What’s Screening: Oct. 21 – 27

What can you see on Bay Area big screens this week? Two of the best of Hitchcock. The looney, and sexy, world of Max Fleischer. Also, there’s a very disturbing post-Holocaust thriller, Mel Brooks’ Halloween treat, the world’s most Catholic horror flick, and Charlie Chaplin with live music.

Festivals & Series

Probably a good show

Max Fleischer Animation Celebration, New Parkway, Wednesday, 9:30pm

Through the 1920s into the 1950s, Max Fleischer created some of the wildest animated cartoons ever made. His studio gave us Popeye, Superman, and best and craziest of all, Betty Boop. This collection of shorts will probably be quite a show.

New films opening theatrically

B- Plan A (2021), Lark
*Friday, 10:00am
*Tuesday, 5:00pm
*Wednesday, 1:50pm

This very disturbing post-war thriller, made mostly in Israel and set in Germany (but with English dialogue), seems at times to be both Zionist and anti-Semitic. Max (August Diehl), after losing his home and family in the Holocaust, joins up with a group of Jewish terrorists planning to poison the German water supply (something Jews have been accused of for centuries). Very well made, it leaves you horrified at what the protagonists are planning to do.

Theatrical revivals

A+ North By Northwest (1959), Rafael, Sunday, 1:00pm; Monday, 7:00pm

A glib advertising man (Cary Grant) becomes the victim of mistaken identity in Alfred Hitchcock’s most entertaining thriller. Foreign spies want to kill him, and the police want to arrest him for a murder he didn’t commit. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman provided almost as many laughs as thrills, balancing them deftly. Hitchcock made thrillers more frightening and thoughtful than North by Northwest, but he never made one more entertaining. Read my A+ appreciation. Part of the series Celebrating the Big Screen.

A Young Frankenstein (1974), Lark Drive-In, Friday, 7:00pm

Mel Brooks showed off his talent beautifully in this sweet-natured, 1974 parody and tribute to the Universal horror films of the 1930′s (specifically the first three Frankenstein movies). Gene Wilder wrote the screenplay and stars as the latest doctor to be stuck with the famous name. With Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle as the lovable but clumsy monster.

A Psycho (1960), New Mission, Sunday, 3:40pm; Monday, 7:00pm

You may never want to take a shower again. In his last masterpiece, Alfred Hitchcock pulls the rug out from under us several times, leaving the audience unsure who we’re supposed to be rooting for or what could constitute a happy ending. In roles that defined their careers, Janet Leigh stars as a secretary turned thief, and Anthony Perkins as a momma’s boy with a lot to hide. I’ll always regret that I knew too much about Psycho before I saw it; I wish I could erase all memory of this movie and watch it with fresh eyes.

B+ The Kid (1921), Lark, Saturday, 7:00pm

Frederick Hodges on live piano! Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length comedy is a seriously-flawed masterpiece containing scenes of near-perfect, roll-on-the-floor comedy. The loving relationship between Charlie and his adopted son (played by six-year-old Jackie Coogan) provides the film’s heart. You laugh more because you care for these people, and you care more because they make you laugh. But you can also feel Chaplin trying to stretch the story to a feature length. Read my Chaplin Diary entry.

B Band of Outsiders (1964), Roxie, Friday, 7:00pm; Saturday, 1:50pm

I don’t think this Jean-Luc Godard picture would work at all without Anna Karina. She’s not only beautiful, but she has a youthful innocence that outshines her less-interesting two male co-stars (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur). The film is at its best when they’re just fooling around with the energy of youth; the dance scene in the restaurant is a great moment in cinema. But we all know from the start that Band will eventually become a crime story, and then evolve into another type of movie altogether.

B The Exorcist (1973), Balboa, Monday, 7:30pm

This famous horror flick has a serious statement: convert to Catholicism. But for a Jewish agnostic like myself, the message doesn’t carry much of a bite. (When I first saw it, in a big, crowded theater, sitting next to two ex-Catholic friends, it packed a big wallop). The film is clearly trying to say that the real evil is modern medicine, while religion can save the day. But whatever it’s saying, it’s a well-made and entertaining movie.

Frequently-revived classics