One Night Stands for the week of August 29-September 5, 2007

In this week's rep picks: Democracy comes to China, and revolution comes to Georgia.

Reviews by Michael Covino, Don Druker, Dave Kehr, Kelly Vance, Gregory Weinkauf, and Naomi Wise

Thu., Aug. 30

The Real Dirt on Farmer John — A documentary on alternative farming and markets, and holistic nutrition. Directed by Taggart Siegel (82 min., 2005). Followed by a panel discussion. (Ground floor auditorium, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, 7:00)

Ten on Ten — Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami shot this documentary self-portrait with a camera mounted on the dashboard of his car (93 min., 2004). (PFA, 7:00)

The Wind Will Carry Us — An engineer from the city visits a tiny Kurdish village, ostensibly to observe the funeral rites for a hundred-year-old woman, but instead gets his own life sorted out interacting with the villagers. Just another fable (and not one of his brightest) by Iranian writer and director Abbas Kiarostami, master of the stealth narrative. When the film’s key scene consists of the engineer (Behzad Dourani) reciting poetry to a girl milking a cow in a dark cellar, we know we’re in for a slow evening (118 min., 1999). — K.V. (PFA, 9:00)

Fri., Aug. 31

Batman — This is the comic-book fantasy as a German Expressionist nightmare. The mayor, a ringer for Ed Koch, wants to make Gotham City safe for decent people, but Jack Nicholson’s Joker doesn’t think decent people have any business living there. Michael Keaton makes for an anguished, brooding Bruce Wayne/Batman (love interest Kim Basinger gives a throwaway performance). Occasionally the action sags under the weight of the décor, yet overall this is an exciting, visually grand, clangorously gloomy work, filled with wild humor and fireworks galore. Directed by Tim Burton (126 min., 1989). — M.C. (CLC, midnight)

The Heavens Call — This 1959 Soviet sci-fi adventure about competing missions to Mars was appropriated by Hollywood’s Roger Corman, who helped himself to footage and plot points for his 1963 film, Battle Beyond the Sun. The original film was directed by Mikhail Keryukov and Aleksandr Kozyr (80 min.). (PFA, 7:00)

Zero City — Absurdist Russian sc-fi film has an engineer becoming disoriented in his new job at a rural air-conditioner factory. Karen Shakhnazarov directs from a screenplay she wrote with Aleksandr Borodyansky (103 min., 1988). (PFA, 8:45)

Sat., Sept. 1

The Big Sleep — This quintessential ’40s detective flick has everything going for it, starting with the best writers in the business — book by Raymond Chandler, screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. Howard Hawks, master of American genres, re-created his earlier pairing of Bogie (as wisecracking private eye Philip Marlowe) and Lauren Bacall (as a sensual rich lady at the center of the plot) supported by Martha Vickers as a thumb-sucking psychopath, Dorothy Malone as a bookworm, and Elisha Cook as the edgy gunsel he embodied eternally. If a few plot details are left hanging at the end, they’re forgotten in Hawks’ moody atmosphere and crackling suspense, and in the erotic magic of the leads (116 min., 1946). — N.W. (EC, 6:00)

Bob le Flambeur (Bob the Gambler) — This beautiful, lighthearted comedy of manners about an aging gambler-gangster (Roger Duchesne is the dignified gent) anticipates the breakthroughs of the French New Wave films so uncannily that American moviegoers used to thinking of Shoot the Piano Player and Breathless as complete originals might well feel shocked (not that Truffaut or Godard were hiding their antecedents — Flambeur director Sam Melville is the celebrity interviewed in Breathless). Says Bob to himself in a rusty mirror early in the film, “A fine hoodlum face!” And a fine hoodlum film this is. With Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, and Guy Decomble (97 min., 1955). — M.C. (PFA, 8:40)

Le Doulos — Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as a Parisian stoolpigeon (aka “fingerman”) in this policier by director Jean-Pierre Melville (108 min., 1962). (PFA, 6:30)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show — The original 1975 British rock music horror spoof (95 min.). (PW, midnight)

Sun., Sept. 2

The Big Sleep — See Sat. (EC, 5:00)

Le Doulos — See Sat. (PFA, 7:00)

Look Back in Anger — Britain’s answer to America’s beatniks, the Angry Young Men (here personified by Richard Burton), look back in anger at life in postwar England. Adapted by Nigel Kneale from John Osborne’s famous play, with additional dialogue by Osborne. This gritty, realistic film, with wonderfully articulate dialogue, is directed by Tony Richardson. With Claire Bloom, Mary Ure, Dame Edith Evans, and Gary Raymond (101 min., 1959). (PFA, 5:00)

Umberto D — Director Vittorio De Sica and writer Cesar Zavattini collaborated five times, and along with the classic Bicycle Thieves, this is their most satisfying and moving effort. A touching story of an aging ex-civil servant (Carlo Battisti) feeling the pinch of postwar economic distress more than most, whose only friend is his little dog (for whom he sacrifices a portion of his meager pension), the film is at once a tragedy of a generation cut off from the world it made and a study of a man too proud to relinquish his tenuous grip on life. A fine example of the power of neorealism. Recommended (89 min., 1952). — D.D. (GAIA Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 3:00)

Tue., Sept. 4

Devotional Cinema: Films by Dorsky and Ozu — Avant-garde shorts by Nathaniel Dorsky (36 min. total running time). (PFA, 7:30)

Late Spring — This 1949 Yasujiro Ozu film tells the story of a father — a widowed professor — who gently turns his daughter toward a marriage she both wants and fears. A lesser masterpiece on the problems of generations in postwar Japan than Ozu’s superb Tokyo Story, but a meticulous filmic design delicately and courageously realized (107 min.). — D.K. (PFA, following Devotional Cinema)

My Grandmother — This silent Georgian Soviet slapstick political comedy is directed by Kote Migaberidze and stars Alexander Takaishvili and Bella Chernova (65 min., 1929). With a live music score performed by composer Beth Custer. (JCCEB, 7:00)

Please Vote for Me — Weijun Chen’s documentary peeks into a third-grade classroom in China, where kids are campaigning, hard, for class officer positions (running time unknown). (Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., 6:30)

Valley Girl — Middle-class San Fernando Valley girl meets gangling low-life LA teen hunk (Nicolas Cage), withstands the social pressures applied by her peers to drop the animal and, as in The Lady and the Tramp, love prevails. Nonstop soundtrack rocks the Valley with the Clash, Modern English, the Jam. Bananarama, Men at Work, etc. etc. (but no Moon Zappa). Sprightly direction by Martha Coolidge (99 min., 1983). — M.C. (PW, 9:15)

Wed., Sept. 5

Ankur — A social drama about caste restrictions in India by director Shyam Benegal (137 min., 1974). Benegal appears in person. (PFA, 7:30)

Life and Debt — Where do your bananas come from? Your favorite chair? How about that T-shirt? This documentary by Stephanie Black takes us there while explaining the gross unfairness of “free trade” and the “new world order” (80 min., 2001). (Ground floor auditorium, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, 7:00)

Rosenstrasse — Part soap opera, part history (or herstory) lesson, part vital, and a little tedious, veteran director Margarethe Von Trotta’s Rosenstrasse illustrates an important standoff in WWII Berlin framed by — and sometimes diluted by — an unwieldy present-day scenario. In New York, a young Jewish woman (Maria Schrader) delves into the devastating past of her German immigrant mother (Jutta Lampe), whose husband has just died. Via present-day interviews and flashbacks, we learn of her mother’s childhood under the Nazi regime, protected by a Gentile woman (Katja Riemann) married to a Jewish musician named Fabian (Martin Feifel), who is captured and held in the titular detention center. Alas, the struggle of the Gentile wives for their Jewish husbands is given only adequate treatment, forced to play tug-of-war with far too much contemporary rumination. It is unfortunate that Von Trotta does not trust her audience enough to think for themselves — her themes are carved on a sledgehammer en route to our skulls — but she does confront prejudice head-on, to reveal a universal humanity (136 min., 2003). — G.W. (Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 7:00)


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