What’s Screening: November 11 – 17

Francis Coppola, Louise Brooks, crack cocaine, and Laurel & Hardy all grace this week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

B- The Eagle Huntress, Clay, Aquarius, Shattuck, Rafael, opens Friday

Otto Bell’s documentary about a Mongolian girl who proves she’s better than any man tells an interesting and inspiring story. Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan wants to be an eagle hunter, just like her father. That’s fine with him, and the rest of her family, despite traditions that insist that only men can hunt with eagles. But much about the film feels staged, leaving me wondering if it should be considered a documentary, at all. Read my full review.

Promising events

Francis Ford Coppola: The Program You Can’t Refuse, Castro, Tuesday, 7:00

Adam Savage interviews the long-retired director of The Godfather films and Apocalypse Now. He’s got a new book to sell–The Godfather Notebook–and he’ll be signing copies after the talk.

Laurel & Hardy Double Bill: Way Out West & The Flying Deuces, Castro, Sunday (matinee, only)

Laurel and Hardy were almost always better in shorts than in features, and if my memory serves, these two late features prove the point. Many consider Way Out West one of their best features, and it contains an amazing dance sequence, but the plot sinks too many of the laughs. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen The Flying Deuces, but I didn’t care for that one much, either. Both movies have been digitally restored.

New Jack City, New Mission, Monday, 10:15

I saw Mario Van Peebles’ crooks and cops thriller on Laserdisc soon after its 1991 theatrical release. I remember being very impressed with it. Part of the New Mission at 100 celebration.

Recommended revivals

A The Conversation, Castro, Wednesday

Francis Coppola’s low-budget “personal” film, made between Godfathers I and II, is almost as good as the two epics that sandwich it. The Conversation concerns a professional snoop (Gene Hackman) who bugs people’s private conversations for a living. Remote and lonely, his emotional armor begins to crack when he suspects that his work could lead to murder. Walter Murch’s ground-breaking sound mix exposes us to layers of meaning within the titular recorded discussion as we hear it over and over again.

A- Aparajito, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 4:00; Sunday, 1:30

In the second chapter of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, the title character grows from late childhood into late adolescence, and his view of India and the world widens considerably. In many ways, it’s a more optimistic film than its predecessor; this kid just might go places. But there’s a heavy price to pay for advancement out of his class. The weakest film of the three, but still excellent. Read my article on the whole trilogy. Part of the series World Trilogies: Ray’s Apu Trilogy.

A- Elia Kazan double bill: On the Waterfront & A Face in the Crowd, Castro, Sunday, 6:00

The A- goes to On the Waterfront. 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 family loyalty and human decency. Yet some plot twists are just too convenient, and the film arguably justifies the blacklist (Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg both named names). A Face in the Crowd isn’t at the same level, but Andy Griffith gives a strong dramatic performance as a hobo turned into a media sensation. I give it a B+.

A- Vampyr, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s part talkie
belongs on any list of great horror films. This is a movie where you’re not always sure just who is a vampire; even the vampires aren’t sure if they’re vampires. The story isn’t much, but individual sequences will stick in your memory, including the young woman who seems to look just a bit too hungry, and the funeral procession and burial, viewed from the point of view of the corpse. Introduced by Robert Beavers. Part of the series Cinema Mon Amour: Robert Beavers.

B+ Diary of a Lost Girl,
New Mission
, Saturday, 7:00

Good as it is, G.W. Pabst’s second and last collaboration with star Louise Brooks doesn’t quite reach the level of their first film together, Pandora’s Box. Brooks as a victim and reluctant prostitute just doesn’t have the emotional impact of Brooks as a femme fatale. But the wonderful Pabst imagery is still there, as is Brooks’ unparalleled sensuality. With musical accompaniment by the Musical Art Quintet. Another part of New Mission at 100.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)