What’s Screening: December 27 – January 2

How can you close 2019 and open 2020 in Bay Area movie theaters? The Lark has a major New Year’s Eve Party, including a movie. But there’s a whole week of good films, including works by Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Louis Malle, Harold Lloyd, Ernst Lubitsch, Agnès Varda, and more.

New Year’s Eve Events

Lark: Live music with singers Noah Griffin, Desire Goyette, Lily Nichole Bogas and Mark Robinson. After that, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, and Kim Novak in the movie musical Pal Joey (1957). Finally, 2020 will come in with champagne, chocolate, and fireworks (presumably on the screen).

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Clay, Tuesday, 11:55pm. MY REPORT.

Another chance to see

A- Phantom Thread (2017), Castro, Sunday, 5:30

It takes a long time to get emotionally involved in this story about a 1950s fashion designer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the woman who loves him (Vicky Krieps). But as you begin to realize just how egotistical and obsessive this man really is, you get drawn inevitably into the story. A woman would have to be insane to put up with him. And yet Krieps’ character not only puts up with him, she does so in ways that could kill him. Lesley Manville plays the designer’s sister, who oversees his life and work. Excellent acting, camerawork (by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson), and design (of course) by Mark Tildesley. On a double bill with Eyes Wide Shut – one of only two Kubrick films I’ve never seen.

Great double bills

A+ Singin’ In the Rain (1952) & A The Apartment (1960), Castro, Wednesday

It’s kind of a strange pairing, but they’re both so good.
Singin’ In the Rain: You will not learn anything by watching Hollywood’s greatest musical. It will not make you a better person or help you understand the human condition. But for 103 exhilarating minutes, you’ll be thoroughly entertained. Read my A+ report.
The Apartment:
Jack Lemmon gave one of his best performances in this serious comedy about powerful men exploiting those beneath them. With Fred MacMurray as the top exploiter and Shirley MacLane as the woman he exploits and Lemmon loves. Read my Blu-ray review. 4K DCP!

Recommended revivals

A+ Notorious (1946), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00

4K Digital Restoration! Few filmmakers could make a thriller that has the audience biting their nails about whether the champagne will run out – or a romance where the hero treats the heroine with contempt, but the villain truly and tenderly loves her. A scandal-ridden Ingrid Bergman proves her patriotism by seducing and marrying Claude Rains’ Nazi industrialist while true love Cary Grant grimly watches. Sexy, romantic, thought-provoking, and scary enough to shorten your fingernails. Read my Blu-ray Review.

A- Elevator to the Gallows (1958), BAMPFA, Sunday, 7:00

Louis Malle launched his directing career, and arguably the New Wave, with this noir tale of a perfect crime gone wrong. Laced with dark, ironic humor, the film cuts back and forth between a murderer trapped in an elevator (Maurice Ronet), the murderer’s lover wandering the streets searching for him (Jeanne Moreau in her breakout role), and two young lovers enjoying a crime spree in a car stolen from the murderer. And all of it set to a powerful jazz score by Miles Davis. Read my Blu-ray review.

B+ Grandma’s Boy (1922), Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

35mm! The best of Harold Lloyd’s early features, Grandma’s Boy hints at the brilliant comic story teller that Lloyd would soon become. Shy Harold lacks the courage needed to win the girl (or anything else), so his grandmother improvises a magic talisman and concocts a story to help him build up his nerve. Not Kid Brother or The Freshmen, but an important step in the direction to those masterpieces. Warning: The mothball scene may asphyxiate you with laughter. Preceded by the shorts The Big Idea, starring Snub Pollard, and Time Flies with Lupino Lane. Frederick Hodges will provide piano accompaniment.

B+ Ninotchka (1939), Stanford, Saturday and Sunday

35mm! Thanks to the great Ernst Lubitsch, Greta Garbo’s first comedy and penultimate film is sweet, charming, romantic, and quite funny. She plays a loyal Russian Communist who comes to Paris to supervise three bumbling comrades messing up government business. But she’s soon charmed by both capitalism and Melvyn Douglas. The Billy Wilder script nails the absurdities of Communism: “The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.” Part of the series The Films of 1939.

B Vagabond (1985), BAMPFA, Sunday, 4:30

I think Agnès Varda intended this as a cap on the hippie movement, and it’s not a fond farewell. The plot is pure Citizen Kane, except instead of a newspaper magnate, the dead protagonist is a young woman hitchhiker who died in a ditch. Then comes the flashbacks and interviews with people who crossed her path over the course of her last winter. She’s dirty, smelly, unreliable, prone to theft, and doesn’t even thank the people who help her along the way. I would have liked to know the characters better. The film doesn’t quite hold together, but it has some wonderful scenes. Part of the series Agnès Varda: An Irresistible Force.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics