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.
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.
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)
- Vertigo, Castro, Through Monday. Presented in 70mm. With a different Brian DePalma movie each day.
- Rome Open City, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:15
- Mystery Science Theater 3000, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30
- Taxi Driver, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday (matinee only) and Wednesday. MY BLU-RAY REVIEW.
- German Expressionism double bill: M & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Castro, Thursday.
- Spirited Away, Clay, Friday and Saturday, 11:55PM (just before midnight