What’s Screening: May 6 – 12

What a week for Bay Area cinema! Six days of silent films. Another six of documentaries. And those are just the festivals. You can also see classics on the big screen from Elia Kazan, Studio Ghibli, Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, and a couple of duds.

Festivals & Series

Theatrical revivals

A- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

You can see why this film made Marlon Brando a star. His Stanley Kowalski is strong, impulsive, sexy, violent, and scary – your eyes go directly to him. You see why his wife Stella (Kim Hunter in another brilliant performance) keeps coming back despite the horrible way he treats her (and everyone else). Unfortunately, I can’t give much praise for Vivien Leigh, who goes way over the top with her Blanche DuBois. Read my report.

    • Monday, 4:30pm
    • Thursday, 7:30pm

A- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Dubbed. This Studio Ghibli feature may be one of the best cartoons ever for very young children. Adults can also enjoy the beautiful animation and their children’s delightful reactions. Two children and their father (mother is in the hospital) move into a rural house that turns out to be haunted. But it’s not haunted in a bad way. The magical creatures, including the powerful Totoro, make friends with the new people in the neighborhood. Warning: You should tell your kids beforehand that it takes place before everyone had a phone in their pocket.

B+ Amarcord (1973)

Federico Fellini’s nostalgic, autobiographical, yet decidedly weird comedy about village life is always enjoyable. Set in the late 1930’s, Fellini celebrates horny teenagers, confused adults, and distracted clergy, while treating fascists as comic opera buffoons. Amarcord succeeds frequently but not consistently, and it succeeds best when it’s just trying to be funny. Read my full review. Part of the series Federico Fellini at 100.

B- A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Stanley Kubrick’s strange, “ultra-violent” dystopian nightmare about crime and conditioning feels self-consciously arty. But several scenes–the Singin’ in the Rain rape, the brainwashing sequence, Alex’s vulnerability when he’s attacked by his former mates–are brilliant, as is Malcolm McDowell’s performance as a hooligan turned helpless victim.

  • Vogue, Friday & Sunday, 4:30pm

D+ Mamma Mia (2008)

What could go wrong with a musical comedy about long-passed promiscuity, starring Meryl Streep, and set on a picturesque Mediterranean island? Plenty! Here you can watch formless choreography, played to ABBA’s catchy but ultimately unmemorable music, and way too many exterior scenes obviously shot on a soundstage. But in terms of sheer embarrassing badness, nothing in Mama Mia! comes close to Pierce Brosnan’s nails-on-chalkboard singing voice. I liked Brosnan as James Bond, but he sings like a strangled cat.

D 9 to 5 (1980)

At least this badly-made comedy – a satire on office sexism – has its heart in the right place. Unfortunately, neither Lily Tomlin nor Jane Fonda are as funny as we know they can be. Singer Dolly Parton, in her first acting role, isn’t much better. The plot is outrageously ridiculous, which could have worked but doesn’t, thanks to Colin Higgins’ off-timing direction. Fonda does a slapstick routine with a Xerox machine that only reminds us how much has been lost in the art of physical comedy. At least Parton gave us a terrific title song.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics

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