What’s Screening: January 2 – 8

No festivals this week. In fact, there’s almost nothing coming out this week that I can tell you about. Just these two:

B Tillie’s Punctured Romance, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. This reasonably funny comedy from 1914 packs considerable historic interest. To my knowledge, it’s the first American feature-length comedy. It was Marie Dressler’s first imagemovie. It’s Charlie Chaplin’s first feature, the only one where he played a villain, and the only feature he starred in that he didn’t direct. Chaplin and Mabel Normand try to bilk the naïve Tillie (Dressier) out of a fortune that she may or may not have, with results that are often funny but also often fall flat. Directed by Mack Sennett, who discovered Chaplin and arguably created the basics of silent comedy. With two short subjects. Frederick Hodges accompanies it all on piano.

A- Birdman, Castro, Thursday. Michael Keaton plays a has-been movie star, who may or may not have superpowers, imagehoping to gain artistic respectability by writing, directing, and performing in a Broadway play. Edward Norton plays an actor who already has the respect of critics, but is only fully himself when he’s on stage. Like Hitchcock’s Rope, Birdman pretends it was shot in a single take. But unlike Rope,the gimmick works this time around–better technology, I suppose. Much of the film is hysterically funny, but the picture is just a bit too long, and in the end it doesn’t quite satisfy. From Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose Babel was my favorite film of 2006. On a double bill with Persona, which I haven’t seen in a long time and should probably revisit.