What’s happening at BAMPFA: December thru April

From early December through late April, here’s what will happen cinematically at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). As I write this, the museum’s theater is currently the only cinema in the Bay Area that focuses specifically on old films.

They’re offering a lot of good movies, and at least two stinkers. BAMPFA arranges films by series, so that’s how I’ll arrange this article.

Big Screen: Highlights from a Year of Virtual Cinema
December 2, 2021 – February 16, 2022
When COVID kept the theaters closed, BAMPFA (and several other theaters) streamed movies into your home. Now you can see eleven of these films where they belong: on the big screen. I can easily recommend Melvin Van Peebles’ The Story of a Three Day Pass and Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express. Not that all of them are masterpieces; I only gave the documentary Irmi a C+. But I’m looking forward to Michael Powell’s The Edge of the World.

Chungking Express

Francis Ford Coppola and American Zoetrope
December 3, 2021–February 27, 2022
Francis Coppola did more than make The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II, both of which are masterpieces. But he also built his own studio and helped other filmmakers get a chance, whether they were unknowns like George Lucas or famous auteurs with financial problems, like Akira Kurosawa. Films I’d recommend include American Graffiti, The Conversation, and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. It also contains several films I’m curious about, such as The Rain People and One from the Heart. Oddly, none of the Godfathers are on the calendar.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut

F. W. Murnau: Voyages into the Imaginary
January 8–February 27, 2022
In the 1920s, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau created such great German masterpieces as The Last Laugh and Nosferatu. Then Samuel Fox brought him to America, where he made another masterpiece, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Outside of Charlie Chaplin, Murnau was the only Hollywood filmmaker powerful enough to continue making silents into the 1930s. He died in a car crash in 1931. I’m looking forward to seeing some of his less-known works. The films will be accompanied either by Judith Rosenberg or Bruce Loeb – even though the later films had recorded scores.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Ball of Fire: Barbara Stanwyck
January 14–February 26, 2022
I would have called this series Barbara Stanwyck: Some Tough Dame. Whether she’s teaching bookworms about life, seducing Henry Fonda on an ocean liner, or sending Fred MacMurray to his doom, Stanwyck is always tough and constantly beautiful. She could do screwball comedy, westerns, and the darkest of noir. I’ve seen five of the seven movies in this series, and I like all of them.

The Lady Eve

Animation! Speaking with the Makers
January 29–February 26, 2022
I’m not familiar with any of these animators, so I can’t really say much about their work. Along with the cartoons, there will be canned Interviews with the filmmakers. And if you can’t make it to BAMPFA, you can follow these films and discussions through the virtual version, Streaming: Animation! Speaking with the Makers (January 29–March 13, 2022).

When the Day Breaks

Documentary Voices
January 26–April 20, 2022
I can’t tell you much about this annual series. I’ve only seen one of the five documentaries to be shown, 499, and it’s not worth watching. A 16th-century conquistador climbs out of the sea and finds himself in modern Mexico. The documentary sections never get deep enough, while the fantasy conquistador scenes don’t really mesh with the serious stuff. I hope the other documentaries are better.


There are three other series coming along, but I don’t know enough to write about them, so I’ll just tell you how to find them: