What’s Screening: December 25 – 31

As the year of no movie theaters is coming to an end, you can catch the serious drama that inspired Fiddler on the Roof, along with gay shorts, love and lust in China, a Swedish vampire, and a fantastic planet. Appropriately, the last film festival of 2020 is designed to make you jump out of your seat.

Thanks to Gary Meyer & The Grand Lake


Help the theaters

If you consider this the season of giving, help one or two of your favorite movie theaters:

Special online events

A Tevya (1939), discussion Friday, 1:00

The movie:
In the past 12 months, I’ve seen three movies about the milkman Tevye and his daughter Chava, who marries a gentile and breaks her father’s heart. And yes, it’s better than Fiddler on the Roof (by the way, the third film is the silent Broken Barriers). Staying closer to Sholem Aleichem’s original stories, Tevye is a much more serious film.
The event:
Stream the film free on YouTube or for $5 for the new restoration before 1:00 (yes, it’s short notice). I’ll be facilitating the Zoom discussion.

New films opening

Frameline Voices, available Friday

Frameline is streaming four new shorts for an undetermined time. I haven’t seen any of the films, so I’ll just quote from the press release:

  • Carving Space, a documentary about queering mainstream skateboarding culture by director Annie Dean-Ganek;
  • Flood, a dramatic short highlighting social disparity by writer/director Joseph Amenta;
  • Mr. Navajo, a biography of a Two Spirit Navajo committed to his community by directors Jasper Rischen and Saila Huusko;
  • Were You Gay in High School? a comedic short about navigating sexual identity by co-writer and director Niki Ang and co-writer and cinematographer Karen Du.”

Virtual revivals

A In the Mood For Love (2000), Roxie

Wong Kar Wai’s brilliant film about adultery has no sex, little touching, and we never see who we believe are the adulterous couple. A handsome man and a beautiful woman live in the same apartment building. Both of their spouses are out of town, and they just may be out of town together. Inevitably, the two leads fall slowly in love. While there’s no sex, almost every shot is filled with deep eroticism. Starring Maggie Cheung, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, and the color red. New 4K restoration. Part of the ongoing series World of Wong Kar-Wai.

A Let the Right One In (2008), New Mission

This is one of the great vampire movies. After all, what better place for a vampire than a Swedish winter? The nights are very long, snow covers everything, and people drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In is also a coming-of-age story, about first love between a boy about to turn 13 and a girl who has been 12 “for a very long time.” Read my full review.

B+ Fantastic Planet (1973, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Wednesday, 10:05

As a story, this French animated sci-fi mortality tale comes off as a very obvious allegory. Human beings, imported from Earth, struggle to survive on a planet populated by blue giants who view us as either pets or vermin. But it’s the imaginative visuals, not the story or the message, that makes Fantastic Planet worth watching. The filmmakers couldn’t afford Disney-quality animation, but they made up for it with striking and original designs. Creatures, plants, devices all look like something never seen before.

B- Flowers of Shanghai (1998), BAMPFA

You’ll need a lot of concentration to follow Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s extremely formalized film set in a 19th-century brothel. The handful of courtesans talk, argue, smoke opium, and hope that a regular customer will buy and marry one of them (apparently that happened back then). These regulars seem to almost live there. Each scene is covered in a single shot with little camera movement. If you can keep interested enough to follow the story, you may learn about how such houses, and the people who worked in them, lived.