What’s Screening: April 29 – May 5

Pot-laced challah, the big SF festival, On the Waterfront, and Buster Keaton on the waterfront. That’s the week in Bay Area film going.

Festivals

The San Francisco International Film Festival continues to the end of this week. Check my coverage for recommendations.

New films opening

B+ Dough, Embarcadero, Albany, Aquarius, Rafael, opens Friday

This feel-good comedy succeeds in making you laugh and in making you feel good. Why not? The marijuana-laced challah makes the onscreen characters laugh and feel good. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief to accept the absurdities of the story and the conventional comic tropes, but if you do you can sit back and enjoy the movie. You’ll find more on the film in my 2015 Jewish Film Festival report.

Recommended revivals

A Steamboat Bill, Jr., Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

One of Buster Keaton’s best, both as a performer and as the auteur responsible for the entire picture (it’s the last film in which he would enjoy such control). Keaton plays the urbane and somewhat effete son of the very macho Steamboat Bill (Ernest Torrence). Dad’s struggling to maintain his small business in the wake of a better-financed competitor. A shipload of laughs and amazing stunts, seamlessly integrated into a very good story. You can’t ask for more than that. With two shorts. Jon Mirsalis will accompany the films on the Kurzweil keyboard.

A A Star is Born, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday, 2:00; Wednesday, 2:00 & 7:00

The second and best of three versions of this tragic Hollywood tale. This time, Judy Garland stars as the struggling singer who falls in love with a movie star (James Mason), becomes one herself, then watches her husband sink into alcoholism. Like Cabaret(which starred Garland’s daughter, Liza Minneli), this is a realistic musical drama where people break into song only because they’re professional singers. In fact, the joyful songs play a strange counterpoint to the serious story, reminding us of the artifice of Hollywood make-believe. One of the best early Cinemascope features.

A- On the Waterfront, Stanford, through Sunday

A thug-run union and conflicted loyalties drive this revered drama, shot on location in New York. Marlon Brando stands out amongst a brilliant cast as a half-bright dock worker struggling between loyalty to family and to society as a whole. Yet some plot twists are just too convenient. A bigger problem: Both writer Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan named names to get off the anti-Communist blacklist, then made this film to justify their acts of cowardice. On a double bill with A Streetcar Named Desire.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)