Crooks, comedy, Soviet science fiction, and a Dinner with Andre grace Bay Area movie theaters this week.
- We just had one documentary festival, but another, DocFest, opens Wednesday. It runs for more than two weeks.
- The San Francisco Silent Film Festival opens Thursday.
My Dinner With Andre, Roxie, Tuesday, 7:00
Everybody was talking about this little film in 1981. The story: two men talk over dinner at a fancy restaurant. Why did that excite people? Because it’s a fascinating discussion about life and philosophy. (At least I remember it being fascinating; it’s been a long time since I saw it.) It was directed by the great Louis Malle, but the real auteurs were Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, who turned their own conversations into a screenplay, and then starred as versions of themselves. On a double bill with a parody called My Breakfast With Blassie.
Stalker, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, opens Friday; Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00
I must admit that I have yet to see Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction film about the nature of truth itself. I can’t really tell you much more than that, but I’ve liked every Tarkovsky film I’ve seen. The PFA screening is part of the series Auteur, Author: Film & Literature. Note: I corrected this listing hours after I published this newsletter. My thanks to Dan for bringing an error to my attention.
The Shining: Forwards and Backwards, Roxie, Monday, 8:30
John Fell Ryan screens Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s masterpiece forward and backward at the same time, so that images overlap each other. I strongly suspect that Kubrick, who was very picky about how his films were shown, would not approved. But then, King didn’t care for Kubrick’s version, and frankly, I agree with King. Also on the program: Rodney Ascher, via Skype, presumably to talk about his documentary, Room 237.
A+ Goodfellas, Castro, Wednesday, 6:45
Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) was just another crook working for the mafia. Martin Scorsese’s brilliant retelling of Hill’s life follows him from his enthusiastic, adolescent leap into crime until–25 years later–he rats on long-time friends to save his neck. (Was that a spoiler? Not really.) Liotta narrates most of the film as Hill, who clearly loved his life as a “wise guy.” But while the narration romanticizes the life of crime, Scorsese’s camera shows us the ugly reality. Goodfellas is dazzling filmmaking and incredible story-telling. Read my A+ essay. On a double bill with The Marriage of Maria Braun.
A The Freshman, Castro, Thursday, 7:00
It might be possible to watch Harold Lloyd’s 1925 masterpiece, The Freshman, without laughing, or without hoping that the protagonist will win the popularity he so deeply wants. But it wouldn’t be easy. Every shot in this film is brilliantly designed to make you either laugh or care–or both. Desperate to fit in, “Harold” becomes the class clown; everyone pretends to like him, but they’re all laughing behind his back. Everyone except, of course, the girl who loves him (Jobyna Ralston). Not quite as good as The Kid Brother, but awfully close. Read my Blu-ray review. Musical accompaniment by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra. Opening night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
A- L.A. Confidential, Castro, Monday, 8:15
Neo-noir at its finest, set in an extremely stylish version of the 1950s. Corrupt cops, honest cops, ruthless gangsters, and a prostitute made up to look like Veronica Lake. The story is incredibly complicated, but never confusing, with some truly shocking surprises. The cast includes Kevin Spacey, Kim Bassinger, Danny Devito, James Cromwell, and two unknown Australian actors: Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (both with flawless American accents). On a double bill with The Untouchables, which I saw once long ago.
A- April and the Extraordinary World, Sunday, 2:00
Set in a 1941 where the human race hasn’t harnessed electricity or oil, this charming, French, animated alternative history offers some of the best steampunk imagery I’ve seen. The story involving kidnapped scientists is pedestrian, the fantasy world it’s set in is exceptional. Read my full review. Part of the series Cat Power! Felines on Film.
B+ Invasion of the Body Snatchers
(1978 remake), Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:00
Phil Kaufman‘s San Francisco-based remake of the classic alien invasion movie isn’t quite as good as the low-budget, 1956 original, but it comes close. One by one, Donald Sutherland’s friends and loved ones turn into emotionless pod people, and he knows that he too will be lost if he can’t stay awake. A very good sci-fi thriller. Kaufman and David Thomson will be on hand to discuss the film. Part of the series Auteur, Author: Film & Literature.
Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)
- The Fifth Element, Roxie, Friday, 7:00; Saturday, 7:00. Saturday screening on a double bill with Lola Run.
- Singin’ in the Rain, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. MY A+ APPRECIATION. On a double bill with Cover Girl.
- Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clay, Saturday, 11:55PM (just before midnight). MY REPORT.