Sunday, November 30, 2014

2014 The French Had A Name For It: French Film Noir 1946-1964

The Roxie had a 12 film series from November 14 to 17 called The French Had A Name For It.  For the second time in memory, I went to the Roxie and it was sold out.  I think the previous time was a Midnites For Maniacs screening.  Reportedly, the entire four days drew large crowds undoubtedly encouraged by an article written by San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle.

The series conflicted with the San Francisco Film Society's Hong Kong Cinema so I only saw the two films on November 17:  La Putain respectueuse (The Respectful Prostitute) and J'irai cracher sur vos tombes (I Spit on Your Graves).

The series was so successful that they re-screened 8 of the films from November 21 to November 26 under the series title The French Had A Name For It Redux.  I saw four films during the encore session:  Dédée d'Anvers (Dedee of Antwerp), Toi, le venin (Blonde in White Car), Une manche et la belle (A Kiss for a Killer) & En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession).

The Respectful Prostitute starring Barbara Laage; directed Marcel Pagliero & Charles Brabant; French with subtitles; (1952)
I Spit on Your Graves starring Christian Marquand & Antonella Lualdi; directed by Michel Gast; French with subtitles; (1959)
Dédée d'Anvers starring Simone Signoret; directed by Yves Allégret; French with subtitles; (1948)
Blonde in White Car starring Robert Hossein, Marina Vlady & Odile Versois; directed by Robert Hossein; French with subtitles; (1958)
A Kiss for a Killer starring Henri Vidal, Mylène Demongeot & Isa Miranda; directed by Henri Verneuil; French with subtitles; (1957)
Love is My Profession starring Jean Gabin & Brigitte Bardot; directed by Claude Autant-Lara; French with subtitles; (1958)

I had previously seen two of the 12 films in the series at the PFA:  Manon Voici le temps des assassins (Deadlier Than the Male) directed be Henri-Georges Clouzot & Julien Duvivier, respectively.

That left four films in the series which I did not/have not seen:  La Vérité, Les MauditsUn témoin dans la ville (Witness in the City) and Chair de poule (Highway Pickup).   La Vérité with Brigitte Bardot was the film I wanted to see the most from the series.  I would also have liked to have seen Lino Ventura in Witness in the City.

The two films I saw on Monday, November 17 played to a packed house.  However, the Redux did not draw the same crowds.  I skipped the Redux screenings in the Little Roxie.  I would characterize the crowds in the four Big Roxie screenings as sparse.

The program for 2014 The French Had A Name For It: French Film Noir 1946-1964 was unusually nice.  It was printed on heavier cardstock and the equivalent of three 8.5x11 sheets of paper (front & back).  In addition to the synopses of the films, it had a French Film Noir timeline that was interesting.  They also sold merchandise.  I bought some notecards with movie poster images from the series.


According to the film notes, Barbara Laage (the star of The Respectful Prostitute) was Orson Welles first choice to play the lead in The Lady From Shanghai.  I find that very interesting considering that Rita Hayworth, Welles' wife at the time of production, landed the role.  How do you tell your own wife that she is the second choice for the part?  I also recalled Welles' controversial decision to ask his famously red-haired wife to dye her hair blonde for The Lady From Shanghai.  Laage looked to be a bottled blonde in The Respectful Prostitute.

The Respectful Prostitute was an interesting film.  Set in the United States, the film represents the French viewpoint of race relations in the US.  We all can recall US films set in foreign countries where the locals speak English in the film but would assuredly be speaking a foreign language in real life.  Typically, the actor speaks with a local accent to make it more palatable although I think it is ridiculous.  The Respectful Prostitute turns that around.  All the actors speak French (even the character of a US Senator).  I'm not sure if they spoke French with an American accent.

The film is noteworthy just for its incendiary dialog which actually seems over-the-top today.  The word "nigger" is used repeatedly in the subtitling.  The casual and overt racism are also jarring.  These impressions are not so surprising give the fact that the film is based on a Jean-Paul Sartre play and his intentions were likely more political than artistic.

Barbara Laage plays Lizzie MacKay, a "hostess" traveling on a train as the film begins.  She is being harassed by Yvan Desny as the drunken, racist, loutish son of a US Senator.  Seeking refuge, MacKay causes a stir by decamping in the segregated train car.  The drunk follows her and an argument ensues between the drunk & one of the black passengers that ends with the black man hitting his head and dying.

The senator dispatches his nephew Teddy Barnes (Walter Bryant) to clean up the mess.  Barnes' strategy is two pronged:  seduce MacKay and convince her to recant her witness statement and hunt down and lynch the black man who also witnessed the murder.

Although earnest, I couldn't help but guffaw at times.  The contradictions and literalness of some of the situations are amplified by the 60+ years since the film was made.  At one point, I believe MacKay says to Sidney "I have nothing against niggers."  I couldn't help but think of a Sarah Silverman joke which caused much controversy several years ago.  The punchline was "I like Chinks."  In addition, after having been toyed with by Barnes and being set up for a false prostitution arrest, the senator is able to convince MacKay to recant her statement by invoking patriotism and the memory of George Washington.

As a historical artifact to document French (or at least Sartre's) views on race relations in the US during the period, The Respectful Prostitute is worthwhile.  Compared to Hollywood's treatment of race relation from the same period, the film and play must have been provocative.  Her voice was grating at times and I thought acting-wise Laage was in over her head in some scenes but she had a definite sexuality that suited the role.  I can quite articulate the type of sexuality she has but as the series title conveys, I'm sure the French have a word for it.


Playing on the double bill with The Respectful Prostitute was I Spit on Your Graves (not to be confused with the 1970s grindhouse classic I Spit on Your Grave).  Another movie set in a US where everyone speaks French, I Spit on Your Graves boasts a backstory that cannot be beat.  The film was based on a novel by the same name by French author Boris Vian but published under the nom de plume Vernon Sullivan.  Vian claimed to be the translator for Sullivan's works.  A fictitious biography made Sullivan a light-skinned African American passing as white whose works were too controversial to be published in his native land.  Eventually, the hoax was revealed and the resulting controversy made I Spit on Your Graves was one of Vian's most popular works.  The ironies are too delicious to pass without comment.  Vian (a white man) pretended to be a black man who pretended to be a white man who wrote a novel about a black man pretending to be a white man.

That's not the end of the story though.  Vian was not excited by the prospect of his novel being turned into a film.  He had fought with the filmmakers over their adaptation of his novel.  At the premiere of the film, Vian rose during the screening and yelled "These guys are supposed to be American? My ass!"  He then had a heart attack and died.  He was 39 years old at the time of his death.

As a postscript, the recent film Mood Indigo was based on Vian's novel L'Écume des jours.

The term "passing" is one I was not familiar with until the last year or so.  I read about Oscar Micheaux, a novelist and silent film director.  Many of his works concerned the practice of passing which is when a light skinned Negro would pass him/herself off to be a white person.  I'm not sure if passing still occurs.  It would seem that the incentives to do so are largely diminished.  It would also be considered impolite to ask or offer such information.  Recently, I read that San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is black.  I was surprised to read that.  I knew he was adopted and I thought his birth parents were Hispanic.  It turns out his mother was white & father was black.  In today's multi-ethnic society, I wonder if there are still people passing at least based on their ethnicity.

I Spit on Your Graves is the story of  Joe Grant (Christian Marquand), a light-skinned African American who relocates from Memphis to Trenton after his brother is lynched for attempting to marry a white woman.  I assumed Trenton was Trenton, New Jersey but an audience member told me that it was set in Trenton, Ohio.  I think he was under that impression because the the finale involves a dash to the Canadian border and New Jersey & Canada do not share a border whereas Ohio & Canada are adjacent

Regardless of which Trenton the film is set, I Spit on Your Graves has this fevered quality of a US not previously seen in film or reality.  The film seems to have been influenced equally by The Wild Ones and French New Wave.

Joe Grant sets himself up via a modern day Underground Railroad.  An acquaintance in Memphis helps blacks pass as white with the help of a bookstore owner in Trenton.  Joe Grant situates himself no small part because he is so damn sexy that the white women in town can't help themselves.  Despite seeing his brother lynched for being with a white woman, Joe can't help himself with the wealthy Shannon sisters (Antonella Lualdi & Renate Ewert)...presumably because black men can't resist white women.  

Whereas The Respectful Prostitute played it straight, at times I thought I Spit on Your Graves was veering into satire.  The only black people in Trenton are servants at the Shannon household and they are dressed like 18th century valets.  The elder Shannon sister is engaged to the town crime boss who has a motorcycle gang as his enforcers.


Dédée d'Anvers stars Simone Signoret as a Antwerp prostitute with an abusive pimp.  She meets a smuggler (Marcel Pagliero who would go on to direct The Respectful Prostitute) and falls in love.  Only in the movies does it seem like an upgrade for a woman to go from a pimp to a smuggler.  The pimp (Marcel Dalio in a nice performance) isn't going down easy and that's bad news for Dédée and the smuggler.  There are some interesting exterior shots of post-WWII Antwerp & Signoret lights up the screen with her beauty but otherwise Dédée d'Anvers wasn't particularly noteworthy.


Blonde in White Car & A Kiss for a Killer were screened as a double bill and was my favorite night of the festival & redux.

Robert Hossein is walking down the street one night in Blonde in White Car.   A car pulls up one night and the female driver offers him a ride.  He can't see her face because it so dark.  He can only make out her blonde hair.  They drive to a secluded place, have sex and then she kicks him out of the car and tries to run him over.  Still, he never see her face but catches the license plate number.  He tracks down the owner, shows up her mansion and is escorted in.  To his surprise there are two beautiful blonde sisters and either one could be the driver from the previous night.  What delightfully perverse situation.  Did I mention one of the sisters is in a wheelchair?

Henri Vidal is a scheming bank clerk in A Kiss for a Killer.  He strikes it rich by marrying wealthy widow Isa Miranda but he can't take his eyes of the secretary (Mylène Demongeot).  This film was more a true noir as Vidal & Demongeot conspire to murder but there are a couple of nice plot twists in this film which elevate it above the average film noir.  The three leads were excellent and although Demongeot had sex appeal to spare, I was most impressed in Miranda's performance as the spurned wife.


Love is My Profession features Brigitte Bardot as a déclassé prostitute whose poor judgment gets her involved in armed robbery & assault.  Jean Gabin is the famed lawyer who takes on her case for personal reasons.  He gets her acquitted of the charges by staying just on the legal side of suborning perjury.  After the trial Gabin (despite his wife's knowledge, tacit approval & pleas for caution) takes Bardot as his mistress.  However, her continued ill-considered action dog the couple.  I should note there is a hot-headed young student who also fancies Bardot.

Actually, there is more going on in the relationship between Gabin & Bardot's characters - less than sexual, more than platonic.  Love is My Profession is worth a second look if I get a chance.  I saw it at 9:15 PM on the day before Thanksgiving and between work & films, I don't think I gave the film the viewer attention it deserves.


Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 New Italian Cinema

The 2014 New Italian Cinema was presented by the San Francisco Film Society at the Vogue Theater from November 19 to 23.  New Italian Cinema is organized by New Italian Cinema Events and presented in collaboration with SFFS.

I had tickets to three films but skipped one so I only saw two films this year.

Remember Me (aka Ti ricordi di me?) starring Ambra Angiolini & Edoardo Leo; directed by Rolando Ravello; Italian with subtitles; (2014)
Human Capital (aka Il capitale umano) starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Golino, Fabrizio Gifuni, Matilde Gioli & Guglielmo Pinelli; directed by Paolo Virzi; Italian with subtitles; (2013)

I skipped the November 23 screening of In the Snow to go to the gym and get to Berkeley in time for Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flowers of Shanghai at the PFA.

Remember Me is a romantic comedy about narcoleptic amnesiac Beatrice (Ambra Angiolini) & kleptomaniac Roberto (Edoardo Leo).  They begin a hesitant romance which is complicated by the fact that Bea is engaged to be married.  When placed in exciting or stressful situations Bea falls asleep and if the stress is great enough, she awakens with amnesia.  This plot device neatly divides the film into three acts.

In the first act, Roberto & Bea meet and fall in love.  It ends with Bea discovering her fiancé in flagrante delicto.  She runs out of the bedroom and into the park where she collapses.  She awakens in mental institution with no recollection of who she is.  In the second act, Robert randomly meets Bea, re-romances her and they get married have a son.  This act ends with Bea happening upon her ex-fiancé in a bookstore and collapsing.  She wakes up with no recollection of her past but this time the fiancé romances Bea and they get married.  In the third act, Roberto fruitlessly searches for Bea until his friend in the passport office sees Bea's application come through.  Roberto travels to Switzerland to find Bea working at her fiancé's watch/clock factory.  Not willing to put her through a third bout of amnesia, Roberto is willing to let Bea be but she senses the connection between them and pursues Roberto as the film ends.

Remember Me is a crowd pleasing film.  The screening I went to at 4 PM on a Saturday was sold out.  I'm surprised at how large the audience was.  I thought it was overly contrived but once I put away that quibble, I enjoyed the film as much as the rest of the audience.

Remember Me director Rolando Revello is also an actor and had a supporting role in Balancing Act which played at the 2013 New Italian Cinema.  Edoardo Leo also starred in I Can Quit Whenever I Want which played at the 2014 New Italian Cinema and at the 2014 Mill Valley Film Festival (where I saw it).

Human Capital is also a three act film.  Each act covers roughly the same events but told from three different perspectives.  The film opens with a caterer riding his bike on a cold winter night.  A car takes a turn and crashes into him.  He is sent into a ditch.  The rest of the film reveals who was driving the car and the backstory up until that moment.

Human Capital is the story of the Bernaschi & Ossola families.  Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is the patriarch of the Ossola family.  His second wife Roberta (Valeria Golino) is pregnant with their first child together.  Dino's teenage daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) is dating Massimiliano Bernaschi (Guglielmo Pinelli), the troubled teenage son of a wealthy family.  His father Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni) is a hedge fund manager and his mother Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) has a pet project renovating a local theater.  Dino thinks he has hit it rich by buying into Giovanni's hedge fund at the minimum level.  

As the film progresses, the relationships between these characters are revealed and the mystery is unraveled.  For the most part, the people are less than noble.  Dino is a buffoon, Serena is misguided, Giovanni is a bully, Carla is insecure, etc.  The exploration of human nature is played out from the viewpoints of Dino, Serena & Carla.  All the while, the mystery of who hit the caterer is ratcheted up as the police begin their investigation.  At key points where the characters' plot lines intersect, it is revealed that the obvious explanation is not the actual motivation for their actions.

I liked Human Capital quite a bit.  The post-script explanation of the title seems to be an afterthought criticism of the insurance industry but I was riveted by the story for its entirety.  Fabrizio Bentivoglio as the venal & cowardly Dino was particularly memorable.  Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is always memorable and has a knack for showing the endearing nature of her characters' insecurities.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Puzzle Within the Castro Theater's November 2014 Calendar

This month's Castro calendar was hit and miss.

I immediately recognized Rock Hudson on November 17.  After a little bit of staring, I recognized Richard Burton on November 10.

I was drawing a blank on the two females.  Searching the internet in an attempt to tie Hudson & Burton together, I noticed Hudson was born on November 17 and Burton on the 10th.

Looking for actresses born on November 3 & 4, I quickly found Monica Vitti & Linda Haynes.

Summarizing the images:

November 3 - Monica Vitti

November 4 - Linda Haynes

November 10 - Richard Burton

November 17 - Rock Hudson

I could not find the link between the four actors.  November 11 is Veterans Day (previously Armistice Day) which is the anniversary of the end of WWI.  The Best Years of Our Lives which played on Veterans Day premiered on November 21, 1946 but its hard to find that link.

I give up...


The private event on November 16 was a SFFS screening of Selma.

The TBA for November 24 has been changed to closed. The Castro will have been closed six days in November once Thanksgiving is complete.

The TBA for November 25 will be Boyhood (directed by Richard Linklater).

Some December screenings are already known.

Midnites for Maniacs is screening a double feature with the theme "LA: Out of the Past" on December 12.  It consists of Who Framed Roger Rabbit & Ed Wood.  I am told that the Maniac was inspired to program this double bill by the same screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself which I was impressed with.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut is screening on December 15 & 16.  I named this blog ( was taken) after a character in Blade Runner but I don't believe I have seen the film since starting this site.  I think it is time I see Blade Runner for the 18th or however many times I have seen it.

Although not on the Castro Theater website, Eddie Muller is holding his annual Noir City Xmas/kickoff event on Wednesday, December 17 at 7:00 PM.  The films have not been announced for December 17 nor Noir City.


That reminds me:  several 2015 film festivals have already announced their dates.

Another Hole in the Head will be December 5-14, 2014 at the Viz.  The schedule is up and tickets are available for purchase.

Noir City will be January 16-25, 2015 at the Castro.

Berlin and Beyond will be at the Castro (Jan 29-Feb 1), Goethe-Institut (Feb 1-2) and Landmark California Theater in Berkeley (Feb 3).

The Mostly British Film Festival will be February 12-19, 2015 at the Vogue.  I've seen a flyer with a partial listing of films but I cannot recall any of the films.

Cinequest will be from February 24-March 8, 2015 in San Jose.

CAAMFest will be from March 12-22, 2015.

The only film festival missing firm dates from the 2015-Q1 lineup is Indiefest and they most likely have announced the dates but I cannot find them listed on their website.

Finally, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has added a fifth day to its 2015 run. Originally scheduled for May 28-31, the festival will now conclude on Monday, June 1.


Castro Theater Calendar - November 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Finally...Gone With the Wind

Last night, I saw Gone With the Wind at the Stanford Theater.  GWTW is playing nightly at 7:30 PM until November 21 with 2 PM screenings on Saturday & Sunday (November 15 & 16).

Gone With the Wind starring Clark Gable & Vivien Leigh; with Olivia de Havilland & Leslie Howard; directed by Victor Fleming; (1939)

I had never seen GWTW in its entirety nor had I seen it in a movie theater.  I had only seen parts of it on television and not even that for many years.  The version the Stanford is screening clocks in at about 3 hours and 50 minutes including an intermission. December 15 will mark the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the film (which took place in Atlanta).  I also notice that the Castro Theater will screen a double feature consisting of GWTW and Django Unchained on December 28.

GWTW was sparsely attended last night and David Hegarty stuck around to play the Wurlitzer during the intermission around 9:20 PM.  They have some interesting letters & memos from David Selznick on display in the anteroom of the theater.  I have always wondered what that room was originally designed for.  I notice some stairs leading down in the southeast corner of the room.  I wonder where they go.

I won't bother to recount the plot.  The film rambles too much for my taste.  It starts off as if it is going to be an epic about the Lost Cause of the Confederacy but for long stretches the film abandons this plot line.  Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara is the protagonist who undergoes a transformation as an attractive, willful, jealous, younger woman to an attractive, willful, greedy, older woman.   Watching the film, I was surprised at how much Leigh's performance reminded me of Joan Crawford.  Ten years older than Leigh, Crawford was too old for the role of O'Hara but it is fun to imagine the screen chemistry between Gable & Crawford would have had since the two had an intense affair off-screen.

I also couldn't help but think about the off-screen lives of the actors.  It was during a filming break on GWTW that Gable married Carole Lombard while Leigh was having an affair with Laurence Olivier (who was married at the time) throughout the filming.

I also couldn't help noticing that three of the four lead actors are English - Leigh, Olivia de Havilland & Leslie Howard (although de Havilland was raised in California).

As for the film, it never lost my interest but characters moved in and out with seemingly no purpose.  I have not read Margaret Mitchell's novel upon which the film is based but I have read that the film is atypically faithful to its source material.  I think an hour of film could have been trimmed from GWTW without much impact on the film's plot.

I was particularly looking for blatant and latent racism in the film.  There are certainly scenes depicting both forms of racism but it wasn't any more prevalent than I remembered.  Butterfly McQueen's turn as the slave maid Prissy was difficult to watch at times but her character has always bothered me due to her voice, duplicity and weakness.  Hattie McDaniel received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Mammy.  Mammy is meant to serve as a counterpoint to Prissy but in my opinion, her performance was more rooted in racial stereotyping.

Leigh & Gable commanded the screen in a manner which today's actors cannot match.  Leigh showed quite a bit of acting range in her role and I could never quite come to dislike her character despite her many flaws which I suppose has a much to do with Leigh's performance as the screenplay and direction.  Gable is as debonair & impish as he is in any film I can recall.  When his Rhett Butler banters with O'Hara, it is as enjoyable as any exchange from Hollywood's Golden Age.

Having seen the film from soup to nuts in one sitting, I'm not sure what elevates it to its iconic status.  As I mentioned, the plot meanders and at times, the character's motivations and behaviors change with little rhyme or reason.  I assume these inconsistencies are better explained in the novel.

I would be hard-pressed to recommend GWTW to anyone on the basis of the film itself.  If it is on your cinematic bucket list or missing from your viewing filmography, seeing it on the big screen is much preferred to any other media.  I think due to the racism inherent in the film, GWTW is not often on television now.  I cannot recall the last time I saw it on television whereas I recall its television screenings were heavily advertised in advance in 1970s and 1980s.

I don't think GWTW is part of society's collective conscious anymore so there are fewer people who feel compelled to see it.  To be frank, I don't think people are missing much by not seeing it.  Off the top of my head, if I had to recommend one Clark Gable film it is It Happened One Night and for Leigh, it is A Streetcar Named Desire.  Many people will point to the racism in GWTW as a reason enough to avoid it.  I think any film about the American Civil War has to depict racism since it was integrated into the fabric of the era.  For me, GWTW just doesn't live up to its reputation.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trips to Los Gatos & Livermore

In March, I wrote about some Bay Area movie theaters I wanted to visit.  In October, I was able to visit two of them.

I saw Gone Girl at the Los Gatos Theater in Los Gatos and Pride at the Vine Cinema & Alehouse in Livermore.

Before I forget, I also mentioned that I went to the Magick Lantern Theater in Pt. Richmond in March.  I signed up to their email distribution list and realized recently that I have not received their weekly email for sometime.  I checked their website and was greeted with this message:  "The Magick Lantern is closed we anticipate re-opening very soon under different and better circumstances! If you're on our email list, we'll keep you posted on all the details!"  The last email I received from them was for films screening September 19-21.

I only visited the Magick Lantern once.  I wasn't particularly impressed.  It had the look and feel of a high school A/V clubhouse.  I think it only operated 3 or 4 days per week; perhaps 6 to 8 screenings per week.  I certainly didn't want the theater to close but I'm not that surprised that it did.  In fact, I'm surprised it lasted for 20+ months.  Even if Magick Lantern had impressed me, it was inconveniently located for me to make frequent visits.  I wish Ross Woodbury (the owner & operator of the Magick Lantern) well.

Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck & Rosamund Pike; directed by David Fincher; (2014) - Official Website
Pride starring Ben Schnetzer; with Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton & Paddy Considine; directed by Matthew Warchus; (2014) - Official Website


I made a dedicated trip to Los Gatos to see Gone Girl.  It was playing at several theaters closer to me but I wanted to see the Los Gatos Theater.  Actually, I had never been to Los Gatos so I wanted to see the town of Los Gatos.  The theater is located in Downtown Los Gatos.  I was running late so I was not able to stop in any of the shops.  The only store I do recall is the Sierra Toy Soldier Company a few doors down from the theater.  I wish I had time to stop in there but as I said, I was running late and by the time the film ended, all the stores were closed.

The Los Gatos Theater consists of two screening rooms.  The larger auditorium is on the first floor and has a balcony.  I don't recall what was playing in the auditorium.  I peeked in after Gone Girl and it was empty.  The auditorium looks has traditional theater seating and can seat a few hundred.

The second screening room has a lounge type design.  It is located on the second floor.  There are large photos of Hollywood Golden Age movie stars on the wall.  There is a small kitchenette area in the back corner and bar tables in the other corner.  The seating is shaped like a check mark.  Most of the seats are directly facing the screen but on the left side of the room there is a pillar.  The rows angle out slightly on the other side of the pillar such that the seats on that side are not directly facing the screen.  The seats are recliners.  There is a seating capacity of 40+ if you include the bar tables.  There is a large area to stand behind the back row if SRO is needed.  This is where I saw Gone Girl.

I was impressed with the Los Gatos Theater.  It is quite a drive for me and I would think it would take three hours (one-way) to get there via public transit.  I don't think I will be going there often but it is certainly worth a stop if I am in the area.  I would like to window shop the area around the theater if I return.


I work in San Francisco and do not have to travel much for work.  Recently I spent two days in the Tri-Valley for work and decided to take advantage of opportunity to stop in at the Vine Cinema in Livermore.  I had never been to Livermore before.

The Vine is located in Downtown Livermore which is laid out in a number and letter street grid.  The Vine is at the corner of 1st and O.  Actually, it is South O Street with the railroad tracks serving as Livermore's Mason-Dixon line.

The theater was built in the 1950s but it reminds me a lot of the Stonetown Cinema in San Francisco which was built in the early 1970s.  It's obvious that the theater was built as one large auditorium and has been divided into two long, narrow auditoriums.  You can see the support beams on the walls and ceilings so you can tell immediately if you are in the left half of the original auditorium or the right half.  In its original incarnation, I would say the Vine was comparable in size to the Castro Theater less its balcony.  I couldn't tell if there was a balcony in the original design of the Vine but there was no visible access to an upstairs area.

The Vine is next to the Zephyr Grill & Bar.  The Vine has traditional movie theater concessions along with beer on tap and wine by the glass.  I suspect they have an arrangement with the Zephyr for food service.  Pizza, hamburgers and salads were on the menu.  I ordered a Caesar salad which was less than memorable.  The food is brought to your seat.

The auditorium has several rows of traditional theater seating but also several tables dispersed throughout.  The tables have been laminated with movie posters.  There were also a few rows of couches and love seats.

I wasn't as impressed with the Vine as I was by the Los Gatos.  Perhaps that's because Livermore isn't as well-heeled as Los Gatos.  The Vine was remodeled in 2009 into its current setup whereas as the Los Gatos is just over six months from its restoration so it still has the new car smell.

I doubt I'll return to either theater very often due to this travel distances involved.


As for the films...

Gone Girl was number one at the box office for two consecutive weeks and has grossed over $120 million in four weeks.  I won't write much about it as it has been well reviewed.  I am a fan of director David Fincher's work (dating back to Seven & Fight Club).  I recommend Gone Girl.  Rosamund Pike is outstanding and shows quite a bit of acting range.  The plot is a shamelessly contrived and the ending didn't quite mesh with the 2+ hours of film leading up to it but Gone Girl is a fun ride.

As I get older, I have a harder time understanding English as spoken by our cousins across the pond. At times, I could not understand the actors in Pride (set in London & Wales of the 1980s) due to their accents.  That didn't detract much from the plot which is based on historical (some of which I vaguely remember).  In the mid-1980s, coal miners in the UK went on strike; the strike lasted about one year.  This was one incident in the strife which marked Margaret Thatcher's time as Prime Minister.

A group of gay activists in London raise money in support of the coal miners.  They visit a Welsh mining town to formally donate the money and are received with hostility for the most part.  A few open minds salvage the relationship until someone leaks the story to the press.  One must recall that during this era of AIDS, anti-homosexual behavior was more overt.  Anyway, the a vote is taken and the coal miner's union decides to disassociate itself from the gay activists.

I wasn't too impressed Pride.  It was often predictable and cliched.  I read that it received a standing ovation at this year's Cannes Film Festival.  It surprises me that it was even accepted at Cannes.  The events depicted are historic and important but the film feels more like a series a comedy sketches.  That's a little unfair because many of the actors shine in certain scenes.  Paddy Considine has a great scene as the union leader who is definitely out of his element in London drag queen bar.  Bill Nighy also has a few strong scenes as the poet/historian/tragic coal miner.

I laughed at some of the scenes in Pride but overall the sum of the parts was less than the whole.