What’s Screening: September 7 – 13

Dogs, cats, and Dennis Hopper. Also Terry Gilliam, Laurel & Hardy, and Ingmar Bergman’s greatest comedy. All this and a film festival on Bay Area movie screens this week.


New films opening

C- Let the Corpses Tan, New Mission, New Parkway, opens Friday

This Italian thriller isn’t about people, story, or suspense. It’s about violence and cinematic style. It appears to have been made by an overenthusiastic, coked-up freshman film student who loves Sergio Leone but doesn’t understand him. Every camera setup is outlandish, with a multitude of insanely extreme close-ups of eyes, gun barrels, ants, wounds, and breasts. It’s almost impossible to follow the action. It’s so outlandishly ridiculous that it becomes funny and entertaining at times – but more often it just wears you down. Read my full review.

Promising events

The Last Movie, New Mission, Friday through Sunday, plus Wednesday

After Easy Rider became a massive surprise hit, director and star Dennis Hopper could make any movie he wanted. So he went to Peru with a bunch of famous friends – including Kris Kristofferson, Peter Fonda, Michelle Phillips, and Samuel Fuller – and made a very weird movie. It bombed critically and commercially in 1971. I’ve never seen it. But now people are reconsidering the film and calling it a masterpiece. New 4K restoration.

New York Dog and Cat Film Festivals, Elmwood, Wednesday and Thursday

These really aren’t film festivals; just four separate collections of shorts playing over two days. If you love pets that worship you, go to Wednesday’s two programs, which celebrate dogs. But if you prefer pets that expect to be worshipped, go to Thursday’s two cat programs.

RoboCop, Alameda, Thursday

When I first saw ads for this sci-fi dystopian action flick, I thought “I can skip this one.” Then I read the reviews, and I had to see it. I remember it being sharp, funny, satirical, and a very strong commentary on America in the Reagan years. I also remember it being very, very violent, and not advisable for the weak of stomach. But then, it’s been 30 years since I’ve last seen it, so my memory may be faulted.

Another chance to see

B+ RBG, BAMPFA, Friday, 5:00; Castro, Tuesday

There’s nothing objective about this documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The filmmakers clearly believe that the Supreme Court’s progressive heroine is a rock star, a superhero, and a major bulwark protecting American democracy. I believe that, too. But I didn’t know until I saw this film that young women not only see Ginsburg as a role model, but tattoo her likeness on their bodies. An entertaining and enlightening film about someone I’m afraid to lose. Read my full review. The Castro screening is a double bill with Won’t You Be My Neighbor; I have a full review of that one, too.

Great double bills

A Time Bandits & A- The Princess Bride, Castro, Saturday

Time Bandits: Gilliam takes the children’s fairy tale for a ride in this family movie for thinking families. A band of unruly dwarves, plus a very smart young boy, steal a map of the universe’s flaws, and use it for a time-traveling crime spree. But both Evil Incarnate and The Supreme Being want the map. Read my Blu-ray review.
The Princess Bride: William Goldman’s enchanting and funny fairy tale dances magically along that thin line between parody and the real thing. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright make a wonderful set of star-crossed lovers. There’s no funnier swordfight anywhere. On the other hand, some of the big-name cameos really grate on your nerves.

Recommended revivals

A Sons of the Desert, Rafael, Thursday, 7:30

Feature films weren’t Laurel and Hardy’s strong point; something about their humor worked best in the short form. But Sons of the Desert is an exception that proves the rule (another one being Blockheads). This simple tale of two married men trying to have a good time away from their wives is loose, absurd, and very, very funny. Also on the bill: The Laurel and Hardy short Hog Wild. New restoration.

A Wages of Fear, Castro, Wednesday

You’ll find few thrillers this painfully suspenseful. Four poverty-stricken Europeans, desperately stranded in South America, agree to transport a lot of nitroglycerin, in ill-equipped trucks, across poorly-maintained mountain roads. Their only other choice is starvation. But Wages of Fear is more than just a thriller. Director and co-writer Henri-Georges Clouzot had some strong opinions on poverty, exploitation, and American economic imperialism, and he used this nail-biting movie to discuss them. An exceptional work. On a double bill with The Mystery of Picasso.

A Airplane!, Castro, Friday

They’re flying on instruments, blowing the autopilot, and translating English into Jive. So, win one for the Zipper, but whatever you do, don’t call him Shirley. Airplane! throws jokes like confetti – carelessly tossing them in all directions in hopes that some might hit their target. Surprisingly enough, most of them do. There’s no logical reason a movie this silly can be so satisfying, but logic never was part of the Airplane! formula. I’d be hard-pressed to name another post-silent feature-length comedy with such a high laugh-to-minute ratio. On a double bill with The Blues Brothers.

A- Smiles of a Summer Night, BAMPFA, Wednesday, 3:10

This romantic sex comedy isn’t what comes to mind when you think of Ingmar Bergman, and yet this is one of the films that made him internationally famous. Very wealthy aristocrats are seen with people they shouldn’t be seen with, and yet one wife is still a virgin. The men are all stuffed-shirt idiots, wrapped around the fingers of their far wiser women. But only the lesser-born folk understand what it’s all about. Not a laugh-a-minute comedy, but moderately funny and very wise. Linda H. Rugg will provide a lecture in this part of the series In Focus: Ingmar Bergman.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics