What’s Screening: August 30 – September 5

In a miracle of miracles, Captain Kirk and H.G. Wells time travel to 1980s San Francisco. Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone cross swords in early California. Pedro Almodóvar can take kink to another level, but unlike Bette Davis and Paul Henreid, you can’t share a cigarette in a Bay Area movie theater this week.


New films opening

A- Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, Clay, opens Friday

Max Lewcowicz’s documentary about Fiddler on the Roof makes a good argument that the 1964 Broadway hit was a feminist work well ahead of its time. Tevye’s daughters choose their own life paths rather than accept their father’s choices. Clips from different productions, not all of them in English (or Yiddish), along with the 1971 movie, show the many ways the characters can be interpreted. In telling the play’s story, Lewcowicz touches on everything from the Hollywood blacklist to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wedding. It made me want to see the show, revisit the movie, and buy the album. Read my full review.

Recommended revivals

A Dolores, New Parkway, Tuesday, 7:00
Discussion after the film. While Cesar Chavez became famous creating the United Farm Workers union, Dolores Huerta did much of the work. She was a part of the union from the start. She gave up her chance to have a normal life, became an absentee mother, ignored her love of music, and became a leader in the labor struggle, the Chicano movement, and inevitably the women’s movement. This music-filled documentary shows Huerta’s vitality, both young and old, and lets you discover an important figure that history seems to have skipped. Read my full review.

Great double bills

A Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home & B+ Time After Time, Castro, Friday, 7:00

Time travel comedy and adventure in San Francisco
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home:
One of the best big-screen Star Trek movies has the original cast time travel to 1986 San Francisco so they can save the whales. Played largely for laughs, it finds plenty of fish-out-of-water humor.
Time After Time:
I can’t imagine a higher concept: Jack the Ripper (David Warner) steals a time machine invented by H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell in a rare good guy role), who must then chase him through 1979 San Francisco. Amazingly, it works, as a romantic comedy and a thriller.

A- Matador, New Mission, Monday, 3:30

Pedro Almodóvar’s strangely sexy comedy is the most immoral, offensive, and politically incorrect movie I have ever enjoyed. A handsome former matador (Nacho Martínez), missing the thrill of the bullfight, now kills women for pleasure. Meanwhile, a beautiful lawyer (Assumpta Serna) gets her kicks by murdering men. When these two finally meet, will it be a lifelong commitment? A very young Antonio Banderas plays the young innocent caught between them. Matador shines a light, even if it’s a playful one, at the darkest side of human sexuality.

A- The Mark of Zorro, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday

After Douglas Fairbanks and before Antonio Banderas, Tyrone Power wore the black mask to save early California from tyranny – and does it with panache. Power, who was bisexual in real life, plays Don Diego as an effeminate fop, and his masked alter ego as dashing masculinity. The movie is witty, fun, politically progressive (for its time), and includes one of the best sword fights ever to kill off Basil Rathbone. Double-billed with Hangover Square.

B- Now, Voyager, Stanford, Wednesday through Friday

Bette Davis’ great performance makes this overlong soap opera bearable. Davis starts out almost unrecognizable as a plain-looking spinster under the thumb of a wealthy, snobbish, and evil mother. Then she finds herself, finds love, loses love, and repeats the process until the interesting story turns dull. The usually excellent Max Steiner overdoes the music. Paul Henreid plays the man she can’t have, even if they can share cigarettes. In a double bill with The Letter, which I saw so long ago I can barely remember it.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics