What’s Screening: November 26 – December 2

I hope you didn’t gain too many pounds yesterday. How much did I gain? I don’t know. I wrote this newsletter on Tuesday. But that also means that I may have missed an event or two that appeared at the last minute.

Anyway, here’s what’s happening in Bay Area revival cinema this week.

Festivals & Series

Theatrical revivals

A Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Roxie, Friday, 6:45pm

35mm! Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) lives in fascist Spain with a cruel and powerful stepfather. Her reality is horrible, but so is the fantasy realm into which she frequently escapes. But at least the fantasy world, which may or may not be a figment of her imagination, holds out the possibility of hope. Guillermo del Toro fashions a nightmare inside of a nightmare, filled with dark, gruesome, and often gory imagery, a child’s fantasy that’s appropriate only for adults, and an unforgettable experience.

A Yojimbo (1961), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00pm

A masterless samurai (Toshiro Mifune) wanders into a small town torn apart by two gangs fighting a brutal turf war. Disgusted by the situation, our hero uses his wits and amazing swordsmanship to play the two sides against each other. In the hands of Akira Kurosawa, the result is an entertaining action flick, a parody of westerns, and a nihilistic black comedy all rolled into one. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry. Part of the series Kazuo Miyagawa: Cinematographer and Visual Stylist.

A The Incredibles (2004), New Parkway, Friday, 4:30pm; Saturday, 3:45pm; Sunday, 3:45pm; Wednesday, 6:30pm; Thursday, 6:30pm

The first decade of this century was the golden era of superhero movies, and Brad Bird’s first film for Pixar was one of the best. Not based on a comic book series (although you can’t ignore similarities to The Fantastic Four), it follows a married couple of retired superheroes as circumstances force them to pull out the spandex and save the world once again. And this time, with their kids. A rousing and utterly enjoyable entertainment, The Incredibles also brings up issues of conformity, adolescence, and the dangers of wearing a cape.

B+ The Story of a Three Day Pass (1968), BAMPFA, Thursday, 7:00pm

Digital restoration! Melvin Van Peebles, a pioneer in African American filmmaking, started his career with this warm, sweet, sexy romance. A Black U.S. soldier stationed in France gets a three-day pass and meets a French girl. They have a wonderful time…until things go wrong. And some of what goes wrong is, not surprisingly, about race. Van Peebles livens the simple story with comic sound effects, some of which emphasize the awkwardness of sex with a new partner. A terrific jazz-inflected score helps considerably. Part of the series Big Screen: Highlights from a Year of Virtual Cinema.

B+ The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Balboa, Saturday, 11:00pm

This is in no way, shape, or form a great movie. It’s cheaply shot. The songs, while catchy, are hardly great rock. The characters are broad clichés and the plot is almost non-existent. But it’s a crazy, funny, absurd celebration of everything sexual, with Tim Curry carrying the movie as a cross-dressing mad scientist. Also starring a very young Susan Sarandon. Read my report. Along with the Bawdy Caste Live Shadow Cast.

B+ The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, BAMPFA, Friday, 4:30pm

When we think French New Wave, we imagine grainy, black-and-white stories filled with angst and alienation. Yet Jacques Demy, shooting a believable story in real locations, created a lush, colorful, and sublimely romantic musical. A movie like few others, with an astonishingly young and beautiful Catherine Deneuve (as opposed to the astonishingly well-aged and beautiful Catherine Deneuve of today). Read my Blu-ray review.

B+ Mulholland Drive (2001), Roxie, Saturday, 6:45pm, Sunday, 6:00pm

35mm! The plot is both extremely conventional and almost non-existent, and I’m not even going to try to explain it. And yet almost every individual scene seems to feel like a masterpiece. As you expect from writer/director David Lynch, it’s heavy on atmosphere, complexity, and erotica. You can almost reach out and touch the weirdness. Naomi Watts is just amazing. Even Ann Miller of the old MGM musicals plays a part.

B West Side Story (original 1961 version), various theaters, Sunday & Wednesday

The first film version of West Side Story swings erratically from glorious brilliance to astonishing ineptitude. The songs and dances – especially the Jerome Robbins-choreographed dances – create a world of violent intensity and eroticism that both carry the story and shine in their own right. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better choreographed widescreen musical. It also contains magnificent supporting performances by Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, and especially Rita Moreno. But the dialog is often stilted and stage-bound. Much worse, the romantic leads (very important in a love story) fall flat. Natalie Wood was miscast, while juvenile lead Richard Beymer is so bad he sinks every scene he’s in. I’m looking forward to Spielberg’s remake, but you may want to read my longer (and older) article.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics