You may have noticed that I’m moving away from virtual cinema. That’s because more classic films are popping up in Bay Area theaters. These include Chungking Express, The Man with a Movie Camera, Parasite, Knives Out, and even Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Festivals & Series
- The Oakland International Film Festival continues through Saturday
- The San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival runs through Sunday
- Veinte por veinte (20 for 20) opens Sunday and runs through next month
- The National Silent Movie Day is Wednesday. Read my article.
Another chance to see (theatrically)
A Parasite (2019), New Parkway, Saturday, 8:35, Sunday, 5:10, Tuesday, 8:20; Wednesday, 8:55
This hilariously cruel comedy thriller about the haves and the have nots is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. A young man in a desperately poor family fakes his education so he can tutor the daughter of a very rich couple. Soon his sister, father, and mother are working there as well, without their employers knowing they’re all related. Filmmaker Bong Joon Ho makes us laugh and cheer as these con artists wheedle themselves into this wealthy family. But in the second half, comedy turns slowly to horror. Rarely do you find a more entertaining critique of the class system. But which family is the parasite?
B+ Knives Out (2019), New Parkway; Friday, 4:30, Saturday, 9:10; Sunday, 3:40; Wednesday, 8:55
This old-fashioned murder mystery, set mostly in a big mansion, feels like Agatha Christie with giggles. Not over-the-top comedy, but with enough laughs to lighten the story and remind us not to take it too seriously. Daniel Craig plays the brilliant detective (well, occasionally brilliant), speaking in a not-quite believable southern accent. The cast includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, and Frank Oz, but the lesser-known Ana de Armas carries the film.
A Chungking Express (1994), Roxie, Saturday, 4:15 & 9:00; Sunday, 8:20; Tuesday, 9:00; Wednesday, 6:45; Thursday, 7:00
Digital restoration! 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.
A- The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), BAMPFA, 7:00
35mm! Dziga Vertov’s documentary of people at work and play uses strange and comical double exposures, visual effects, and maddeningly fast editing to keep things lively. Or is it a mockumentary? The movie often follows a cameraman making a documentary of people at work and play. The result is exhilarating, entertaining, and, of course, Communist propaganda. Vertov paints a picture of the Stalinist USSR as a place where people work hard, then play hard in healthy activities. No starving Ukrainians here. Piano accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg.
B+ Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), New Mission, Monday, 7:30
But not in 3D! You have to understand three things about this movie: 1) It’s basically two long motor vehicle chases broken up with short bits of dialog. 2) It’s surprisingly feminist for this sort of movie; the plot involves a woman warrior rescuing a tyrant’s enslaved harem. 3) The title character is basically a sidekick, although we see the story through his eyes. The movie is filled with crashes, weapons, hand-to-hand combat, acts of courage, close calls, and fatal errors. It’s fast, brutal, feminist, and for the most part very well-choreographed.
B+ Charlie Chaplin Shorts, Rialto, Wednesday, 1:00, 4:00, 7:00
Chaplin did much of his best short films at Mutual. To be honest, the films the Rialto selected are not my choices of the best Chaplin Mutuals, but with the exception of The Fireman, they’re all very funny. Of these six shorts, my favorite is The Pawnshop. The music, I assume, is recorded. You can read my opinion of these shorts at Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7 of my Chaplin Diary. Part of National Silent Movie Day.
B The Mummy (1999), Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30
On VHS! Officially a remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff classic, this 1999 comedy/adventure follows the original’s plot but doesn’t even try to remake the atmosphere. Instead, with its big action sequences and tongue-in-cheek dialog, it feels more like an Indiana Jones rip-off. Starring Brendan Fraser and a not-yet-famous Rachel Weisz, showing us a gift for slapstick that she hasn’t shown us since.
C+ Creature from the Black Lagoon, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30
35mm, but not 3D! Set in a previously-unexplored tributary of the Amazon that looks suspiciously like the Universal back lot, Creature follows a small group of scientists, a colorful local fisherman, and the obligatory beautiful woman, as they search for fossils and find something stranger–a sort of man-fish hybrid that doesn’t appear to be particularly well-adapted for anything. Perhaps that explains why he’s all alone; his species is well on the way to extinction.