What’s Screening: May 28 – June 3

The Castro, the Stanford, and the BAMPFA are still closed, but the Grand Lake is open! This week we have a film about a woman running for office in Saudi Arabia. Also Shrek, Eraserhead, and three film festivals.


Theaters opening

The Grand Lake, my favorite theater for big, Hollywood extravaganzas, didn’t even sell virtual cinema tickets while closed. But now, Oakland’s best movie palace is finally open for business. It’s currently offering A Quiet Place Part 2 and Disney’s Cruella. They’ll also screen the documentary We All Live in Gaza Thursday at 7:15. I haven’t seen any of these films.

New films opening

B+ The Perfect Candidate (2019), Rafael, plays Friday; Roxie, Sunday, 1:40

This Saudi Arabian political drama catches the country as it moves into the 20th century (but not quite the 21st). When we first meet Maryam, she’s driving and wearing a hijab. She’s a woman and a doctor, and some patients don’t believe that people can be both. When she runs for town council, she upsets almost everyone, especially her musician father. A look at a part of Saudi Arabia we never get to see, centered on a likable heroine.

Theatrical revivals

A Shrek (2001), Balboa, Saturday, 11:00am

Enough bad sequels can make us forget how much we loved the original, and in the case of Shrek, the original is very lovable indeed. This story of an ogre on a reluctant quest to save a princess turns both traditional fairy tales and their Disneyfied adaptations inside out. The evil prince’s castle looks like Disneyland, familiar characters make odd cameos, and that old song “Have You Seen the Muffin Man” turns very gruesome (in a very funny way). In the third act, Shrek rips apart one of the worst lessons that children learn from these old stories, providing a happy ending that neither Grimm nor Disney could have imagined.

A- Eraserhead (1977), Roxie, Friday, 7:00

35mm! Weird and extremely gross, David Lynch’s first feature has a ridiculously commonplace story. Henry meets his girlfriend’s parents. They have a baby, she leaves him, and the not-too-bright Henry must take on all the parental responsibilities. And yet it’s entirely unlike anything you’ve seen before. The extremely high-contrast black and white photography makes everything and everyone look ugly. The sound effects are disturbingly loud and frightening. Ugly, living things seem to be growing everywhere. And the baby…well, you’ll have to see it for yourself. A deeply disturbing film, but also a very funny one.

Virtual revivals

A- Victoria (2015), New Mission

A young, Spanish woman leaves a club with four young men she just met. If she had any sense (or was sober), she would have run the other way. Instead, she finds herself in love, and then becomes an active participant in armed robbery and a shootout with police. This German thriller was shot in a single, two-hour-and 18-minute take. It’s a gimmick, but it works. Sometimes the absence of editing loses some of the pacing. But on the other hand, the immediacy makes much of the film more powerful.

Drive-in revivals

A The Maltese Falcon (1941), Fort Mason Flix, Wednesday, 6:00

Dashiell Hammett’s novel had been filmed twice before, but screenwriter and first-time director John Huston did it right with the perfect cast and a screenplay (by Huston) that sticks almost word-for-word to the book. The ultimate Hammett motion picture, the second-best directorial debut of 1941 (after Citizen Kane), an important, early film noir, and perhaps the most entertaining detective movie ever made. This movie is truly the stuff that dreams are made of.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics