Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mostly Noir but German Terrorists, Chilean Fascists, Japanese Porn, Italian Witches and Alfred Hitchcock Have Their Moments Too

As I mentioned, the Castro Theater is presenting “Rialto's Best of British Noir.” This series of five films is co-presented by the Film Noir Foundation. The Film Noir Foundation was founded by Eddie Muller and presents the wildly successful Noir City Film Festival each January. Speaking of which, the dates and venue for Noir City 8 have been announced. The festival will run January 22 to 31, 2010 at the Castro.

I posted the synopses of Brighton Rock and It Always Rains on Sunday from the PFA program for Tea and Larceny.

The other three films in the program are:

The Third Man (1949) - Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime — and thus begins this legendary tale of love, deception, and murder. Thanks to brilliant performances by Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles; Anton Karas’s evocative zither score; Graham Greene’s razor-sharp dialogue; and Robert Krasker’s Oscar-winning photography, The Third Man, directed by the inimitable Carol Reed, only grows in stature as the years pass.

Peeping Tom (1960) - A frank exploration of voyeurism and violence, Michael Powell’s extraordinary film is the story of a psychopathic cameraman — his childhood traumas, sexual crises, and murderous revenge as an adult. Reviled by critics upon its initial release for its deeply unsettling subject matter, the film has since been hailed as a masterpiece. With Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey and Maxine Audley.

The Fallen Idol (1948) - The first of three masterpieces to result from the legendary meeting of director Carol Reed and writer Graham Greene, who together would also create The Third Man and Our Man in Havana. Elegantly balancing suspense and farce, this tale of the fraught relationship between a boy and the beloved butler he suspects of murder is a delightfully macabre thriller of the first order and a visually and verbally dazzling knockout. With Ralph Richardson, Bobby Henrey, Michèle Morgan and Sonia Dresdel.


The Roxie's Best of Columbia Noir program has been rescheduled for September 17 to 30. The films are the same as I previously reported. The Roxie is currently seling passes for the program priced at $85. The double feature price will be $11.


The Red Vic is screening a film that looks interesting on September 17. It will be the San Francisco premiere of Stingray Sam (Official Website). A dangerous mission reunites Stingray Sam with his long lost accomplice, The Quasar Kid. These two space convicts must earn their freedom by rescuing a young girl who is being held captive by the genetically designed figurehead of a very wealthy planet. Science fiction, musical and miniseries collide in this anticipated work. Director Cory McAbee will be in attendance. Stingray Sam screened at this year's Sundance. The film was well reviewed on Variety whose opinions I have found to be generally consistent with mine - The overall effect is hilariously digressive, campy yet deadpan. And awfully catchy: McAbee's songs range from a "Rawhide"-like theme tune to swinging '60s acid rock, cowpunk and an acoustic "Pretty Little Lullaby." There's even room on the soundtrack for brief traditional Indian and Chinese instrumentation. The freewheeling pic accommodates everything from physical humor (notably an incredible "secret handshake" running gag) and delightfully staged wiseass musical numbers (opener "Welcome to Mars" wins goodwill enough for multiple features) to the genuinely sweet interactions between senior and junior McAbees.


At the Castro, from September 23 to 27, is The Metropolitan Hallucinations
of Marin Scorsese, a program of ten Scorsese classics including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino and Raging Bull. The two films I would like to see on the Castro screen are After Hours on September 23 and Mean Streets on September 25.


For 31 days starting on September 1, the Stanford Theater is screening Hitchcock films including my favorite, Strangers on a Train. At the end of the film, there is a scene involving a "runaway" merry-go-round. There is an old man that is a carnival worker in charge of the carousel. He has to crawl under the floorplates to get to the center of the merry-go-round to stop it. All the while, Farley Granger and Robert Walker are fighting each other and the centripetal forces. The slow movement and labored but relentless expression on his face are both funny and suspenseful. Hitchcock claims the scene was filmed without trick photography and the most dangerous he ever filmed.

They are screening two early Hitchcock films I would like to see. Both were filmed in England before Hitchcock emigrated to Hollywood. The 39 Steps (1935) and Secret Agent (1936) are a double feature from September 8 to 10. The latter stars John Gielgud and Peter Lorre.


The Baader Meinhof Complex opens at Landmark Theaters (maybe others) on September 4. Highly reviewed, the film dramatizes the real-life actions of the Red Army Faction, a terrorist group operating in West Germany in the 1970's. Visit the official website.


I don't know if it's been released yet but if not, it will be released on September 4. I am referring to Still Walking, a Japanese film about "modest joys and gentle sorrows that accompany the realization that life must inevitably move on." Visit the official website.


Tony Manero opens on September 11 at the Sundance Kabuki. Technically, it's playing on the San Francisco Film Society Screen at the Kabuki.

In Santiago de Chile, 1978, Pinochet’s dictatorship has Chilean citizens coping with a nightly curfew, constant military patrols and the omnipresent threat of violence. In the midst of it, a middle-aged man named Raúl (Alfredo Castro) is obsessed with the idea of impersonating Tony Manero, John Travolta’s character from Saturday Night Fever. On the outskirts of the city, he leads a small group of devoted dancers who have set their sights on an upcoming “Tony look-alike” television competition. Raúl’s immoderate desire to win, coupled with an obsessive need to recreate the glass dance floor from the movie, leads him to commit a series of crimes and thefts and to act increasingly autocratic and cruel with his fellow hoofers. “Shot on 16mm, Tony Manero has a purposefully murky look and a frantic feel. The ultra-Dardenne camera follows Raúl as he darts through Santiago’s empty alleys and vacant lots, only pausing when he raptly watches Saturday Night Fever or attempts to imitate Tony's stomp-and-point rhythmic flailing. Feasting on this bizarre fascist posturing, director Pablo Larraín suggests that, with his sordid charisma, Raúl is a miniature Pinochet—reproducing the brutality of the state in his willingness to steal, exploit, betray and kill in the service of a fantasy.” —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice


On September 10, 12 & 13, the YBCA is screening Bigger Than Life (1956). Starring James Mason & directed by Nicholas Ray, the film is ostensibly about a man that takes experimental cortisone pills to control his "inflamed arteries." Subversively a critique of conformism in 1950's America, Bigger Than Life has gained an appreciative audience since its original release.

The YBCA is screening Dario Argento's Three Mothers Trilogy on October 1, 3 & 4.

Suspiria (1977) - Considered one of the great horror films, Suspiria tells the tale of Suzy, a young American ballet student who travels to Italy to attend a prestigious dance academy, only to arrive at an institution terrorized by gruesome murders. After putting together clues, Suzy uncovers a coven of witches who use the reanimated corpse of her friend in an attempt to murder her...And don’t forget the soundtrack

Inferno (1980) - Arguably Argento’s masterpiece, in Inferno a young woman stumbles upon a mysterious diary that reveals the secrets of "The Three Mothers" and unleashes a nightmare world of demonic evil. As the unstoppable horror spreads from Rome to New York City, this unholy trinity must be stopped before the world is submerged in the blood of the innocent. Features a pulse-pounding original score by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The Mother of Tears (2007) - The bizarre finale to the trilogy. In the heart of modern Rome, an urn is found and brought to a young archeologist, Sarah Mandy. But what Sarah doesn’t know is that the urn belongs to the world’s most powerful witch, the Mother of Tears. She unwittingly unleashes a demonic power intent on destroying the city and everything in its path. Starring Asia Argento and Udo Kier.

Starting on October 8, the YBCA screens eight pinku eiga films by Koji Wakamatsu.

More than any other Japanese films, those made by Koji Wakamatsu in the '60s and '70s are deeply rooted in the political and social upheavals of the era. One of the leaders of 'pink cinema,' Wakamatsu has always been obsessed with the history of student protest movements. 'Pink cinema' or pinku eiga—Japanese sexploitation—were independent film productions that from the mid '60s to early '70s experimented with a new form of filmmaking that blended sex and violence.

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