Welcome to the new and–I hope–improved Bayflicks newsletter.
The old newsletter format became unwieldy, discussing as many as 20 films a week, each with a photo and a paragraph. It was taking up too much of my time and–in the unlikely chance that you read it all–too much of yours.
So from here on in, I’ll list only an occasional first-run film. I’ll focus on movies and events that I can be enthusiastic about. And I’ll merely list–without descriptions–the popular classics that screen all the time (For reasons that may be obvious, I’m calling these Lebowskies).
Cinequest closes Sunday.
CAAMfest continues through the week and beyond.
The California Film Institute isn’t calling Trains on Film a festival, but six films in three days qualifies in my book. Film historian David Thomson and novelist Michael Ondaatje will present all of these features. They include Brief Encounter, Shanghai Express, and my favorite British Hitchcock movie, The Lady Vanishes. But the greatest train movie of them all, The General, hasn’t left the station. No idea why.
A From Russia with Love, Castro, Thursday
The James Bond films never got better than their second outing, perhaps because it feels like a really good espionage thriller, not a Bond flick. Bond (Sean Connery) travels to Turkey, where a beautiful Russian defector will turn over an important McGuffin. But it’s a trap; the evil organization Spectre (no relation) is setting up the Russians, the British, and Bond himself. On a double bill with the first Bond movie, Dr. No. This is the first of a four-day Connery celebration.
? Girl Shy, California Theatre, Friday, 7:30
I haven’t seen this Harold Lloyd feature in years, and have never seen it with an audience, but I remember it being funny and charming. This time around, Harold is a country boy so shy he literally can’t talk to a girl…any girl. Nevertheless, and despite a complete lack of experience, he writes a book on seduction. It closes with one of Lloyd’s best chases. Dennis James will accompany this silent film on the California’s Mighty Wurlitzer.
B+ I Confess, Castro, Sunday
in Alfred Hitchcock’s most Catholic movie, Montgomery Clift plays a priest suspected of murder. He knows who really committed the crime, but he can’t tell the police; it’s a matter of confession. This could have been one of Hitchcock’s best, but the climatic action scene is terribly forced. Set and partly shot in Montreal. On a Hitchcock triple bill with To Catch a Thief (which belongs with the Lebowskies below), and the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut.
B A Night at the Opera, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday
The Marx Brothers’ first MGM movie, Night at the Opera, is a more spectacular and commercial movie than their previous Paramount efforts. It contains some of their best routines (“The party of the first part,” the overcrowded stateroom), but you have to sit through a dumb romantic plot, some very unmarxist sentimentality, and insipid love songs.
A Nosferatu, New Mission, Wednesday, 7:00; New Parkway, Thursday, 6:45
You best forget about sexy vampires before you go see the first film version of Dracula (an unauthorized version that got the filmmakers into legal trouble). Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it’s probably the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Both screenings will have live musical accompaniment by The Invincible Czars.
B+ The Man Who Fell to Earth, Castro, Saturday
Co-star Candy Clark will appear live in this David Bowie tribute
Movies were pretty weird in the ’70s, but they didn’t get much weirder than this—at least with a major director and stars. David Bowie plays an alien who comes to Earth in search of water, but instead discovers capitalism, TV, alcohol, and human sex. It’s not entirely clear what the film is about, but the images are intriguing, the central characters are puzzles that cry out to be solved, and the sex scenes are very sexy. If for no other reason, see it to rediscover what science fiction films could be like in the years between 2001 and Star Wars.
Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)
- To Catch a Thief & Dial M for Murder, Stanford, through Sunday
- This is Spinal Tap, Castro, Friday
- Rebecca, Oakland Paramount, Friday, 8:00
- Mystery Science Theater 3000, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30
- The Lady Vanishes, Rafael, Saturday, 4:15 (Blu-ray review)
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday 2:00; Wednesday 2:00 & 7:00 (appreciation)
- Pulp Fiction, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:15
- The 39 Steps & Foreign Correspondent, Stanford, Thursday through next Sunday