The festivals are all Jewish this week, and they’re all happening over the weekend. There’s a new documentary that’s Only in Theaters. What else can you see in the cinema this week? There’s Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes, and Warren Beatty’s epic socialist love story, Reds. The Staple Singers, the Bar-Kays, Kim Weston, and Isaac Hayes playing in Wattstax. There are also good movies from Ang Lee, Studio Ghibli, Buster Keaton, and what most people consider Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece.
Festivals & Series
- WinterFest (part of the Jewish Film Institute); opens Saturday and closes Sunday
- The East Bay Film Festival is also running Saturday and closes Sunday
Festival Recommendations: WinterFest
A- The Forger (2022), Vogue, Saturday, 7:30pm
Cioma Schönhaus was an extraordinary forger. It’s a useful job for a young Jewish man in Berlin during the Nazi years. He forges everything from food rations to passes. He does it for himself, but he’s also connected to an illegal organization that we don’t really understand. Based on a true story, if that means anything.
B Do I Need This? (2023), Vogue, Saturday, noon
Here’s something of a home movie, which is appropriate since it’s about what we put in our homes. It’s appropriate for a documentary about hoarding. Among the people interviewed are a Buddhist monk, a professional hauler, and a couple who have basically turned hoarding into a lifestyle. And yes, the film looks at the terrible garbage that’s destroying the planet. The film is also about the filmmaker and her family, as her mother is losing her mind and eventually her life.
Festival Recommendations: East Bay Film Festival
B+ Karaoke (2022), Century 16 in Pleasant Hills, Saturday, 8:40pm
The roller coaster of marriage gets a full workout in this Israeli story. Meir and Tova have been married so long their relationship has gone flat, to the point where Meir goes out for a walk while having dinner with their adult children. But then they meet the wealthy swinger in their apartment building’s penthouse. At times, the new friend seems to be exactly what their relationship needs. Or perhaps the last thing any of them should try. Why is it Jewish? It’s an Israeli movie.
New films opening theatrically
B+ Only in Theaters (2023)
֍ Friday, Roxie, Friday, 6:40pm
֍ East Bay Jewish FF at Century 16 in Pleasant Hills. Check for times. Part of the East Bay Film Festival.
֍ Saturday, Roxie, Saturday, 4:30pm
֍ Sunday, Roxie, Sunday, 3:30pm
֍ Monday, Elmwood, 7:00pm
֍ Tuesday, Roxie, 6:30pm
֍ Wednesday, Sebastopol, 7:00pm
The Laemmle family has been running their chain of independent movie theaters since the 1940s. Many films got their first Los Angeles premiere in a Laemmle theater. Now things are getting bad in the movie business, and some family members want to close the theaters. This documentary shows this Jewish family in good times and troubled times. And yes, it’s the Laemmle family that created Universal Pictures.
Another chance to see (theatrically)
A Get Out (2017), New Parkway, Friday, 10:30pm
Writer/director Jordan Peele took the concept of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and turned it into a comic horror movie. When a young, successful, and Black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) meets his white girlfriend’s parents, he finds something very strange about every African American he encounters. Soon trapped, he must find a way to escape from the privileged folks who want to turn him into yet another zombie slave. Funny, scary, and with a very sharp point.
A Woman in the Dunes (1964), Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Monday, 8:00pm
On one level, Hiroshi Teshigahara’s masterpiece is a major serious work of cinematic art. On the other hand, it’s an erotic horror thriller. It works great either way (although some horror fans may find it too slow). The people living in a small village trap an out-of-town man into a deep sand pit, where he must live in a rickety house with a woman who was trapped there long ago and has by now accepted her fate. The sandpit makes a powerful, probable monster that slowly destroys its victims. Eerie and suspenseful, Woman in the Dunes plays with issues of identity, exploitation, and the thin line between humans and other animals. It also contains a couple of very erotic love scenes.
A- Reds (1981), New Mission
֍ Friday, 11:40am
֍ Sunday, 10:45
At the beginning of the Reagan era, Warren Beatty made an expensive, tragically romantic, three-hour-plus epic about early American Communists. With a story moving from America to Russia, Reds tracks the turbulent relationship between journalists John Reed (Beatty, who also directed and co-wrote) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), while catching both the idealistic promises and the failed realities of Bolshevism. With Jack Nicholson as Eugene O’Neill and Maureen Stapleton as Emma Goldman.
A- Wattstax (1973), New Mission
֍ Saturday, 11:30am
֍ Wednesday, 3:15pm
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- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), New Mission
֍ Saturday, 6:25pm
֍ Monday, 3:45pm
֍ Tuesday, 3:30pm
Ang Lee and James Schamus turn the period kung fu epic into a character study of warriors who must choose between love or duty. The action scenes are among the most amazing ever filmed – complete with the gravity-defying leaps found only in Hong Kong cinema – but with a very human story at its core.
B+ Princess Mononoke (1997), 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 11:00am & 2:00pm (dubbed)
֍ Sunday, 1:30pm (dubbed)
֍ Monday, 7:30pm (subtitled)
For much of its runtime, this Japanese, animated, action fantasy takes you on a wild and exciting ride. The hand-drawn characters, the strange animals, and the amazing moments of fear, struggle, and love are surprisingly powerful. The climactic battle between animals and people drags on too long, seemingly just for the point of making things big. The environmental message is both obvious and shallow. Too extreme for young children.
B- Go West (1925), Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30pm
This is not one of Buster Keaton’s masterpieces, and it’s better than Three Ages
and College. Buster literally falls into an Arizona ranch where he falls in love, not so much with the leading lady, but with a loveable cow named Brown Eyes. The big chase, with livestock meandering through Los Angeles, just doesn’t have the excitement of the climax of Our Hospitality and Seven Chances.
C- Vertigo (1958), Rafael
֍ Sunday, 1:00pm
֍ Monday, 7:00pm
For many cinephiles, this isn’t just Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece; it’s the greatest movie ever made. Not me. Neither the story nor most of the characters make any sense, and I don’t believe anyone’s motivations. The film contains one wonderful, believable, and likable character, Barbara Bel Geddes’ Midge, although we don’t see much of her. Yes, the film is very atmospheric, yet that’s just not enough. I don’t need to stare at a screen to experience San Francisco’s fog.
- The Conversation, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30pm
- In the Mood for Love, Roxie, check days and times