What’s Screening: February 5 – 11

This week in Bay Area movie watching (we can’t really call it moviegoing): We have talks about Charlie Chaplin, screenwriting, and Harold and Maude. There’s also an excellent documentary on M.C. Escher and some classics to watch at home or at the drive-in (if you can find a parking space). Also, two festivals going on this week.


Special online events

Amazing Tales from the Archives — Chaplin Studio Tour, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, 12:00 noon

From 1918, when Charlie Chaplin became his own producer, until he was thrown out of the country in 1952, he worked in his own Hollywood studio. On Sunday, Kate Guyonvarch, managing director of the Chaplin Office in Paris, will give us a virtual tour of that studio, using footage shot soon after Chaplin left. (The studio is now owned by The Jim Henson Company.)

Screenwriters Panel, Saturday, 4:00
Did you hear about the beautiful, talented, ambitious, but badly informed actress who wanted to break into the movies? She slept with a screenwriter. The people who write the movies are the least celebrated and least powerful. In this free panel discussion, four professional screenwriters (Bears Fonté, Talia Lugacy, Adrian Martinez, and Sara Hallowell) will discuss the trade. Part of SF Indiefest.

A- Thrillville Movie Club: Harold and Maude (1971), New Parkway, Saturday, 3:00

The Movie: At a time when young Americans embraced non-conformity, free love, ecstatic joy, and 40-year-old Marx Brothers movies, this counterculture romance between an alienated and death-obsessed young man and an almost 80-year-old woman made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helps considerably. But I do wish screenwriter Colin Higgins had found a better ending. See my full discussion.
The event: First, watch the movie. It’s very easy to stream. Then, on Saturday at 3:00, join the discussion.

New films opening

A M.C. ESCHER: Journey to Infinity, Lark, Rafael, Roxie

The big shock in Robin Lutz’s documentary, M.C. ESCHER: Journey to Infinity, comes early. The creator of so many mind-bending woodcuts didn’t consider himself an artist, but a mathematician. And he hated the hippies who loved his work. But he wished that he could have worked with Walt Disney. This very entertaining documentary covers his life and work, with British actor Stephen Fry reading from Escher’s own biographical writings. A wide range of music keeps the story going. Read my full review.

Virtual revivals

A+ The Gold Rush (1925), New Mission

In this epic comic adventure, Chaplin’s tramp travels through the frozen Yukon of the Alaskan gold rush, gets marooned in a cabin with two much stronger men, nearly starves to death, nearly becomes dinner, and falls in love with a dancehall girl who scarcely knows he exists. Within this seemingly serious story, you’ll find some of Chaplin’s funniest set pieces, including the Thanksgiving dinner of boiled shoe, the dance of the rolls, and my favorite: the fight over the rifle that always points at Charlie. This offering involves both the original version and the inferior, shorter cut Chaplin released in 1942. Read my Blu-ray Review.

A+ The Passion of Joan of Arc, New Mission

One would assume that the courtroom drama isn’t the best genre for silent films. And yet, by concentrating on faces and the emotions they display, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc surpasses all but a few cinematic dramas, silent or otherwise. Based on transcripts from the Saint’s 15th century trial for heresy, Dreyer’s film is about people – not myths. Renée Jeanne Falconetti plays Joan as an illiterate, terrified, 19-year-old peasant girl in way over her head. Read my larger appreciation.

Drive-in movies

A+ Dr. Strangelove (1964), Fort Mason Flix, Friday, 8:00

Sold out! A deeply dark, hilarious comedy about the end of the world. General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders his men to bomb the USSR and start World War III. But have no fear! The men responsible for avoiding Armageddon (three of them played by Peter Sellers) are almost as competent as Laurel and Hardy. Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things were back in the ’60s. Read my Blu-ray review.

A Inside Out (2015), Fort Mason Flix, Friday, 5:00

Sold out! Funny, technically dazzling, and suitable for adults, Pixar shows its magic touch in this family-friendly animated feature. When a young girl gets uprooted from the Midwest to San Francisco, her brain must deal with loss, fear, confusion, and hope. Inside Out is set almost entirely within her brain, where anthropomorphized emotions–Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness–become the film’s main characters. A lot of research into the human mind went into this film, making it all the more thoughtful and all the more entertaining.

A- WALL-E (2008), Fort Mason Flix, Sunday, 4:00

Sold out! Andrew Stanton and Pixar made a courageous movie. When Disney finances your big-budget family entertainment, it takes guts to look closely and critically at our consumer culture, obesity, and planetary destruction. Making an almost dialog-free film also took a fair amount of backbone. WALL-E wimps out in the third act–which is both disappointing and probably inevitable–and while that diminishes Stanton’s achievement, it doesn’t destroy it. Read my full review and my report on the Sound of Wall-E .