What’s Screening: June 1 – 7

Thrilling double bills by Hitchcock and Clouzot, comedy by Mel Brooks and Kristen Wiig, a fox with George Clooney’s voice, silent and doc film fests, and Garbo and Gilbert’s passion burning up the screen. Wild Strawberries couldn’t drag me away!

I had to prepare this newsletter earlier than usual, and I may have missed some screenings.


New films opening

A Three Identical Strangers, no theaters announced, opens Wednesday

This is one of the best documentaries I saw at this year’s SFFILM Festival. In 1980, three young men who didn’t know each other, all of them adopted, discovered that they were identical triplets. Filmmaker Tim Wardle created an original, deeply empathetic documentary about their lives, their brief celebrity, and the discovery that them and their adoptive parents were guinea pigs in a long-term, secret, nature/nurture experiment. Wardle breaks generally-accepted documentary rules to create a fresh way of telling his story. Read my full review.

Special Screening

A- Sorry to Bother You, Grand Lake Theatre, Wednesday

Telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) rises quickly in the company (thanks to his “white voice”), while his co-workers go on strike, creating a wedge between him and his friends (and lover). Meanwhile, something very sinister is going on. Like Get Out, Sorry to Bother You combines humor, horror, and social commentary. But Sorry is its own film and deserves to be seen in its own light.

Promising events

Ingmar Bergman at Work, Pacific Film Archive, June 6, 7:00

Jon Wengström of the Svenska Filminstitutet will discuss Bergman’s work and working methods. Part of Bergman 100: A Summer Interlude.

Great double bills

A+ North by Northwest & A- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 remake), Stanford, Friday through Sunday

A glib advertising man becomes the victim of mistaken identity in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Foreign spies want to kill him, and the police want to arrest him for the murder he didn’t commit. Alfred Hitchcock made thrillers more frightening and thoughtful than North by Northwest, but he never made one more entertaining. Read my A+ appreciation. Hitchcock’s only remake, the Man Who Knew Too Much, throws an ordinary American couple (James Stewart and Doris Day) into international espionage when foreign spies kidnap their son. Thrilling and fun in that Hitchcock-patented way.

A The Wages of Fear  & B+ Diabolique, Stanford, Wednesday and Thursday

Two spinetingling thrillers by Henri-Georges Clouzot. In The Wages of Fear, four poverty-stricken Europeans in South America take on a frightfully dangerous job: transport a large quantity of nitroglycerin in ill-equipped trucks across poorly-maintained mountain roads. While putting you on the edge of your seat, this movie examines issues of poverty, exploitation, and American economic imperialism. In Diabolique, an awful man angers his wife and mistress so much that they join together in a plan to murder him. Of course, these things rarely go as planned. Or do they?

Recommended revivals

A Bridesmaids, New Mission, Tuesday, 6:00

What do you expect from a Judd Apatow movie? A lot of laughs. Raunch. Some gross-out humor. Close friendships tested. A reasonable quantity of heart. And a modern male point of view. Bridesmaids provides all but the last one, and you can thank screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for giving this Apatow-produced comedy a thoroughly feminine perspective. Wiig also stars as a maid-of-honor whose life seems to be going down the tubes and taking her best friend’s wedding with it.

A The Producers (original, 1968 version), various theaters, Sunday and Wednesday

A long, long time ago, before digital cinema and even Dolby Stereo, Mel Brooks was actually funny. And he was never funnier than in his directorial debut. Both Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder (in his star-making performance) play comedy to the hilt as a desperate pair scheming to make a fortune off a Broadway musical called Springtime for Hitler. A gorgeous, laugh-inducing gem. A Fathom Events presentation. Read my report.

A- Wild Strawberries, Pacific Film Archive, June 1, 7:00

Ingmar Bergman’s road movie takes you on a drive with an elderly, widowed, retired college professor (the great silent film director Victor Sjöström). Traveling with his daughter-in-law through places he once lived, the professor daydreams of his youth, remembering events that may or may not have actually happened. Perhaps his mind is going. Three upbeat teenagers join them in their travels and provide both joy and comedy relief. Part of the series Bergman 100: A Summer Interlude.

B+ Flesh and the Devil, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

Archival print! 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 between her and leading man John Gilbert – both onscreen and off – helped a great deal (director Clarence Brown described their behavior on the set as “kind of embarrassing”). This was only Garbo’s third American film, but it’s the one that made her a star. Live piano accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg. Part of the series The Luminous Legacy of Greta Garbo.

B Fantastic Mr. Fox, New Mission, Monday, 12:30 PM (in the afternoon); Tuesday, 1:10; Wednesday, 1:00

There’s a cartoon-like quality to a lot of Wes Anderson’s work, so it’s not surprising that he would eventually make an animated movie. Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Fantastic follows the adventures of a very sophisticated but not altogether competent fox (voiced by George Clooney) as he tries to outwit a farmer and keep his marriage together. Children and adults will find different reasons to enjoy this frantically-paced comic adventure.

Continuing Engagements

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)