What’s Screening: July 15 – 21

We start this week with two very romantic movies. Then two double bills at the finally-open Stanford. Those are followed by one of Pixar’s best and two adaptions of Broadway musicals. And finally, crime stories from Tarantino and Ozu. (Yes, Ozu made crime flicks.)

And three film festivals run this week.

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

B+ Fire of Love (2022), New Mission, Rafael, Sebastopol, opens Friday

How often do you see a documentary on volcanoes that’s also a romantic love story? Katia and Maurice Krafft – a very happily married couple – spent their lives studying the dangerous powers that occasionally break through the earth’s crust. They also had one of those rare perfect marriages; they worked together and loved it. Their work was extremely dangerous – but also very important and beautiful. Lava flows and unique rocks are stunning. But throughout the film, you’re constantly reminded that the film will not end well. They speak mostly in French with subtitles, with English narration by Miranda July.

Another chance to see (virtually)

The Before Trilogy, The Criterion Channel

If there’s a film in this world more romantic than Before Sunrise, I haven’t seen it. A young man and a young woman meet on a train, then spend an afternoon and night walking, talking, and flirting. The only suspense is whether they’ll have sex. But director Richard Linklater, along with his talented actors and writers, went farther. They made two sequels in nine-year increments, letting us see them from youth to early middle age. Read my full article about the trilogy.

Double bills

Bogart double bill: A+ Casablanca (1942) & A In a Lonely Place (1950), Stanford, Saturday & Sunday; full double bills start at 3:50, 5:45 & 7:30

Casablanca: You’ve either already seen the best movie to come out of Hollywood’s studio-era sausage factory, or you know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece. For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.
In a Lonely Place: Nicholas Ray critiqued masculinity in many of his films, yet rarely as strong as he does here. Early on, the movie feels like an exposé of Hollywood. Then it becomes a murder mystery. It ends up studying the worst of masculinity.

Preston Sturges double bill: A- The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944); B+ Christmas in July
(1940); Stanford, Thursday & Friday; full double bills at 6:10pm & 7:30pm
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek: At a time when it was impossible for a Hollywood picture to criticize the American military, or suggest that a young woman could get pregnant out of wedlock, Preston Sturges made a very funny comedy about a teenage girl who goes out with some soldiers and comes back in a family way. Read my appreciation.
Christmas in July: In his second film as a director, Sturges creates a charming, bitter comedy about the American Dream – with themes that come out of King Vidor’s much more serious masterpiece, The Crowd. Dick Powell stars as a lowly clerk who thinks he has the makings of a brilliant advertising executive.

Theatrical revivals

A- WALL-E (2008), Rafael, Saturday, 1:00pm; Monday, 7:00pm

Andrew Stanton and Pixar made a courageous movie. When Disney finances your big-budget family entertainment, it takes guts to look closely and critically at our consumer culture, obesity, and planetary destruction. Making an almost dialog-free film also took a fair amount of backbone. WALL-E wimps out in the third act–which is both disappointing and probably inevitable–and while that diminishes Stanton’s achievement, it doesn’t destroy it. Read my full review. Part of the summer-long series Pixar Family Film Series.

B+ Hair (1979), Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm

The Broadway “tribal love-rock musical” was plotless and pretty much unfilmable (as a teenager, I loved the play). So when it came time to make the movie, Milos Forman and screenwriter Michael Weller created their own story built around the songs and characters. One of the best films about the late 1960’s counterculture, made only a few years after it ended.

B+ Cabaret (1972), various theaters, check for theaters, dates, and times

Back in the spring of 1973, I was angry (but not surprised) when the “obviously commercial Godfather” beat Bob Fosse’s Weimar-era musical for the Best Picture Oscar. Time proved me wrong, and while I wouldn’t today put Cabaret in the same class as The Godfather, this story of decadence in pre-Nazi Germany is still a dazzling piece of style with an important message about the loss of freedom.

B Dragnet Girl (1933), BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00pm

This is not what you’d expect from Yasujirô Ozu. This crime story is flashy and fun to watch. Kinuyo Tanaka is wonderful as a seemingly innocent young girl who’s really a tough-as-nails moll. Well, maybe she’s not as tough as she seems. The exceptionally handsome Joji Oka brings energy and charisma to the part of her gangster boyfriend – a Japanese James Cagney. This late silent film will be accompanied by Judith Rosenberg on the piano. Part of the series Forever Kinuyo Tanaka.

B Jackie Brown (1997), Balboa, Sunday, 7:30pm

Quentin Tarantino’s follow up to Pulp Fiction is a slick noir that lacks some of the clever dialog that makes the director’s violent movies so much fun. But it’s still worth watching, thanks mostly for Pam Grier’s wonderful performance in the titular role. She plays a flight attendant who’s smuggling large amounts of money into the country illegally. The stellar cast contains Samuel L. Jackson (of course, it’s a Tarantino movie), Michael Keaton, Bridget Fonda, Robert Forster, and Robert De Niro as a very stupid criminal. There are some great old songs on the soundtrack.

Frequently-revived classics