What’s Screening: July 22 – 28

We’ve got five film festivals running this week, along with a lot of very good classic movies.

Festivals

Recommended revivals

A Sunset Blvd, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:30

Billy Wilder’s meditation on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly looks like the flip side of Singin’ in the Rain (now that would make a great double bill). Norma Desmond is very much Lena Lamont after twenty-two years of denial and depression. And in the role of Norma, Gloria Swanson gives one of the great over-the-top performances. Part of the series Vienna and the Movies, even though it was shot and set in Hollywood. The film will be introduced by David Thomson.

A M, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00

In this early talkie, director Fritz Lang shows us a Germany sinking into corruption, depression, and paranoia. The paranoia is understandable; someone is murdering little girls and successfully eluding the police. Eventually the underworld must do what the authorities cannot and stop the killer. Peter Lorre became famous as the oddly sympathetic child molester, driven by inner demons to kill. I’m not sure film noir would ever have happened without M. Another part of the series Vienna and the Movies.

A- Harold and Maude, Roxie, Monday and Wednesday, 7:00

This 1971 comedy fit the late hippy era as perfectly as Pink Floyd and the munchies. At a time when young Americans were embracing non-conformity, free love, ecstatic joy, and 40-year-old Marx Brothers movies, this counterculture romance between an alienated and death-obsessed young man and a woman four times his age made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helped considerably. But I do wish that screenwriter Colin Higgins had found a better ending. See my full discussion. A tribute to the now-gone Red Vic movie theater.

A- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,
Stanford
, Saturday through Tuesday

Corrupt political bosses appoint a naive, young idealist (James Stewart) senator because they think he’s stupid. They’re wrong. The second and best film in Frank Capra’s common-man trilogy, Mr. Smith creeks a bit with patriotic corniness, and seems almost as naive as its protagonist. But it has moments–Stewart’s speech about how “history is too important to be left in school books,” for instance–that can still bring a lump to the throat of any left-wing American patriot. Besides, it’s just plain entertaining. On a Frank Capra double bill with Lady for a Day.

B+ Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 remake), New Mission, Tuesday, 10:15

Phil Kaufmans San Francisco-based remake of the classic alien invasion movie isn’t quite as good as the low-budget, 1956 original, but it comes close. One by one, Donald Sutherland’s friends and loved ones turn into emotionless pod people, and he knows that he too will be lost if he can’t stay awake. A very good sci-fi thriller. Kaufman will attend and introduce the film.

B+ M. Hulot’s Holiday, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:30

Jacques Tati’s second feature, and his first as the hapless Mr. Hulot, is odd, plotless, nearly dialog-free, and in its own quiet and reserved way, pretty damn funny. The pipe-smoking Hulot takes a vacation at a seaside resort, and while anarchy doesn’t exactly break out, it pops up a bit from just below the surface.

B+ Iron Monkey, Great Star Theater, Saturday, 5:00

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Hong Kong action flick that felt so much like a Hollywood swashbuckler. The evil rulers of a village are stealing everything they can while oppressing the people. Luckily for the average peasant, a masked criminal called Iron Monkey robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Meanwhile, a traveling physician and his young son, both martial arts masters, turn up to help. Funny, rousing, and thoroughly entertaining. a (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series screening.

B+ Bullitt, Roxie, Sunday, 5:00

Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. Another marker: To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word “bullshit” marks the first time anyone said such a word in a Hollywood movie. On a double bill with Blow-Up, which I saw so long ago I had to lie about my age to get in.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

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