What’s Screening: May 7 – 13

This week in Bay Area cinema: Harry Potter on the big screen. A discussion with film preservationist/showman Serge Bromberg. Ousmane Sembene’s satire on wealth and ego. Going down river with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Also, three film festivals.

And next week, the Roxie will open its doors and show us some movies.


Theaters opening

The Roxie opens May 21 with the very appropriate Cinema Paradiso – picked by the theater’s fans.

Cinema Paradiso

The Elmwood is now open, playing the The Truffle Hunters, The Human Factor, and Judas and the Black Messiah. [note: I’ve altered this section since I posted this newsletter.]

Special online events

Amazing Tales Online: Serge Bromberg Presents!, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, noon

Free! Serge Bromberg is more than just a film preservationist. He’s a showman, telling funny stories, playing the piano, and lighting nitrate film. With his Paris-based company, Lobster Films, he’s restored several Buster Keaton silents, ten features of Yiddish cinema, and the colors of George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon. I don’t know exactly what he’ll be showing Sunday, but I’m looking forward to it.

Another chance to see

A- Coronation (2020), New Mission

Ai Weiwei created (to my knowledge) the first feature-length documentary about the current pandemic. With no narration, it follows people in the town of Wuhan (where Corona first appeared) in the first months of the disaster. Among the more powerful scenes are medical personnel suiting up and an old woman who still believes in Communism. The film is very slow, but that deliberate pace forces us to experience what these people, and all of us, are going through.

Theatrical revivals

12 Harry Potter over four days, Alameda, check theater for dates and times

The world’s most beloved child-turned-teenage wizard is back on the big screen. I’m not going to even try to discuss all twelve films. If I remember, they got better as they went along.

Virtual revivals

A Bridesmaids (2011), New Mission

What do you expect from a Judd Apatow movie? A lot of laughs. Raunch. Some gross-out humor. Close friendships tested. A reasonable quantity of heart. And a modern male point of view. Bridesmaids provides all but the last one, and you can thank screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for giving this Apatow-produced comedy a female perspective. Wiig also stars as a maid-of-honor whose life seems to be going down the tubes and taking her best friend’s wedding with it.

B Mandabi (1968), BAMPFA

Ousmane Sembene, often called “The father of African Cinema,” shows the writer/director’s sardonic wit in this early work. Its protagonist, Ibrahim, is a truly unlikeable person. He’s cruel to his two wives, he hasn’t worked in years, he eats loudly, has a swollen ego, and is an idiot. Suddenly, everything’s coming up roses when he gets a very large money order from a nephew in Paris. Of course, word gets around. What’s more, how can he cash the order; he has no ID or even a birth certificate. Smarter and richer men recognize a mark when they see one.

Drive-in revivals

A The African Queen (1951), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 8:30

Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy, working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review.

Frequently-revived classics