What’s in Bay Area cinema this week? The absurdity of Fractured Flickers, a talk about Taxi Driver, lesbians young and old, The Beatles, The Jedi, and dancing in LA.
Sorry that I haven’t been posting as often as I should. I’ve been busy with other work.
B+ River City Drumbeat (2019), windrider bay area
Yes, this is another inspiring music documentary, but that’s not a bad thing. The star of this documentary is Ed “Nardie” White – a widower and senior citizen with thin dreadlocks – and he has been running the River City Drum Corp for decades. This is more than a hobby, but rather a deep calling. By teaching young kids to drum as a group, he gives them the abilities to succeed in life in a society where they’re expected to fail. Read my full review.
Special online events
Amazing Tales with Bruce Goldstein, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, noon
In the 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Bruce Goldstein of NYC’s Film Forum told and showed us how talkies and television programs such as Fractured Flickers created the sense that silent films were not worth watching…let alone preserving. It was among one of the best presentations I’ve seen about cinema. This Sunday at noon, Goldstein will present this show again – or maybe inproved. If you’re interested in silent film and the birth of the talkies, you must watch this.
A+ Thrillville Movie Club: Taxi Driver, New Parkway, Saturday, 3:00
The Film: When I think of the 1970s as a golden age of Hollywood-financed serious cinema, I think of Robert De Niro walking the dark, mean streets of New York, slowly turning into a psychopath. Writer Paul Schrader and director Martin Scorsese put together this near-perfect study of loneliness as a disease. It isn’t that De Niro’s character hasn’t found the right companion, or society has failed him, or that he doesn’t understand intimacy. His problems stem from the fact that he’s mentally incapable of relating to other human beings. This is a sad and pathetic man, with a rage that will inevitably turn violent. Read my Blu-ray review.
The event: First, watch the movie. Then join the Zoom discussion Saturday at 3:00.
Another chance to see (virtually)
A- Two of Us (2019), New Mission
A stroke tears apart a long-term relationship in this very realistic tearjerker. Retirees Nina and Madeleine have been lovers for decades, but to the rest of the world, they’re just friends and neighbors. Madeleine can’t dare to tell her family the truth. But when Madeleine can no longer communicate with the rest of the world, Nina has trouble taking care of her beloved, since no one else knows about the relationship. Madeleine’s family (which has its own problems) can’t understand why the neighbor acts so strangely, while Nina acts out in some destructive ways.
B Tove (2020), BAMPFA, Rafael
This somewhat fractured biopic follows part of the life of Finnish illustrator and painter Tove Jansson. Judging from the movie, she had a difficult relationship with her father, struggled financially, but became famous drawing children’s comics. Zaida Bergroth’s film centers mostly on her sex life; focusing on two lovers – one male, one female – and both married (this was in the 1940s). Alma Poysti’s glowing and sexy performance is the best thing in the film.
B Riders of Justice (2020), New Mission
You know those “dad thrillers” that usually star Liam Neeson? Well, here’s the Danish version, and while it’s silly, it’s also fun. When an explosion kills several people, the authorities insist it was an accident. But Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), who lost his wife in the blast, doesn’t believe it. Neither do his new friends, all of whom are thirsting for vengeance. Markus, a professional soldier trained in all sorts of bloodshed, turns this bunch of guys into a small army. But he must also learn how to take care of a teenage girl who has just lost her mother. Read my full review.
A A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 9:00
When United Artists agreed to finance a movie around a suddenly popular British rock group, they wanted something fast and cheap. After all, the band’s popularity was limited to England and Germany, and could likely die before the film got into theaters. We all know now that UA had nothing to worry about. The Beatles are still popular all over the world. What’s more, Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night still burns with outrageous camerawork and editing, subversive humor, and a sense of joy in life and especially in rock and roll.
A- Return of the Jedi (1983), Lark Drive-in, Friday, 9:00
The final chapter of the first trilogy manages to merge the fun of A New Hope and the darkness of The Empire Strikes Back. The first half hour gives us a fun subplot where a more mature, more confident Luke gets to buckle his swash. It climaxes with three simultaneous fights. One is so much fun you can ignore that it’s ridiculous, one that’s a revisit of the first film’s climax, and finally a moral struggle where the issue isn’t who can kill their enemies but who can master their emotions and turn away from violence. It closes with the happiest of endings.
B+ La La Land, (2016), Lark Drive-in, Thursday, 9:00
I loved the first part of this musical. The opening song, Another Day of Sun, burst onto the Los Angeles freeway with one of the best ensemble dance numbers I’ve seen. And the Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling duet, A Lovely Night, is sweet, romantic, and beautiful, and very much a 21st-century Fred and Ginger. But somewhere along the way, the filmmakers seemed to forget that this was a musical. After establishing in the first act that characters could break into song and dance because they felt like it, they stopped singing and dancing. The movie turned into a semi-sweet love story, which was a disappointment after all the song and dance.