What’s Screening: Dec 23 – 29

Terry Gilliam, Billy Wilder, Powell & Pressburger, and Satyajit Ray direct classic films screened this week in the Bay Area.

But still no film festivals.

New films opening

B+ Hidden Figures, AMC Metreon, opens Sunday

Here’s a feel-good movie that actually has something to feel good about. If you remember anything about the early American space program, you probably remember a lot of white men. This historical drama pokes holes in that image, introducing us to three African-American women, all math geniuses, whose equations put those white men into space. A light, easy-to-digest version of a forgotten part of US history. Read my full review.

Recommended revivals

A+ Brazil, Roxie, Sunday, 8:00

One of the best black comedies ever filmed, and the best dystopian fantasy on celluloid. In a bizarre, repressive, anally bureaucratic, and thoroughly dysfunctional society, one government worker (Jonathan Pryce) tries to escape into his own romantically heroic imagination. But when he finds a real woman who looks like the girl of his dreams (Kim Greist), everything starts to fall apart. With Robert De Niro as a heroic plumber. This is the second and best of Gilliam’s three great fantasies of the 1980’s, and the only one clearly intended for adults. The Roxie will be screening the European cut. Read my Blu-ray review.

A The Apartment, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

Billy Wilder won a Best Picture Oscar for this serious comedy about powerful men exploiting both attractive women and their male underlings. Jack Lemmon gave one of his best performances as a very small cog in the machinery of a giant, New York-based insurance company. In order to gain traction in the rat race, he loans his apartment to company executives—all married men–who use it for private time with their mistresses. With Fred MacMurray as the top exploiter and Shirley MacLane as the woman he exploits and Lemmon loves. Read my Blu-ray review.

A- The Tales of Hoffmann, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00; Thursday, 1:00

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film of Jacques Offenbach’s episodic opera (with the libretto translated into English) merge stage and cinema like nothing else I’ve ever seen–at least at feature length. The sets, costumes, and makeup have all the expressionism of the live stage, but what happens on those sets could only have been created in a movie studio. The stories are the simplest of fairy tales, but the dramatic use of music, dance, light, and acting makes much of the film amazing. Part of the series Arrows of Desire: the Films of Powell & Pressburger.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)