What’s Screening: November 16 – 22

The week that ends in Thanksgiving doesn’t have much for cinephiles…at least not this year in the Bay Area. But we do have the Addams Family, Charlie Kaufman, angels over Berlin, and three movies shot in three-strip Technicolor.

Also, three film festivals.


Promising events

Addams Family Values, New Mission, Tuesday, 7:00

If I recall correctly, the second feature film based on the ’60s sitcom (which was itself based on Charles Addams’ cartoons) was better than the first – which isn’t saying much. The main plot, involving Joan Cusack as a serial killer, isn’t very good. But the subplot, with Wednesday and Pugsley (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman) raising hell at a summer camp that deserves to be raised, is very funny. At least that’s what I remember.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30

I haven’t seen this weird Charlie Kaufman comedy from 2004 since, well, 2004. It concerns a medical procedure that erases specific memories – a convenient way to forget a painful romance. I remember liking it when I saw it. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

Another chance to see

A The Force, Lark, Monday, 7:00

No, this not a Star Wars movie, but a cinema verite documentary about the Oakland Police Department, shot over a period of two years. There’s no narration, and if anything was staged for the movie cameras – even an interview – I didn’t catch it. (Some press conferences, of course, were staged for TV news cameras.) We see lectures to new recruits about protecting citizens, avoiding violence, and improving relationships with the people–especially the people of color who have very good reasons to fear police. We see the cops dealing with difficult situations. Things appear to be improving, as if the troubled OPD will get its act together…and then a scandal breaks. One feels that it’s almost impossible to keep a city police department clean.

Great double bills

A- The Red Shoes & B+ The Wizard of Oz, Castro, Sunday

The Red Shoes:
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s extravaganza about the world of ballet dramatizes the sacrifices necessary to become a great artist. The story is sometimes weak – especially in the second half – but often very strong. The 20-minute ballet sequence at the film’s center may be the best dance sequence in a narrative film. No other film used three-strip Technicolor so perfectly.
The Wizard of Oz:
Do I really have to tell you about this one? Okay, clever songs, imaginative art direction, lush Technicolor photography, and one great performance (Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion). Also a reminder to always look behind the curtain.

B+ An American in Paris & B- The Young Girls of Rochefort, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

An American in Paris: I don’t love this MGM musical as much as others do. Alan Jay Lerner’s story and screenplay fails to provide an interesting story or a lot of laughs. But those great Gershwin songs and beautiful dancing makes up for it. The movie closes with a 17-minute ballet that’s magic in and of itself. Directed by Vincente Minnelli.
The Young Girls of Rochefort:
Jacques Demy’s follow-up to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg doesn’t match his first musical. It’s lighter, following various stories about people not quite recognizing their true loves…until the movie provides multiple happy endings. The dancing is derivative of West Side Story and An American in Paris – even in the casting.

Recommended revivals

B+ Bullitt, Sebastiani, Monday, 7:00

Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. Another marker: To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word bullshit marks the first time anyone said such a word in a Hollywood movie.

B+ Wings of Desire, Lark, Saturday, 10:10am; Sunday, 7:40; Wednesday, 3:40

Wim Wenders’ fantasy about angels in Berlin offers a view of the city as a land of interior monologues. Two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) watch over the people, listen to their thoughts, and comfort them in their pain. Then one of them falls in love with a trapeze artist and finds himself longing for mortality. Wenders couldn’t have known it when he made the film in 1988, but he was capturing the last months of a divided city; the wall seen in the film would soon come down. With Peter Falk as a strange version of himself.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics