One Night Stands for the week of July 18-24, 2007

Once upon a time in Iran, courtesy of Abbas Kiarostami.

Reviews by Michael Covino, Don Druker, Kelly Vance, Robert Wilonsky, and Naomi Wise

Thu., July 19

The Experience — A coming-of-age story by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (60 min., 1973). Preceded by two Kiarostami shorts: Bread And Alley (10 min., 1970) and Recess/Breaktime (14 min., 1972). (PFA, 8:45)

Firefly — Episodes 7-9 of the TV sci-fi series (total running time unknown). (PW, 9:15)

Miracle in Milan — Vittorio DeSica’s 1951 follow-up to The Bicycle Thief weds a Rene Clair-inspired social fantasy to the precepts of neorealism to yield a powerful indictment of conditions in postwar Italy. The film tells of the fight of a group of shantytown poor against a rich man who wants to take their land away to exploit the oil underground, and of the leader of this ragtag group — a young man armed only with his ideals and, for a while, a magic dove. Though the fight proves hopeless, they all fly off on broomsticks to a better life — implying that magic is the only means of rectifying social evils (100 min.). — D.D. (EC, 9:15)

The Wedding Suit — Iranian youths get into a scrape revolving around a borrowed suit of men’s clothing in this short-feature drama by Abbas Kiarostami (54 min., 1976). Preceded by two Kiarostami shorts: Colors (15 min., 1976) and Solution No. 1 (11 min., 1978). (PFA, 7:00)

Fri., July 20

The Breakfast Club — John Hughes, Dean of Teens in the ’80s, wrote and directed this classic Brat Pack drama, which pits a detention class of high-school misfits (Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson) against the pissed-off teacher (Paul Gleason) forced to babysit them (97 min., 1985). (CLC, midnight)

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — Flush with the success of the two Godfather movies, young Francis Coppola believed he could do no wrong. He went to the Philippines to make a Vietnam War movie and got bogged down in his own Vietnam (or Waterloo). Working with footage that Coppola’s wife Eleanor shot at the time for a documentary that never panned out, codirectors Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper add new interview material and use voice-over narration from Eleanor’s book, Notes: On the Making of Apocalypse Now, to give us a portrait of the artist as madman, genius, charlatan, entrepreneur, and martyr. If you’ve ever wondered why one of our greatest filmmakers seems to have been suffering burnout since Godfather II, this goes some distance toward showing why (96 min., 1991). — M.C. (Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 3:30)

La Ronde — The very essence of an art film, in which a series of bittersweet love affairs form a circle as one partner drifts to another. Max Ophuls, of the flowing, lilting tracking shots, sets this adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s play Der Reigen in constant motion around the actors: Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Danielle Darrieux, Gerard Philippe, and Jean-Louis Barrault. It’s sophisticated, and knows it (1950). Introduced by Guy Maddin. (PFA, 8:50)

Letter from an Unknown Woman — Xu Jinglei’s remake of the 1948 Max Ophuls romantic drama takes place in China during WWII and stars director Xu and Lin Yuan (90 min., 2004). (PFA, 7:00)

Philadelphia — Tom Hanks gives a compelling performance as a lawyer wrongly dismissed from his firm when the partners realize he has AIDS, but Ron Nyswaner’s script is too much the public service announcement. With Denzel Washington, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, and Antonio Banderas (125 min., 1993). — M.C. (Movies That Matter, Neumayer residence, 565 Bellevue St., Oakland, 6:30)

The Scavengers — This documentary about displaced Kurdish villagers was shot by the villagers themselves on video (running time unknown). Shown with Central Bakery, a French documentary about an Algerian-born baker, directed by Camy Julien (running time unknown). (Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, 7:30)

Sat., July 21

Close-Up — Iranian “doctored doc” is a genuine puzzler. Its vérité camera follows a distracted man who poses as a film director to gain a Tehran family’s confidence, for no other reason, apparently, than that he is lonely. The impostor and his victims are played by nonactors using their real names, in an apparent attempt to restage reality by filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. In the end, the dramatic payoff is so meager the whole concept seems a waste of time (100 min., 1990). — K.V. (PFA, 6:30)

Film School of Hossein Sabzian — This years-afterward follow-up to director Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up catches up with the eponymous can man as he lays dying a Tehran hospital (52 min., 2005). (PFA, following Close-Up)

Ray — Director Taylor Hackford’s fifteen-years-in-the-making biography of Ray Charles begins as you might hope: with 1959’s “What’d I Say (Part 1)” pulsing on the soundtrack, the organ’s low moans building toward that familiar, funky frenzy. It almost serves as an early climax, a bracing thrill served up before a word of dialogue has been delivered. But the movie never returns to that high. Ray doesn’t skimp on the sordid detail of Charles’ life — his rampant adultery, his drug habit, his refusal to share profits with bandmates — but nonetheless lets him off the hook more than Brother Ray did himself. Still, the women in the cast are uniformly astonishing, especially Regina King as the Raelette who let Ray into her bed and Kerry Washington as the wife Charles treated like an afterthought. And were it not for the performance of Jamie Foxx, the movie, which touches every base and slows to a crawl near home plate, would sink even when the score soars (152 min., 2004). — R.W. (Old Oakland Outdoor Cinema, Washington and 10th sts., dusk)

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

Top Hat — At the height of the Depression (1935), the height of carefree elegance: Based on the Broadway musical The Gay Divorcee, this is one of the most stylish of the Astaire/Rogers vehicles, with amazing Art Deco sets and fantastically fashionable costumes. Irving Berlin’s fine score includes “Cheek to Cheek” and “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails.” Directed by Mark Sandrich (101 min.). — N.W. (EC, 6:00)

The Wedding Suit — See Thu. (PFA, 4:30)

Sun., July 22

Devil’s Playground — Lucy Walker’s documentary looks at the lives of Amish teenagers in rural Indiana (77 min., 2002). (Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 7:00)

Le Plaisir — Pure delight from director Max Ophuls’ late period in France, as three stories by Guy de Maupassant come to swirling, effervescent, slightly melancholy life in a Belle poque setting. A mysterious masked reveler collapses on a crowded dance floor. The love affair of an impetuous artist and his model fizzles out in selfishness. And the ladies of a provincial bordello take a leisurely train trip to the countryside, where they attend a girl’s first communion, and reflect on their lives. Superb acting all around (from Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Daniel Gélin, et al.), set in motion by Ophuls’ magnificent tracking shots and comic timing. Adapted by Ophuls and Jacques Natanson (95 min., 1952). — K.V. (PFA, 7:00)

Liebelei — Max Ophuls’ farewell postcard to his native Germany (1932), a highly watchable indictment of Austro-German militarism disguised as a frothy soap opera about two dashing young officers, two fun-loving young women, a cheating wife, and a jealous aristocratic husband. The Nazis excised the names of Ophuls and playwright Arthur Schnitzler from the release version (88 min.). — K.V. (PFA, 5:00)

Pygmalion — A marvelous adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw classic from which My Fair Lady emerged, this Anthony Asquith- and Leslie Howard-directed feature stars Howard as Professor Higgins and Wendy Hiller as Eliza. Asquith, as this movie shows, was a master of the tasteful, intelligent, deliberately understated and quasidocumentary approach to films in Britain in the 1930s (96 min., 1938). — D.D. (Gaia Arts Center, 3:00)

Top Hat — See Sat. (EC, 5:00)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit — This ambitious mix of live action and animation stars Bob Hoskins as a 1940s private eye trying to figure out who framed cartoon star Roger Rabbit for the murder of a human being. The integration of cartoon characters into the live action is simply dazzling and must have required an awesome amount of work, but you get the feeling that there was no energy left over for the script, which leaves live actors as well as cartoons dangling. With Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, et al. (103 min., 1988). — M.C. (EC, 2:00)

Mon., July 23

The Mummy Returns — Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz get all wrapped up in their work in this Egypt-based, creature-filled sequel, directed by Stephen Sommers (130 min., 2001). (Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont, 6:15) Tue., July 24

Fellow Citizen — A Tehran traffic cop finds it hard to do his duty in Abbas Kiarostami’s satiric “documentary” (52 min., 1983). Preceded by two Kiarostami shorts: Orderly or Disorderly (16 min., 1981) and The Chorus (17 min., 1982). (PFA, 7:30)

Wed., July 25

Noisy People — Documentary on the Bay Area’s experimental music scene, directed by Tim Perkis (76 min., 2007). (Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley, 7:30)

Phase IV — An ecological sci-fi thriller directed by the great designer Saul Bass and starring Nigel Davenport and Michael Murphy (84 min., 1974). With a response by entomology professor Vincent Resh. (PFA, 7:30)


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