What’s Screening: November 2 – 8

In Bay Area movie theaters this week: Elephants, a Hal Ashby triple bill, Bergman’s right arm, Gene Kelly, and the Bay Area premiere of Orson Welles’ last film. Also, four film festivals.


New films opening

A- The Children Act, Lark, opens Friday

Emma Thompson plays a London judge with a deep well of empathy. She must decide the case of a 17-year-old Jehovah Witness dying of Leukemia (Fionn Whitehead of Dunkirk). His parents oppose care that may save his life, and so does he. To make matters more complex, the young man develops a crush on the judge. Meanwhile, she’s having marital problems at home. Truly an actors’ movie, filled with great performances, without ever feeling stagey. Read my full review.

B+ Museo, Roxie, opens Friday

Talented and charismatic Gael García Bernal plays a slacker who brilliantly breaks into Mexico’s National Anthropology Museum, coming out with more than a hundred carefully-protected Mayan relics. But as in all such movies, it’s after the heist that everything falls apart. While sticking to the common, genre formula, Museo finds enough original twists and character touches to make it entertaining. It also has a sly, modest sense of humor.

Promising events

The Other Side of The Wind, Roxie, Friday, 6:00; Saturday, 3:55; Sunday, 3:30

Orson Welles’ last film is no longer unfinished. Shot by Welles decades ago, it has only now been edited into something that might be what Welles wanted it to be. John Huston plays a filmmaker who, I believe, is very similar to Welles.

An Evening With Katinka Faragó: Working With Ingmar Bergman, Rafael, Saturday, 7:00

Ingmar Bergman depended on Katinka Faragó. Over three decades, she was his script supervisor, production manager, and producer. Live on stage at the Rafael, Faragó will discuss her more than 60 years working in the Swedish film industry. With clips, but no full feature.

20th Annual Animation Show of Shows, Lark, New Parkway, Vogue, opens Friday; Roxie, Sunday, 3:15

This year’s collection of 15 short cartoons from around the world. Four of them have qualified for Oscar consideration. Ron Diamond, the founder and Curator of this annual collection, will answer questions Saturday at 6:45.

Another chance to see

A Coco, New Mission, Saturday, 9:10am

This beautiful journey into Mexican traditions of the afterlife (via big-budget Hollywood, of course) manages to be serious, emotional, and fun. Young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) belongs to a family of shoemakers who hate music. But music runs deep in the boy’s soul. On the Day of the Dead, he accidentally goes to the other side, even though he’s still alive. To come back, he must learn a lot about life in general and his family in particular. And, since Pixar made this movie, his journey is also funny, suspenseful, exciting, and visually stunning. A benefit for Cultura y Arte Nativa de las Américas.

B+ Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story, Roxie, Tuesday, 5:00

The title suggests a joyful movie about the loving relationship between humans and elephants. And yes, there is a good deal of upbeat, lovable footage of people playing with these giant mammals. But for most of its runtime, Love & Bananas examines the horrible relationship between humans and elephants, and it’s not the four-footed creatures who behave badly. Director Ashley Bell puts herself in the movie quite a bit, but Lek Chailert of the Save Elephant Foundation is the real star. Read my full review.

Great double bills

A- Harold and Maude & B+ Hal, Castro, Wednesday

Harold and Maude: This 1971 comedy fit the late hippy era like Pink Floyd and the munchies. At a time when young Americans embraced free love and ecstatic joy, this romance between a 20-year-old boy and an 80-year-old woman made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helped.
Hal Ashby directed several important films in the 1970s, including Harold and Maude, Shampoo, and Being There. Amy Scott’s documentary celebrates Ashby as a constantly stoned, humanist rebel. Also on the triple bill: Shampoo, which I haven’t seen recently enough to comment on it.

Recommended revivals

A Wild Strawberries, Rafael, Thursday, 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.

A- L’Atalante, BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00

A young, handsome river barge captain takes his new bride aboard. She will, of course, live with him on the river along with his first mate and cabin boy. The young couple seem hopelessly in love, but the husband’s jealousy and hot temper threaten to destroy the marriage before it barely begins. Michel Simon gives a wonderfully comic yet human performance as the first mate, who looks scary but wouldn’t hurt a fly.

A- On the Town, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

Three sailors arrive in New York for a 24-hour leave. That’s precious little time to see the sights, drink in the atmosphere, and fall in love. What makes On the Town so special – beyond the great songs, terrific choreography, and witty script – is the prevailing sense of friendship and camaraderie. These three sailors and the women who fall for them all seem to genuinely like each other. It’s also surprisingly sex-positive for a film of its time. On a double bill with Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which I’ve never seen.

B+ Dick, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

Get your mind out of the gutter; the title refers to Richard Nixon. Two teenage girls living in early-1970s Washington DC (future stars Kirstin Dunst and Michelle Williams) accidentally set off the alarm at the Watergate, and then find themselves at every major turn of the unfolding scandal – usually to the detriment of the President. 1999 was an excellent year for American screen comedy (Galaxy Quest, Analyze This), but this little gem went unnoticed, possibly because its target audience was 90’s teenagers who knew about Watergate. For some stupid reason, the Balboa will screen the movie off VHS.

B Donnie Darko, New Parkwaym Sunday, 9:00

How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers must deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics