What’s Screening: Jan 27 – Feb 2

James Dean, Jim Jarmusch, clueless teenagers, and a big turtle grace Bay Area screens this week. And, of course, Groundhog Day.


New films opening

A- The Red Turtle, Kabuki, opens Friday

A man marooned on a deserted island struggles to survive, escape, and ward off loneliness in this unique and beautiful animated tale. In a strange way, he will find almost everything he wants. This French film, produced by Japan’s great Studio Ghibli, contains no dialog beyond cries and an occasional “Hey!” You don’t want to know too much about The Red Turtle before you see it, although you might want to read my spoiler-free full review.

Promising events

The Battle of Algiers, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 5:30

I haven’t seen Gillo Pontecorvo’s powerful story of oppression and resistance–a narrative feature designed to look like a documentary–in decades, so I’m not going to give it a grade. But if memory serves, I’d probably give it an A. The film has just received a 4K restoration, so it should look better than ever. But I don’t understand why Rialto Pictures, which is distributing the rerelease, is advertising the film with a still that makes it look like West Side Story.

Recommended revivals

A+ Groundhog Day, New Mission, Thursday, 7:00

Spiritual, humane, and hilarious, Groundhog Day wraps its thoughtful world view inside a slick, Hollywood comedy. Without explanation, the movie plunges its self-centered protagonist into a type of purgatory, living the same day over and over until he finds enlightenment. Bill Murray’s weatherman goes through stages of panic, giddiness, and despair before figuring out that life is about serving others. And yet not a frame of this movie feels preachy. Fast-paced and brilliantly edited, it’s pure entertainment. For more on this great comedy, see my essay.

A Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Castro, Sunday

When two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) set out to rob their parents’ jewelry store in what they tell themselves will be a victimless crime, the best-laid plans of amateur crooks go lethally wrong. Writer Kelly Masterson and director Sidney Lumet (his last film) make you experience what it’s like to have your entire world fall apart bit by bit, while knowing that it’s entirely your fault. On a Noir City closing day double bill with Victoria.

A- Stranger Than Paradise, Castro, Wednesday, 7:00

Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch didn’t so much burst upon the scene as casually stroll onto it with this strange, low-key, black-and-white road picture. Two men and a woman drive from New York to Cleveland to Florida with very little money or motivation. Unhurried in the extreme–every scene consists of a single shot, each one separated from the next by a short fade out. Funny and touching in its quiet, odd little way, and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. On a double bill with Broken Flowers.

A- Rebel Without a Cause, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:00

James Dean became a star in this melodramatic message picture about what’s wrong with kids these days. Thanks largely to Dean’s electrifying, frightening, and sympathetic performance, it’s a far better movie than it has any right to be. Dean defined the word teenager for several generations. Of course, he got a lot of help from director Nicholas Ray and supporting players Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. In very wide early Cinemascope. Part of the series On Dangerous Ground: the Cinema of Nicholas Ray.

B+ Clueless, New Mission, Tuesday, 7:00

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)