What’s Screening: March 30 – April 5

Very bad Chinese investments, Eisenstein and Brecht, two beauties and their beasts, an accidental messiah, and a comet on its way to obliterate the Earth. And all these delights will appear on Bay Area movie screens this week.

And that doesn’t mention one really big film festival.


New films opening

B+ The China Hustle, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

As the stock market began to tank in 2008, some new Chinese companies looked like excellent investments. But many of these apparently successful businesses never even intended to make anything except money from hoodwinked investors, and the Chinese government was in on the scam. I know almost nothing about the stock market or investing, but this documentary, co-produced by Alex Gibney, makes these shenanigans clear. It also gives you a nice view of former General Wesley Clark, now CEO of Enverra, going into tantrum mode.

Promising events

A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:00

Both Sergei Eisenstein and Bertolt Brecht, at different times and for different purposes, temporarily came to Hollywood. Neither of them ever got the chance to make an American movie (although Brecht got a story credit for Hangmen Also Die!). So Zoe Beloff took two of their unproduced scenarios (Eisenstein’s Glass House and Brecht’s A Model Family in a Model Home) and turned them into short movies. She also made another short, Two Marxists in Hollywood. Filmmaker in person.

Riffer’s Delight: Deep Impact, New Mission, Monday, 9:00

The other late ’90s flick about a giant comet on its way to obliterate the world. And if humans continue to make such lousy movies, we probably deserve it. On the other hand, with a gaggle of standup comedians commentating on the movie, it will probably be very enjoyable.

Great double bills

A The Shape of Water & Beauty and the Beast (1946 version), Castro, Tuesday

Each of these films earns an A in its own right. In Guillermo del Toro’s magical and romantic reworking of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a strange fish/man arrives for dissection in a highly secure research center, and a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) senses its pain and sets out to free it. Read my full review. Jean Cocteau’s post-war fantasy, told with a charming and often naïve innocence, is a supremely atmospheric motion picture, and one that takes its magical story seriously. I once saw a very young audience sit enraptured by it. See my Blu-ray review.

Recommended revivals

A Monty Python’s Life of Brian, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30

Not quite as funny as Holy Grail (but still hilarious), the Pythons’ second (and last) narrative feature digs a little deeper than its predecessor. The story, about a hapless citizen of Roman-occupied Judea who is mistaken for the messiah, satirizes faith, fanaticism (both religious and political), and the human tendency to blindly follow leaders. The religious right attacked it viciously when it came out, which is kind of funny since the movie’s strongest satire is aimed at left-wing radicals.

Continuing Engagements

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)