Anti-Nazis, pro-Buddhists, Bugs Bunny, Charlie Chaplin, and Akira Kurosawa liven up Bay Area movie screens this week.
But, for the second week in a row, no film festivals.
New films opening
A- 13 Minutes, Opera Plaza, opens Friday
In 1939, Georg Elser attempted to assassinate Hitler. This spellbinding and sometimes gruesome drama cuts back and forth between two stories taking place at different times. One involves the SS questioning and torturing Elser. The other, in flashbacks, shows his life from his 1932 youth up until he sets out with his homemade time bomb. Here we learn of Elser as a mechanic, a musician, and as the lover of an unhappily married woman. A powerful film based on a true story. Read my full review.
C The Last Dalai Lama, Elmwood, Rafael, Roxie, opens Friday
Don’t expect an objective examination of either the 14thDalai Lama or Tibetan Buddhism; director Mickey Lemle clearly adores both. That’s not entirely bad; the current Dalai Lama has some wise lessons for us all, and while just about everyone in the movie treats him like a living god, he behaves as a humble mortal (although not humble enough to tell people to not call him “Your Holiness”). The movie drags on with praise from all sorts of people, including George W. Bush. Filmmaker Q&A Sunday after 6:30 show.
Scary Cow 32nd Short Film Festival, Castro, Saturday, 2:00
This all-day event will screen I don’t know how many short films for I don’t know how many hours. I do know that Scary Cow is a co-op that helps would-be filmmakers realize their dreams.
Popcorn for Breakfast: Even More Looney Tunes in 35mm!, Saturday, 11:00AM; Sunday, 6:20
Thirteen classic Warner Brothers cartoons, including Mouse Wreckers, Gone Batty, Hyde and Go Tweet, and French Rarebit. The big titles – Duck Amuck, One Froggy Evening, What’s Opera, Doc – aren’t in this collection. But that’s fine. You’ve got a better chance of discovering one you haven’t seen.
A Mostly Silent, exploited-workers Double Bill: Modern Times & Metropolis, Castro, Sunday
The A goes to Metropolis. The first important science fiction feature film still strikes a considerable visual punch, and tells a compelling story. The images – workers in a hellish underground factory, the wealthy at play, a robot brought to life in the form of a beautiful woman – are a permanent part of our collective memory. Read my longer report and my Blu-ray review. The Castro will screen Metropolis with the official, recorded score. Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times also features workers in a hellish factory, but this time, the point is made with laughs. A mostly silent picture made years after everyone else started talking, it needs no extra accompaniment. I give it an A-.
B+ The Music Man, Stanford, Friday through Sunday
One of my childhood favorites doesn’t quite look like a masterpiece anymore, but it’s still big, dazzling, funny, and filled with catchy tunes. Robert Preston carries the picture as Professor Harold Hill, the conman who pretends to be a music teacher, and deep down wants to be one. The cast is rounded out with Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, and the Buffalo Bills (this may be the only major Hollywood movie featuring a barbershop quartet). Shot in Technirama–a process that used twice as much film for each frame than standard 35mm–The Music Man really should be experienced on a large, wide screen. On a double bill with Tammy and the Bachelor. Note: I added this entry several hours after I posted the newsletter.
B+ I Live in Fear, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:30
Also known as Record of a Living Being, this is easily the worst work from Kurosawa’s best period (1952 – 1965), which still makes it very good. The story concerns an aging industrialist (Toshiro Mifune, made up to look twice his 35 years) driven insane, or at least irrational, by his fear of the atom bomb. Convinced that only people in South America will survive World War III, he wants to move his entire family to Brazil. That family, meanwhile, wants him declared mentally incompetent before he wastes his fortune on this endeavor. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry. Part of the series Samurai Rebellion: Toshiro Mifune, Screen Icon.