What’s Screening: Nov 18 – 24

Sex, comedy, Harlem, and John Wayne–along with three film festivals–light up this week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

B- Elle, Embarcadero, opens Friday

As you’d expect from Paul Verhoeven, Elle is silly, tasteless, and unbelievable, and yet it somehow succeeds as entertainment. Isabelle Huppert gives a strong, gutsy, courageous performance as a strangely matter-of-fact rape victim. Perhaps she likes it? But then, her father was a mass murderer, her mother is addicted to botox, and her son can’t possibly be her grandchild’s biological parent. Like I said, silly, tasteless, and unbelievable. But fun. Read my full review.

Promising events

Sheetlejuice, Castro, Saturday
A live, all-drag parody of Beetlejuice, followed by a 35mm screening of the original movie, which I have never seen.

Riffer’s Delight: MYSTERY MOVIE, New Mission, Wednesday, 8:00

In the tradition of Mystery Science Theater 3000, local comedians Nato Green, Natasha Muse, and Kaseem Bentley will provide irreverent commentary to an as-yet-unnamed bad movie. Think of it as pulling apart a turkey the day before Thanksgiving.

The Cool World, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00

I haven’t seen this 1963 drama—shot to look like a cinema verité documentary–about Harlem youth, gangs, and Jazz. The PFA is promising a restored 35mm print, and a discussion with assistant director/editor Madeline Anderson and Orlando Bagwell, Director of the documentary program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Part of the series Afterimage: Madeline Anderson.

Those Good Old Matinees, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Sunday, 4:00

This talkie (as opposed to silent) matinee includes a screening of The Hurricane Express, a 12-chapter serial starring John Wayne, cut down to feature length. Serial expert Larry Telles will host and provide additional short films.

Recommended revivals

A The World of Apu, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 4:00; Sunday, 1:30

In the final chapter of Satyajit Ray’s great trilogy, the adult Apu leaves college, but seems reluctant to grow up. Like his father, he’s a dreamer, and assumes that good things will come his way. His best friend from college does much better, but then, he came from a rich family. One good thing does come his way: He marries, almost by accident, and finds happiness and true love. But tragedy is never far away in Apu’s world. See my discussion of the entire trilogy. Part of the series World Trilogies: Ray’s Apu Trilogy.

A- Comedy Short Subjects Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

Buster Keaton’s Neighbors and the Max Davidson vehicle Pass the Gravy stand out among the funniest two-reelers of the 1920s–although Neighbors has some unfortunately racist humor. Charlie Chaplin’s Work isn’t one of his best, but it’s still quite funny. I haven’t seen the early Laurel and Hardy Duck Soup (not to be confused with the Marx Brothers movie of the same name), but since it was released in 1926, I assume it was made before their personas solidified. Greg Pane accompanies the shorts on piano.

B Black Narcissus, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:00

Not much more than a well-done but silly melodrama, Black Narcissus is nevertheless a must if you love old-fashioned three-strip Technicolor. No one could work emotional magic with that clumsy but beautiful system like cinematographer Jack Cardiff, and this just might be his best work. The PFA will screen an imported print.

B Donnie Darko, Castro, Friday, 7:00

How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers must deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun. On a double bill with Prisoners.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)