What’s Screening: August 26 – September 1

Two relationship movies open this week–one of them about the Obamas. Also Preston Sturges, Ray Harryhausen, Alfred Hitchcock, and a Mexican film festival.

Festivals

  • The Hola Mexico Film Festival opens tonight and runs through Sunday, screening ten Mexican films over the weekend.

New films opening

B+ The Intervention, Roxie, opens Friday

Over a weekend getaway, a group of friends try to convince an unhappily-married couple to divorce. But they can’t manage that task without their own relationship problems bubbling up. What do you expect? The person who planned this “marriage intervention” is a supremely mess-up alcoholic. I’m not sure if I should call this a very serious comedy or a very funny drama. Either way, it’s entertaining and touching. Read my full review.

C Southside with You, Shattuck, opens Friday

Yet another variation on Before Sunrise. Two attractive people who barely know each other walk through a city, talking, doing fun and meaningful things, and getting to know each other. Only this time, the couple are a young Barak Obama and Michelle Robinson. He thinks it’s a date; she insists not. The movie is very upbeat (the opening made me think it was a commercial), kind of sweet, but unexceptional. Read my full review.

Recommended revivals

A Leaf Blower, Roxie, Saturday, 5:00
Finding a keychain in a huge pile of leaves is a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure which huge pile is the right one. The task is near impossible if you’re a teenage boy getting help from two other teenage boys, all struggling with ranging hormones and short attention spans. Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal and his collaborators turn this everyday annoyance into a touching and frequently hilarious comedy. The laughs become rare near the end, but the story holds up without them. Part of the Hola Mexico Film Festival.

A- The Palm Beach Story, Stanford, Saturday through Monday

No one else wrote and directed screwball comedies like Preston Sturges, and if this one doesn’t quite come up to the brilliant level of The Lady Eve, it’s still a great time at the movies. It’s not just the absurdity of casting singer Rudy Vallee as the millionaire rival ready to win Claudette Colbert from husband Joel McCrea, it’s also the Weenie King, the Ale and Quail Club, Toto, and the most ridiculous happy ending ever filmed. On a double bill with The Philadelphia Story.

A Jason and the Argonauts, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

No other movie so successfully turns Greek mythology (or at least a family-friendly version of Greek mythology) into swashbuckling adventure, while remaining true to the original spirit of the tales. As the gods bicker and gamble on the fates of mortals, Jason and his crew fight magical monsters and scheming human villains. Todd Armstrong and Nancy Kovack are unbearably stiff in the lead roles, but Jason contains several wonderful supporting roles, including Nigel Green as cinema’s most articulate Hercules. But the real star, of course, is Ray Harryhausen’s hand-made special effects.

B- The Lodger, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 4:00

Alfred Hitchcock’s second film and first thriller, The Lodger feels like the master in embryo. The plot and the atmosphere set up themes he would use again and again, but this first time, he doesn’t quite get it right. For instance, the protagonist just might be the murderer–a piece of mystery that robs the film of much of its potential suspense. It’s all made worse by Ivor Novello’s anemic and bizarre performance. But if you love Hitchcock, you have to see The Lodger for its historical importance. Accompanied by Judith Rosenberg on piano. Part of the series Hitchcock/Truffaut.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: August 12 – 18

Short films, funny films, scary films, but no film festivals in the Bay Area this week.

Last week, I confessed that I wrote the newsletter a bit early, and therefore it might not be entirely accurate. This one is even earlier. I wrote it on August 2. I promise that next week the newsletter will be hot off the word processor.

Promising events

Gary Meyer Selects: Trailers and Short Films, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:00

The the man who ran the UC Theatre in its heyday, and now  more recently the director of the Telluride Film Festival, will present short films and trailers both old and new. “The selection ranges from George Méliès to Gunvor Nelson, Norman McLaren to Stan Brakhage, Alfred Hitchcock to Mel Brooks.” Full disclosure: I’ve written for his blog, EatDrinkFilms.com, and have been paid for it. 8/19: I’ve corrected this blurb.

SF Sketchfest Summer Social, Castro, Saturday

The festivities start at 10:30am with The Great Muppet Caper. Then, after a very long intermission, The Rock–yes, the big ’90s action flick–will screen at 4:20, with comic commentary by Doug Benson and friends. Finally, at 9:00, we get the latest version of The Found Footage Festival. To get an idea of what that particular experience is like, you can read my reviews of the 2007 and 2012 editions. Separate tickets required.

Recommended revivals

A The Wrong Man, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 6:30

Although it uses one of Hitchcock’s favorite plots–the innocent citizen wrongly accused of a crime–The Wrong Man is unlike anything else he ever made. Based on a true story and apparently following it quite closely, The Wrong Man realistically shows you the horror of being an innocent accused. This is the film he made before Vertigo, and like Vertigo, it was a critical and commercial flop. But unlike Vertigo, it has yet to be properly rediscovered. Read my in-depth comments. Part of the series Hitchcock/Truffaut.

Laurel & Hardy Series Volume 1, Rafael, Sunday, 4:30 & 7:00

For the next four Sundays, the Rafael will screen newly-restored selections from the best comedy duo in movie history. Starting in silents and smoothly adapting to talkies, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy played two men without a brain between them, who managed to be both lovable, vindictive, and very deliberate. The first volume contains four of their talking shorts; I count three of them amongst my favorites. I haven’t seen the other. For some odd reason, this series completely ignores their silents.

A The 400 Blows, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:40

François Truffaut helped launch the French New Wave and modern cinema with this tale of a rebellious boy on the cusp to adolescence. Shot on a very low budget, it follows young Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud in the first of six films playing this role) as he cuts school, gets in trouble, discovers his parents’ marital problems, and refuses to fit in. Set to a brilliant jazz score, The 400 Blows captures the exhilaration and the horror (mostly the horror) of being 13. Another part of the series Hitchcock/Truffaut.

B A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 3:30

The Warner Brothers adapted a Max Reinhardt stage production of Shakespeare’s romantic fantasy, and created one of the weirdest movies to come out of studio-era Hollywood. Oddly, Reinhardt’s spectacular visuals are its weakest point. They amaze the eye at first, but eventually just slow down the story. And yet the many big-name movie stars, which include Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Joe E. Brown, James Cagney, and best of all Mickey Rooney, prove to be proficient in Shakespeare. Part of the series Vienna and the Movies.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: August 5 – 11

This week’s Bay Area screenings include a Burt Reynolds marathon, a monster-in-the-museum double bill, and the happy feet of Fred and Ginger.

But be advised: For personal reasons, I prepared this newsletter on Monday, August 2. Parts of it may be out of date.

Festivals

Of the five film festivals that graced the Bay Area in recent weeks, only one continues: The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It closes Sunday. Check out my articles on this particular fest.

New films opening

Indignation, Embarcadero, Albany, Aquarius, Rafael, opens Friday

In the early 1950s, young Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) just might not find happiness. He has no good options, only bad ones. And he lacks the maturity to find the lesser evil. The son of a New Jersey kosher butcher, he does well academically but not socially in a Christian college. And if he leaves college, the draft and the Korean War await. Based on a novel by Phillip Roth. Read my full review. Note: The Friday night screening at the Rafael is part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, with writer/director James Schamus in person; the regular engagement starts Saturday.

B+ Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, Clay, Shattuck, opens Friday; Rafael, Tuesday through Thursday

In the 1970s, Norman Lear changed the face of television with controversial sitcoms like All in the Family and The Jeffersons, then became a full-time political activist creating the organization People for the American Way. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady created a warm, sympathetic, and funny documentary about Lear. Of course it’s funny; comedy is his lifelong trade. But parts of the story felt incomplete, such if neither he nor the filmmakers wanted to go there.

Promising events

Burt Reynolds Mystery Marathon, New Mission, Saturday, 10:00am

No, it’s not a marathon of mysteries starring detective Burt Reynolds. The festivities begin with a free screening of The Bandit, a documentary about Reynolds’ close friendship with stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham–a platonic, touching love story between two very macho men. You can read my report. After the doc, you’ll have to buy a ticket for the “mystery marathon of Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham classics and a bonanza of 35mm trailers.”

Museum Monster Double Feature: It! Curse of the Golem and Curse of the Faceless Man, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30

I know nothing about this, but it sure sounds like fun.

Raiders! the Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made and Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation

Not a 
double bill. Separate admission for each show
Soon after Raiders of the Lost Ark was released, three teenaged fans started on their own backyard version, following the movie shot by shot on the cheap. It took them seven years to complete it. The New Parkway will screen both the home-made action adventure and a documentary on its creation.

Recommended revivals

A+ Top Hat & The Gay Divorcee, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday

If escapism is a valid artistic goal, Top Hat is a great work of art–and worthy of an A+. From the perfect clothes that everyone wears so well, to the absurd mistaken-identity plot, to the art deco set that makes Venice look like a very exclusive water park, everything about Top Hat screams “Don’t take this seriously!” But you don’t need realism when Fred Astaire dances his way into Ginger Rogers’ heart to four great Irving Berlin tunes (and one mediocre one). The Gay Divorcee feels like
a lukewarm rip-off of Top Hat, but it
was actually made first. Arguably the first true Astaire-Rogers movie, it’s a flawed entertainment with one great dance number, a few funny lines, and some historical interest. On its own, I give it a B-.

B+ Blackmail, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

A beautiful young woman ditches her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, flirts with an artist, then has to kill him in self-defense. The next morning she’s at the mercy of a blackmailer. Alfred Hitchcock’s second thriller already shows touches of the master. The heroine’s night wanderings after the incident, her reaction to casual gossip about the murder, and the blackmailer’s breakfast prove that even this early, Hitchcock could keep us on the edge of our seats. With the shorts The Sleuth (starring Stan Laurel) and The Silent Trailer.
Frederick Hodges accompanies everything on piano.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: July 29 – August 4

We still have five local film festivals; the same ones that ran last week. But we also killer robots, Cuban and French musicians, a lot of Russians, and James Cagney doing Shakespeare.

Festivals

New films opening

C+ Phantom Boy, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

All of the parts don’t quite come together in this animated, moderately entertaining family adventure. Eleven-year-old Leo is very sick and may not survive. But he has a superpower, which he uses to help a detective and a reporter foil a supervillain. The French fantasy is being screened in both dubbed and subtitled versions. Read my full review.

Promising events

AI Amok: The Killer Computers of the 1970s, Roxie, Friday through Sunday

Remember when we thought that computers would take over the world? And not with Pokémon Go. The Roxie will screen four science fiction movies from the decade following the creation of HAL 9000:

Buena Vista Social Club, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:15

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Wim Wenders documentary on Cuban musicians, but much of the soundtrack is seared permanently into my brain. Ry Cooder took Wenders and his camera to Cuba to rediscover artists whose sounds hadn’t been heard in the USA for decades. Even if you don’t like the film (and I did), you’ll love the music. The last screening in the PFA’s three-month-long Wim Wenders series.

Recommended revivals

A- Shoot the Piano Player, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:30

After stunning the world with The 400 Blows, François Truffaut tried something very different—a film noir that’s unlike any other (including Goddard’s Breathless, which Truffaut wrote around the same time). Charles Aznavour stars as a nightclub pianist with a past—he was once a big name in the classical music world. He’s going by a different name now, but that isn’t enough to hide him from his gangster brother, or the brother’s rival gangsters. Truffaut moves, for the most part effortlessly, between suspense, tragedy, and outrageous comedy. Part of the series Hitchcock/Truffaut.

B A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935 version), Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday

Here’s what the Warner Brothers did when adapting of a Max Reinhardt stage production of Shakespeare’s romantic fantasy. They created one of the weirdest movies to come out of studio-era Hollywood. Oddly, Reinhardt’s spectacular visuals are its weakest point. They amaze the eye at first, but eventually just slow down the story. And yet the many big-name movie stars make it work. Who would have guessed that Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Joe E. Brown, James Cagney, and best of all Mickey Rooney, could do Shakespeare? On a double bill with Duck Soup, which I’m listing below in the Lebowskies.

B- Russian Ark, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00; Sunday, 5:30

Alfred Hitchcock wanted to shoot Rope as a single, unbroken shot, but that wasn’t feasible with 35mm film. But Alexander Sokurov did it digitally in this 2002 excursion through Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum as well as Russian history. Huge, sumptuous, and spectacular, it’s a treat for history buffs, museum fans, and movie technology geeks (I’m all three). But as is inevitable with a single-shot film, it sags at times. Part of the series Guided Tour: Museums in Cinema.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: July 22 – 28

We’ve got five film festivals running this week, along with a lot of very good classic movies.

Festivals

Recommended revivals

A Sunset Blvd, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:30

Billy Wilder’s meditation on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly looks like the flip side of Singin’ in the Rain (now that would make a great double bill). Norma Desmond is very much Lena Lamont after twenty-two years of denial and depression. And in the role of Norma, Gloria Swanson gives one of the great over-the-top performances. Part of the series Vienna and the Movies, even though it was shot and set in Hollywood. The film will be introduced by David Thomson.

A M, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00

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. Another part of the series Vienna and the Movies.

A- Harold and Maude, Roxie, Monday and Wednesday, 7:00

This 1971 comedy fit the late hippy era as perfectly as Pink Floyd and the munchies. At a time when young Americans were embracing non-conformity, free love, ecstatic joy, and 40-year-old Marx Brothers movies, this counterculture romance between an alienated and death-obsessed young man and a woman four times his age made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helped considerably. But I do wish that screenwriter Colin Higgins had found a better ending. See my full discussion. A tribute to the now-gone Red Vic movie theater.

A- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,
Stanford
, Saturday through Tuesday

Corrupt political bosses appoint a naive, young idealist (James Stewart) senator because they think he’s stupid. They’re wrong. The second and best film in Frank Capra’s common-man trilogy, Mr. Smith creeks a bit with patriotic corniness, and seems almost as naive as its protagonist. But it has moments–Stewart’s speech about how “history is too important to be left in school books,” for instance–that can still bring a lump to the throat of any left-wing American patriot. Besides, it’s just plain entertaining. On a Frank Capra double bill with Lady for a Day.

B+ Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 remake), New Mission, Tuesday, 10:15

Phil Kaufmans San Francisco-based remake of the classic alien invasion movie isn’t quite as good as the low-budget, 1956 original, but it comes close. One by one, Donald Sutherland’s friends and loved ones turn into emotionless pod people, and he knows that he too will be lost if he can’t stay awake. A very good sci-fi thriller. Kaufman will attend and introduce the film.

B+ M. Hulot’s Holiday, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:30

Jacques Tati’s second feature, and his first as the hapless Mr. Hulot, is odd, plotless, nearly dialog-free, and in its own quiet and reserved way, pretty damn funny. The pipe-smoking Hulot takes a vacation at a seaside resort, and while anarchy doesn’t exactly break out, it pops up a bit from just below the surface.

B+ Iron Monkey, Great Star Theater, Saturday, 5:00

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Hong Kong action flick that felt so much like a Hollywood swashbuckler. The evil rulers of a village are stealing everything they can while oppressing the people. Luckily for the average peasant, a masked criminal called Iron Monkey robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Meanwhile, a traveling physician and his young son, both martial arts masters, turn up to help. Funny, rousing, and thoroughly entertaining. a (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series screening.

B+ Bullitt, Roxie, Sunday, 5:00

Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. Another marker: To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word “bullshit” marks the first time anyone said such a word in a Hollywood movie. On a double bill with Blow-Up, which I saw so long ago I had to lie about my age to get in.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: July 15 – 21

We’ve got a ridiculously large selection of great classics screening this week–most of them at the Pacific Film Archive.

Festivals

Promising events

Streetcar San Francisco: Transit Tales of the City in Motion, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:00

This collection of shorts highlight the history of San Francisco public transportation. It promises to “feature archival footage, new and original short films, highlights from the OpenSFHistory collection, and other historically-inspired surprises.” Presented by Western Neighborhoods Project.

Republican National Convention Viewing Party, New Parkway, Wednesday & Thursday, 6:00
Just in case you’d rather watch it in a crowd…probably a booing crowd.

Recommended revivals

A+ Paths of Glory, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Friday, 7:30; Sunday, 4:00

Stanley Kubrick doesn’t just show us that war is hell. He illustrates how powerless men go through that hell for the benefit of powerful men. When an impossible mission inevitably fails, the officers who planned it arrange for three enlisted men to be tried for cowardice, convicted, and executed–it’s easier than admitting the generals’ mistake. Kirk Douglas plays the honorable officer who tilts at the windmills of corrupted military justice. Part of the series Kubrick in Black & White.

A+ Preston Sturges double bill: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek & The Great McGinty, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday

The A+ goes to The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. At a time when it was impossible for a Hollywood picture to criticize the American military or suggest that a young woman could get pregnant out of wedlock, Preston Sturges made a very funny comedy about a teenage girl who goes out with some soldiers and comes back in a family way. Read my A+ appreciation. Sturges’ directorial debut, The Great McGinty, isn’t near as funny as Morgan’s Creek, but this story of a crooked politician who goes straight and thus ruins his life has its charms and laughs. I give it a B-.

A The Mill and the Cross, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:00

Lech Majewski recreates the making of Bruegel’s painting The Way to Calvary, using 21-century art and technology. True to Bruegel’s style, the film starts with the day-to-day lives of ordinary, 16th-century peasants, then moves on to the religious clashes of the day. Using nature, paint, and digital effects, Majewski creates a visual feast that moves from the world of Bruegel’s experience into the world of his imagination. Read my full review. Part of the series Guided Tour: Museums In Cinema.

A The Killing, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Saturday, 7:30; Sunday, 2:00

Stanley Kubrick started his Hollywood career with this crackerjack noir heist thriller. A career criminal (Sterling Hayden) orchestrates a complex racetrack robbery likely to net two million 1956 dollars. But he needs collaborators, and needless to say, human frailty gets in the way. Hayden’s rat-a-tat-tat delivery does wonders for snappy, pulp-heavy dialog like “You’d be killing a horse – that’s not first degree murder. In fact, it’s not murder at all. In fact, I don’t know what it is.”

A- Comedy Short Subject Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

In One AM, Charlie Chaplin plays his rich drunk character in what’s basically a solo performance, too soused to find his way to bed. The Scarecrow isn’t Keaton’s best two-reeler, but it still provides plenty of laughs. In High and Dizzy, Harold Lloyd finds himself high on a skyscraper; a comic dilemma he’d perfect to an art in Safety Last.
You’re Darn Tootin’ stands amongst the best silent Laurel and Hardy shorts. With Greg Pane on piano.

B+ Wings of Desire, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:15

Wenders’ fantasy about angels in Berlin offers a view of the city as a land of interior monologues. Two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) watch over the people, listen to their thoughts, and comfort them in their pain. Then one of them falls in love with a trapeze artist, and finds himself longing for mortality. Wenders couldn’t have known it when he made the film in 1988, but he was capturing the last months of a divided city; the wall seen in the film would soon come down. With Peter Falk as a strange version of himself. Part of the series Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: July 8 – 14

Bruce Lee, John Wayne, Bugs Bunny, and pregnant nuns grace this week’s Bay Area screenings.

And not only Bugs Bunny. This weekend we get two collections of Loony Tune classics, both in 35mm.

Festivals

The (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series continues Friday through Sunday, as it will throughout July.

New films opening

B+ The Innocents, Clay, Albany, Rafael, opens Friday
Only months after the end of World War II, a Polish nunnery experiences a rash of new-born babies–the result of multiple rapes. A young, French doctor does what she can to help them, but she must fight with the extremely strict mother superior. The story becomes a battle between grim-faced, unbending religion and humanism–both secular and spiritual. Read my full review.

B Hunt for The Wilderpeople, Embarcadero, Guild, California, Rafael, opens Friday

This New Zealand comedy starts out wonderful, touching, and very funny, but it wears out its welcome too soon. The story concerns a troubled boy (Julian Dennison) sent to a new foster home in the very rural outback. Soon the boy and his reluctant foster father are living in the woods, and the government creates a dragnet to catch these two escapees from civilization. Read my SFIFF report.

Promising events

A Salute to Chuck Jones, Castro, Sunday, 12:00

A celebration of Warner Brothers’ most talented animator. The short cartoons to be screened, all in 35mm, include such classics as What’s Opera, Doc?, One Froggy Evening, Feed the Kitty, Duck Amuck, and Rabbit of Seville. The ticket prices are high–$17 to $150–but it’s a benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum and the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.

Popcorn for Breakfast presents: Looney Tunes in 35mm, Roxie, Saturday, 11:00am

If the above Salute to Chuck Jones is too pricey for you, here’s another Loony Tune collection that also includes many of the best short cartoons to come out of Warner Brothers (although not my favorite, Duck Amuck). And this one costs only $8; free for kids under 12.

Enter The Dragon, Great Star Theater, Saturday, 3:00 & 9:00

I haven’t seen this movie in years, and while I liked it when I saw it, I was never a big fan. This is the flick that brought the martial arts genre to America, and made Bruce Lee famous on this side of the Pacific, even if he didn’t live to enjoy the fame. Look closely to catch Jackie Chan as a nameless fighter unlucky to go up against Lee. Part of the (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series.

Recommended revivals

A+ Ran, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00

New 4K Restoration
I doubt anyone else ever made a movie as sad, as tragic, as despairing of the human condition, and yet as beautiful as Kurosawa’s reworking of King Lear. To watch Ran is to experience, in your gut, that many people are capable of unspeakable evil. And while these people inevitably pay the price for their ambitions, so do countless innocents. Unlike Shakespeare, Kurosawa considers what his king did before he became old, and it isn’t pretty. The film, on the other hand, is as visually gorgeous as movies get. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry.

B+ Iron Monkey, Great Star Theater, Saturday, 7:00

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Hong Kong action flick that felt so much like a Hollywood swashbuckler. The evil rulers of a village are stealing everything they can while oppressing the people. Luckily for the average peasant, a masked criminal called Iron Monkey robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Meanwhile, a traveling physician and his young son, both martial arts masters, turn up to help. Funny, rousing, and thoroughly entertaining. Another (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series screening.

B+ Hitchcock/Truffaut, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

In the early 60s, François Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock and together they created one of the great books on filmmaking. Now documentarian Kent Jones has turned that book into a film. He rightly focuses on cinematic technique as he explains the creation of the book and what it taught filmmakers. Top directors, including Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, and Martin Scorsese, talk onscreen about Hitchcock’s work–how he used camera placement, editing, and other tools of the filmmaker’s art. I enjoyed the movie very much, but I’m biased. Read my full review.

B+ Shanghai Noon, Great Star Theater, Sunday, 3:00

Jackie Chan and a not-yet-famous Owen Wilson star in this outrageous sendup on the Western. As a Chinese Imperial Guard on a mission to Nevada to rescue a princess, Chan gets to play the fish out of water. Wilson plays a would-be train robber who thinks he’s the star of a dime novel. Despite their very different comic styles, the two stars find great chemistry. The sequel, Shanghai Knights, is even better. Another part of the (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series.

B The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

There’s a cartoon-like quality to a lot of Wes Anderson’s work, so it isn’t surprising that he would eventually make a real cartoon. Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Fantastic follows the adventures of a very sophisticated but not altogether competent fox (voiced by George Clooney) as he tries to outwit a farmer and keep his marriage together. Children and adults will find different reasons to enjoy this frantically-paced comic adventure.

B The Searchers, Castro, Sunday, 6:00

A bitter and racist Civil War veteran (John Wayne) spends years searching for his niece, kidnapped by Comanches. At first he wants to save her, but as the years go by, he starts talking about killing her, because she’s now “more Comanch than white.” Talk about an anti-hero. Shot in VistaVision, the movie looks splendid, has many great moments, and contains one of Wayne’s greatest performances. The closing shot itself is unforgettable. Most John Ford fans consider The Searchers his masterpiece. I disagree. I find it marred by a rambling, occasionally absurd plot, and a very unlikable protagonist (probably Wayne’s least sympathetic character). On a double bill with the much better The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which I list below in the Lebowskies.

B Roman Holiday, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday

Gregory Peck and “introducing” Audrey Hepburn fall in love through an extremely contrived plot in this entertaining romantic comedy. She’s a runaway princess, and he’s a reporter hoping for a scoop. But the real star is Rome; shooting overseas locations was a new thing in the early 1950s. Directed by William Wyler, from a story by Dalton Trumbo. On a double bill with Midnight.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

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