After Mill Valley: What’s coming up at BAMPFA (and that doesn’t count virtual cinema)

I haven’t written an article like this one for almost two years, and I sure am glad to be writing this one now. The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is getting back into show business, and I don’t mean streaming into your home.

As the Mill Valley Film Festival closes at BAMPFA, UC Berkeley’s repertory theater will be regularly screening films again. As before the pre-COVID era, every film will be part of a series. But unlike the pre-COVID era, you’ll have to wear a mask and prove you’re clean (hopefully not for long).

Here are the series happening from October 26 to January 29.

Kazuo Miyagawa: Cinematographer and Visual Stylist
October 23–November 28

Kazuo Miyagawa was one of Japan’s greatest cinematographers, working with such great directors as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Yasujirō Ozu. Of the eight films in this series, I can heartily recommend Yojimbo, Sansho the Bailiff, Ugetsu, and best of all, Rashomon See my Blu-ray review.


New Time: The Future is Feminist:
October 24 – January 29

This ten-night series “brings together a diverse range of works made since 2000 by women filmmakers.” I haven’t seen any of these films, so I’m not going to talk about them.

Spit on the Broom

The Black Film Ambassador: The Ecstatic World of Albert Johnson
October 30–November 26

African American UC Professor Albert Johnson “presented African, Asian, and Latin American cinema at the PFA for three decades,” according to Josslyn Luckett. But I’ll never forget the time he grabbed Edith Kramer and danced with her in before a screening of Top Hat. I’ve seen only two of the four films in the series, and both are worth watching. Daughters of the Dust seems simple, but the layers of atmosphere and culture make it something special. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, although not up to Dust, has its own mesmerizing power. Read my Blu-ray review.

Daughters of the Dust

Afterimage: Walter Murch in Conversation
November 6–20

Walter Murch has created a long list of great work as a film editor and sound mixer. His work includes all three Godfather movies, The English Patient, The Conversation, Gimme Shelter, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This series has only three films. But one of them is The Conversation – the little, overlooked gem that Francis Coppola made between Godfather I and II. Gene Hackman plays a surveillance expert who gets deeper and deeper into a conversation he has recorded. BAMPFA will screen a 35mm IB dye-transfer print.

The Conversation

Marguerite Duras: The Seamless Past and Present
November 11–28

I’m delighted to see that BAMPFA is doing a series built around a screenwriter – even if it contains only three films. Among the three is the very worth watching Hiroshima mon amour, directed by Alain Resnais. The film starts with a couple in bed, presumably naked, locked in love’s embrace. But their talk is not about love–or even sex. They’re talking about the bomb and Hiroshima. The man wants to make sure that his lover has seen everything of importance in that victimized city and understands what it means. It’s an intimate, hopeless love story set against the ruins of a massively horrific war that scarred everyone involved. I haven’t seen the other two films. Read my longer essay.

Hiroshima mon amour

Limited Engagements & Special Screenings

Not every film fits neatly into a series, so BAMPFA has a never-ending series of random movies. I haven’t seen any film in this series (so far). But I’m particularly interested in a new restoration of the 1947 noir Nightmare Alley. I’m also looking forward to CineSpin: My Grandmother – an event with the Soviet silent comedy My Grandmother, screened with accompaniment by the jazz duet Gabe and Miles.

My Grandmother