What’s Screening: April 21 – 27

Cassavetes, Scorsese, Fellini, a new Student, and mid-century social justice movies grace this week’s Bay Area screens.


New films opening

A The Student, 4-star, opens Friday
Teenaged Venya (Pyotr Skvortsov) becomes a deeply religious Christian almost overnight, quoting the Bible (always the cruelest parts), and objecting to school curriculum and procedures. He insists that girls not wear bikinis in swim class, then moves on to destroying sex education. Eventually he’s contemplating murder. Only one teacher has the smarts and courage to go against him. All this happens in a high school with Putin’s portrait on the wall. Kirill Serebrennikov’s strong, suspenseful, and disturbing drama shows, on a small scale, how religious fascism can take over a community. Read my full review.

Promising events

The Clock: Notions of Cinematic Temporality, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:00

Film curator and author Alexander Horwath, recently of the Austrian Film Museum, promises to provide “a somewhat surrealist-populist attempt at telling a story of the twentieth century.” It will look at the relationship between cinema and time.

AGITPROP! An Evening of Mid-Century Social Justice, Roxie, Wednesday, 6:00

This long show starts with a Defenders episode called The Benefactor; it deals with abortion – an extremely taboo topic in 1962. Next comes Open Secret, a 1948 B picture about ethic prejudice. The night ends with Crossfire, a low-budget film noir, and the only title in the program I’ve seen. One of a very few Hollywood films to address American anti-Semitism, Crossfire is no masterpiece, but is of considerable historical interest considering the role it played in the Hollywood Ten hearings.

Shadows, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00

I’ve never seen John Cassavetes’ first film. I fact, I must admit, I’ve seen very little of this work. One of these days I’ll fix that.

Recommended revivals

Double bill: Raging Bull & Boogie Nights, Castro, Sunday

Martin Scorsese put a cap on 70’s cinema with Raging Bull, a study of boxer Jake La Motta. It isn’t an easy film to watch; the experience is not unlike a fierce pummeling, but it’s absolutely worth it. In Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale of pornographers with delusions of talent, we meet Mark Wahlberg’s nice, well-endowed young man and Julianne Moore’s porn queen/mother hen. Each film separately earns an A.

A Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

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 fully knowing that it’s entirely your fault. Read my full review.

B+ Amarcord, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:00

Federico Fellini’s nostalgic, autobiographical, yet decidedly weird comedy about village life in the late 1930’s celebrates horny teenagers, confused adults, and distracted clergy, while treating fascists as comic opera buffoons. Amarcord succeeds frequently but not consistently, and it succeeds best when it’s just trying to be funny. Read my full review.

B The Circus, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:30

Made in between Chaplin’s two feature masterpieces (The Gold Rush and City Lights), this reasonably fun comedy can’t help but suffer by comparison. The Tramp finds himself working in a small circus, where he accidentally becomes a comic star without knowing it. He also falls in love with a beautiful girl who sees him only as a friend. The film will screen with Chaplin’s recorded music track, made decades after he originally released the silent movie; I’m assuming Chaplin’s estate insisted on that.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)