Scorsese, Jerry Lewis, Laurel and Hardy, Greta Garbo, man-eating worms, a man-eating alien, and five film festivals grace Bay Area movie theaters this week.
- Cinequest closes Sunday
- The East Bay International Jewish Film Festival also closes Sunday
- CAAMfest continues through this week and beyond. Check out my reports on this festival.
- The Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival opens today and runs through Sunday
- The one-day Silicon Valley Iranian Film Festival plays Sunday
Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown, Century 16 Theatres Pleasant Hill, Sunday, 11:00am
My life-long love affair with motion pictures started, at the age of five or six, with Jerry Lewis. It began with Visit to a Small Planet, and was cemented with The Bellboy (I had no idea at the time that it was his directorial debut). After those two, I was obsessed and had to see every one of his movies. Now I find it almost impossible to sit through a Jerry Lewis picture. This French documentary (of course it’s French; they love Lewis) may bring some insight in the actor/auteur whose work I can no longer stand. Part of the East Bay International Jewish Film Festival.
A Scorsese double bill: King of Comedy & After Hours, Roxie, Thursday, 7:00
The A goes to After Hours, a strange, surreal comedy about a young man (Griffin Dunne) who thinks he’s about to get laid. Instead, he spends a night wandering a few blocks of New York, finding himself in one strange predicament after another, until he’s the target of neighborhood vigilantes. I suspect I’d give King of Comedy an A as well if I’d seen it recently enough to grade it. Robert De Niro plays a frustrated, delusional, and hopelessly-inexperienced comic who kidnaps a popular TV talk show host (Jerry Lewis), hoping that it will bring him his big chance.
A Sons of the Desert, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum (although this is not a silent film), Sunday, 4:00
Feature films weren’t Laurel and Hardy’s strong point; something about their humor worked best in the short form. But Sons of the Desert is one of only two exceptions that prove the rule (the other being Blockheads). This simple tale of two married men trying to have a good time away from their wives is loose, absurd, and very funny. With the short subjects Arbor Day and The Midnight Patrol.
A- The Thing from Another World, Balboa,Thursday, 7:30
Christian Nyby officially directed it, but most historians agree that producer Howard Hawks called the shots. Whoever directed this story of a predatory alien loose on an isolated, arctic army base, wisely kept the guy in the rubber suit off camera as much as possible. Much scarier that way. But like so many Hawks movies, this isn’t so much about the plot as it is about the camaraderie between a mostly–but not entirely–male group of professionals.
A- Tremors, New Parkway, Saturday, 10:00
Few horror movies depend so much on wit, and so little on gore. The entire population of this small desert town could probably fit in a small bus. But that population–which includes good ol’ boys, eccentrics, gun nuts, and a visiting scientist – gets a whole lot smaller when giant predators come up from the ground and drag their meals down under the sand. The movie has its gruesome moments (it is a horror film), but it mostly balances on that fine line between comedy and suspense. I love the fact that the creatures are never explained.
B+ Flesh and the Devil, California Theatre (San Jose), Friday, 7:00
A silly story, but a sexy one. This sort of vamp picture went out of style in the early 20′s, But Flesh and the Devil brought the genre back magnificently thanks to Greta Garbo’s talent and charisma. The burning passion–both onscreen and off–between her and leading man John Gilbert helped a great deal (director Clarence Brown described it as “kind of embarrassing”). This was only Garbo’s third American film, but it’s the one that made her a star. Live musical accompaniment by Dennis James on the mighty Wurlitzer organ. Part of Cinequest.
B The Trial of Joan of Arc, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:30
Robert Bresson plays it lowkey, with austere visuals and calm acting, as he recreates the trial of France’s beloved heroine. Using transcripts from her trial for much of the dialog, the film gives the sense that everything here is just a formality before the burning, even when some of Joan’s inquisitors seem sympathetic and helpful. It doesn’t measure up to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterpiece on the subject, but it has another approach. For Dreyer, Joan’s trial was a clash within the Catholic Church; for Bresson, it’s political. Part of the series Grace and Perfection: The Films of Robert Bresson.