What’s Screening: November 12 – 18

Want to see the (not quite) original Star Wars trilogy on the big screen in one day? Or learn about the most capitalist country in the world? How about discovering Communist comedy? And then there’s daughters of the dust, vampires who aren’t sure they’re vampires, and a very funny swordfight. All this in Bay Area movie theaters this week.

Festivals & Series

The Week’s Big Event

The (sort of) original Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983), New Parkway, Sunday, 3:30pm

Here’s the wonderfully entertaining trilogy that changed Hollywood for the worst, leaving a trail of expensive blockbuster sequels built around special effects. The last time I saw the three films together on the big screen, it had not yet been altered. But it seems like a fun way to spend a Sunday. Read my article about the original versions. You need to buy separate tickets for each film: A New Hope (3:30pm), The Empire Strikes Back (6:05pm), and Return of the Jedi (8:40pm).

New films opening

A Ascension (2021), Elmwood, Rialto, opens Friday

If you think America is the land where people desperately fight for a piece of the pie, you should see how it works in so-called “socialist” China. Jessica Kingdon’s spellbinding, narration-less documentary shows the People’s Republic as a country of paupers scrambling to raise themselves financially – or at least to create the image of wealth and good breeding. But it’s an impossible dream for most, and even those few who gain the dream find only environmental disaster. Read my full review.

Promising events

CineSpin: My Grandmother (1929), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00pm

Free! I have yet to see My Grandmother, a silent comedy from the Soviet Union, but I’m looking forward to it. Musical accompaniment by the jazz duet Gabe and Miles.

Theatrical revivals

A- Daughters of the Dust (1991), BAMPFA, Sunday, 7:00

The story is simple, but the layers of atmosphere and culture make it something special. Set in an island off the Carolinas at the beginning of the 20th century, Julie Dash’s first film brings us into the Gullah way of life at a time where it appears to be dying. An old woman, one old enough to remember slavery well, watches as members of her extended family move north to find better lives. Arthur Jafa’s beautiful cinematography helps create a sense of magic at a time when magic seems to be dying out. Part of the series The Black Film Ambassador: The Ecstatic World of Albert Johnson.

A- Vampyr (1932), Roxie, Tuesday, 9:00

16mm! Carl Theodor Dreyer’s part talkie belongs on any list of great horror films. This is a movie where you’re not always sure just who is a vampire; even the vampires aren’t sure themselves. The story isn’t much, but individual sequences will stick in your memory, including the young woman who seems to look just a bit too hungry, and the funeral procession and burial, viewed from the point of view of the corpse.

A- The Princess Bride (1987), New Parkway, Friday, 8:30; also playing Saturday, 3:45; Saturday, 7:45; Sunday, 5:05; Wednesday, 6:45; Thursday, 7:30

William Goldman’s enchanting and funny fairy tale dances magically along that thin line between parody and the real thing. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, back when they were young and gorgeous, made a wonderful set of star-crossed lovers. And Mandy Patinkin has a lot of fun as a revenge-filled swashbuckler. There’s no funnier swordfight anywhere. On the other hand, some of the big-name cameos can grate on your nerves.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics