This week in Bay Area screenings: The Talking Heads, the Day of the Dead, vampires, Black Americans in Paris, and that distant galaxy all arriving either by virtual cinema or to the drive-in. Also, three mostly virtual film festivals.
- The Mill Valley Film Festival continues through this week and beyond. Follow my previews and reports.
- The SF Independent Short Film Festival opens today and continues into next week
- CAAMFest FORWARD opens Wednesday
New to me in Virtual Cinema
C+ Myth of a Colorblind France (2020), Lark, Rafael
It’s only near the end of this documentary that the title makes sense. For most of the film, director Alan Govenar seems to be telling us that the wonderful racial attitudes in France are not a myth. Instead, it’s a near utopia for expatriate Black Americans–especially if they’re artists. Early on, we get some history about African American soldiers enjoying France during and after World War I, along with, of course, a bit about Josephine Baker. But for the most part, the film interviews current African American writers, painters, and musicians, all telling us how wonderful it is to live and work in Paris. It gets repetitive. Only quite late into the film are we told that without an American passport, the cops are as bad there as they are here.
B+ A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014), Roxie, starts Friday
A vampire haunts Tehran. But she’s a nice vampire, and rarely attacks people who don’t deserve it. She travels on foot – or sometimes on a skateboard. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature, filmed in black and white, has an atmosphere all its own. Strange cinematic and musical riffs, along with a very loose story, makes for a unique but entertaining experience. And no, this isn’t really an Iranian movie; it was made in California.
A+ Stop Making Sense (1984), Lark Drive-In, Saturday, 9:15
Great films can affect you in different ways. Some make you laugh, cry, or think. But the Talking Heads concert movie, Stop Making Sense, makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance (problematic in a drive-in during a pandemic). More than any other concert film I’ve seen, Stop Making Sense is a visual experience. The band is constantly dancing, moving in strange ways that look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Read my A+ appreciation.
A Coco (2017), Fort Mason Flix, Sunday, 6:00; Solano Drive-in, check for dates and time, Capitol Drive-in, check for dates and time
This beautiful journey into Mexican traditions of the afterlife (via big-budget Hollywood, of course) manages to be serious, emotional, and fun. Young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) belongs to a family of shoemakers who hate music. But music runs deep in the boy’s soul. On the Day of the Dead, he accidentally goes to the other side, even though he’s still alive. To come back, he must learn a lot about life in general and his family in particular. And, since Pixar made this movie, his journey is also funny, suspenseful, exciting, and visually stunning.
A- The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Alameda Point (hosted by the Alameda Theater), Friday & Saturday; gates open 6:15, show starts 7:30
Note: This is not the original 1980 version, but George Lucas’ most recent revision. Since I haven’t seen this version, I’m dropping the grade from a full A.
The movie: The story turns darker and deeper in the middle chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy. The fight sequences have a real feeling of dread that’s absent in the first movie. By keeping CP3O and R2D2 apart for much of the movie, the film tamps down the comedy (although there’s a humorous romance bubbling up). With Lando, we have a character who may be a hero and may be a villain. And, of course, the climax has one of the biggest surprises in cinema history, leaving us to worry if Luke will go to the dark side (that is, of course, you’re one of the few who hasn’t already seen the movie).
B+ The Lost Boys (1987), Solano Drive-in, check for dates and time, Capitol Drive-in, check for dates and time
This clever and funny–and even occasionally scary–teenage vampire movie was shot in Santa Cruz and is clearly set there (even though they give the town another name). So, you have the undead partying in the summer on the beach, on the boardwalk, and dealing with teenage angst. But then, what do you do when peer pressure tells you to become an immortal bloodsucker? Hey, all the cool kids are doing it. A lot of fun in a horror movie that refuses to take itself seriously.
B+ Crazy Rich Asians, Fort Mason Flix, Saturday, 9:00
The setup suggests a ’30s or ’40s screwball comedy: When the boy brings his girlfriend home, she discovers his family is filthy rich and his mother doesn’t approve of the match. But the comedy never reaches the madcap intensity of screwball. In fact, if you’re only looking for laughs, Crazy Rich Asians will disappoint you. The film’s pleasures come from the likable characters; especially the super-smart heroine (Constance Wu) who must overcome the formidable and snobbish mother (the great Michelle Yeoh).