Monday is Valentine’s Day, so we have several romantic films you can enjoy on the big screen. In fact, the New Parkway, which has been closed recently because of Omicron, has several cinematic love stories served with special dinners.
Festivals & Series
- SF IndieFest closes Sunday
Special online events
Restoring the Films of William S. Hart, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, 13, noon
William S. Hart was one of the first cowboy stars. Gaunt, with a stern face, he wrote and directed his own films. Now the George Eastman Museum is restoring nine of his silents. It’s not easy; the films exist in a wide range of versions and formats, with intertitles in Danish, Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, and more. Get onto Zoom to find out how this work is done. Free for San Francisco Silent Film Festival members.
A- Before Sunrise (1995) & B+ Before Sunset (2004), New Mission, Sunday, 2:45pm
Before Sunrise: If there’s a film in this world more romantic than the first episode of the Before Trilogy – I haven’t seen it. A young man and a young woman meet on a train and disembark in Vienna. They spend an afternoon and night talking, flirting, and falling in love. Read my article on the trilogy.
Before Sunset: Nine years after they met, the not-so young couple meet again – this time in Paris. They talk, joke, and occasionally flirt. They both have found disappointment in their lives. The film is set in real time – its 80-minute runtime matches 80 minutes in the life of the characters.
A Double Indemnity (1944), BAMPFA, 6:30pm
Rich, unhappy, and evil housewife Barbara Stanwyck leads insurance salesman Fred MacMurray by the libido from adultery to murder in Billy Wilder’s near-perfect thriller. Not that she has any trouble leading him (this is not the wholesome MacMurray we remember from My Three Sons). Edward G. Robinson is in fine form as the co-worker and close friend that MacMurray must deceive. A great, gritty thriller about sex (or the code-era equivalent) and betrayal. Part of the series Ball of Fire: Barbara Stanwyck.
A Bridesmaids (2011), New Mission, Saturday, 11:30am
Brunch. What do you expect from a Judd Apatow movie? A lot of laughs. Raunch. Some gross-out humor. Close friendships tested. A reasonable quantity of heart. And a modern male point of view. Bridesmaids provides all but the last one, and you can thank screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for giving this Apatow-produced comedy a female perspective. Wiig also stars as a maid-of-honor whose life seems to be going down the tubes and taking her best friend’s wedding with it.
A In the Mood For Love (2000), New Mission, Monday, 3:30pm; Wednesday, 4:30pm
Wong Kar Wai’s brilliant film about adultery has no sex, little touching, and we never see who we believe are the adulterous couple. A handsome man and a beautiful woman live in the same apartment building. Both of their spouses are out of town, and they just may be out of town together. Inevitably, the two leads fall slowly in love. While there’s no sex, almost every shot is filled with deep eroticism. Starring Maggie Cheung, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, and the color red.
A- Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00pm
If this isn’t a great film, it’s close. I’m tempted to call it several great short films that kind of hang together. By the end it works as a single piece. A sort of impressionistic biopic of novelist and fascist hero Yukio Mishima, the film cuts back and forth between the last day of his life (in color), flashbacks to his past (black and white), and dramatizations of three of his novels (hyper-color on stylized sets). The impression is of a brilliant lunatic, motivated by fears of aging, with fantasies of a heroic death, and unease over his own homosexuality. Part of the series Francis Ford Coppola and American Zoetrope.
A- Bound (1996), New Mission, Monday, 10:00pm; Tuesday, 6:45pm
Before The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers created a stylish and fun crime thriller about a lesbian couple that go up against the mob. Jennifer Tilly hooks up with Gina Gershon, both sexually and in crime, to steal from her gangster husband (Joe Pantoliano). A very sexy, violent, and suspenseful thriller which adds new meaning to the phrase “money laundering.”
A- Harold and Maude (1971), Balboa, Monday, 7:00pm
35mm! At a time when young Americans embraced non-conformity, free love, ecstatic joy, and 40-year-old Marx Brothers movies, this counterculture comedy romance between an alienated and death-obsessed young man and an almost 80-year-old woman made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helps considerably. But I do wish screenwriter Colin Higgins had found a better ending. See my full discussion.
B+ Shortbus (2006), Roxie, opens Friday
Jon Cameron Mitchell created a funny, serious, sexual, and asexual movie, and gave it the seemingly ridiculous title Shortbus. It contains a considerable amount of hardcore sex (mostly male-on-male). But it mostly deals with the emotional issues connected with sex – along with the emotional issues connected with not having sex. Read my full review.
B+ The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Roxie, Monday, 6:50pm
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 Island of Lost Souls (1932), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30pm
This early Paramount horror film, based on a story by H.G. Wells, relies almost entirely on its atmosphere. You’ve got fog, an alcoholic ship captain, the strange island of the title, and a group of creatures that are half-men/half-animals. And, of course, there’s Charles Laughton as the most courteous mad doctor in the history of Hollywood mad doctors. And then, of course, there’s the Panther Woman. A short and entertaining horror movie. On a Super Shangri-La Show double bill with The Woman Eater (1958), which I have never seen.
B Roman Holiday (1953), New Parkway, with a four-course Valentine Dinner, Monday, 5:30pm; Monday, 6:55pm, but without the special dinner
Gregory Peck and “introducing” Audrey Hepburn fall in love through an extremely contrived plot in this entertaining romantic comedy. She’s a runaway princess, and he’s a reporter hoping for a scoop. But the real star is Rome; shooting Hollywood films in overseas locations was a new thing in the early 1950s. Directed by William Wyler, from a story by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
? Enter the Dragon (1972), Balboa, Thursday, 7:00pm
I haven’t seen this movie in years, and while I liked it when I saw it, I was never a big fan. This is the flick that brought the martial arts genre to America, and made Bruce Lee famous on this side of the Pacific – even if he didn’t live to enjoy the fame. Look closely to catch Jackie Chan as a nameless fighter unlucky to go up against Lee. On a Kung Fu double bill with The Way of the Dragon, which I don’t think I ever saw.
Films of historical interest
C+ Suspicion (1941), Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00pm
If there ever was an Alfred Hitchcock film ruined by the studio, it was this – and it could have been one of his best. Joan Fontaine stars as a young bride who begins to suspect that her new husband, Cary Grant, just may be planning to murder her. Alas, the executives felt that Hitchcock’s original ending was a little too much of a downer, and not sufficiently positive about the sanctity of marriage. The result is a thriller that falls apart so badly at the end that it negates everything that came before.
- Drugstore Cowboy, Balboa, Saturday, 7:30pm. 35mm!
- Eyes Wide Shut, Roxie, Saturday, 9:00pm; Monday, 9:00pm
- When Harry Met Sally, New Parkway, Monday, 6:30pm. With All-You-Can-Eat Pasta Bar Valentine’s Day.
- The Odd Couple (1968), Sebastiani, Monday, 7:00pm
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, New Mission, Monday, 7:00pm
- My Bloody Valentine, Balboa, Monday, 7:30pm
- Back to the Future, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:00pm
- The Wiz, Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm
- She Done Him Wrong, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00p,