What’s Screening: March 11 – 17

Here’s what’s happening in Bay Area cinema this week: A new Russian/Finnish romance, along with classics from F.W. Murnau, Jacques Tati, Fritz Lang, Federico Fellini, Wim Wenders, Wayne Wang, and, of course, Alfred Hitchcock.

Also, as a two-year anniversary of shutting down the theaters, the Oakland’s New Parkway will show free movies on Tuesday.

Plus, three film festivals.

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

B Compartment No. 6, Albany Twin, AMC Kabuki, & Rafael, opens Friday

You don’t expect a romantic road movie to come out of Russia these days, but this is basically a Finnish film. Two people are thrown together on a train to the frozen north. At first, they hate each other…or at least one of them hates the other – she has good reasons – he asks her if she’s a prostitute. But slowly, over a long trip, they come to care about, and maybe love, the other. It’s a common plot, but it works. Read my full review.

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A Nosferatu (1922), New Mission, Sunday, 6:00

Forget about sexy vampires; the first film version of Dracula doesn’t have one. In this unauthorized rip-off that got the filmmakers in legal trouble, Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This 1922 silent isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it just might be the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Read my Blu-ray review. This silent film will be accompanied by a recorded score by Bob Lanzetti.

A Playtime (1967), Roxie, Saturday, 3:45

35mm, although the movie was originally designed for 70mm. Monsieur Hulot and assorted other specimens of humanity wander adrift and befuddled in a very modern Paris. That’s all there is of plot in Jacques Tati’s large-scale comedy, and that’s all that’s needed. On one level, Tati is commenting on modern architecture. On another, he’s just making us laugh in his odd, almost meditative way. And even when you’re not laughing, you’re fascinated by the little details of Tati’s city-sized universe.

A Metropolis (1927), New Parkway Sunday, 2:30pm

Live music by Sleepbomb. The first important science fiction feature film still strikes a considerable visual punch. The images – workers in a hellish underground factory, the wealthy at play, a robot in the form of a beautiful woman – are a permanent part of our collective memory. The simplistic politics at times feel like trite melodrama, but it soon turns into something like grand opera. Read my longer report.

A- La dolce vita (1960), BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00pm

Yes, this story of a gossip journalist living on the lives of the rich and decadent (Marcello Mastroianni) has many great moments. Consider the opening shot of Jesus flying through the air via helicopter, or the climactic out-of-control party. The famous fountain scene is absolutely stunning. The entire film makes brilliant use of the Cinemascope frame. But the story doesn’t really go anywhere, and there are long, dull passages between the brilliance. I can’t quite call it a masterpiece. Part of the series Federico Fellini at 100.

B+ V for Vendetta (2005), Elmwood, Friday & Saturday, 10:40pm

Stunningly subversive for a big-budget Hollywood explosion movie, V For Vendetta celebrates rebellion against an oppressive, ultra-Christian government that feeds on hatred of Muslims and homosexuals. It works as an escapist fantasy action flick and as a call to arms, but when its hero crosses the line (and he does), it forces you to wonder just what is justified in the fight against tyranny.

B+ Wings of Desire (1987), Roxie Saturday, 6:30pm; Sunday, 5:50pm

35mm! Wim Wenders’ fantasy about angels in Berlin offers a view of the city as a land of interior monologues. Two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) watch over the people, listen to their thoughts, and comfort them in their pain. Then one of them falls in love with a trapeze artist and finds himself longing for mortality. Wenders couldn’t have known it when he made the film in 1988, but he was capturing the last months of a divided city; the wall seen in the film would soon come down. With Peter Falk as a strange version of himself.

B+ Clueless (1995), New Parkway, Friday, 10:30pm

Loosely adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma, this coming-of-age comedy follows a rich, well-meaning, but superficial teenage girl (Alicia Silverstone) as she tries to fix other people’s problems as well as her own. Sweet and funny, it looks at adolescent foibles with a sympathetic eye, rarely judging youthful behavior. With a surprisingly young Paul Rudd as the great guy she can’t recognize.

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.

? Chan Is Missing (1982), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00pm

35mm print! I saw Wayne Wang’s first feature some 40 years ago and liked it. But I don’t remember it enough to give it a grade. Wang and this film pretty much launched Asian-American cinema with this mystery/comedy set in Chinatown and other parts of San Francisco. Part of the series Wayne Wang in Person, and Wang will be in person, talking with Oliver S. Wang, a professor of sociology at CSU Long Beach who writes regularly on popular music and culture.

Frequently-revived classics