What’s Screening: July 29 – August 4

We still have five local film festivals; the same ones that ran last week. But we also killer robots, Cuban and French musicians, a lot of Russians, and James Cagney doing Shakespeare.


New films opening

C+ Phantom Boy, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

All of the parts don’t quite come together in this animated, moderately entertaining family adventure. Eleven-year-old Leo is very sick and may not survive. But he has a superpower, which he uses to help a detective and a reporter foil a supervillain. The French fantasy is being screened in both dubbed and subtitled versions. Read my full review.

Promising events

AI Amok: The Killer Computers of the 1970s, Roxie, Friday through Sunday

Remember when we thought that computers would take over the world? And not with Pokémon Go. The Roxie will screen four science fiction movies from the decade following the creation of HAL 9000:

Buena Vista Social Club, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:15

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Wim Wenders documentary on Cuban musicians, but much of the soundtrack is seared permanently into my brain. Ry Cooder took Wenders and his camera to Cuba to rediscover artists whose sounds hadn’t been heard in the USA for decades. Even if you don’t like the film (and I did), you’ll love the music. The last screening in the PFA’s three-month-long Wim Wenders series.

Recommended revivals

A- Shoot the Piano Player, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:30

After stunning the world with The 400 Blows, François Truffaut tried something very different—a film noir that’s unlike any other (including Goddard’s Breathless, which Truffaut wrote around the same time). Charles Aznavour stars as a nightclub pianist with a past—he was once a big name in the classical music world. He’s going by a different name now, but that isn’t enough to hide him from his gangster brother, or the brother’s rival gangsters. Truffaut moves, for the most part effortlessly, between suspense, tragedy, and outrageous comedy. Part of the series Hitchcock/Truffaut.

B A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935 version), Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday

Here’s what the Warner Brothers did when adapting of a Max Reinhardt stage production of Shakespeare’s romantic fantasy. They created one of the weirdest movies to come out of studio-era Hollywood. Oddly, Reinhardt’s spectacular visuals are its weakest point. They amaze the eye at first, but eventually just slow down the story. And yet the many big-name movie stars make it work. Who would have guessed that Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Joe E. Brown, James Cagney, and best of all Mickey Rooney, could do Shakespeare? On a double bill with Duck Soup, which I’m listing below in the Lebowskies.

B- Russian Ark, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00; Sunday, 5:30

Alfred Hitchcock wanted to shoot Rope as a single, unbroken shot, but that wasn’t feasible with 35mm film. But Alexander Sokurov did it digitally in this 2002 excursion through Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum as well as Russian history. Huge, sumptuous, and spectacular, it’s a treat for history buffs, museum fans, and movie technology geeks (I’m all three). But as is inevitable with a single-shot film, it sags at times. Part of the series Guided Tour: Museums in Cinema.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)