Highly Recommended! 4-21 to 4-28

Posted April 22, 2009 at 4:23pm by Brecht Andersch, edited April 25, 2009 at 1:49am

Looks like this here's gonna be another cut-n-paste job -- lotsa repeats, but of course, as always, there are at least a few delightful novelties...


Castro: Days of Heaven & The New World

Terrence Malick's second feature is undoubtedly one of the major films of that most prodigious decade, the 70's. It's quite a film -- gorgeously photographed (employing natural light, and especially "magic hour" shooting to maximum effect) and art directed (by "Man in the Planet" Jack Fisk), and with brilliant performances all around. Richard Gere, at the beginning of his career, has never been more charismatic, the wonderful Linda Manz has never been more charming ("I could be a Mud Doctor..."), and Sam Sheppard made the case to be considered not just the most important playwright of his generation, but also a bone fide movie star... And yet... Since the film's release, there's been much speculation as well as doubt as to what the film is trying to accomplish, what it's trying to say... Is it just some sort of silent-film language-inflected "light show"? I can't say I've ever figured this out satisfactorily for myself, but I've enjoyed every one of my several screenings, and I fully intend to do so this time. Maybe I'll have some actual insight to offer at a later date... I haven't seen New World, but it looks like this is the big chance I've been waiting for. I've heard from more than one trustworthy source that, although imperfect, it's worth every bit of the 135 minute investment. We shall see...

Alameda Theatre: The Apartment

Recently, I had this to say re. Wilder's masterpiece -- "Apartment is handsome b+w cinemascope, featuring a wonderfully athletic/balletic performance by Lemmon, the very (but subtley) great Fred MacMurray in a non-top-able evocation of a caddish executive, and Shirley MacLaine (lotta Macs -- it's a Scots convention!) not too long after her incredible appearances as the tender, sweet, but as appropriate also tragic, young version of herself in Tashlin's Artists and Models, and Minnelli's Some Came Running, and the whole thing is charming and sweet and tragic (tho as Shirley pointed out to me via a PBS doc the other night, there ain't that much sex in the pairing of her with Lemmon -- not as much the case in the great Billy Wilder's follow-up to (his) Apartment, and its great success (Oscars galore!), Irma la Douce, in which she plays a Parisian prostitute often in her scanties, and Lemmon plays a billy-club wielding cop -- so it's gotta be sexier!!) and delightful, and wonderful, tho if you try watching it on New Year's with the wrong person, you may live to regret it... The Apartment easily constitutes the greatest pleasure you're gonna have (or should have) in a cinema this" week! Rest assured, that's by far the most breathless bit of self-quotation I'll be doing this column -- don't know where the energy for that came from...

Stanford: Red River

Despite my apparent committment to the Malicks, I might hop down the peninsula to see this Howard Hawks capital "M". It's been years since I've seen it in 35mm, and the oedipal conflict between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift is all-too-pertinant to an on-going family situation of my own, so a viewing would no doubt provide relief analagous to the "catharsis-tabs" sure to be available in the not-too-distant future... After that glorious screening of Wild River just a few days ago, I could use more Clift, this time all purty, and at the beginning, instead of all-too-close to the tragic end. The presences of Walter Brennan, John Ireland, and Joanne Dru are nothin' to sneeze at, either, and I'd love to see once again (in its integral form) that avant-garde sequence exerpted in Last Picture Show, which might have given Alain Resnais an idea or two regarding the manipulation of time and continuity: each of the film's major macho players (as well as many intriguingly eccentric sidekicks) are cut to in their turn as they cry out the call to get the cattle moving after Wayne has told Clift "Take 'em to Missouri, Matt". Tho the sequence lasts the greater part of a minute, we are actually watching three-or-so seconds of narrative time repeated from different angles. Who knew Hawks kept company with the likes of Man Ray and Brakhage?


Vortex Room: Friday Foster

Haven't seen this entry in the blaxploitation genre from '75, nor do I know anything about its director, Arthur Marks, but after the recent experience of that near-masterpiece Truck Turner, I'm hungry for more, even sans the sometimes-terrific Jonathan Kaplan... This movie too, features some of the most brilliant names in the genre's history, as well as some legends from outside that still-controversial realm -- like PAM GRIER, for example, as well as Yaphet Kotto, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers, and Jim Backus (!!! of all people!), so whether it's decent filmmaking or not, it's sure to be fun. I also haven't yet attended The Vortex Room, descendant of the legendary Weirpad, and this could provide some xtra kicks... Hope the bar's still open when I get there. I'll be thirsty...

Stanford: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp & Gaslight (1940)

In the 1940's, with Hitchcock gone to America, and recently paired with his magnificent screenwriting collaborator, Emeric Pressburger (their partnership was christened The Archers -- they always hit the bull's-eye) the floor was clear for Michael Powell to strut his stuff: he had no rivals whatsoever in the British film industry. Blimp, from 1943, was The Archer's first unqualified capital "M", and although it inaugurated a long run of such, there are those of us who feel it was never surpassed. Like Friday Foster, Blimp was based on a successful comic-strip, but it totally transcends its source, becoming, instead of mere send-up of the chauvinist title character, a profound meditation on the complexities of the British psyche, and winding up half-critique, half-celebration. If I'm not mistaken, America's greatest-ever film critic Andrew Sarris ranks it with his other all-time favorites, Lola Montez and Citizen Kane. You would suspect that with this kind of company, you'd be in for a heady brew of philosophical contemplation, but ease up! As great as these other films are, they are relatively cold works -- Blimp is a film of great heart and soul, and there's enough sly humour to off-set any chance you'd be caught in one of Socrates' amorphous Clouds, so don't fear! With Blimp you're in for some exquisite fun... Thorald Dickinson's other and earlier version of Gaslight features the never-less-than-wonderful Anton Walbrook (also one of the leads in Blimp) in the role later incarnated by Charles Boyer. I attempted to watch this once via the dreaded medium, thought what I was seeing excellent indeed, and promptly nodded off. I blame the box -- seeing this in 35mm on that big Stanford screen will no doubt be a wonderful experience...

Also plays Fri.


Kabuki (SFIFF): The Tiger's Tail

This is an as yet unreleased 2006 John Boorman film which sounds a little like The Game. I believe that by addressing the source of his inspiration -- The Arthurian Myths -- directly, in his last masterpiece, Excalibur (circa 1981), this brilliant director shot his load. Still, his films since then have always been worth a view ('cept for maybe Where the Heart Is), and there's always hope for a return to form. His run from Point Blank thru the aforementioned Excalibur is one of the great bodies of work of that time period, and that's saying a lot...

UPDATE: I've recieved word this "film" was "photographed" via the dreaded medium. My profound respect and admiration for Mr. Boorman prevents me from condemning this work in light of this fact, but it does deflate to a large extent whatever excitement I've felt in its anticipation. The damned dreaded medium just takes so much of the fun out of being a cinephile. Sigh...

Also plays Sun @Castro@noon


SFMOMA: Alphaville @1p.m.

And now, let's return to ye olde cut-n-paste. This is what I had to say re. this film last week: "After the recent week's run of Made in USA at the Castro, we have the felicitous opportunity of checking out another late Godard/Karina collaboration, this time from a couple years before, shot, interestingly enough, immediately after their divorce... Alpha, without the slightest visual effect, other than the laboratory rendering certain shots in negative, ranks high amongst the greatest science-fiction films (not to mention noir, New Wave, proto-punk, works of visual poetry, film in general, etc.). Karina is radiant, her mystery magnified by the codes of semiological reversals with which Godard constructs his dystopian world (supposedly a planet in some distant galaxy), such as when she nods her head and smiles to indicate a perplexed "no"... Eddie Constantine, an American who became a major European star playing Lemmy Caution (a low-rent version of James Bond), the center-piece of a long-running serial for which Alphaville was an isolated, relatively hifalutin proto-post-mod episode, is, in this film, second in toughness in the history of World Cinema only to Lee Marvin's Walker in Point Blank (whom, ironically, Karina would incarnate in Made in USA). They head a cast of skimpily-clad beauties (including Christa Lang, who was soon to become Mrs. Samuel Fuller), and trench-coated mugs, all suitable for the harshly cynical vision serving as both cover and launch-pad for Godard's most naked ever endorsement of romantic love as the transformative key to all..."

ATA: Depth Perception -- 3-D works, including 16mm films

This is a program of assorted 3-D moving-image media, featuring the debut of the completed Chromatic Cocktail, Kerry Laitala's kodachrome extravaganza which achieves its eye and mind-boggling effects thru the use of Chromadepth glasses. I saw this as a work-in-progress, and believe me, you want to experience this -- unless you're turned into a DT-hallucination-fleeing Ray Milland-type when encountering flashbacky imagery... This plays again the next day (Sun), as part of what I believe is the major experimental show of this year's SFIFF, which appears to be a very strong program. As there doesn't seem to be really that much film in this evening of Depth Perception, I've thought of advising readers to just see it in the festival -- but this Other Cinema event also features a "rare Hy Hisch piece from the 50's" (Eneri perhaps? Don't know, but Hirsch is one of the great semi-unsung filmmakers, and the inspirer of many fantastical legends, which shall have to wait for elucidation on my part at some later date...), as well as frenetic View-master activity, and free wine! 'Nuff said?

Red Vic: The Room @midnite

Yes! It's back -- and I still haven't seen it. This is what I said some weeks ago: "The things I've read about this film are almost too bizarre to be understood, let alone believed. It's slowly developing into a major cult work of the "sooo bad, but soooo intriguingly strange" variety. Can't say more until I see it, except for: no, it ain't New Wave! Sigh..." Don't know what I meant, exactly, by this reference to the New Wave, but it seems to sorta make sense in relation to Alphaville, so in it stays...

Consider this, friends -- there's nothing to stop you from attending all three of these Sat programs. They're at virtually opposite ends of the clock, allowing you plenty of time for meals, bathroom breaks, and transport. It is your solemn sacred duty to attend all three, for the sake of Cinema! I expect good reports re. all of you -- don't let me down...


Castro (SFIFF): A Woman Under the Influence

My very good friend, Ross Lipman, filmmaker and UCLA film restorationist extraordinaire, who has previously garnered much acclaim for his restored versions of Shadows, Faces, Killer of Sheep, The Exiles, and other independent films, presents his latest effort, long-in-the-works, a 100% photochemical restoration of John Cassavetes' masterpiece Woman Under. Last year, the National Society of Film Critics awarded Ross its Film Heritage Award for his work on Sheep as well as other films, so there are high expectations re. his version of the maestro's great work of female solipsism. A "touched"Gena Rowlands (who is expected to attend this screening), circa 1974, is one of my feminine ideals, so there's a lot riding on this... I know your long and hard labors have already reached their conclusion, my dear friend Lipman, but if it's possible to make a retroactive exhortation, here goes -- don't fail us, Ross!

PFA (SFIFF): Handle with Care

No, this isn't the Jonathan Demme picture which goes by this handle, but rather this year's title for the festival's premiere showcase of experimental work, programmed by Kathy Geritz and Irina Leimbacher (and presented in association with Kino 21). In addition to Kerry Laitala's Chromatic Cocktail, discussed above, this show also features Charlotte Pryce's The Parable of the Tulip Painter and the Fly, which I discussed in detail in my Feb 6th column. Whether by fate, or whimsical caprice of the Gods, Mme. Pryce and Ross Lipman are wife and husband, and their respective shows are playing almost simultaneously, and hence, in competition. I assume (and hope), from knowing them over the course of many years, this situation produces not tension, but well-deserved enhancement of their mutual love and admiration... At any rate, viewers who wish to see both their works will have their chance -- Woman Under will no doubt play something of a commercial run, and Handle repeats later in the festival. The with Care element of the program possibly comes in with the oft-brilliant Scott Stark's Speechless, described by the festival's guide thusly: "This beautiful yet uneasy weaving of images of human vulvas and landscapes draws on medical 3-D View-Master images." It's true -- View-Master images are bound to make any hardcore cinephile "uneasy"...

Also shows Fri, May 1st, at the Kabuki