What’s Screening: May 31 – June 6

This week on Bay Area movie screens: A new look at Woodstock, a zoot suited messiah, a really bad symptom of PTSD, and another chance to see War and Peace. Also, a documentary film festival.


  • SF DOCFEST continues through this week and beyond

The Week’s Big Event

A- War and Peace, BAMPFA, dates and times below

Yes, War and Peace is the Week’s Big Event two weeks in a row, but that seems appropriate for a seven-hour epic. It’s not only long; it’s huge, and really requires a large screen. It’s easily the most spectacular epic I’ve ever seen, filled with huge crowds, spectacular costumes, and massive sets. But director Sergey Bondarchuk does more than amaze you with visuals. He finds new ways to show us both the frightful horrors of war and the heartbreak of a young woman desperately in love. Read my full report.

Unlike last week’s Castro screening, BAMPFA will screen each of the four parts separately:

New films opening

B Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, Opera Plaza, California (Berkeley), Rafael, opens Friday

Do we really need another documentary about Woodstock? Well, yes, we do. The original, 1970 documentary was made when the concert was a recent memory, and a lot of people still believed in the hippy lifestyle. Half a century later, we know better. Unfortunately, Barak Goodman’s new documentary, Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, is too nostalgic to provide an accurate view of the concert. But it’s still worth watching if you were ever part of the “Woodstock nation.” Read my full review. Director Barak Goodman will answer questions after the Saturday, 4:15 screening at the Rafael.

Promising events

Greaser’s Palace, New Mission, Wednesday, 10:15

I saw this very weird Robert Downey Sr. comedy when it was brand new in 1972. How weird? Allan Arbus wandering in the American desert as a zoot suit-wearing messiah who heals the sick with the words “If you feel, you heal.” That’s how weird it is. I don’t remember it much, but I liked it then.

RiffTrax Live: Star Raiders, various theaters, Thursday, 7:30

Another treat from some of the makers of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This time, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett of the original show will provide (hopefully) funny comic commentary to a cheesy space opera called Star Raiders.

Recommended revivals

A Chinatown, Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30

Roman Polanski was at his best when he made this neo-noir tale of intrigue and double-crosses set in the Los Angeles of the 1930s. Writer Robert Towne fictionalized an actual scandal involving southern California water rights, mixed in a few personal scandals, and handed the whole story over to Polanski, who turned the script into the perfect LA period piece. Yes, Polanski is a rapist, and you must make up your own mind about whether you would watch one of his films.

B+ Jacob’s Ladder, Rafael, Thursday, 7:00

The movie was made in 1990, but the paranoid feelings come right out of the Vietnam era where it’s set. Jacob, a veteran now working for the post office, seems to be losing his sanity (Tim Robbins). It’s not clear that we’re watching the world around Jacob or the world inside his head. Is he living with his girlfriend, or with his wife and kids? Is he just paranoid, or is something really bad happening? The title suggests a religious theme, and the film is filled with biblical references, but I wouldn’t call this a religious film. Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin will answer questions after the screening.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics