What’s Screening: March 22 – 28

Cold wars, hot wars, evil spies, unions, and cinema’s greatest femme fatale appear on Bay Are screens this week. We also have two film festivals, and both in the East Bay.


Promising events

Norma Rae, New Parkway, Saturday, 3:10

I haven’t seen this 1979 union drama since…well, 1979. I remember liking it. Sally Field won an Oscar as a southern housewife and textile worker who sets out to organize a union in her factory. Beau Bridges plays her confused husband, and Ron Leibman is the union officer who gives her a purpose and helps her follow through (he’s also the first Jew she ever met). Presented by KPFA.

Great double bills

A+ Paths of Glory & A They Shall Not Grow Old, Castro, Monday

Paths of Glory:
Stanley Kubrick doesn’t just show us that war is hell. He illustrates how the brass makes that hell worse for the rank and file. To save the generals’ faces, three regular soldiers must be accused, convicted, and executed for cowardice. Kirk Douglas plays the honorable officer who tilts at windmills. Read my A+ report.
They Shall Not Grow Old:
I generally disapprove of colorizing and other technologies that make old movies look new, but in Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary, these technologies bring you closer to the suffering soldiers. The Castro will apparently not show the film in 3D.

A- Cold War & B- Never Look Away, Castro, Thursday

Cold War: A woman and a man, both musicians, fall deeply and passionately in love, but they just can’t stay together. Partly because if they stay together too long, love turns into annoyance and distrust. But the bigger problem is Communism; they live in post-war Poland and have very limited freedom.
Never Look Away:
This three-hour German epic about art, love, Communism, and Nazis starts out strong. But as the protagonists go from Fascism to Communism to freedom, it falters and eventually becomes a slog. Read my full review.

Recommended revivals

Pandora’s Box, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

Nearly 70 years after her last film, cinephiles still debate whether Louise Brooks was a first-class talent or just a beautiful woman in the hands of a great director. Either way, her oddly innocent femme fatale wins our sympathy and our lust as she sends men to their destruction without, apparently, understanding what she’s doing. A great example of what the silent drama could do in the hands of a master; in this case, G.W. Pabst. Gideon Freudmann will provide musical accompaniment on an electric cello.

B+ The 39 Steps, Stanford, Wednesday and Thursday

Alfred Hitchcock followed his first big thriller – the original 1934 version Man Who Knew Too Much – with another fun suspense yarn, helping him to become The Master of Suspense. Evil foreign spies murder someone and frame the crime on our innocent hero, who must avoid the police while tracking down the spies. Hitchcock used that plot device at least two more times, once brilliantly, and it always worked. Robert Donat plays the debonair and witty hero. On a double bill with Secret Agent, which I don’t care for.

Frequently-revived classics