What’s Screening: Dec 16 – 22

This week in Bay Area theaters we have Charlie Kaufman, Fred and Ginger, horny nuns, silent shorts, and a whole Brand New Testament.

But no film festivals.

New films opening

A The Brand New Testament, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, Rafael, opens Friday

This funny, silly, sacrilegious, and surprisingly touching comedy from Belgium pictures God as a grouchy, homely chain smoker with a short temper and bad hygiene (Benoît Poelvoorde). Fortunately, his rebellious, goth-bedecked ten-year-old daughter (Pili Groyne) takes things into her own hands to gather apostles and help the human race. Not for religious fundamentalists. Read my full review.

Promising events

Two films by Charlie Kaufman & Spike Jonze:
Adaptation and Being John Malkovich,
New Parkway, Friday; Roxie, Saturday

Two movie theaters, two days, four screenings, and two funny and strange films written by two strange filmmakers. I haven’t seen either of these recently enough to write anything meaningful about them, but I do remember enjoying Being John Malkovich very much. The New Parkway requires a separate admission for each film. The Roxie will screen them as a double feature.

The Three Colors Trilogy, Pacific Film Archive

I haven’t seen Krzysztof Kiéslowski’s trilogy – based around the three symbolic colors of the French flag – in many years. I remember liking all three dramas, but I had a hard time connecting them as a trilogy. Maybe that’s because I’m not French. Here’s their screening times:

  • Blue, Saturday, 6:00
  • White, Saturday, 8:15
  • Red, Sunday, 7:00

Recommended revivals

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

I’ve seen three of these four comic shorts, and loved all of them. Charlie Chaplin’s The Pawnshop, made during his Mutual period, catches him at the height of his laugh-inducing powers. Buster Keaton’s The Paleface suffers from racist jokes, but is still quite funny. Big Business is one of Laurel and Hardy’s most loved silent films–and for good reason (it’s also a Christmas movie in a strange way). I haven’t seen Harold Lloyd’s I Do.

A- Black Narcissus, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:30

This very British melodrama by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger places a handful of nuns in an abandoned fortress far up in the Himalayas. The presence of a good-looking white man (David Farrar) causes problems with two nuns trying to hang onto their vows (Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron). Cinematographer Jack Cardiff works his magic with three-strip Technicolor, creating a semi-realistic world where riotous colors fight with repressed grays. Warning: The film is considerably racist. The PFA is screening a mouth-wateringly beautiful imported 35mm print. Read my longer report.

B+ Double bill: Shall We Dance (1937) & Monkey Business (1931), Stanford, Friday through Sunday

The A- goes to Shall We Dance, one of the best Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers vehicles. The story, which pits ballet against jazz and satirizes celebrity scandals, provides us with many wonderful songs by George and Ira Gershwin, including “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” Monkey Business, the first Marx Brother film not based on a stage play, starts off as one of their best. The Brothers play ocean liner stowaways quite happy to break into the captain’s cabin and eat his lunch. But the movie loses its momentum in the second half. I give it a B. Read my Blu-ray review.

B+ Clueless, New Parkway, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday

Loosely adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma, this coming-of-age comedy follows a rich, well-meaning, but superficial teenage girl (Alicia Silverstone) as she tries to fix other people’s problems as well as her own. Sweet and funny, it looks at adolescent foibles with a sympathetic eye, rarely judging youthful behavior. With a very young Paul Rudd as the great guy she can’t recognize.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)