Friday, November 30, 2007

Quick Flick Picks


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On the eve of a day-long movie marathon, I just wanted to get some items off of my to-blog list.

In my last post on silent film, I mentioned that the Berlin and Beyond festival will, as usual, be showing a German silent film as part of its 2008 program. It's just been revealed that the festival, running January 10-16 at the Castro Theatre, will present the 1929 comedy the Oddball with live musical accompaniment by Dennis James.

Some noteworthy though not-so-silent entries in Berlin and Beyond 2008 include Michael Verhoeven's the Unknown Soldier, and a three-film tribute to the recently-deceased actor Ulrich Mühe: along with his recent triumph in the Lives of Others the festival will screen a film from his East German film career, Half of Life, and his role in the Austrian Michael Haneke's 1997 Funny Games, just before the Sundance premiere of that director's apparently all-but shot-for-shot remake. The opening night film is the Edge of Heaven by Fatih Akin, contradicting the program guide on the Castro's website, which says it will be Yella. Christian Petzod's film will still play in the festival, but its opening slot was switched out for Akin's after the Castro schedules went to press.

Speaking of which, there's a lot to talk about on those Castro schedules, and I'm not even going to cover it all here. A MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS triple bill of Burt Reynolds films including Peter Bogdanovich's rarely-revived tribute to Lubitsch, At Long Last Love, plays December 7th, and another threefer starts with possibly the most heartbreaking summer vacation movie of my teenage years, which was also Winona Ryder's first film role, Lucas. That plays February 8th, the Friday before Valentine's Day (on which Marc Huestis brings Olivia Hussey for the 40th anniversary of Romeo & Juliet.)

There's another in the Castro's continuing series of classic films organized by composer, this time nine days (December 26-January 3) of double-bills scored by the great Miklos Rosza, including multiple collaborations with Billy Wilder and Vincent Minelli. January 4-9 brings the nine of the ten most well-known pairings of the "Emperor" Akira Kurosawa and his "Wolf" Toshiro Mifune. They made sixteen films together, and I wish the selection included Red Beard or some of the rarely-screened early films like the Quiet Duel and the Idiot, but I'm glad for the opportunity to see any of these again on the Castro's mighty screen. I've never seen the Seven Samurai, for example, on anything larger than a regular television set, which is probably enough to send me to the cinephile stocks.

If you're concerned about how to fit the new cut of Blade Runner playing at the Embarcadero into your schedule this week, know that it will make a return appearance at the Castro for a week starting February 15th. The early-eighties revival I'm most excited about seeing in a Landmark theatre is one I've never seen in any cut before: Jean-Jacques Beniex's Diva, which opens at the Shattuck in Berkeley as well as somewhere in Frisco December 7th.

The Roxie has a pair of films from this past spring's SF International Film Festival on its upcoming slate. One I've seen and can recommend: Les Blank's new documentary All in This Tea. Not being particularly interested in gourmet tea varieties, I was skeptical going in, but I found the film to be a fun but serious peek into the blossoming of capitalism in China. It opens December 14th. The other is one I missed in May but won't in January, when it opens on the 11th: El Violin from Mexico.

The Red Vic has its full December (highlight: the Draughtsman's Contract on the 16th & 17th) and January (highlight: the Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford on the 15th & 16th) schedules online, but its paper copy extends a bit beyond that, revealing among other things that the Battle of Algiers will play February 3-4.

More time-sensitive news is that two programs of British experimental films from the 1960s and 1970s will play at at the SF Art Institute this coming Monday evening, December 3rd. This tip comes from Jim Flannery, who left it on the cinephile bulettin board that is girish's blog. More on the series here. It's the beginning of a busier-than-usual week of public screenings at SFAI, where a cellphone film event called mini-PAH will take place December 7-8.

SFMOMA, which is currently reprising the Joseph Cornell films it showed earlier this fall as part of its exhibition on the collagist, has also been running a fascinating film series I'm sorry I haven't really mentioned here before. In conjunction with a Jeff Wall exhibition, the museum will screen John Huston's Fat City this and next Saturday afternoon, R.W. Fassbinder's proto-emo-fest masterwork the Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant December 13th and 15th, Ingmar Bergman's Persona December 20th and 22nd, and perhaps most exciting since I've never seen this legendary epic, Jean Eustache's the Mother and the Whore December 27th and 29th. Then, beginning January 5th with a screening of Point of Order, SFMOMA will run a retrospective of the films of Emile de Antonio. In the Year of the Pig plays January 19th and 24th.

The current Year of the Pig ends February 6th, 2008. You may know that the Japanese Zodiac is based on the Chinese Zodiac, though the Pig is replaced with the Wild Boar in Japan (in Thailand the Pig becomes an Elephant). But since Japan celebrates New Year January 1st like we in the West, not the Lunar New Year of the Chinese, the Year of the Boar will end sooner than the Year of the Pig. Have I lost you yet? Either way, the new 12-year Zodiac cycle will begin next year, on either January 1st or February 7th, with the Year of the Rat. Shortly after the latter there will be a Pacific Film Archive tribute to Japanese-American silent film actor Sessue Hayakawa, who was born in 1889 (the year of the Ox, like me only 84 years earlier). February 9th screens Hayakawa's star-making role in Cecil B. DeMille's the Cheat, and on February 10th the Devil's Claim and Forbidden Paths will be shown. All three will be accompanied by Judith Rosenberg on piano, and are presented in connection with a two-day conference on silent film called Border Crossings: Re-Thinking Early Cinema. Fascinating stuff, and I'm hopeful that there will be more Hayakawa films announced soon.