What’s Screening: Feb 3 – 9

This week, Bay Area theaters will screen all sorts of things that Trump hates: Iranians, African Americans, comedians, nature lovers, and hippies. Also, the origin of the word gaslighting.


New films opening

A The Salesman, Embarcadero, Albany, Rafael, opens Friday

An intruder assaults a woman in her home. As she recovers physically and emotionally, her husband’s obsession with finding the perpetrator only makes things worse. Meanwhile, both husband and wife are acting in a production of Death of a Salesman. As you’d expect from Asghar Farhadi, all points of view, and all emotional reactions, are understandable and believable–even when they go over the line. You may not like every character, but you’ll understand them. a brilliant film from the maker of A Separation. Read my full review.

A I Am Not Your Negro, New Mission, Embarcadero, California (Berkeley), opens Friday

The African-American experience, summed up in the words of James Baldwin, read by Samuel L. Jackson, while director Raoul Peck provides visual context from old news footage, talk shows, and scenes shot for this powerful documentary. Every American should see I Am Not Your Negro. Unfortunately, only those already sympathetic to its message will likely catch it. Read my full review.

B- The Comedian, Shattuck, opens Friday

Robert De Niro is in fine form as a once-famous, now struggling standup comic in a film provides both drama and laughs. But it provides neither of them in spades. As dramas go, it’s a bit on the trite side. And the jokes fall flat as often as they hit target. To be fair, I believe that many of them were intended to fall flat – as happens with comics in real life. Read my full review.

Promising events

Sophie’s Choice, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

I haven’t seen this 1982 drama about the emotional aftermath of the Holocaust since it was new. Meryl Streep plays a Pole who survived the camps, then tries to adjust to a normal life. Kevin Kline, just rising into stardom, plays her Jewish lover. The first in a series of Meryl Streep films to be screened at the Balboa this week.

Recommended revivals

A+ Do the Right Thing, New Parkway, Friday, 9:30

For a 27-year-old film, Do the Right Thing feels very much like the here and now. By focusing on a few blocks of Brooklyn over the course of one very hot day, Lee dramatizes and analyzes everything wrong (and a few things right) about race relationships in America. And yet this beautifully made film is touching, funny, warm-hearted, and humane.

A Grizzly Man, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Thursday, 8:30

Werner Herzog’s fascinating nature documentary (well, more of an anti-nature documentary) examines Timothy Treadwell – a failed actor and untrained naturalist who lived peacefully with Alaska’s grizzly bears until one of them ate him. You don’t learn much about bears here beyond “Keep your distance,” but you learn a lot about Treadwell, who comes off as manic, enthusiastic, charismatic, delusional, and paranoid. Read my longer report. Herzog will be on hand to introduce the film and answer audience questions.

A- Ingrid Bergman psychological thriller double bill: Gaslight & Spellbound, Castro, Wednesday

The A- goes to Gaslight, where Victorian bride Ingrid Bergman seems happy in her new marriage. But her husband (Charles Boyer) keeps insisting that his lies are true, to the point where he appears to be intentionally driving her insane. You’ve probably heard the term gaslighting recently; this is where it came from. Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound is a little too much of a psychological mystery to be an effective thriller, but it has enough Hitchcock style, plus star wattage from Bergman and newcomer Gregory Peck, to make a fine entertainment. I give it a B.

A- Monterey Pop, Wednesday, 7:00

In 1967, promoter Lou Adler and John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas put together a popular music response to the annual Monterey Jazz Festival, and music history was made. Over the course of a June weekend, The Who and Jimi Hendrix cracked the American market, and Janis Joplin became a star. Documentarian D. A. Pennebaker got it all on 16mm film, and created one of the first memorable concert documentaries. A moment frozen in time, and a lot of great rock and roll. Part of the series Hippie Modernism: Cinema and Counterculture, 1964–1974.

A- The Lusty Men, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:00

Nicholas Ray examines masculinity in this modern western drama set in the world of the rodeo. The lusty men of the title are irresponsible, bad with money, and courageous to the point of stupidity. The women who love them suffer for it. Robert Mitchum stars as a former star of the rodeo circuit with one too many injuries. When he latches onto a happily-married couple (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward), you know there’ll be trouble. Read my longer report (you’ll have to scroll down a bit). Part of the series On Dangerous Ground: The Cinema of Nicholas Ray.

B+ Wings of Desire, Castro, Thursday

Wenders’ fantasy about angels in Berlin offers a view of the city as a land of interior monologues. Two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) watch over the people, listen to their thoughts, and comfort them in their pain. Then one of them falls in love with a trapeze artist, and finds himself longing for mortality. Wenders couldn’t have known it when he made the film in 1988, but he was capturing the last months of a divided city; the wall seen in the film would soon come down. With Peter Falk as a strange version of himself. On a double bill with One More Time with Feeling.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)