What’s Screening: July 6 – 12

After a couple of stubborn years, I’ve decided to accept the Pacific Film Archive‘s no-longer-new name, BAMPFA. It stands for Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive. I would rather they had called it PFABAM, because in my mind, the movies come first.

Anyway, this week we have Jewish triplets, African-American telemarketers, animated Beatles, live Beatles, funny Communists, two Godfathers and a Preston Sturges love triangle, all on Bay Area screens.

And the opening of one film festival.


New films opening

A Three Identical Strangers, California (Berkeley), Guild, New Mission, opens Friday

[Yes, I listed this film as opening five weeks ago, but that was based on inaccurate data, so I’m listing it again.] 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 they 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.

A- Sorry to Bother You, Embarcadero Center, opens Friday; California (Berkeley), opens Thursday

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. Boots Riley’s first movie is at times hysterically funny, and in its commentary on wealth and poverty, occasionally shocking. It’s almost always entertaining. Riley creates a very dark view of current American society, where poor people will do anything to keep a roof over their heads. Read my full review.

Kubrick Celebration

The Castro screens three Kubrick double bills on consecutive nights:

Monday: The Kubrick documentary, Filmworker and Barry Lyndon. I gave Filmworker a B+ (read my review). I saw Barry Lyndon soon after it opened in 1975 and hated it. I should probably give it another chance.

TuesdayThe Shining and Full Metal Jacket. In The Shining, Kubrick turned a brilliant novel into a very good movie, and somehow got credited for making a masterpiece. I give it another B+. Read my Book vs. Movie report. I saw Full Metal Jacket ages ago and remember being underwhelmed.

WednesdayFilm Worker again, this time with Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut. I’ve yet to see that one.

Promising events

Yellow SubmarineRafael, Sunday, 4:15; Cerrito, Grand Lake Theatre, opens Monday; Embarcadero Center, Monday and Tuesday; Aquarius, Monday through Wednesday

4K restoration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the animated Beatles feature (that The Beatles had almost nothing to do with). I first saw it in a drive-in with my parents – that was in the 60s. I saw it several times in the 70s, mostly in altered states. In the 80s, when my state altered to that of a responsible parent, I watched it with my son on VHS. I don’t remember it well enough to grade it; that will probably happen next week.

My Journey Through French Cinema, BAMPFA (formerly Pacific Film Archive), Thursday, 7:00

Respected filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier covers the history of French cinema in a documentary running more than three hours. According to the BAMPFA’s website, it “offers an entire lifetime of cinema knowledge and passion within its running time.”

Great double bills

A+ The Godfather & A+ The Godfather Part II (also The Godfather Part III, but who cares), Castro, Sunday, 1:00

The Godfather: Francis Coppola turned Mario Puzo’s potboiler into the Great American Crime Epic. Marlon Brando may have top billing, but Al Pacino owns the film as the son reluctantly and inevitably pulled into a life of crime. A masterpiece of character, atmosphere, and heart-stopping violence. Read my A+ appreciation.
The Godfather Part II:
By juxtaposing the rise of the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) with the moral fall of his son Michael (still Al Pacino), Mario Puzo and Francis Coppola show us the long-term effects of what seemed like a good idea at the time. Even better than the original, and that’s saying something. Read my other A+ appreciation.

Recommended revivals

A A Hard Day’s Night, Castro, Thursday, 7:00

4K restoration! When United Artists agreed to finance a movie around a suddenly popular British rock group, they wanted something fast and cheap. After all, the band’s popularity was limited to England and Germany, and could likely die before the film reached theaters. We all know now that UA had nothing to worry about. Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night still burns with outrageous camerawork and editing, subversive humor, and a sense of joy in life and especially in rock and roll. On a double bill with 1978’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which I recall being almost impossibly bad.

A- The Palm Beach Story, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

No one else wrote and directed screwball comedies like Preston Sturges, and if this one doesn’t quite come up to the brilliant level of The Lady Eve, it’s still a great time at the movies. It’s not just the absurdity of casting singer Rudy Vallee as the millionaire rival ready to win Claudette Colbert from husband Joel McCrea. It’s also the Weenie King, the Ale and Quail Club, Toto, and the most ridiculous happy ending ever filmed. On a double bill with It Happened One Night, a historically-important screwball that I haven’t seen in years.

B+ Ninotchka, BAMPFA (formerly Pacific Film Archive), Saturday, 8:15

Thanks to the great Ernst Lubitsch, Greta Garbo’s first comedy and penultimate film is sweet, charming, romantic, and quite funny. She plays a loyal Russian Communist who comes to Paris to supervise three bumbling comrades messing up government business. But she’s soon charmed by both capitalism and Melvyn Douglas. The Billy Wilder script nails the absurdities of Communism: “The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.” Part of the series The Luminous Legacy of Greta Garbo.

Continuing Engagements

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)