What’s Screening: October 14 – 20

Five festivals, multiple Keatons, Trump vs. Clinton, and A Man Called Ove on Bay Area screens this week.


New films opening

A- A Man Called Ove, Embarcadero, Albany, opens Friday; Rafael, opens Monday

Here we have the cliché of the crotchety old man who hates everybody, and the good-hearted people who melt his resistance and bring him back to the human race. Writer/director Hannes Holm makes this worn-out plot new by adding a deep understanding of the inevitable tragedy of human life, without losing the humor of the situation. Filled with comic suicide attempts and flashbacks of love and loss, A Man Called Ove manages to be both dark and heartwarming. Read my full review.

Promising events

The Final Presidential Debate, New Parkway, 6:00.

What will Trump do next to prove his manhood? Yell louder? Threaten the moderator. Physically attack a member of the audience? The suspense is killing me. (Okay, yes, you can also watch this at home as well.)

Viridiana, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Friday, 8:00

I haven’t seen Luis Buñuel’s satire on sex, religion, and capitalism (yes, that defines most of his work) in decades, but I recall liking it. Buñuel’s favorite actor, Fernando Rey, plays the aristocrat sexually obsessed with his niece, who’s about to become a nun (Silvia Pinal). The Vatican denounced the film when it opened in 1961. Part of Modern Cinema.

Film & Notfilm, Rafael, Monday through Thursday, 7:00

Samuel Beckett’s one motion picture, simply called Film, tends to confuse almost everyone who sees it. Running 20 extremely surreal minutes, with almost no sound, it stars Buster Keaton as a man who apparently doesn’t want to be seen–even by his pets. Notfilm, which I haven’t seen,
is a feature-length documentary about Film.

Comedy Shorts Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

I can guarantee three of the four short comedies screening. Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street comes from his excellent Mutual period, and is near perfect. The same goes for Buster Keaton’s The Playhouse, where he plays multiple roles (including an ape). In Should Married Men Go Home, Laurel and Hardy try to play golf and turn the course into a battlefield–very funny. I haven’t seen the Charlie Chase vehicle, No Father to Guide Him.

Recommended revivals

A- Dead Man, Castro, Wednesday

Here you have a western written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, which by definition makes it a very weird flick. The plot, concerning a timid accountant (Johnny Depp) who becomes a wanted outlaw within a day of getting off the train, sounds like a Bob Hope comedy. But despite some quirky humor, Dead Man is is mostly dead serious. It’s also, to my knowledge, the first black and white western since The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The supporting cast includes John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne, and Robert Mitchum. On a double bill with Ghost Dog, which I liked long ago.

A Safety Last!, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:30

Even Alfred Hitchcock never mastered the delicate balance between comedy and suspense as well as Harold Lloyd, who made that balance perfect in Safety Last’s final act. The first two thirds of the feature, with Harold struggling with a lousy job and a girlfriend who thinks he’s a successful executive, makes an excellent piece of comic work, with more than enough laughs for a comedy twice as long. But the final third, where Harold climbs a skyscraper, tops any other comic sequence I’ve seen. Read my Blu-ray review. Musical accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg.

The River, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Saturday, 1:00.

The clash of civilizations appears as a friendly melting pot in this coming of age story set in British India. A happy English family begins to get unglued when the two oldest daughters develop competing crushes on an American veteran. There’s tragedy and near-tragedy, and gentle comedy, and the warm envelope of people who love each other, even when they’re angry. Renoir paints, in beautiful three-strip Technicolor, an idealized version of British India, where everyone gets along, no one rejects a mixed-race girl, and western and eastern ways of life merge happily.

B The Day the Earth Stood Still, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday

They made a lot of science fiction movies in the 1950s, but few as good as this left-leaning, anti-McCarthyite Christian parable. An alien (Michael Rennie in his first major American role) comes to Earth with a message of peace, finds a populace unwilling to listen, and then becomes the target of a manhunt. A fine film, despite some overly-done symbolism. Not to be confused with the 2008 remake.

A Bringing Up Baby, Vogue, Friday, 5:00

How does one define a screwball comedy? You could say it’s a romantic comedy with glamorous movie stars behaving like broad, slapstick comedians. You could point out that screwballs are usually set amongst the excessively wealthy, and often explore class barriers. Or you could simply show Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby, a frivolous and hilarious tale about a mild-mannered paleontologist (Cary Grant), a ditzy heiress (Katharine Hepburn), and a tame leopard (a tame leopard). Part of the Katharine Hepburn Weekend.

A The African Queen, Vogue, Friday, 7:30; Sunday, 2:30

Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately-attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review. Another part of the Katharine Hepburn Weekend.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: October 7 – 13

This week we have Gene Wilder, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, dead teenagers, and a whole lot of classics that don’t get screened as often as they should.

Also, four film festivals, including Mill Valley.


Promising events

Gene Wilder Celebration, Castro, Sunday and Monday

Two days and two double bills of the late, great comic actor. On Sunday, they’ll screen The Producers (I love it) and Wlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I don’t care for it). On Monday, you can catch Blazing Saddles (I kind of like it), and Stir Crazy (never saw it).

The Good Fight: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

I know nothing about this documentary aside from what’s on the PFA’s website. But the story of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War is a fascinating one. Historian Peter Carroll, who wrote a book on the subject, will introduce the film.

Slumber Party Massacre, New Mission, Tuesday, 10:00

The early 80s saw a lot of low-budget slasher movies, mainly about helpless victims (usually nubile teenage girls) getting killed in all sorts of horrible ways. But this one was supposed to be different; it was written by feminist icon Rita Mae Brown, and was supposed to be a feminist satire. But when I saw it on VHS soon after its theatrical release, it just looked like another dead teenager flick to me. Maybe I missed something.

Recommended revivals

A+ Rashomon, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Friday, 6:00

In his first true masterpiece, Akira Kurosawa reminds us that we can never really know anything. Visually beautiful and deeply atmospheric, this eight-character chamber piece recounts the same crime four times by different eyewitnesses, and none of their stories match. The film that opened Japanese cinema to the world. See my Kurosawa Diary entry and my Blu-ray review. Part of Modern Cinema.

A+ Annie Hall, Castro, Wednesday

Almost every Hollywood film deals with romantic love on some level, but very few capture the complex, dizzying ups and downs of that common experience as accurately and entertainingly as Woody Allen’s masterpiece–the rare romantic comedy that doesn’t resort to silly plot-driven contrivances or paint-by-the-number characters. It captures, in flashback, the entire arc of a modern relationship, from cautious flirtation through giddy joy to the moment when the couple must accept the reality of their “dead shark.” Read my Blu-ray review. On a Diane Keaton ’70s double bill with Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which I saw and didn’t like when it was new.

A Let the Right One In¸ New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

This is one of the great vampire movies. After all, what better place for a vampire than a Swedish winter? The nights are very long, snow covers everything, and people drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In is also a coming-of-age story, about first love between a boy about to turn 13 and a girl who has been 12 “for a very long time.” Read my full review.

The Seventh Seal, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Saturday, 5:45

A knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades plays chess with Death (Bengt Ekerot) while the plague ravages the land. But while the knight thinks about eternity, his life-embracing squire (Gunnar Björnstrand) reminds us what it really means to be human. Filled with wonderful characters, religious allegory, and sly humor, it bursts with a love of humanity and a fear for our place in the universe. Another part of Modern Cinema.

B+ Grandma’s Boy, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

The best of Harold Lloyd’s early features, Grandma’s Boy hints at the brilliant comic story teller that Lloyd would soon become. Shy Harold lacks the courage needed to win the girl (or anything else), so his grandmother improvises a magic talisman and concocts a story to help him build up his nerve. Not Kid Brother or The Freshmen, but an important step in the direction of those masterpieces. Also on the program: Felix the Cat and Charlie Chase shorts. Judy Rosenberg provides the piano accompaniment.

B+ Detour, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday

If Double Indemnity, shot on a comfortable if not extravagant budget, started the trend now called film noir, this quick cheapie proved that the genre didn’t need production values. Tom Neal plays a broke musician who hitchhikes across the country and runs into some very bad luck. So bad, in fact, that a wicked woman (Ann Savage–what a name for an actress playing a femme fatale) can blackmail him for murder. Short, quick, and deeply disturbing, Detour provides 67 minutes of dark entertainment. On a double bill with The Strange Woman. Part of the series Vienna and the Movies.

L’Avventura, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, Saturday, 8:00

Michelangelo Antonioni’s story of the young and amoral hardly counts as an adventure–although it almost starts as one. A group of wealthy young adults take a yacht to a deserted island, where one of them mysteriously disappears. Her friends search for her, then casually give up. L’avventura isn’t about rescuing a loved one; but about the shallowness of modern relationships. Another part of Modern Cinema

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

  • Vertigo, Castro, Thursday through next Monday. Presented in 70mm. With a different Brian DePalma movie each day.

What’s Screening: September 30 – October 6

Tarantino, King Kong, Mozart, and some early Halloween treats this week in Bay Area screenings.

Also two new films and the opening of this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival.


New films opening

B Cameraperson, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, Rafael, opens Friday

Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has been shooting documentaries for decades. The films she’s lensed include Citizenfour and Farenheit 911. Now she’s gathered much of what she shot, including home movies, into a montage of her career and–to a lesser extent–of her private life. The film’s best when it puts human faces into the far-too-many horrible atrocities of recent history. It also shines when it reminds us of the person behind the camera; there’s a great moment when Johnson sneezes and the camera shakes. Often fascinating and moving, but sometimes repetitive and dull. Johnson in person at Opera Plaza Friday, 7:00; Shattuck Saturday, 7:20; Rafael Saturday, 4:15.

B- The Lovers and The Despot, Clay, opens Friday

You can’t find a stranger story in the history of cinema. One of South Korea’s top filmmakers and his actress wife disappeared in 1978, and five years later turned up making movies in North Korea. Yes, Kim Jong-il was so intent on improving his country’s film industry that he took to kidnapping. I don’t think you could make a bad documentary out of this incredible story, but the makers if The Lovers and the Despot failed to make a really good one. While the narrative and interviews were always clear, I often found myself wondering what I was looking at and why it was being shown. Read my full review.

Promising events

Quentin Tarantino Weekend, Balboa, Saturday and Sunday

Five films from the weirdly talented writer/director. Saturday starts with his best work, Pulp Fiction. That’s followed by the excellent Jackie Brown and the kind of entertaining but shallow and offensive Inglorious Basterds. Sunday, you can catch the silly but fun Kill Bill Parts 1 & 2.

King Kong Tribute, BAL Theatre, Saturday, October 1, 6:00

The first effects-laden adventure film of the sound era still holds up, thanks to Willis O’Brien’s breathtaking special effects, an intelligent script by Ruth Rose, and the evocative score by Max Steiner. I give the original King Kong an A. In addition to the classic movie, this event will include the documentary Long Live the King, about the character of Kong. With various special guests.

Recommended revivals

A Amadeus, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

In this tale of two composers, the successful Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) works hard to achieve greatness. On the other hand, Mozart (Tom Hulce) composes easily, but struggles to sell his work. Only Salieri can see that Mozart is the better composer. A story of talent, jealousy, and the creative spark, accompanied by some of the best music ever written. This director’s cut is significantly longer than the version that won the 1984 Best Picture Oscar; I like both of them.

A Night of the Living Dead, Saturday, 10:00

This is fear without compromise. The slow, nearly unstoppable ghouls (sequels and imitations would later rename them zombies) were shockingly gruesome in 1968. Decades later, the shock is gone. But the dread and fear remain, made less spectacular but more emotionally gripping by the black and white photography. Night of the Living Dead is scary, effective, occasionally funny, and at times quite gross. It can be viewed as a satire of capitalism, a commentary on American racial issues, or simply as one of the scariest horror films ever made. Read my essay.

B+ Halloween, Tuesday, 10:15

John Carpenter made a very good low-budget thriller that started a very bad genre: the slasher movie–also known as the dead teenager flick. In the original Halloween, an escaped psycho racks up a number of victims on the scariest night of the year. Yes, the story is absurd–the guy seems capable of getting into any place and sneaking up on anyone–but Carpenter and co-screenwriter Debra Hill take the time to let us know these particular teenagers, and that makes all the difference. By the time he goes after the mature, responsible one (Jamie Lee Curtis), you’re really scared.

B Hugo, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

Martin Scorsese, in his only family film, uses the latest CGI and 3D technology to tell the story of the man who invented special effects. Well, actually, he tells a fictional story about a boy who befriends George Melies at the grumpy old man stage of his life. The story is slight and cliché-ridden, but it has the virtue of touching on early film history and ending with a message—integrated into the story—of the importance of film preservation. A family film for cinephilic families. The Balboa will not be presenting it in 3D. Read my Thoughts on Hugo.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: September 23 -29

This Saturday is National Art House Theater Day, where we celebrate the kind of movie theaters I cover in Bayflicks. In the Bay Area, the Rafael, the Lark, the Balboa, the Vogue, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the New Mission are taking part.

Other than that, we’ve got six five festivals this week (yikes!), Madeline Kahn and Gene Wilder celebrations, and a lot of good movies.


Promising events

Madeline Kahn-a-thon, Balboa, Friday, 5:00

A triple bill of High Anxiety, Blazing Saddles, and Clue. I kind of like Blazing Saddles, although it’s far from my favorite western comedy. I haven’t seen the other two. But Madeline Kahn was a wonderful comedienne. Two days after the Kahn-a-thon, the Balboa will screen Blazing Saddles again in a “Gene Wilder Tribute”–actually a double bill with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

A Fuller Life, Roxie, Friday, 7:00; Rafael, Sunday, 4:15

Judging from his autobiography, crime reporter, novelist, soldier, screenwriter and Hollywood director Sam Fuller had an interesting life. This documentary, made by his daughter, should be fun. See my article on him.

Recommended revivals

A Rome Open City, Castro, Saturday, 1:00

Roberto Rossellini helped create Italian neorealism in this dark tale of the German occupation. Gritty and at times horrifying, it vividly recreates the physical dangers and mental strains of living under Nazi rule. Technically, I suppose, it shouldn’t count as neorealism, since two major parts are played by established stars: Anna Magnani takes the central role of a pregnant woman who discovers that her fiancé is working for the underground, and the usually comic Aldo Fabrizi takes on a rare dramatic role as a priest who finds he has to administer to more than just souls. Part of Anna Magnani – a Film Series.

A Pickup On South Street, Roxie, Saturday, 5:30; Rafael, Friday, 5:00; Saturday, 2:00

This Cold War noir stars Richard Widmark as a pickpocket who lifts the wrong wallet on a crowded subway. The wallet’s owner (Jean Peters) has no idea that it contains a piece of microfilm with important government secrets. She’s merely a dupe of Communist agents. The US government, of course, is also after this valuable piece of celluloid. A hell of an exciting story. Part of Samuel Fuller: A Fuller Life.

A M, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday

In this early talkie, director Fritz Lang shows us a Germany sinking into corruption, depression, and paranoia. The paranoia is understandable; someone is murdering little girls and successfully eluding the police. Eventually the underworld must do what the authorities cannot and stop the killer. Peter Lorre became famous as the oddly sympathetic child molester, driven by inner demons to kill. I’m not sure film noir would ever have happened without M. Part of the series Vienna and the Movies.

A Pandora’s Box, Stanford, Friday, 7:30

Nearly 70 years after her last film, cinephiles still debate whether Louise Brooks was a first-class talent or just a beautiful woman in the hands of a great director. Either way, her oddly innocent femme fatale wins our sympathy and our lust as she sends men to their destruction without, apparently, understanding what she’s doing. A great example of what the silent drama could do in the hands of a master; in this case, G.W. Pabst. Accompanied by Dennis Jameson the Wurlitzer pipe organ. On a double bill with a talkie called The Devil is a Woman.

A Time Bandits, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

What would you do with a map of the universe’s flaws? For a band of unruly dwarves, the answer is easy: Make it the guide for a time-traveling crime spree. Unfortunately, Evil Incarnate believes that the map will give him unlimited power, and the Supreme Being wants it back. Terry Gilliam takes the children’s fairy tale for a ride in the movie that turned Monty Python’s animator into a major filmmaker. Read my Blu-ray review.

B+ In the Realm of the Senses, Roxie, Thursday

Probably the first, and best, serious work of cinematic art to show real sex on the screen. Based on a true story, it examines a man and woman who become sexually obsessed with each other. But as the pleasures increase, darker impulses begin to take hold, leading to tragedy. Part of the Roxie’s Banned Movie Week.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: September 16 – 22

This week in Bay Area screenings, we’ve got epic cowboys, silicon cowboys, sinking continents, a Latino film festival, and two celebrations of Star Trek turning 50.


New films opening

B Silicon Cowboys, Roxie, opens Friday

IBM ruled the personal computer market until a group of former Texas Instrument employees made a better and compatible product. Jason Cohen’s breezy documentary covers Compaq’s rise and fall in a quick and upbeat 77 minutes. It has some wonderful moments—especially the old Compaq commercials starring John Cleese. But it glides over a lot of important history and the technology that created it. Read my full review.

Promising events

Star Trek Triple Bill, Lark, Saturday

In honor of the show’s 50th anniversary, the Lark will screen three Star Trek films with three different casts. They start with one of the best original cast films, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. They follow that with Star Trek: First Contact–the best of the Next Generation feature films (which isn’t really saying much). Then they close it with the first reboot movie, Star Trek.

Cult Film Double Bill: Multiple Maniacs & Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Castro, Friday

I’ve never seen John Waters’ second feature, Multiple Maniacs. It is, I assume, very weird. The $5,000 movie has been restored in 4K (which seems like overkill for a 16mm negative), so it will probably look its best. On a double bill with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a movie that many people love but I just don’t get.

Once upon a Time in the West, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 6:30; Sunday, 6:45

I haven’t seen Sergio Leone’s epic western in decades, and I’ve never seen it on the big screen. I hope to rectify that Sunday.

Big, New Parkway, Friday, 4:30; Saturday, 12:00 noon; Tuesday, 6:30

I have fond memories of this fantasy comedy, which helped make Tom Hanks a star.

Recommended revivals

Fruitvale Station, New Parkway, Friday, 7:50; Monday, 7:00; Thursday, 6:30

The experience of seeing this independent feature is very much like waiting for a time bomb. You watch Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) go through the last day of 2008, knowing that he will be fatally shot by a BART cop in the early hours of the new year. Writer/director Ryan Coogler wisely avoids turning Grant into a saint, but makes us care very much for him. The last moments of the film–not including some documentary footage and the closing credits–will break your heart. Read my longer report.

B Atlantis: The Lost Continent, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30

This George Pal fantasy adventure scared the spit out of me when it was new and I was a little kid. I saw it again recently, and one scene still sent memory-inspired shivers down my back. Overall, the movie is silly, and makes no sense at all if you have the cognitive abilities of a 12-year-old. But it’s fun. On a double bill with Golden Bat.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: September 9 – 15

Mr. Spock, Dekalog, Merchant Ivory, and a Big Parade in this week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

B+ For the Love of Spock, Roxie, opens Friday

Adam Nimoy splits this feature documentary between his father Leonard and the character that made Leonard famous: Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock. He tells us how the character developed, and then became one of the last century’s most iconic figures. But he also shows us how his father developed, from a struggling actor to a star to a director, how he struggled with family conflicts and alcohol. It’s a loving tribute, but also an honest one. Read my full review.

Promising events

Dekalog, New Mission, Rafael, starts Friday

I’ve yet to see Krzysztof Kieślowski’s masterpiece about the Ten Commandments and the last days of Polish Communism. I suppose I need to fix that. But since it was made as a 10-episode television series, I’ll probably wait until I can see it on the small screen.

Merchant Ivory double bill: Remains of the Day & Howard’s End, Castro, Sunday, 5:00

It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve seen either of these films, both examining the British class system in the first half of the 20th century. I remember liking both of them very much; especially Remains of the Day.
New 4K restoration of Howard’s End.

The new restoration of Howards End will also screen at the Elmwood as a regular feature, opening Friday.

David Thomson Lecture & Lola Montez, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 4:30

Max Ophuls’ last film, Lola Montez, screens at 5:30 as part of the ongoing series, Vienna and the Movies, curated by film critic and historian David Thomson. I haven’t seen the film. But if you get there at 4:30–even if you haven’t bought a ticket–you can listen to Thomson’s pre-screening lecture about the movie.

The Holy Mountain, Castro, Friday, 7:00

I saw Alejandro Jodorowsky’s very strange film about a spiritual quest some 42 years ago at a Los Angeles film festival. I remember it being bizarre, religious, sacrilegious, confusing, and sexual–with a lot of nudity. I kind of liked it (I was 19 at the time). On a double bill with Zardoz, which I saw around the same time, but didn’t care for–despite the nudity.

Recommended revivals

A The Big Parade, Castro, Sunday, 1:30

One of the best films about World War 1, made while the war was still a recent memory. John Gilbert sans mustache plays a spoiled rich kid who signs up almost on a lark, enjoys fun and games safely behind the lines, falls in love with a French girl (neither speaks the other’s language; a perfect match for a silent film), and then is dropped into an unrelenting Hell. With Bruce Loeb live on the organ.

A- Elevator to the Gallows, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, new 2K restoration opens Friday

Louis Malle launched his directing career, and arguably the New Wave, with this noir tale of a perfect crime gone wrong. Laced with dark, ironic humor, the film cuts back and forth between a murderer trapped in an elevator (Maurice Ronet), the murderer’s lover wandering the streets searching for him (Jeanne Moreau), and two young lovers enjoying a crime spree in a car stolen from the murderer. And all of it set to a powerful jazz score by Miles Davis. Read my longer comments.

A Animal Crackers, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday

The Marx Brothers’ second film
overcomes the crudity of early talkies by delivering loads of laughs. “Marxist” humor always tears down the pompous and the self-important, and Animal Crackers’ setting–a society party filled with the wealthy and the pompous–makes the perfect setting for the Brothers’ special form of anarchy. On a very strange double bill with Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1953 version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

A The Terminator, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:00

James Cameron’s first hit provides non-stop thrills that keep you on the edge of a heart attack. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the title character–a heartless machine sent back in time to murder the future mother of the man who will save humanity. Simple, straightforward, and modestly budgeted (three things you can’t say about recent Cameron pictures), The Terminator maintains an internal logic rare in time travel stories. On a double bill with RoboCop.

A All About Eve, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday

Here’s your chance to explore the sordid ambition behind Broadway’s (and by implication, Hollywood’s) glamour. Anne Baxter plays the title character, an apparently sweet and innocent actress whom aging diva Bette Davis takes under her wing. But Eve isn’t anywhere near as innocent as she appears. Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride. On a double bill with the 1947 version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

B The Son of the Sheik, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

You can’t discuss Rudolph Valentino’s last and most famous movie without confronting outdated attitudes about romance and sex. The film’s treatment of rape is deeply offensive by today’s standards (as is the use of white actors in swarthy makeup)–and this in a movie designed to appeal to female libidos. But if you can put aside 21st-century values, it’s still a lot of fun. And yes, I know several modern women who find it sexy. I discuss the movie in more detail in this festival report. With the shorts Arabiantics and A Trip to Paramount Town. Frederick Hodges accompanies on piano.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

* Part of Alfred Hitchcock Weekends

What’s Screening: September 2 – 8

Ozu, Cooper, and a whole lot of Hitchcock in this week’s Bay Area screenings.


Promising events

Best of Cinekink 2016, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:00

According to the New Parkway website, this is “A collection of sexy shorts deemed the best during CineKink’s most recent festival run. This year’s assortment, with works ranging from documentary to drama, comedy too experimental, mildly spicy to quite explicit.” Sounds like fun.

Recommended revivals

A Tokyo Story, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

A great film about family in all of its troubling complexities. An elderly couple travel to Tokyo to visit their busy and overworked adult children. Everyone greets them with the proper respect, but only a widowed daughter-in-law offers real warmth. Mortality hangs in the air. You can appreciate the life changes in Tokyo Story without having experienced them. But eventually, you will experience them. Read my Blu-ray review. Part of the series Contemplative Cinema: Ozu’s Late Films.

A High Noon, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday

Gary Cooper discovers he has only fair-weather friends in this simple fable of courage under fire. On the day of his wedding and his resignation, the town’s sheriff (Cooper) discovers that hardened criminals are on their way, presumably for vengeance. But when he tries to form a posse, no one is willing to help him. Arguably a parable about a Hollywood gripped in McCarthyite fear. On a double bill with Destry Rides Again, which I saw once long ago.

A Days of Heaven, Castro, Thursday

The story seems a better fit for a 74-minute, 1940s B noir, but Days of Heaven isn’t about story, and only moderately about character. It’s about time, place, atmosphere, and arguably the Bible. The time is around 1916, and for most of the film, the place is a large, uniquely beautiful wheat farm on the Texas panhandle. Through the yellow of the wheat fields, the haze of the sun, and the smoke of early 20th-century technology, Days of Heaven creates a sense of something that is not quite nostalgia, and not quite a dream, but a reality seen through the haze of distant memory. See my longer commentary. On a double bill with Knight of Cups.

A- The Man Who Knew Too Much
(1956 version), Balboa, Saturday, 3:30

Alfred Hitchcock’s only remake (of his own 1934 breakthrough thriller) throws an ordinary American couple (James Stewart and Doris Day) into the middle of international espionage—a favorite Hitchcock plot device. They witness the wrong murder, so evil foreign spies kidnap their son to force their silence. Shot partly on location in England and Morocco. Thrilling and fun in that Hitchcock-patented way. Part of the Alfred Hitchcock Weekends.

B Rope, Balboa, Saturday, 6:00; Monday, 7:00

Not Alfred Hitchcock’s worst film, but easily his most frustrating; this time the master messed up an excellent screenplay (by Arthur Laurents, adapted by Hume Cronyn from a play by Patrick Hamilton). Hitchcock chose to make each reel a single take, and create the impression that the film was a single shot. This robbed Hitchcock of the ability to edit, and turned Rope into a stunt instead of a thriller. Part of the Alfred Hitchcock Weekends.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

* Balboa screenings part of Alfred Hitchcock Weekends