, Wednesday. Young people seeing The Graduate today may have trouble understanding what an amazing breakthrough it was in 1967. In those days, Hollywood didn’t make movies about middle-aged married women seducing young men. Nor, outside of musicals, did they have montages accompanied by pop songs that were not in themselves part of the story (a really boring cliché by now). They also didn’t treat the older generation as hypocrites. The Graduate is no longer revolutionary, but it’s still a well-made romantic comedy with serious overtones. It also gets Bay Area geography all wrong. On a double bill with Rushmore.
C- Gone with the Wind, Stanford, two-week run starts Friday. I love big historical epics, but the biggest of them all just leaves me flat. First, there’s the blatant white supremacy. I’m used to racism in old movies, and generally just wince.But the racism in Gone with the Wind makes me cringe. The entire story depends on assumptions of white masters and black slaves as the natural order (you can read my in-depth comments). Leaving racial issues aside, the first part is pretty good, but boredom sets in after the intermission. The picture has one thing going for it: It used color far more creatively and effectively than any previous movie. 35mm print.