In Bay Area moviegoing this week: A Powell/Pressburger film I’ve yet to see. A Kurosawa double bill. Spike Lee’s best film free in the open air. Movies by Howard Hawks and Samuel Fuller. And for the first time in movie history, a handsome man lights a cigarette and says the immortal words, “Bond. James Bond.”
Festivals & Series
- Cinequest runs through the week and beyond
- The Classic Movie Musicals weekly series ends Wednesday
- The Pixar Family Film Series continues into September, also weekly
? I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), BAMPFA, Saturday, 4:30pm
Digital Restoration! I haven’t seen this Powell/Pressburger movie, so I can’t tell you if it’s good or not. But coming from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, this romance set in Scotland’s Hebrides Islands is probably pretty good. Part of the series Film Preservation: Celebrating The Film Foundation.
Another chance to see (theatrically)
A Coco (2017), Rafael, Saturday, 1:00pm & Monday, 7:00, pm
This beautiful journey into Mexican traditions of the afterlife (via big-budget Hollywood, of course) manages to be serious, emotional, and fun. Young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) belongs to a family of shoemakers who hate music. But music runs deep in the boy’s soul. On the Day of the Dead, he accidentally goes to the other side, even though he’s still alive. To come back, he must learn a lot about life and his family. Since Pixar made this movie, Miguel’s journey is also funny, suspenseful, exciting, and visually stunning. Part of the series Pixar Family Film Series.
Kurosawa double bill: A The Hidden Fortress (1958) & A Yojimbo (1961), Stanford, Saturday & Sunday. Full shows start at 3:00pm, 5:30pm, & 7:30pm
The Hidden Fortress: In his first widescreen movie, Akira Kurosawa appears to be just having fun; it’s a rousing, suspenseful, and entertaining romp. It contains two comic peasants (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara) who were the inspiration for R2D2 and C3PO. See my Kurosawa Diary entry or my Blu-ray review.
Yojimbo: A masterless samurai (Toshiro Mifune) wanders into a small town torn apart by two gangs fighting a brutal turf war. Disgusted by the situation, our hero uses his wits and swordsmanship to play the two sides against each other. An entertaining action flick, a parody of westerns, and a nihilistic black comedy all rolled into one. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry.
Noir & romance: B Laura (1944); B+ Shanghai Express; Stanford, Thursday, full shows at 7:30pm & 5:45pm
Laura: Here’s a whodunit made when film noir was just coming into bloom. Dana Andrews plays a police detective trying to find Laura’s murderer. There were two men who loved Laura. Gene Tierney plays Laura in flashbacks and…I really can’t tell you anymore.
Shanghai Express: Josef von Sternberg created this seductive, romantic, and totally inaccurate vision of China. And Marlene Dietrich is photographed with the most gorgeous black-and-white lighting imaginable, and you have an exotic and almost erotic tale.
A+ Do the Right Thing (1989), BAMPFA, Thursday, 7:00pm
Free & outdoors: Spike Lee’s masterpiece just may be the best fiction film ever made about race relations in America. For a 33-plus-year-old film, it feels very much like the here and now. By focusing on a single block of Brooklyn over the course of one very hot day, Lee dramatizes and analyzes everything wrong (and a few things right) about race relations in America. And yet this beautifully made film is touching, funny, warm-hearted, and humane. Read my Blu-ray review. Part of the series Free Outdoor Screenings—Indelible Moments: May I Have This Dance
A Only Angels Have Wings, Stanford, Friday, 7:30pm
Cary Grant heads a team of mail plane pilots in a remote corner of South America. There’s little plot here, just a study of men who routinely fly under extremely dangerous conditions, and how they cope with death as an every-day part of life. The only non-comedy out of the five films Grant made with director Howard Hawks. On a double bill with The Talk of the Town, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen.
A- Wattstax, Roxie, Saturday, 4:20pm (Big Roxie); Monday, 9:00pm (Little Roxie)
The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Kim Weston, and Isaac Hayes give great performances to excited audiences and well-placed cameras. Best of all, a not-yet-famous Richard Pryor adds his own very funny asides.
A- Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm
As a teenager, I loved the musical stage play and hated the movie (I saw both when they were relatively new). I felt that the film’s production values were too big, and the comic timing was off. Now I can appreciate what director Norman Jewison (who isn’t Jewish) was trying to do. Rather than making a musical comedy with a period setting and a serious undertone, he turned it into a historical spectacle with songs. It’s funny, but only when appropriate. But its sympathetic story of older people uncomfortable with change is both sad and hopeful. Read my article.
B+ Underworld U.S.A., BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00
Archival 35mm Print! Told in that sleek and unforgiving Samuel Fuller style, this hard-hitting movie presents a world where crime can become respectable, but a thug is always a thug. Cliff Robertson plays a safe cracker on a 20-year quest to avenge his father’s murder. That’s kind of tricky, since three of the father’s killers are now top crime bosses. So, our thuggish antihero joins up with the syndicate, makes himself liked, and starts working to destroy it from within. Part of the series From the Front Page to the Front Lines: The Essential Sam Fuller.
B The Naked Kiss (1964), BAMPFA, Wednesday, 7:00pm
Archival 35mm Print! The film starts with a powerful punch. A bald woman viciously beats up a man, and you know instantly that he deserves it. But writer/director Samuel Fuller never was subtle. The woman with the strong right hook (an excellent Constance Towers) moves to a small town and discovers how difficult it is to become respectable when your previous vocation was prostitute. Even working in a hospital for disabled children, and successfully romancing the richest guy in town, doesn’t convince the very hypocritical police detective. But there’s more darkness in the town than meets the eye. Part of the series From the Front Page to the Front Lines: The Essential Sam Fuller.
B Dr. No (1962), click for theaters, Sunday, 3:00pm & 7:00pm
Here’s where big-screen James Bond began. For the first time, you get “Bond, James Bond,” beautiful and apparently available girls, M and Moneypenny, an exotic location (Jamacia), car chases, fights, gunplay, and my favorite: the evil villain who captures Bond, treats him as an honored guest, then allow him to escape through very wide airducts. It sometimes feels like 007 in embryo, and it’s amazing that it would be followed by a much better movie, From Russia with Love.
A- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Lark Drive-In, Saturday, 8:30pm
The first Indiana Jones movie doesn’t have much of a story. The plot is just an excuse to take us from one action sequence to another. But these action sequences are amongst the best filmed. They’re brilliantly choreographed, exciting, and despite the fast cutting, completely clear. A river of comedy runs through it all, reminding the audience not to take the story seriously. Warning: There’s a thin vein of unthinking racism. Also known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Read my full essay.