If you like old movies in real theaters, you can see Kurosawa’s best, the flick that made Spielberg famous, the first great vampire movie, Billy Wilder’s look at American business, Hitchcock in 3D, and a Kubrick double bill. Plus two festivals.
Festivals & Series
- The SF International South Asian Film Festival opens Friday and closes Sunday
- The Oakland International Film Festival opens and closes Wednesday
Both films in 35mm!
The Shining: For once, the cliché is true: Stephen King’s novel is much better than the movie. Stanley Kubrick, brilliant as he was, missed the main point of the book – that a good man must struggle with his inner demons. Read my longer article.
A Clockwork Orange: Stanley Kubrick’s strange, “ultra-violent” dystopian nightmare about crime and conditioning feels self-consciously arty. But several scenes are brilliant, as is Malcolm McDowell’s performance as a hooligan turned helpless victim.
A+ The Seven Samurai (1954), Stanford, Saturday & Sunday, 3:00pm & 7:30pm
35mm! If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours for Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story – a poor village hires warriors to defend them against bandits – has been retold many times since, but Kurosawa told it first and told it best. This action film contains almost no action in the first two hours, but when the fighting arrives, you’re ready for it. You know every detail of the people involved, the terrain that will be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. One of the greatest movies ever made. Read my essay.
A+ Jaws (1975), Balboa, Friday, 4:00pm
People associate Jaws with three men in a boat, yet the picture is more than half over before the shark chase really begins. For that first half, Jaws is a suspenseful, witty variation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People, but with a central character more conflicted and less noble (Roy Scheider). Then the three men get on the boat and the picture turns into a hair-raising variation on Moby Dick. Jaws’ phenomenal success helped create the summer blockbuster, yet by today’s standards, it’s practically an art film–albeit one that could scare the living eyeballs out of you. See my Blu-ray review.
A Nosferatu (1922)
*New Mission, Wednesday, 7:00pm
*New Parkway, Thursday, 6:30pm
Forget about sexy vampires; the first film version of Dracula doesn’t have one. This unauthorized rip-off got the filmmakers in legal trouble, where Max Schreck played 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. Live musical score by Invincible Czars! Read my Blu-ray review.
A Galaxy Quest (1999), New Mission, Monday, 7:00pm
There’s no better way to parody a well-known genre than to write characters who know the genre and find themselves living in what they thought was their favorite fiction. Few movies do this better than Galaxy Quest. In this spoof of all things Star Trek, the cast of a long-cancelled sci-fi TV show find themselves on a real space adventure with good and bad aliens. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman star.
A The Apartment (1960), Stanford, Thursday through next Sunday; 5:15pm & 9:35pm
35mm! Billy Wilder won a Best Picture Oscar for this serious comedy about powerful men exploiting those working below them. Jack Lemmon gave one of his best performances as a minor white-collar worker who rises in the company by loaning his apartment to company executives. These married men need a private place for hanky-panky with their mistresses. With Fred MacMurray as the top exploiter and Shirley MacLane as the woman he exploits and Lemmon loves. Read my Blu-ray review. On a double bill with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which I haven’t seen in a long time, and I never liked it.
A- Mississippi Masala (1991), Sebastopol, Sunday, 5:30pm
Dinner with Michele Anna Jordan! Here’s a rare thing: A mixed-race romance, set in America, where neither of the lovers are white. The woman in the relationship (Sarita Choudhury) is ethnically Indian, although she, and her parents, were born in Uganda. Now they’re in Mississippi, where she falls in love with a local African American (Denzel Washington). And suddenly, people who have been hurt by racism all their lives become bigots. Written by Sooni Taraporevala and directed by the brilliant Mira Nair.
B+ Dial M for Murder, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30
In 3D! Good Hitchcock but not great Hitchcock, with several overly-talkie sequences that make it feel like the stage play it was based on. But it was a good play, and Hitchcock knew how to enliven it. One man blackmails another into committing murder, with results that I can’t possibly discuss. Hitchcock shot Dial M in 3D, and pretty much ignored the obvious depth effects of the technology. But when he finally throws something at the camera, he knows exactly what to throw and when to throw it. Read my re-evaluation.
B+ My Fair Lady (1964), Lark
George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion brilliantly examined issues of class, culture, and gender roles in an intimate story deftly balanced between drama and comedy. The musical version adds spectacle, which is completely unnecessary, and doesn’t hurt the movie. Rex Harrison makes a wonderful Henry Higgins–tyrannical, cruel, and yet slowly falling in love without understanding why. But as Eliza Doolittle, Audrey Hepburn is miscast. Stanley Holloway steals the movie as Eliza’s happily slothful father; his two songs are the movie’s musical highlights. Read my essay.
B+ The Shining (1980), Roxie, Sunday, 5:30; Thursday, 9:30pm
Stephen King’s novel
is much better than the movie. Stanley Kubrick, brilliant as he was, missed the main point of the book – that the protagonist loves his family, and is a good man struggling with his inner demons. Without that, it’s little more than a sequence of scares (all good scares, but just scares). Kubrick added some surprising and effective touches, but overall, he turned a brilliant novel into a simply very good horror flick. Read my longer article. After the Sunday, September 18 show, there will be a discussion with co-writer Diane Johnson and film historian David Thomson.
B+ The Wizard of Oz (1939), Wednesday, Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm
It’s an entertaining movie, with clever songs, lush Technicolor photography, and two great performances: Judy Garland’s Dorothy and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. But when you think about it, the movie is pretty strange for a children’s flick. A seemingly nice “wizard” (Frank Morgan) sends a child to murder a powerful psychopath. And when Dorothy gets home, her dog will soon be put down.
D The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30pm
The Coen Brothers’ first attempt at out-and-out farce, a parody of Frank Capra movies, doesn’t work. The very talented Tim Robbins seems out of his element playing a holy fool rocketed to the top of a giant corporation; it’s just not his kind of acting. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the reporter who of course will fall for him, does slightly better with her Katherine Hepburn imitation. The Coens would soon learn to make funnier comedies.
Films of historical interest
? Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (2020), Saturday, 3:00pm
We all know that The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II
are masterpieces, but The Godfather Part III is at best mediocre. So, Francis Coppola recut the movie into something worthwhile. I’ve never seen this version, but it couldn’t be much worse than Part III.