What’s Screening: January 22 – 28

This week in Bay Area (virtual) movie theaters, we have a discussion on early cinema at the Presidio and a new, independent, animated documentary about sex. Also, on the bill, oldies but goodies from Terry Gilliam, Wong Kar-Wai, and Jackie Chan, along with two film festivals.


Festival spotlight: For Your Consideration

Every January (and this year into February), the California Film Institute presents For Your Consideration, a small festival that shows pictures that may or may not be nominated for the Academy Awards® Best International Feature Film category. This year, CAFilm is virtually screening 26 foreign-language movies. I have yet to see any of these.

Special online events

The Presidio On Film—A History, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, noon

Historian Brad Rosenstein will discuss San Francisco’s Presidio and how it became a popular film location during the early years of cinema. Also, preservation specialist Kathy Rose O’Regan will screen and discuss Jane’s Declaration of Independence, a short, 1915 film shot at – you guessed it – the Presido. Free!

New films opening

B Romantic Chorus (2021), Vimeo, streaming Friday through Sunday

This strange, unusual documentary studies human sexuality. But don’t get too excited; it isn’t exceptionally erotic, and I don’t think it was intended to be so. For 84 minutes, people talk about their sex lives, their desires, and their experiences. Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes they’re repetitive, and sometimes they’re hard to hear. These interviews are set to beautiful, animated imagery which are by far the best part of this movie. This Bay area independent film will be available only through Sunday…unless a distributor buys it.

Virtual revivals

A+ Time Bandits (1981), New Mission

What would you do with a map of the universe’s flaws? For a band of unruly dwarves, the answer is easy: Make it the guide for a time-traveling crime spree. Unfortunately, Evil Incarnate believes that the map will give him unlimited power, and the Supreme Being wants it back. Terry Gilliam takes the children’s fairy tale for a ride in the movie that turned Monty Python’s animator into a major filmmaker. Read my Blu-ray review.

A Chungking Express  (1994), BAMPFALark, Roxie

A strange and inexplicable movie…mostly in a good way. It contains two separate boy-meets-girl stories, one told after the other. The men in both stories are cops obsessed with food and looking for love. One woman is a master criminal who carries a gun and is willing to use it. The other is an eccentric waitress who loves The Mamas and the Papas. Writer/director Kar-Wai Wong and cinematographer Andrew Lau Wai-Keung find ways to tell a story and make cinema new all over again. Part of the series World of Wong Kar-Wai.

B+  Fantastic Planet (1973), New Mission

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+ Police Story (1985), New Mission

You don’t watch a Jackie Chan movie for the plot. You go to see him leap over fences, take falls that would kill a normal person, and do his own form of very funny slapstick Kung Fu. In this movie he’s part of an undercover team out to destroy an evil syndicate. In the course of his duty, he drives a car down a hillside shanty town, hangs on a moving bus with his hands and an umbrella, and slides down several floors on an electric cable with lights blowing up in his face. Part of his job is to protect a beautiful witness, which upsets his girlfriend (the wonderful Maggie Cheung).