What’s Screening: October 29 – November 4

I haven’t listed so many old movies playing in theaters since before COVID. Of course, Halloween had a lot to do with it. But we can also see films by Tarkovsky, Ray, Mizoguchi, and Kubrick.

But if you decide to stream your Halloween, take a look at my article on Funny and Scary Movies.

Festivals & Series

Watch movie/help others

The New Parkway is now using part of your ticket price to help local organizations. Under the name Karma Cinema, the theater gives 20% of Wednesday ticket prices to various local non-profits. The non-profits include The Street Level Health Project, The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, The Berkeley Free Clinic, and The AntiPolice-Terror Project. So, if you’re going to the New Parkway, do it on a Wednesday.

Promising events

Scream Brunch, New Mission, Sunday, 2:45pm

I haven’t seen Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher comedy Scream since it was relatively new (I watched it on Laserdisc). I remember liking it, but not enough to watch it again – and I wasn’t writing about movies back then. Now, at the finally opened New Mission, you can watch it while eating an Egg BLT, French Toast, or Breakfast Tacos. It’s like getting fountains of blood in your brunch.

Willy Wonky, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30pm

I don’t know what this is really about. It doesn’t appear to be a screening of the Gene Wilder movie, or the Johnny Depp one. So, I’ll just report what the Balboa website says: “WILLY WONKY is an original augmented cinema experience including parade-style tossed candy, disco lights, lasers, bubbles, voluntary audience callbacks, FREE interactive goodie bags with toys and candy, pop up fun facts/commentary, and more!”

Theatrical revivals

A Stalker (1979), Roxie, Saturday, 6:15; Sunday, 6:45

This slow, strange, allegorical fantasy from the great Andrei Tarkovsky gets under your skin. A guide, called a stalker, takes two other men on a journey into a strange place called The Zone. We never find out exactly what it is, and it looks pretty much like the world they already live in – except that The Zone is in color and their home is in black and white. But we learn that The Zone is dangerous, is constantly changing, and that those changes are caused by the emotions of the people who dare to enter it. I’ve only seen Stalker once, but I suspect that each screening will feel very different than the last.

A- Charulata (also titled The Lonely Wife, 1964), BAMPFA, Saturday, 4:30

Nothing is more beautiful in the cinema than a thoughtful face, and as the film’s star, Madhabi Mukherjee has one of the best. Charulata is the bored housewife of a hard-working, progressive newspaper publisher in late 19th-century Bengal. When her husband brings his handsome, unmarried cousin (Soumitra Chatterjee) to live and work at his home, wife and cousin-in-law find a shared love of literature…and more. Satyajit Ray considers 19th-century politics, anti-colonialism, and the relationships between friends, blood relatives, and spouses in this exquisite story. Part of the series The Black Film Ambassador: The Ecstatic World of Albert Johnson.

B+ Sansho the Bailiff (1954), BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00

In a sort of Japanese 12 Years a Slave, Kenji Mizoguchi once again tells us how horrible life was in medieval Japan. When an aristocrat is disgraced for treating his peasants kindly, his wife and children are set adrift and eventually kidnapped and enslaved. The Sansho of the title is an extremely wealthy and evil slaveowner and is really a minor character. Beautifully shot and tremendously sad. Part of the series Kazuo Miyagawa: Cinematographer and Visual Stylist.

B+ Halloween (1978), Balboa, Friday, 10:00pm; New Parkway, Saturday, 10:00pm

John Carpenter made a very good low-budget thriller that started a very bad genre: the slasher movie – also known as dead teenager flicks. An escaped psycho racks up several kills on the scariest night of the year. Yes, the story is absurd – the guy seems capable of getting into any place and sneaking up on anyone. Carpenter and co-screenwriter Debra Hill take the time to let us know these particular teenagers, and that makes all the difference. By the time the killer goes after the mature, responsible girl (Jamie Lee Curtis), you’re really scared.

B+ Gojira (American name Godzilla; 1954), New Mission, Wednesday, 6:45

In Japanese with English subtitles and a new 4K Restoration!
A monster raises from the depths to attack people still careering memories of horrific bombings and destroyed cities. Unlike so many other sequels and rip-offs, the original Gojira presents the emotions of mass terror on a population already suffering from PTSD. It therefore delivers a punch more vividly than any other giant monster created by Japan or Hollywood. The cast includes Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura.

B+ The Shining (1980), Roxie, Sunday, 6:45pm; Tuesday, 9:20

For once, the cliché is true: Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, is much better than the movie. Stanley Kubrick, brilliant as he was, missed the main point of the book – that the protagonist loves his family, and is a good man struggling with his inner demons. Without that, it’s little more than a sequence of scares (all good scares, but just scares). Kubrick added some surprising and effective touches, but overall, he turned a brilliant novel into a simply very good horror flick. Read my longer article.

B The Invisible Man (1933), various theaters

A lesser effort by director James Whale – Universal’s early 1930s “King of Horror.” But this H. G. Wells adaptation provides plenty of pleasures. Claude Rains, in his first film role, gives a distinctive voice to the unseen title character–a scientist whose invisibility has turned him into a megalomaniac. The story is full of holes and absurdities–even if he can’t be seen, a naked man running around the English countryside at night has some serious disadvantages–but it’s fun. On a double bill with The Wolf Man, which I haven’t seen in ages.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics