What’s Screening: February 8 – 14

For Valentine’s week, Bay Area movie theaters give you Rudolph Valentino, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Ruth Gordon, and Walt Disney’s classic about classics. Also, one film festival ends and another begins.


Promising events

The Conquering Power, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

The Museum gets its Valentine’s Day celebration over early. I haven’t seen this 1921 production, but it’s directed by the talented Rex Ingram, and stars the man who made your great-grandmother’s heart beat faster: Rudolph Valentino. His name even sounds like Valentine. Preceded with the shorts A Muddy Romance and A Woman in Grey: Chapter X, House of Horrors. Frederick Hodges will provide musical accompaniment on piano.

Great double bills

A+ Casablanca & A In a Lonely Place, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

You’ve either already seen the best film to come out of the studio era’s sausage grinder, or you know you should. For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.
A In a Lonely Place:
Nicholas Ray attacks toxic masculinity. Humphrey Bogart, in one of his best performances, plays a man whose violent temper makes any significant relationship impossible. Gloria Grahame plays the woman with the bad luck to fall in love with him.

A The Hitch-Hiker & B+ Detour, Castro, Thursday

Film noir on Valentine’s Day?
The Hitch-Hiker: Ida Lupino’s little thriller grabs you by the gut. An armed psychotic killer who acts as if he could curdle water, hijacks two men on a fishing vacation. They know quite well that he only intends to keep them alive until he no longer needs them.
Tom Neal plays a broke musician who hitchhikes across the country and runs into some very bad luck. So bad, in fact, that a wicked woman (Ann Savage) can blackmail him for murder. Short, quick, and deeply disturbing.

Recommended revivals

A Fantasia, Castro, Saturday and Sunday

Decades before rock videos, Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski, along with countless other artists, took major works of classical music and added animated visuals. Of course, they had plenty of help from some famous composers, including Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky (the only one who lived to see the movie). Not every piece is brilliant, but several of them are and even the weakest parts are still worthwhile. A great achievement and an entertaining two hours.

A Moonlight, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:15

Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to 2008’s Medicine for Melancholy follows a resident of the inner city from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, using three different actors to examine the stages of his life. Unsure of his sexuality, he must learn to at least appear macho to survive in the tough streets. Mahershala Ali carries the first act as a drug-dealer who is also a gentle and kind father figure. Read my full review. Part of the New Parkway’s Valentine’s Day Program.

A- On the Waterfront, Lark, Sunday, 3:30

A thug-run union and conflicted loyalties drive this revered drama, shot on location in New York. Marlon Brando stands out amongst a brilliant cast as a half-bright dock worker struggling between loyalty to family and his own conscience. Yet some plot twists are just too convenient. A bigger problem: Both writer Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan named names to get off the anti-Communist blacklist, then made this film to justify their acts of cowardice. Part of the series Classic Film Series: Great Scores.

A- Harold and Maude, Balboa, Thursday, 7:00; New Parkway, 9:15

At a time when young Americans embraced non-conformity, free love, ecstatic joy, and 40-year-old Marx Brothers movies, this counterculture romance between an alienated and death-obsessed young man and an almost 80-year-old woman made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helped considerably. But I do wish screenwriter Colin Higgins had found a better ending. See my full discussion. Another part of the New Parkway’s Valentine’s Day Program. The Balboa will show it, on VHS of all things, on a very strange double bill with Harold & Kumar go to White Castle.

B The Big Sleep, Stanford, Wednesday and Thursday

This is probably the most complicated murder mystery ever made. Humphrey Bogart plays Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective, Phillip Marlowe, and Lauren Bacall plays his client’s daughter. That’s pretty much all you need to know. The movie runs entirely on their star wattage and the clever dialog by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. The story is so convoluted that you shouldn’t even try to follow it. Legend claims that director Howard Hawks called Chandler to ask who committed one of the several murders, and the novelist admitted he didn’t know. On a double bill with Dark Passage.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics