What’s Screening: March 3 – 9

Six film festivals – two of them Jewish – grace Bay Area screens this week. Also a newly-discovered early color musical.


Promising events

A Conversation With Brad Bird, David Brower Center, Sunday, 1:15

One of animation’s most talented auteurs, Brad Bird wrote and directed The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. I heard him speak in 2005; he’s informative and very funny. Besides, he’s the only animation director whose name sounds like a cartoon character. Part of the GLAS Animation Festival.

King of Jazz, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 4:45

I’ve yet to see this big-budget musical extravaganza from 1930. Without dialog or a story, it puts bandleader Paul Whiteman on screen with many other talented musicians. (Whiteman earned the title “King of Jazz” in part for his musical talent, but also because he was a white man.) This rare two-color Technicolor movie has recently received a 4K digital restoration. This is the first of three screenings coming up at the PFA. I hate to say it, but I won’t be able to attend any of them.

Pre-Code Cartoons: Hollywood Cartoons of Early1930, Shattuck, Friday, 3:00; David Brower Center, Sunday, 10:00am

Sounds like a lot of fun. Another part of the GLAS Animation Festival.

Recommended revivals

A The Hidden Fortress, Roxie, Thursday, 9:15

Akira Kurosawa showed astonishing range within the samurai genre (as well as outside of it). Seven Samurai is an epic drama with fully-developed characters and realistically unpredictable violence; Yojimbo is a black comedy; Throne of Blood is stylized Shakespeare. But The Hidden Fortress is just plain fun–a rousing, suspenseful, and entertaining romp. It was also his first widescreen film, and contains two comic peasants (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara) who were the inspiration for R2D2 and C3PO. See my Kurosawa Diary entry and my Blu-ray review. Part of the Roxie’s 41 Years of Arthouse.

A Design for Living, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday

Impeccable credentials occasionally pay off. Design for Living is every bit as good as you’d expect from Ernst Lubitsch directing a Ben Hecht screen adaptation of a Noel Coward play. Of course, it also helps to have a cast headed by Gary Cooper, Fredric March, and Miriam Hopkins as a sort-of romantic threesome, and Edward Everett Horton as a disapproving bluenose. A very funny and sexy pre-code charmer. On a Lubitsch double bill with The Merry Widow.

C+ Crossfire, Century 16 Theatres Pleasant Hill, Friday, 10:00am

This low-budget film noir, one of a very few Hollywood films to address American anti-Semitism, was based on a novel condemning homophobia. Since homosexuality was then outlawed on the screen, the hatred was turned towards Jews. No masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but of considerable historical interest, not only for the bigotries it examines and avoids examining, but also because of the role it played in the Hollywood Ten hearings. Part of the East Bay Internationl Jewish Film Festival.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)