One-Night Stands

Repertory film listings for February 21-27

Thu., Feb. 21

Distant Voices, Still Lives Lights, camera, action — director-writer Terence Davies experiments with them all and even shuffles the chronology of his mesmerizing series of flashbacks on unhappy family life in Liverpool, circa 1940-1960. Instead of confusion, Davies’ film yields a strange beauty. The characters, bedeviled by a violent father and worn down by working-class reality, bust into song, at least a dozen of the popular songs of the day, to cheer themselves up. In Davies’ tender and probably autobiographical trip through the past, the hit parade saves lives. A large and excellent cast is headed by Angela Walsh, Pete Postlethwaite, Freda Dowie, and Debi Jones (84 min., 1988). Terence Davies in person. — K.V. (PFA, 7:30)

The Business of Being Born Documentary on birth culture in America, executive produced by Ricki Lake (87 min., 2008). (Auctions by the Bay Theater, Alameda, 7:00)

Spirit of the Marathon Jon Dunham’s documentary follows six runners as they prepare for and compete in the 2005 Chicago Marathon (2008). (BS, CWC, RH, 7:30)

Backcountry Film Festival Six skiing-oriented shorts and one on bicycling. Festival proceeds support the Snowlands Network. (2040 Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley, 7:00)

The Corporation A damning documentary designed to expose everything that’s irresponsible, immoral, inhumane, and lethal about corporations, this is a polemic made by people who want to see the end of corporations as we know them — as well it should be. After scarcely more than fifteen minutes, in which the film explores the history of the corporation and how it won its status as a “legal person,” the evidence has accrued in favor of change, if not extinction. And The Corporation continues — featuring interviews with forty activists, authors, stakeholders, CEOs, marketers, and Nobel Prize winners — for a beefy two and a quarter hours beyond that. It’s a bit much. As an exhaustive, highly intelligent discussion of one of the most pressing issues of our time, The Corporation is a success. As a work of documentary, it’s flawed: by its failure to limit its scope (or at least pare down its material), by its strangely stylized narration, and by its lack of a tension-building narrative. — M.L. Part two only. (Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 7:00)

Fri., Feb. 22

The Long Day Closes Terence Davies’ follow-up to his rapturous Distant Voices, Still Lives is ostensibly a sequel, but is dreamier and less linear than the earlier film. In Liverpool circa 1955, young Bud and his working class family seem to exist in a haze of movie nostalgia, mixed discreetly with the stirrings of Bud’s homosexual feelings. As Bud, thirteen-year-old Leigh McCormack already has the face of a middle-aged man. The sight of him gazing forlornly out the window is enough to inspire reverie, or ennui, or both. The photography, less ostentatiously colored than the first film, is by Michael Coulter. Directed and written by Davies, the scouse Proust (85 min., 1992). Terence Davies in person. — K.V. (PFA, 7:00)

The Neon Bible In the hands of director Terence Davies, John Kennedy Toole’s novel about a boy growing up in the Southern Bible Belt ends up looking and sounding very much like Davies’ autobiographical Liverpool films: homosexual overtones, nurturing women vs. abusive men, show tunes on the radio, etc. The plum role of faded vaudevillian Aunt Mae is reserved for the luminous Gena Rowlands, but Diana Scarwid (as battered mom) and young Jacob Tierney (as sensitive soul David) handle their rather stiff roles capably. Now if the visually gifted Davies could really get away from home… The BBC Channel Four production costars Denis Leary as the violent father and Leo Burmester as a tent revivalist. Davies adapted the screenplay in addition to directing (91 min., 1995). Terence Davies in person. — K.V. (PFA, 9:05)

Sat., Feb. 23

Distant Voices, Still Lives: Shot-by-Shot See Thursday. Terence Davies leads a shot-by-shot discussion. (PFA, 2:30)

Dillinger Is Dead Marco Ferreri’s seminal work of modern cinema. In Italian with English subtitles (95 min., 1969). (PFA, 6:30)

Eraserhead Henry gets married but his baby is a bit strange. It seems to be mainly a head, very oddly shaped and slimy looking, and it screeches and howls. Then there’s the woman in the radiator with the tumescent cheeks and the white wiggly things raining down about her. I won’t say what various things crawl and bubble out of the baby’s innards when it is unswathed. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s all in black and white. Directed by David Lynch (90 min., 1976). — M.C. (PFA, 8:30)

Time Bandits A family film for the family that doesn’t pray together (or apart), this is neither a typical Monty Python product nor a normal kiddie movie, but an odd, rather delightful blend of the two, a thinking-child’s movie that’s genuinely suitable for grown-ups, too. This witty fantasy has an eleven-year-old boy traveling through time with a band of thieving dwarves to meet Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese), Agamemnon (Sean Connery), assorted chimeras, and, finally, Satan (David Warner) and his opposite number (Ralph Richardson). Although the pace is noticeably slower than the Pythons’ usual, the dialogue is clever, and the sets and special effects ingeniously imaginative. The morality of the fable is a far cry from the usual sweetsop — those blasphemous Brits raise some of the Big Questions of theology and refuse to provide pat answers (110 min., 1981). — N.W. (EC, 3:00)

Sun., Feb. 24

Lumo Set in a hospital along the border of Rwanada and the Congo, this documentary centers on a group of women who remain courageous in the face of war and personal injury and illness (72 min., 2006). (PFA, 2:00)

Enemies of Happiness Portrait of Malalai Joya, feminist, diplomat, activist, social worker, and aspiring politician in warlord-dominated Afghanistan (59 min., 2006). Preceded by Sari’s Mother, about an Iraqi woman who struggles to care for her AIDS-afflicted son (21 min., 2006). (PFA, 3:45)

Dillinger Is Dead See Saturday. (PFA, 6:15)

Tue., Feb. 26

casting a glance James Benning examines the history and meaning of artist Robert Smithson’s earthwork Spiral Jetty, built in 1970 but submerged until nine years ago in Utah’s Great Salt Lake (80 min., 2007). James Benning in person. (PFA, 7:30)

Purple Rain This two-and-a-half hour rock vid tells us more than we needed to know about Prince, the Little Richard of the ’80s, who is nevertheless a talented producer-performer. His fans will want to ignore the sexism, slow-witted lines, and slower-witted acting to focus instead on a bevy of tunes by Prince, the Time, and Apollonia 6, whose members look like refugees from Penthouse. Directed in a scattershot, gimmicky style by Albert Magnoli, who also co-scripted (111 min., 1984) — K.V. (PW, 9:15)

Wed., Feb. 27

The Woman in the Window A masterful film noir from Fritz Lang’s rich American period (1944), with Edward G. Robinson as a professor of psychology who learns by doing as he becomes obsessed with the image of a woman in a painting. Scarlet Street, Lang’s follow-up with the same cast (Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea), is probably better, but between one masterpiece and another, who’s to choose? (99 min.) — D.K. (PFA, 3:00)

The House of Mirth High-class soap operatic version of Edith (The Age of Innocence) Wharton’s novel about the misfortunes of a headstrong, conniving New York socialite, circa 1905, benefits greatly from Gillian Anderson’s ripe, melodramatic performance. Her Lily Bart, doomed to descend the social ladder after being surrounded by manipulative men (Anthony LaPaglia, Dan Aykroyd) and jealous women (Laura Linney, Elizabeth McGovern), still finds time to thrash about in a hopeless passion for a businessman (Eric Stoltz, another fine acting job). Terence Davies finds the right tones of opulent despair and sticks with it (124 min., 2000). — K.V. (PFA, 7:30)

In the Valley of Elah In Paul Haggis’ feel-badder, a retired military man (Tommy Lee Jones, looking old) discovers to his horror that times have changed, when he and a friendly police detective (Charlize Theron) investigate the mysterious stateside disappearance of his son, a soldier just returned from duty in Iraq. Chalk up another laborious, ham-handed civics lesson from the writer-director of Crash, who spoils a decent socially conscious detective story by piling on his trademark beautiful images of ugly things — a sure sign that middle-class America is in distress. The acting is solid (Jones, Theron, Susan Sarandon, Wes Chatham) but the preachy, pedantic writing is a mess. Haggis’ patronizing homage to the poor, deluded, dumbed-down grunts spends too much moolah to produce a load of booshwah. The title? Forget it (121 min., 2007). — K.V. (Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center, Walnut Creek, 7:00)

The Lion’s Roar His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, a Buddhist leader from Tibet, is portrayed in this documentary by Mark Elliott, with narration by James Coburn (50 min., 1985). (Humanist Hall, Oakland, 7:30)

Higher Ground: A Mountain Culture Film Chris Alstrin and Alex Lavigne’s homage to world-class climbing culture, with segments on ice climbing, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, and alpine climbing. (155 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley, 7:00)

Daddy Hunger Sacramento filmmaker Ray Upchurch presents a documentary about the absence of father figures inside the home and within the greater black communities of Northern California (2008). Followed by a discussion. (Contra Costa College, Richmond, noon, and East Bay Center for Performing Arts, Richmond, 7:00)


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