What’s Screening: April 28 – May 4

Vintage films are playing at Bay Area movie theaters. There’s the original Star Wars trilogy (although changed by George Lucas). Also films by Wayne Wang, Marjane Satrapi, Gene Kelly, and someone called Francis Ford Coppola.

Festivals & Series

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A Persepolis (2007), New Mission, Tuesday, 6:45pm

Can a 95-minute, low-budget, animated film be an epic?I think this one qualifies. It may also qualify as a masterpiece. Iranian/French cartoonist Marjane Satrapi based Persepolis on her own autobiographical graphic novels (Vincent Paronnaud shares screenwriting and directing credits). Through the eyes of the young Marjane, we see Iran go through oppression, revolution, hope, worse oppression, war, and even worse oppression. Read my full review.

A Frozen (2013), 4-Star, Saturday, 11:00am

By the time this Disney animated feature came out, my kids could go to the movies by themselves, and therefore I missed a real treat. Yes, it follows the conventional formula for Disney animated features – with a fairyland princess, a handsome hunk, songs, and adorable animals. But this time, you’ve got two princesses, one becoming queen, both basically good but with a sibling rivalry that could destroy the kingdom. And you don’t know which handsome hunk will marry the ingenue we really care about. It’s also beautiful to look at.

Theatrical revivals

A+ Singin’ In the Rain (1952), New Parkway, Saturday, 2:15pm

In 1952, the late twenties seemed like a fond memory of an innocent time, and nostalgia was a large part of Singin’ in the Rain ‘s original appeal. The nostalgia is long gone, so we can clearly see this movie for what it is: the greatest musical ever filmed, and perhaps the best work of pure escapist entertainment to ever come out of Hollywood. Take out the songs, which are easily the best part of the movie, and you still have one of the best comedies of the 1950′s. It’s also the funniest movie Hollywood ever made about itself. Read my A+ appreciation.

A+ The Godfather Part II (1974), New Mission
֍ Friday, 11:15am
֍ Saturday, 11:00am
֍ Monday, 1:30pm
֍ Wednesday, 2:00pm

By juxtaposing the material rise of Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in the first film, here a young Robert De Niro) with the moral fall of his son Michael (Al Pacino), Mario Puzo and Francis Coppola show us the long-term effects of what seemed like a good idea at the time. De Niro plays young Vito as a loving family man who turns to crime to better support his wife and children. But in Michael – consolidating his empire some thirty years later – we see the ultimate disastrous effects of that decision. Pacino plays him as a tragic monster who senses his own emptiness. Read my A+ appreciation.

A Tongues Untied (1989), BAMPFA, Wednesday, 7:00pm

Marlon Riggs’ last film, made while he was dying of AIDS, is like no other documentary I’ve ever seen. The first-person narration by Riggs himself and other gay, black men, isn’t just talk. It’s poetry, and it tells us of being black and gay in a society where the black community is homophobic and the gay community racist. Visually, you see people talking to the camera, sometimes against a black background and other times in real places. Or you see marches or just city streets. But it’s the poetic language, and the exciting editing, that makes this very short feature (55 minutes) extremely powerful.

A Chan is Missing (1982), 4-Star, Thursday, 7:30pm

A cab driver can’t find his friend and business partner – the Chan of the movie’s title. So, the cabbie and his nephew set out to find the missing Chan who may not want to be found. After all, Chan owes money to the cabbie. Wayne Wong’s breakthrough film is more than just a mystery. As the cabbie tries to find Chan and people who know him, the film gives us a view of San Francisco’s Chinatown…or at least the Chinatown of 1982.

A+ Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), New Mission, Monday, 7:00pm

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.

B+ A New Hope (1977), Rafael, Thursday, 7:30pm

The first Star Wars movie is the only one that works on its own, without a need for sequels or prequels. It introduces the main characters and provides a lot of excitement. Good and evil are clearly defined. Farm boy Luke Skywalker discovers he has a heritage and a destiny. Roguish space pirate Han Solo must learn that there’s more to fight for than himself. Princess Leia knows who she is and what she must do from the start. And with CP3O and R2D2, we have a comic team of robots that could almost rival Laurel and Hardy. It’s just a big piece of fun. Unfortunately, the version you’ll see is not exactly what it was in 1977.

A- Empire Strikes Back (1980) Lark
֍ Sunday, 3:00pm
֍ Monday, 4:30pm

The middle chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy brings a deep feeling of dread. By keeping CP3O and R2D2 apart for much of the movie, the film tamps down the comedy (although there’s a humorous romance bubbling up). With Lando, we have a character who may be a hero and may be a villain. And, of course, the climax has one of the biggest surprises in cinema history. Note: This is an altered version; I prefer the 1980 original.

A- Return of the Jedi (1983) , Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Sunday, 5:30pm
֍ Monday, 7:00pm

The final chapter of the first Star Wars trilogy manages to merge the fun of A New Hope with the darkness of The Empire Strikes Back. The first half hour gives us a fun subplot where a more mature, more confident Luke gets to buckle his swash. The movie ends with three simultaneous fights: one so fun you can ignore that it’s ridiculous, another that revisits the first film’s climax, and finally, the struggle to master ones own violent emotions. It closes with the happiest of endings.

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

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.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics