What’s Screening: June 10 – 16

Being that it’s Pride Month, several classic gay movies are screening in theaters this week. But Bay Area cinemas are also playing films from such famous straight directors as Charlie Chaplin and Akira Kurosawa.

Also, two festivals.

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

C I’m Charlie Walker (2022), Roxie, click for dates & times

Here’s an interesting San Francisco story, involving the 1971 oil slick, racism, hippies, prostitutes, and an oil company executive who worries that a black executive could hurt his company’s image. Based on real events, Charlie Walker used his considerable hutzpah to squeeze into corporate offices, despite his black skin. But Mike Colter plays Walker without the charisma and power the part needs. Besides, while Walker’s own story is an interesting one, the bigger one is the environmental disaster; in the movie, it’s just background. This would have worked better as a documentary. Read my full review.

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A Tangerine (2015), New Mission, Monday, 7:30

Sometimes a movie blows apart every concept you had about what a motion picture can be. Sean Baker’s tale of a transgender prostitute out for justice creates just that sort of magic. Fast, frenetic, funny, and sad, Tangerine looks like no other movie I’ve ever seen, in part because it was shot entirely on iPhones. And yes, that works, allowing the filmmakers to capture the tarnished glamour of today’s Hollywood (the neighborhood, not the industry). The most exciting and original new film I saw in 2015. Did I tell you it’s a Christmas movie? Read my full review.

B- The Handmaiden (2016), Balboa, Monday, 7:30pm

This atmospheric Korean thriller boils over with lies, double crosses, larceny, surprise plot twists, and a lot of sex – much of it quite kinky. At 90 minutes, it would be a great entertainment, but at its actual length of 144, it often drags. The handmaiden of the title works for a young Japanese lady she plans to rob. Things get messy. Overall, the good scenes in The Handmaiden are worth wading through the bad ones. Read my full review.

Theatrical revivals

A A Star Is Born (1954 version), New Mission, Sunday, 10:30am

Brunch! The second film with this title and basic story was the first to be a musical, and one of the best. Judy Garland plays a singer who breaks into Hollywood as a singing and dancing star. But this is not the sort of musical where people simply break into song because they feel like it. As in real life, they only sing when rehearsing or performing. In fact, the joyful songs in the films-within-the-film play a strange counterpoint to the serious story, reminding us of the artifice of Hollywood make-believe.

A A Hard Days Night (1964), Sebastiani, Monday, 7:00pm

When United Artists agreed to finance a movie around a new British rock band, they wanted something fast and cheap. After all, the band’s popularity was limited to Europe, and could die before the film got into theaters. More than fifty years later, The Beatles are still popular all over the world. What’s more, Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night still burns with outrageous camerawork and editing, subversive humor, and a sense of joy in life and especially in rock and roll.

A- Throne of Blood (1957), Roxie, click for dates and times

35mm! Kurosawa stands Shakespeare on his head with this haunting, noh and kabuki-inspired loose adaptation of Macbeth. Toshiro Mifune gives an over-the-top but still effective performance as the military officer tempted by his wife (Isuzu Yamada) into murdering his lord. The finale–which is far more democratic than anything Shakespeare ever dared – is one of the great action sequences in cinema. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry and my Blu-ray review.

A- Bound (1996), Balboa, Thursday, 7:30pm

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.”

B+ Vivre sa vie (1962), BAMPFA, Thursday, 7:00pm

35mm! Very formal in structure, this early Jean-Luc Goddard feature uses intertitles to separate its 12 “scenes.” Together, they explore the main character’s journey from music store clerk to prostitute. Occasionally charming, funny, sexy, and informative, Vivre sa vie can also at times be quite boring. You develop an attachment to the lead character, but you don’t get to know her in depth. Goddard seems completely neutral here, without the didactic political preaching that would mar his later works. Part of the series Indelible Moments: May I Have This Dance.

B- Desert Hearts (1985), Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30pm

This lesbian romance meant more when it was made than it means today. A college professor lands in Reno to get a quick divorce, but a much younger woman falls for her, and the professor gets an important lesson. The film is set in the 1950s (or at least the early ’60s), when this sort of relationship was much more problematic. The characters are likable, but they often seem to be there just to farther to plot.

C+ The Gold Rush (the 1942 recut of the original 1925 masterpiece), BAMPFA, Sunday, 2:00pm

35mm & Free! In this 1925 epic comic adventure, Chaplin’s tramp travels through the frozen Yukon of the Alaskan gold rush, gets marooned in a cabin with two much stronger men, nearly starves to death, nearly becomes dinner, and falls in love with a dancehall girl who scarcely knows he exists. But that’s not what they’re screening. BAMPFA will screen Chaplin’s dreadful 1942 recut. For this version, Chaplin removed the intertitles, and replaced them with a truly awful narration. See my Blu-ray review. The full, original version, the masterpiece, will be screened later in the summer, once at Niles, and again back at BAMPFA. Part of the series Indelible Moments: May I Have This Dance.

Frequently-revived classics