What’s Screening: Sept 23 – 29

I suppose I should say something about Jean-Luc Godard – he was the last of that band of outsiders that created the French New Wave and changed cinema. I like some of his early works, such as Breathless and Vivre Sa Vie. But he eventually broke with his friends and became way too didactic to be an artist…and too didactic to be a friend.

Anyway, here are some films that are screening in the Bay Area this week.

Festivals & Series

The Week’s Big Event

This Thursday is Silent Movie Day. Unfortunately, very few theaters in the Bay Area seem to notice – and that’s in a cosmopolitan area that contains a Silent Film Museum and a major silent film festival. Only Rialto Cinemas, the company that runs the Sebastopol, Elmwood, and Cerrito, are celebrating the day.

F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – one of the most beautiful silent films

Theatrical revivals

A+ Children of Paradise (1945), Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm

Shot while the Nazi occupation fell apart, Children of Paradise has been called the most ecstatically French film ever made. A three-hour epic set in the theater scene of early 19th-century Paris, the story follows the life of a beautiful woman (Arletty) and four men who fall under her spell – each in his own unique way. It’s rich, romantic, and deeply in love with theatrical traditions. In this version of Paris, even the thugs see their violence as an art. Written by Jacques Prévert and directed by Marcel Carné. Read my Blu-ray review.

A+ The General (1926)
*Sebastopol, Thursday, 3:15pm & 7:00pm
*Elmwood, Thursday, 3:15pm & 7:00pm

Buster Keaton’s Civil War opus just might be the most beautiful and spectacular comedy ever filmed – a perfect blending of comedy and epic adventure (even though the good guys are the confederates). Loosely based on an actual Civil War event, Keaton mixed slapstick comedy with battlefield death. He hired thousands of extras and filmed what may be the single most expensive shot of the silent era – then used that shot as the setup for a gag in close-up. Read my full article. Part of Silent Movie Day.

A+ Ran (1985), Lark
*Monday, 10:00am
*Tuesday, 2:00pm
*Wednesday, 7:00pm

William Shakespeare created his saddest, most hopeless tragedy in King Lear. Almost four centuries later, Akira Kurosawa loosely adapted it into his saddest taleIt’s also one of his most visually striking. Kurosawa altered the story considerably, and not only by changing the three daughters into sons. Ran tells us that the sleepy, vain, senile king (Tatsuya Nakadai) was once a cruel and merciless warlord who built an empire on strict obedience and heartless violence. Fate punishes the wicked in Ran, although the virtuous suffer just as badly. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry and my Shakespeare adaptation article.

A Nosferatu (1922), Lark, Friday, 7:30pm

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. Read my Blu-ray review. Live musical score by Invincible Czars! A silent film, but not part of Silent Movie Day

A Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), New Mission, 1:45pm & 7:00pm

7:00 screening is a movie party (whatever that is)! Bump your coconuts and prepare the Holy Hand Grenade, but watch out for the Killer Rabbit (not to mention the Trojan one). The humor is silly and often in very bad taste, and the picture has nothing of substance to say beyond ridiculing the romantic view of medieval Europe. But the Pythons’ first feature with an actual story (well, sort of) keeps you laughing from beginning to end. Arguably the funniest film from the 1970s, and certainly the funniest from the 1370’s.

B+ The Heartbreak Kid (1972), BAMPFA, Sunday, 7:00pm

The newlyweds are unquestionably Jewish. But on the wedding night, the groom (Charles Grodin) discovers that he’s in love with another woman – and worse, a shiksa. So, he drops his bride and goes for the girl who looks like Cybill Shepherd (who plays the part). Screenwriter Neil Simon and director Elaine May play here with Jewish assimilation issues and fears. Oddly, BAMPFA is screening this very Jewish film on Erev Rosh Hashana – the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Part of the series Elaine May: Age of Irony.

B+ The Rocky Horror Picture Show  (1975), Balboa, Saturday, 11:30pm; Sunday, 11:59pm

With the Bawdy Caste Live Shadow Cast! This is in no way, shape, or form a great movie. It’s cheaply shot. The songs, while catchy, are hardly great rock. The characters are broad clichés, and the plot is almost non-existent. But it’s a crazy, funny, absurd celebration of everything sexual, with Tim Curry carrying the movie as a cross-dressing mad scientist. Also starring a very young Susan Sarandon. Read my report.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics