What’s Screening: September 27 – October 3

On Bay Area movie screens this week: A 59-year-old erotic thriller from Korea, early works by Capra, Buñuel, and Pennebaker, and two young men born to be wild. We also have seven, yes seven, film festivals.


New films opening

A- The Death of Dick Long, New Mission, opens Friday

This very dark comedy works extremely well as a noirish thriller. Or is it a noirish thriller with a deep strain of dark comedy? Three good-old boys party a little too hardy. The next morning, one of them (the Dick of the title) dies in the hospital as an unidentified John Doe. Our hapless protagonists (Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland) try to hide their connection to the lethal accident and succeed only in digging themselves into a deeper hole. As the title suggests, the comedy isn’t always of the refined sort.

B+ Judy, Embarcadero Center, opened yesterday, Albany Twin, Piedmont

Yes, Renée Zellweger gives an incredible performance as Judy Garland. She looks like her. She acts like her. She even sings like her – deep emotion blown through cigarette smoke. It’s stunning. The film focuses on a series of concerts she gave in the swinging London of the late 1960s, months before she died. It’s a very sad story of a woman not strong enough to overcome a childhood exploited by Hollywood. Read my full review.

Another chance to see

A Science Fair, New Parkway, Sunday, 12:30pm matinee

Highly-motivated high school students compete in local, national and international science fairs for fun and college tuition. This inspiring documentary introduces us to several brilliant students, including an American Muslim girl stuck in a high school where no one cares, a German boy working on aeronautics, two kids from Brazil trying to stop the Zika virus, a slacker with poor grades but a talent for AI, and a teacher who pushes her students very hard.

Recommended revivals

A The Housemaid (1960 original version), New Mission, Tuesday, 7:30

This 1960 South Korean erotic thriller hits below the belt in more ways than one. A young woman with money problems takes a live-in servant job with a wealthy family. She’s not treated well, so she treats the husband extremely well, with some very shocking ideas up her sleeve. Not as sexually explicit as the 2010 remake, but much more suspenseful. And weirder.

B+ The Strong Man, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

Frank Capra’s first feature proves to be a marvelous vehicle for silent comedian Harry Langdon. The ultimate innocent child-like man, Langdon has a shocking sexual encounter (shocking to him, not to the audience), fights off a cold to the annoyance of everyone around him, falls in love with a blind girl (five years before Chaplin did that), and cleans up a small town at the mercy of bootleggers. Charming, extremely funny, and occasionally preachy. On a double bill with another Langdon feature, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp. Jon Mirsalis will provide musical accompaniment on the Kurzweil keyboard. Part of the Harry Langdon Film Festival.

B+ L’age d’or, BAMPFA, Wednesday, 7:00

This early (1930) Buñuel feels weird even for him. It starts as a documentary about scorpions. But when the camera focuses on people, things get stranger. There’s a ragtag army of….I don’t know, maybe revolutionaries. Rich people have a fancy party (something that would famously appear in Buñuel’s later work), and intertitles that explain debauchery. People are rioting in the streets. The best moments involve a couple so hot for each other they can’t wait to find someplace private. This early sound film mostly uses music, with occasional intertitles and dialog. Part of the series Alternative Visions.

B+ Dont Look Back, Lark, Tuesday, 730

You must be a hardcore Bob Dylan fan to really enjoy D.A. Pennebaker’s groundbreaking documentary. Not only would you have to know and love his songs, but you’d need to know something about Dylan as a person and a phenomenon, and about what was going on around him and within him as he toured England in the spring of 1965. In its fly-on-the-wall directness, Pennebaker’s film captures the insular world Dylan built for himself and gives you a glimpse of the extremely conflicted and complex genius he was like just before turning 24. And yes, the title spells that word as dont. Read my Blu-ray review.

B Easy Rider, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30

This iconic film changed Hollywood for the better…at least temporarily. Weird, low-budget, and breaking every rule, it nevertheless became a big hit, opening studio doors to young directors and serious art. The two anti-heroes (played by producer Peter Fonda and director Dennis Hopper) seem totally counterculture on the outside, yet they’re irredeemably materialistic to their core. Easy Rider hasn’t aged well, but it’s still worth seeing as a bug in amber from a lost age. For some strange reason, they’re showing it in 16mm, as if that’s an improvement.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics