What’s Screening: October 19 – 25

Faust with live music, a Dashiell Hammett double bill, a porn epic, a preview of Alfonso Cuarón’s follow-up to Gravity, and five film festivals play this week in Bay Area theaters.


Preview screenings of upcoming movies

A Roma, Castro, Tuesday, 7:00

Director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) returned to his native Mexico and created an amazing film – a loosely-plotted study of Mexico City, 1970-71, through the eyes of an indigenous maid who works for a comfortable middle-class family. And no, this is not entirely about class differences, although that always lurks in the background. Roma is a study of a time and a place, a culture, a people, women who trust untrustworthy men, and one special person, who happens to be a maid. Beautifully shot in black-and-white scope. Lead actors Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira are expected to attend.

A- Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

I rarely read fiction anymore, but this PBS documentary on the important fantasy novelist brought me back to the days when I devoured sci-fi. Using extensive interviews with Le Guin, her family, friends, and admirers, filmmaker Arwen Curry tells and shows us how she changed a very macho genre into a female-friendly and an intellectual one. Curry keeps the film visually interesting despite the many talking heads.

Another chance to see

B+ From Bagdad to the Bay, New Parkway, Friday, 5:00

You can’t watch this documentary about Ghazwan Alsharif’s life without loving him. He has experienced tremendous cruelty, and yet, he can smile, laugh, and love. When we occupied Iraq, Alsharif offered his services to the American army as an interpreter. When they were done with him, they threw him into prison and tortured him. Under the agony, he blurted out his one big secret: He’s gay. Now living in San Francisco with a good career as a chef, he misses the country he can never return to and the family nearly ruined by his public outing. With a post-film discussion, but I don’t know with who.

Great double bills

A The Maltese Falcon & B+ The Thin Man, Castro, Saturday

The Maltese Falcon: Screenwriter and first-time director John Huston perfectly adapted Dashiell Hammett’s novel by sticking almost word-for-word to the book and picking best cast imaginable. This movie is truly the stuff that dreams are made of.
The Thin Man:
this Hammett adaptation is a murder mystery, a screwball comedy, a wallow in classic MGM glamour, and a 93-minute commercial for alcohol as the secret to a happy marriage. Also the start of a very long franchise starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Recommended revivals

A Boogie Nights, Castro, Wednesday

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale of pornographers with delusions of talent provides us with several heart-wrenching characters, from Mark Wahlberg’s nice, well-endowed, but not-too-bright young man to Julianne Moore’s porn queen/mother hen. Set in the late 70s and early 80s, Boogie Nights tracks porn’s fall from gutter chic to soulless video. The excellent cast also includes Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. On a double bill with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

B+ Faust, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

F.W. Murnau’s last German film before coming to America and making Sunrise, Faust doesn’t quite measure up to his best work. But the story has always been a strong one, and Murnau’s mastery of images and special effects are as amazing as ever. Besides, Emil Jannings makes one heck of a fascinating devil. With the short subjects The Ghost of the Violin and The Ragtime Goblin Man. Piano accompaniment by Judy Rosenberg.

B Easy Rider, Castro, Thursday

This iconic film changed Hollywood immensely, and at least temporarily, for the better. Weird, low-budget, and breaking every rule, it nevertheless became a big hit, opening studio doors to young directors and serious art. The two anti-heroes (played by producer Peter Fonda and director Dennis Hopper) seem totally counterculture on the outside, yet they’re irredeemably materialistic at their core. Easy Rider hasn’t aged well, but it’s still worth seeing as a bug in amber from a lost age. For more on Easy Rider, see America Lost & Found: The BBS Story. On a double bill with Hopper’s The Last Movie, which I’m really curious to see.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics