What’s Screening: October 22 – 28

It seems as if every theater is playing Dune – a movie that disappointed me. I’m hoping that The French Dispatch will be better. If you’re looking for oldies on the big screen, we’ve got two mid-century Japanese classics, two versions of Nosferatu, and a bad horror flick with comic commentary. Also, we’ve got three film festivals running this week.

Note: I added a movie soon after I posted this article.

Festivals & Series

Theaters opening

The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is finally running films regularly…and not just through Mill Valley.

Special events

RiffTrax Live: Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes. Tuesday, various theaters, 8:00pm

I would never even think about watching a movie called Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes…unless the RiffTrax gang are providing comic commentary in the old Mystery Science Theater 3,000 way.

New films opening

B- Becoming Cousteau (2021), AMC Metreon 16, AMC Bay Street 16, opens Friday

Another biographical documentary. Using only old film and TV clips, filmmaker Liz Garbus shows us the life of Jacques Cousteau, the great scientist, explorer, and TV star who taught us about the bottom of the sea. (Before Cousteau became famous, he co-invented scuba diving.) The film lightly covers his personal life – he admits he was a bad husband and father. It works best in the last third, where he turns his ship and fame to focusing on environmental issues.

C- Dune (2021), Alameda, Balboa, Cerrito, Elmwood, Grand Lake, Rialto, opens Friday (or earlier)

If you enjoy big visual effects, loud explosions, and a lot of fighting by sword, bomb, and giant worm, you might enjoy this version of Frank Herbert’s epic novel. I admit I enjoyed the FX and action, but Dune offered little else. Every single character had the same two traits: courage and fortitude. No one is cowardly, or roguish, or funny. The movie is set on a desert planet where people fight for two rare commodities, water and something called spice – which seems to be both a hallucinogen and an interstellar rocket fuel. And beware: This movie is only Part 1! Read my longer report.

New to the big screen

A Son of Monarchs (2020), Roxie, Tuesday, 6:40

This story of a young man between two countries doesn’t really have much of a plot, but in this film, that’s not a problem. Mendel was born and raised in Michoacán, where he and his older brother were captivated by the monarch butterflies that migrated through their neighborhood. They also saw their parents’ accidental deaths. Now the adult Mendel lives in New York as a biologist, studying those same monarchs. Standing between two cultures, he doesn’t always know where he belongs. A visual and audio treat that brings you into different worlds.

Theatrical revivals

A+ Rashomon (1950), BAMPFA, Saturday, 5:00pm

Digital Restoration! You’ve probably seen Akira Kurosawa’s first masterpiece, but you probably remember it wrong. That’s the point – everyone remembers things differently. In medieval Japan, a notorious bandit waylays a high-born couple in the woods, ties up the husband, and rapes the wife. Or at least that’s how some of the witnesses remember it. This story is told in flashbacks, and in flashbacks within flashbacks. Kurosawa, a director known for long and expensive epics, made Rashomon as a chamber piece. The film that brought Japanese cinema to the world. Read my Blu-ray review. Part of the series Kazuo Miyagawa: Cinematographer and Visual Stylist.

A Nosferatu (1922), New Parkway, Sunday, 2:00pm & 4:00pm

Forget about sexy vampires; the first film version of Dracula doesn’t have one. In this unauthorized rip-off that got the filmmakers in legal trouble, Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This 1922 silent isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it just might be the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake (see below). Read my Blu-ray review. Live music by Sleepbomb, a group that I have yet to hear.

B+ Ugetsu (1953), BAMPFA, Thursday, 7:00pm
35mm print from the BAMPFA collection! Kenji Mizoguchi shows us the cruelty of medieval Japan, only this time with ghosts. War brings profits and hope to two ambitious peasants…until the war comes to their doorsteps and scatters them and their families. If only they had listened to their level-headed wives, who told them to be happy with their lot. But for one husband, hoping to become a great potter, it becomes difficult to tell the living from the dead. There has always been something ghostly about Mizoguchi’s images; this film makes no bones about it. Part of the series Kazuo Miyagawa: Cinematographer and Visual Stylist.

? Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Roxie, Friday, 6:50pm

I saw Werner Herzog’s remake and reimagining of F. W. Murnau’s classic soon after its 1979 release. I didn’t like it much. But that was in the days when I disapproved of remakes on principle. I might like it considerably more now, but who knows. Klaus Kinski plays the blood-sucking count.

Frequently-revived classics