In Bay Area Virtual Cinema: August 21 – 27

What do we have in virtual cinema this week? A one-shot crime thriller from Germany, a farewell to a great American, drummers, jazz greats, and four special events hosted by the Bay Area’s silent film museum.

Bay Area theaters with virtual cinema

Special online events

Discussions, slide shows, and other events,
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday and Sunday

This weekend, the Museum will present four online events about music, glamor, and very early cinema.

  • Talk to the Silent Movie Musicians, Saturday, 1:00. Jon Mirsalis will moderate a panel of silent film accompanists.
  • A Silent Cinema Cover Cavalcade, Saturday, (time not set). Tim Lussier presents a slideshow of portraits of silent-era movie stars on the covers of fan magazines.
  • All About Thanhouser Studios, Sunday, (time not set). First, you should see the documentary The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema. Then there will be a Zoom Q&A with director Ned Thanhouser, along with some Thanhouser shorts.
  • Finding a Location for The Great Train Robbery: David Kiehn discusses how he uncovered the locations where this very important work of early narrative cinema was shot. Sunday, (time not set).

Recommended and available

A- Victoria (2015), New Mission

A young, Spanish woman leaves a club with four young men she just met. If she had any sense (or was sober), she would have run the other way. Instead, she finds herself in love, and then becomes an active participant in armed robbery and a shootout with police. This German thriller was shot in a single, two-hour-and 18-minute take. It’s a gimmick, but it works. Sometimes the absence of editing loses some of the pacing. But on the other hand, the immediacy makes much of the film more powerful.

B+ John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020), BAMPFA, New Mission, Roxie

It’s easy to worship John Lewis, the former civil rights hero turned senior congressman. He claims that he was arrested 40 times during the civil rights era, and five times more since he’s been in Congress. With Lewis narrating, we learn about the lunch counter protests, the Freedom Riders, the March on Washington, the church bombing in Birmingham, and so on. He’s a real hero, but the documentary makes him too good to be true. Since I wrote my full review, Lewis has passed on, making the film more poignant.

B+ River City Drumbeat (2019), Rafael, Roxie

Yes, this is another inspiring music documentary, but that’s not a bad thing. The star of this documentary is Ed “Nardie” White – a widower and senior citizen with thin dreadlocks – and he has been running the River City Drum Corp for decades. This is more than a hobby, but rather a deep calling. By teaching young kids to drum as a group, he gives them the abilities to succeed in life in a society where they’re expected to fail. Read my full review.

Old but recommended

A Jazz On a Summer’s Day (1959), Balboa, BAMPFA, Cerrito, Elmwood, Rafael, Roxie, Vogue

The concert documentary didn’t start with Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, or even Monterey Pop. But it just may have started with Jazz on a Summer’s Day. Shot in and around the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, and released a year later, it’s one of the best of its kind. But what else can you expect with Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, and even a little upstart named Chuck Berry. The filmmakers were smart enough to celebrate the joy in the audience as well as in the performers. Read my full review.

B+ The Grey Fox (1982), BAMPFA

With his gentle eyes, bushy mustache, and unique charisma, stuntman-turned-actor Richard Farnsworth carries this Canadian post-western. Farnsworth plays a former stagecoach robber in a world without stagecoaches, so he turns to robbing trains. He’s essentially a kind man in a violent profession, in the wrong century, and yet he manages to find love and friendship. Beautifully shot. You sometimes must remind yourself that this is a work of fiction.