What’s Screening: October 7 – 13

This week we have Gene Wilder, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, dead teenagers, and a whole lot of classics that don’t get screened as often as they should.

Also, four film festivals, including Mill Valley.


Promising events

Gene Wilder Celebration, Castro, Sunday and Monday

Two days and two double bills of the late, great comic actor. On Sunday, they’ll screen The Producers (I love it) and Wlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I don’t care for it). On Monday, you can catch Blazing Saddles (I kind of like it), and Stir Crazy (never saw it).

The Good Fight: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

I know nothing about this documentary aside from what’s on the PFA’s website. But the story of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War is a fascinating one. Historian Peter Carroll, who wrote a book on the subject, will introduce the film.

Slumber Party Massacre, New Mission, Tuesday, 10:00

The early 80s saw a lot of low-budget slasher movies, mainly about helpless victims (usually nubile teenage girls) getting killed in all sorts of horrible ways. But this one was supposed to be different; it was written by feminist icon Rita Mae Brown, and was supposed to be a feminist satire. But when I saw it on VHS soon after its theatrical release, it just looked like another dead teenager flick to me. Maybe I missed something.

Recommended revivals

A+ Rashomon, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Friday, 6:00

In his first true masterpiece, Akira Kurosawa reminds us that we can never really know anything. Visually beautiful and deeply atmospheric, this eight-character chamber piece recounts the same crime four times by different eyewitnesses, and none of their stories match. The film that opened Japanese cinema to the world. See my Kurosawa Diary entry and my Blu-ray review. Part of Modern Cinema.

A+ Annie Hall, Castro, Wednesday

Almost every Hollywood film deals with romantic love on some level, but very few capture the complex, dizzying ups and downs of that common experience as accurately and entertainingly as Woody Allen’s masterpiece–the rare romantic comedy that doesn’t resort to silly plot-driven contrivances or paint-by-the-number characters. It captures, in flashback, the entire arc of a modern relationship, from cautious flirtation through giddy joy to the moment when the couple must accept the reality of their “dead shark.” Read my Blu-ray review. On a Diane Keaton ’70s double bill with Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which I saw and didn’t like when it was new.

A Let the Right One In¸ New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

This is one of the great vampire movies. After all, what better place for a vampire than a Swedish winter? The nights are very long, snow covers everything, and people drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In is also a coming-of-age story, about first love between a boy about to turn 13 and a girl who has been 12 “for a very long time.” Read my full review.

The Seventh Seal, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Saturday, 5:45

A knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades plays chess with Death (Bengt Ekerot) while the plague ravages the land. But while the knight thinks about eternity, his life-embracing squire (Gunnar Björnstrand) reminds us what it really means to be human. Filled with wonderful characters, religious allegory, and sly humor, it bursts with a love of humanity and a fear for our place in the universe. Another part of Modern Cinema.

B+ Grandma’s Boy, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

The best of Harold Lloyd’s early features, Grandma’s Boy hints at the brilliant comic story teller that Lloyd would soon become. Shy Harold lacks the courage needed to win the girl (or anything else), so his grandmother improvises a magic talisman and concocts a story to help him build up his nerve. Not Kid Brother or The Freshmen, but an important step in the direction of those masterpieces. Also on the program: Felix the Cat and Charlie Chase shorts. Judy Rosenberg provides the piano accompaniment.

B+ Detour, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday

If Double Indemnity, shot on a comfortable if not extravagant budget, started the trend now called film noir, this quick cheapie proved that the genre didn’t need production values. Tom Neal plays a broke musician who hitchhikes across the country and runs into some very bad luck. So bad, in fact, that a wicked woman (Ann Savage–what a name for an actress playing a femme fatale) can blackmail him for murder. Short, quick, and deeply disturbing, Detour provides 67 minutes of dark entertainment. On a double bill with The Strange Woman. Part of the series Vienna and the Movies.

L’Avventura, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Saturday, 8:00

Michelangelo Antonioni’s story of the young and amoral hardly counts as an adventure–although it almost starts as one. A group of wealthy young adults take a yacht to a deserted island, where one of them mysteriously disappears. Her friends search for her, then casually give up. L’avventura isn’t about rescuing a loved one; but about the shallowness of modern relationships. Another part of Modern Cinema

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

  • Vertigo, Castro, Thursday through next Monday. Presented in 70mm. With a different Brian DePalma movie each day.