What’s Screening: March 6 – 12

With coronavirus spreading, it’s a scary time to go to the movies. The Stanford is closed until further notice, ending or delaying the Kurosawa series. Amazon, Netflix and other companies have dropped out of SXSW – a major technology and film festival in Austin.

But if you have the courage to go to an arthouse cinema this week, here’s some of what you can see: Guy Maddin talking about Federico Fellini, corrupt elections high school style, aliens from the 1950s, plus Gene Kelly, Burt Lancaster, Laurel and Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Maggie Cheung. Also three film festivals (if they stay open).


Promising events

Guy Maddin on Federico Fellini, BAMPFA, Wednesday, 3:10

Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin will visit BAMPFA to present and discuss his new short, The Rabbit Hunters, starring Isabella Rossellini. The program will also include Fellini: A Director’s Notebook, about the making of Satyricon. Part of the series In Focus: Federico Fellini.

Election (1999), Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00

Corrupted democracy doesn’t just exist in Washington…or even Sacramento. In Alexander Payne’s satire, which I liked 21 years ago but haven’t seen since, an evil high school student (Reese Witherspoon) will do anything to get control of student elections. Matthew Broderick is the teacher who tries to block her.

It Came From Outer Space (1953), New Mission, Tuesday, 7:00

I saw this 50s 3D space invasion movie in the early 1970s, and thought it was a hoot. Not a good movie, but a hoot. As near as I can tell, the New Mission will not be screening it in 3D. But producer Mallory O’Meara will be on hand to answer questions, even though she couldn’t have possibly produced this movie.

Another chance to see

B+ Pain and Glory (2019), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00

Salvador (Antonio Banderas) loves to make movies, but he can’t make them anymore. With age comes back problems, throat problems, and all sorts of physical problems. He frequently thinks of his childhood, with Penélope Cruz playing his strong, poverty-stricken mother in beautiful flashbacks. For the aging writer/director who made this film, Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory may be therapy. For the rest of us, it’s a view of an old man in distress. Read my full review.

B+ Judy (2019), Castro, Thursday

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. On a double bill with Garland’s last film, I Could Go on Singing, which I’ve never seen.

Recommended revivals

A+ Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Alameda, 2:304:457:00

You will not learn anything by watching Singin’ in the Rain. It will not make you a better person or help you understand the human condition. But for 103 exhilarating minutes, this movie will entertain you like no other. The songs, almost all of which had come from previous MGM musicals, get their definitive versions here. The great dances include Make ‘Em Laugh, Good Morning, Moses Supposes, and Gene Kelly’s solo performance of the title song. Read my A+ appreciation.

A Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Sebastiani, Monday, 7:00

Burt Lancaster risked his career to produce this exploration of the seamy side of fame. He plays New York gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker–a truly repellent and despicable person who happily bathes in the adulation and fear of those around him. Tonight’s main victim: a whinny Broadway press agent desperate to get his client into Hunsecker’s column (Tony Curtis in a great performance). To make things worse, Hunsecker–who’s based loosely on Walter Winchell–has a rather too-close relationship with his kid sister. From a script by Clifford Odets and Ernest (North by Northwest) Lehman.

A Sons of the Desert (1934), Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Sunday, 3:00

Feature films weren’t Laurel and Hardy’s strong point; something about their humor worked best in the short form. But Sons of the Desert is an exception that proves the rule (another one being Blockheads). This simple tale of two married men trying to have a good time away from their wives is loose, absurd, and very, very funny. Also on the bill: the Our Gang short For Pete’s Sake and more of Laurel and Hardy with the short The Midnight Patrol. Note: These are not silent films.

B+ Wendy and Lucy, (2008), Roxie, Saturday, 4:30

35mm! Wendy (Michelle Williams) hopes she can find work in Alaska, but first she has to get there. Traveling with her dog Lucy, she sleeps in her car and watches every penny. In other words, she can’t afford disaster. And when her car breaks down in a small Oregon town, one disaster leads to another. A sobering film for economic hard times. Read my full review. Part of the series Kelly Reichardt Country.

B+ Irma Vep (1996), New Mission, Monday, 3:45

Maggie Cheung basically plays herself in this light French comedy about making a movie. The director, played by the great Jean-Pierre Léaud, appears to be crazy. He’s remaking a 1915 silent serial that he wants to be in black and white and silent. There are language problems, sexual misunderstandings, an absurdly aggressive interviewer, financial issues, and a suspicion that they’re making a very bad movie.

Frequently-revived classics