Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Two Eyes Of Michael Hawley

If you didn't attend some wonderful repertory/revival film screenings in 2012, you missed out. As nobody could see them all, I've recruited Frisco Bay filmgoers to recall some of their own favorites of the year. An index of participants is found here.  

The following list comes from Michael Hawley, who allowed me to republish these selections from his annual round-up at his site film-415.

2012 Favorite Repertory/Revivals Screenings

Yellow Submarine (1968, UK/USA, dir. George Dunning, Castro Theatre)
As best as I can remember, this new restoration is the only film on the list that was projected digitally. And as much as I hate to admit it, was all the better for it. A trippy, eye-popping joyride.

Napoleon (1927, France, dir. Abel Gance, Paramount Theatre)
Kevin Brownlow's restoration of this silent classic presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival was, of course, the repertory event of the year. While I can't say I was enraptured by all 330 minutes, Part I (Napoleon's childhood) and the grand three-screen finale were more thrilling than anything else I watched all year.

American Graffiti (1973, USA, dir. George Lucas, Pacific Film Archive)
I hadn't seen this in over 30 years and it held up shockingly well. The screening featured a conversation with costume designer Aggie Guerard Rodgers, for whom this was a first film. Rodgers shared dozens of anecdotes, my favorite being the great lengths taken to keep Richard Dreyfuss' sweat from bleeding his madras shirt, all in the service of continuity.

Quadrophenia (1979, UK, dir. Franc Roddam, Castro Theatre)
The experience of seeing this San Francisco International Film Festival late-show presentation of The Who's second filmed rock opera began while waiting in line, with two dozen motor-scooters with costumed riders pulling up in front of the Castro Theatre. During the screening, drunk and unruly wanna-be Mods and Rockers cheered and hurled insults at each, while others sang along to The Who's anthems. The new, pristine 35mm print was being projected for only the third time, and the highlight, as it was when I first saw the film 33 years ago, was Sting's nearly wordless, uber-cool performance as the king of the Mods.

Underworld USA (1961, USA, dir Sam Fuller, Castro Theatre)
I was lucky enough to catch all but one of the 26 flicks on offer at 2012's Noir City. Most were pretty darn fabulous, but this gritty revenge tale starring Cliff Robertson managed to stand out. Other highlights included the inane slapstick of Frank Tashlin-scripted The Good Humor Man, the slatternly haughtiness of Beverly Michaels in Pickup and the Angie Dickinson double bill of The Killers and Point Blank (with Dickinson herself on-stage in conversation with Eddie Muller).

Animal Crackers (1930, USA, dir. Victor Heerman, Castro Theatre)
Monkey Business (1931, USA, dir. Norman Z. McLeod, Castro Theatre)
Horse Feathers (1932, USA, dir. Norman Z. McLeod, Castro Theatre)
There were plenty of terrific revivals going on at the Castro outside the realm of 2012's film festivals, including this revelatory triple bill of the Marx Brothers' second, third and fourth features – and all for the price of one movie. Another memorable 3-way for the budget conscious was a Saturday marathon of Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love and 2046.

Possession (1981, France/West Germany, dir. Andrzej Zulawski, Castro Theatre)
The Tenant (1976, France, dir. Roman Polanski, Castro Theatre)
More love for the Castro Theatre, this time for their inspired double bills, and in particular this Isabelle Adjani creep-fest with gorgeous 35mm prints which looked like they'd been struck yesterday. I was also thrilled to partake in 2012 double bills of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2, and Boogie Nights with Pulp Fiction.

The Cheat (1931, USA, dir. George Abbott, Roxie Theater)
As a Tallulah Bankhead obsessive, this was of course my favorite of the eight films I caught during programmer Elliot Lavine's springtime pre-code series, "Hollywood Before the Code: Nasty-Ass Films For a Nasty-Ass World." Another highlight was finally getting to see the "Sweet Marijuana" production number from Mitchell Leisen's très risqué 1934 flick, Murder at the Vanities, complete with bare-breasted chorines posing as singing cactus flowers.

Come Back Africa (1959, USA, dir. Lionel Rogosin, Roxie Theater)
Seeing and hearing Miriam Makeba sing two songs in an intimate living-room setting was the high point of this film about one black man's struggles in apartheid-era South Africa. The screening I attended was followed by a live performance by the Vukani Mawethu Choir, who sang a selection of South African freedom songs. Talk about your value-added in-cinema experience! Other memorable 2012 revivals at the Roxie include Shirley Clarke's The Connection and 60's live-concert movie, The Big T.N.T. Show.

The Docks of New York (1928, USA, dir. Josef Von Sternberg, Castro Theatre)
Last, but certainly not least was this utterly exquisite love story set in a shabby waterfront saloon, my favorite of the 15 programs I saw at this year's better-than-ever San Francisco Silent Film Festival. There wasn't a single dud in this year's line-up, although I regret having to miss the Alloy Orchestra accompany The Overcoat, due to the REALLY late start time of the festival's Centerpiece Film, Pandora's Box. Other standouts included my first exposure to Pola Negri in The Spanish Dancer, the beautiful heartbreak of The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna, the dashing antics of Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro and of course, Buster Keaton in the closing night film, The Cameraman.


  1. I saw some of the Pierre Etaix films that were making the rounds. Great 1960s French films from a disciple of Tati that finally got out of rights hell and are not being issued in a box set from Criterion.

    FYI, I'm going to be in S.F. Jan 24-27 for Noir City. Can't wait to see the film our blogathon raised funds for, THE SOUND OF FURY (aka, TRY AND GET ME) and Miss Peggy Cummins live and in person!

  2. That's great Marilyn! I can't wait to see that film either, and I hope I get a chance to meet you in person. Just read your excellent piece on Odd Man Out after seeing it at another film festival last night.

    I missed the Etaix films to my regret. They ran here on a very busy week, in a theatre difficult to reach without a car.