One-Night Stands for the week of July 25-August 1, 2007

Max Ophuls and Abbas Kiarostami retrospectives, and the Jewish Film Festival plays Berkeley.

Reviews by Michael Covino, Kelly Vance, Richard von Busack, Robert Wilonsky, and Naomi Wise

Thu., July 26

Clash by Night — Marital troubles galore in this sultry 1952 noir by director Fritz Lang, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan, and the young Marilyn Monroe in playwright Clifford Odets’ drama of working-class angst among Monterey fishermen and their women (100 min.). (PFA, 9:05)

Double Indemnity — Billy Wilder assembled a wonderful ensemble to paint a dark, deadpan picture of greed in the LA hills. Fred MacMurray is the insurance salesman beguiled into committing a profitable murder by Barbara Stanwyck, while Edward G. Robinson is the claims adjuster who smells a rat. The terse, nasty script is by Wilder and Raymond Chandler from James M. Cain’s novel. Arguably the best film to ever be tagged noir, it’s also a thumbnail sketch of one particular style of California entrepreneurship. Filled with sun, but ice cold (106 min., 1944). — K.V. (PFA, 7:00)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — There are some wide-open spaces in the screenplay, and director Terry Gilliam slops on the vomit and hysteria a bit too thickly, but the Gilliam-Johnny Depp-Benicio Del Toro version of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic of New Journalistic dope-and-weirdness is one of the few movies — maybe the only one — to capture the middle-class recreational drug culture’s essential details perfectly. The question is: Do we really need to take this trip? Depp disappears into the character of Thompson, on assignment to cover a motorcycle race in Nevada in 1971. Del Toro is also a riot as the writer’s menacing attorney. Screenplay by Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies, and jilted helmer Alex Cox (118 min., 1998). — K.V. (PW, 9:15)

My Best Enemy (Mí Mejor Enemigo) — During the war between Chile and Argentina in December 1978, soldiers from each side encounter each other near the border, with dramatic results. With Nicolàs Saavedra and Erto Pantoja. Directed by Alex Bowen (100 min., 2005). Shown with a short: Soledad Is Gone Forever (14 min., 2006). (LP, 7:00)

Fri., July 27

Beetlejuice — The horror genre gets hung out to dry in this crazyhouse spoof by Tim Burton. Young Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) die in an auto accident, then find themselves restricted as ghosts to their charming old Connecticut home, which they now have to share with a trendy NYC family. They can’t even haunt the hallways properly, so they request the services of freelance bio-exorcist Betelgeuse (played with exuberant and raunchy overkill by Michael Keaton) to rid their home of the pesty New Yorkers (92 min., 1988). — M.C. (CLC, midnight)

Caught — During his Hollywood period. European stylist Max Ophuls makes the best of soapy material in this story of a career girl (emotive Barbara Bel Geddes) who marries an obnoxious tycoon (snarly Robert Ryan), but really and truly falls for a do-gooder doctor (plainly mystified James Mason) (88 min., 1949). — K.V. (PFA, 8:50)

The Reckless Moment — This melodrama from Max Ophuls’ postwar Hollywood period is usually overlooked in favor of the masterpieces he would realize on returning to Europe (Lola Montes, etc.), but it’s one of the director’s most perverse stories of doomed love, with Joan Bennett as a bored housewife who accidentally kills her daughter’s sleazy suitor, and James Mason as an engagingly exotic Irishman who attempts to blackmail her. Naturally, they feel a certain attraction (82 min., 1949). — D.K. (PFA, 7:00)

Sunset Boulevard — Without question the greatest movie ever made about Hollywood. A would-be screenwriter’s (William Holden) car breaks down in LA, where he takes refuge in the decrepit mansion of a washed-up silent film star (Gloria Swanson), whose butler (Erich von Stroheim) is a washed-up director. Nasty, macabre, and hilarious, with pitch-perfect dialogue, written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and D.M. Marshman (110 min., 1950). (Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 3:30)

Sat., July 28

27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — The East Bay component of the annual festival runs through August 4. For a complete schedule including show times and synopses, go to

First-Graders — Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami sets up his camera in a Tehran school, where kids get sorted out quickly (84 min., 1984). (PFA, 4:30)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — More elaborate than the first two films of the Man with No Name trilogy, this movie uses the Civil War as a rather expensive backdrop for the antics of Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef, who are all trying to kill each other. As the original posters said, “For these three men the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice.” Contains what are probably Ennio Morricone’s finest compositions (161 min., 1966). — M.C. (EC, 5:30)

Homework — Abbas Kiarostami focused his 1990 doc on a group of schoolboys, all of whom have complaints about their workload (89 min.). (PFA, 8:30)

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

Where Is the Friend’s Home? — A coming-of-age story set in an Iranian village, where a boy discovers he’s taken his friend’s schoolbook home by mistake and sets out to return it — a much more difficult journey than he had imagined. Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami (85 min., 1987). (PFA, 6:30)

Sun., July 29

From Mayerling to Sarajevo — The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (John Cabot Lodge) forms the focus for Max Ophuls’ romantic satire, in which the archduke is seen in a love affair with a Czech countess (Edwige Feuillère) (90 min., 1940). (PFA, 7:00)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — See Sat. (EC, 4:30)

27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — See Sat.

Pandora’s Box — The gorgeous, endlessly expressive face of Louise Brooks as Lulu, an amoral jazz baby who crumples men casually, is all we really need to know about this legendary 1929 melodrama, but it’s a remarkable film in its own right. With sinuous grace, director G.W. Pabst guides Lulu from hair-tearing café depravations in Germany to shipboard intrigue in France to her comeuppance in gloomy London (110 min.). — K.V. (Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 3:00)

The Trouble with Money (Komedie om geld) — An early comedy by Max Ophuls, in which a courier for a Dutch bank (Herman Bouber) accidentally loses a large sum of cash and is fired, which throws him and his daughter (Rini Otte) into shameful poverty. A turn of events lands the disgraced man as chairman of a firm of real-estate developers whose assets exist only on paper (89 min., 1936). R.v.B. (PFA, 5:00)

Mon., July 30

The Bourne Identity — Director Doug Liman’s adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s 1980 novel begins as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is being pulled from the Mediterranean by fishermen who mistake him for dead. He is, in a sense: Bourne has no knowledge of who he is or what he does. Turns out he’s a CIA assassin meant to kill a rebel leader threatening to out the agency’s devious doings. Now, Bourne’s superiors want him dead. The film, a long chase with Damon and Run, Lola, Run‘s Franka Potente being pursued by a stable of spies, is in no hurry to conclude its pursuit. Even a car chase through Paris plays measured, leaving only dents and thuds instead of crashes and flames. Damon is perfect: lost and dazed, but never frightened, as though somewhere in Bourne’s broken mind he retains fragments he’s actually trying to forget (118 min., 2002). — R.W. (Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd., 6:15)

27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — See Sat.

Tue., July 31

Dark Days — Marc Singer’s grim yet oddly beautiful doc, shot in a stark, even noirish black-and-white, shows the lives of homeless people, for the most part crack addicts, who have made their homes in the Amtrak tunnels beneath Manhattan. They don’t just unroll their sleeping bags, but lug lumber down there, build shacks, prepare dinner on burners, decorate, have pets, and try to keep their places as tidy as possible despite the bleakness of their lives (94 min., 1999). — M.C. (Gaia Arts Center, 7:00)

Ladies They Talk About — Steamy women’s prison melodrama with Barbara Stanwyck playing a tough prisoner. Directed by William Keighley and Howard Bretherton (69 min., 1932). (PFA, 7:00)

The Lady Eve — Henry Fonda is a wealthy, naive beer-heir (“Pike’s Pale, the ale that won for Yale!”) and hard-as-nails Barbara Stanwyck is the con-person out to take him, one way or the other. Preston Sturges unsheathes his claws in this sharp, sometimes sadistic satire on the idiocies of social snobbery. The brilliant surface thinly conceals a heart of darkness, in a comedy simultaneously very funny and very painful (94 min., 1941). — N.W. (PFA, 8:30)

27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — See Sat.

Wed., Aug. 1

Prophecy — Mutations amuck in the Maine woods. This might have worked as a monster movie if the monster had limited its menu to innocent backpackers and vacationers. But director John Frankenheimer does a whole ecology number with local Indians disputing property rights with a lumber company whose plant is polluting the waters. The acting is hopeless, the scenery beautiful (102 min., 1979). — M.C.

27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — See Sat.


Newsletter sign-up

eLert sign-up

broken clouds
60.6 ° F
64 °
57 °
63 %
56 %
60 °
55 °
54 °
53 °
52 °