One-Night Stands for the week of October 3, 2007

In this week's rep movies: tramps (Charlie Chaplin) and vamps (Ann-Margret with a whip).

Reviews by Michael Covino, Jean Oppenheimer, Luke Y. Thompson, and Kelly Vance

Thu., Oct. 4

Boarding Gate: An attractive drug runner and her trashy ex-lover globe-hop between Paris and Hong Kong in Olivier Assayas’ down-and-dirty nod to Hong Kong genre films and B-movie Eurotrash. Featuring an intriguing cameo from Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth as a Cantonese-speaking gangster (106 min., 2007). Assayas and Jean-Michael Frodon in conversation. (PFA, 7:30)

Donnie Darko: As emotionally rich as it is intellectually demanding, Richard Kelly’s feature directorial debut is an eerie, heartbreaking portrait of a deeply troubled, perhaps psychotic adolescent. Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of the year’s best performances as a contemporary Holden Caulfield, whose increasingly hostile behavior towards others masks a deep despair about life and his place in it. After experiencing a near-death experience, he begins to see strange, inexplicable sights that suggest he has acquired supernatural abilities. Straddling the line between drama and fantasy, the story is open to numerous interpretations, but viewers who read the film as a sci-fi exploration of time travel will have sorely missed the film’s point — as well as its beauty and strength. Working in perfect synch with director Kelly is cameraman Steven Poster, whose cinematography captures the mystery and darkness — both literal and metaphorical — that pervade this exceptional film. Like gathering storm clouds, Donnie Darko creates an atmosphere of eerie calm and mounting menace (2002). — J.O. (EC, 9:15)

Into the Labyrinth: The Films of Jan Svankmajer A documentary about the surreal, mysterious worlds of the Czech filmmaker. Free. (PFA, 5:30)

Poltergeist: A house in suburbia starts acting up. Sounds like The Amityville Horror? Looks like it too. A girl is swallowed by a warp in her bedroom closet, and turns up somewhere in the family’s Sony Trinitron. At least the reception is good. IL&M special effects range from shock to schlock, while the silly script, intermittently relieved by bits of humor, is cluttered with midget psychics presenting five-minute expositions on the problems of cleaning a house of evil spirits. Story by Steven Spielberg, screenplay by Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor, directed by Tobe Hooper, produced by Spielberg. Those are the credits; I won’t speculate on the division of labor (114 min., 1982). — M.C. (BS, DV, RH; 7:30 p.m.) Plus a “15-minute never-before-seen glimpse into the real world of poltergeists.”

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: The series that refused to die dusts off one of its old favorite plot devices — time travel — this time back to 1986 San Francisco. Plenty of ironic laughs down there, as Kirk and Spock rescue a pair of humpback whales who, when beamed up to the 23rd century, save the earth. Probably the best film installment of the perennial TV snack, it nevertheless suffers from the production bloat that detracts from the bad acting that made Star Trek so much fun in the first place. Directed with a sense of humor by Leonard Nimoy, starring the same old gang plus Catherine Hicks. — K.V. (PM, call for showtime)

Fri., Oct. 5

Irma Vep: Some nice shots of Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung scampering around Paris in a black latex body suit, but that alone is a pretty flimsy excuse for a narrative feature. Writer-director Olivier Assayas structures his film as the “making of” a remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1915 serial Les Vampires by a flaky, depressed film director, and all the characters save Maggie think he’s crazy for doing it. After an hour of semi-improv, loosely plotted fric-frac, we think so too — and that goes double for the real director, Assayas. Nathalie Richard, though, is memorable as a lesbian wardrobe mistress with eyes for Cheung (99 min., 1996). — K.V. Olivier Assayas and Jean-Michael Frodon in conversation. (PFA, 6:30)

Beware of a Holy Whore: The holy whore is Art — yes — with a capital, contemptuous “A,” and the wary ones are Fassbinder’s antitheater team, waiting around in a Spanish castle for their director (Fassbinder played by Lou Castell) to come up with more money and begin directing/terrorizing them. In the meantime they’ll just hang out, getting drunk in the castle’s bar, making weepy long-distance calls to lovers in other parts of Europe, and sleeping with each other. They are a crew. Fassbinder himself plays the film-within-the-film’s producer, and as such is the Holy Terror. In the middle of all this languorous-comic chaos sits stolid Eddie Constantine, half rock/half lizard, like the last real actor waiting for the last real film to begin. With Hanna Schygulla and Marquard Bohm. Written and directed by R.W. Fassbinder (103 min., 1970). — M.C. (PFA, 9:00)

Berkeley Video & Film Festival: Continuous screenings of recent independent cinema from local and international filmmakers. Featuring The Homecoming, Tile M for Murder, Silhouettes, Stevie, Secret Agent Robot, Somewhere in the City, The Frank Anderson, Chronicles of Impeccable Sportsmanship, Slippery Shiny Feathery Things, The Almighty Beer, Flaming Chicken, Hillary in ’08, Polis Is This-Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place, The Job Trilogy — Film Assistant Job (CA, 7:30).

Piece by Piece: A documentary on San Francisco graffiti by Nic Hill (79 min., 2005). (Oakland Museum, 8:30)

The Thursday Club: George Paul Csicsery’s moving documentary about a group of retired Oakland cops who battled antiwar protesters and Black Panthers in the 1960s. A deceptive piece of work, in the best sense of the term. We go into it expecting a rough-and-tumble expose of police brutality against demonstrators and political dissidents, but we come away with something bigger, an intimate portrait of a pivotal time (60 min., 2005). — K.V. (Oakland Museum, 8:00)

Sat., Oct. 6

City Lights: Charlie Chaplin’s tramp falls in love with a blind flower seller and, by hook and by crook, gets the money for the operation that restores her sight. Alas! When she recognizes her pathetic benefactor in the final scene, the look on her face is perhaps the most heartbreaking in all of cinema. Henry Clive plays the millionaire who, when drunk, befriends the tramp, and who, when sober, has never seen him before. And there’s the party where Charlie swallows a toy whistle — his concession to the advent of sound (90 min., 1931). — M.C. (PFA, 3:00)

demonlover: Corporate spy Diane (Connie Nielsen) works for businessman Herve (Charles Berling) at a company that’s acquiring TokyoAnime, a studio that makes pornographic cartoons (hentai). Elaine (Gina Gershon) works for the titular website, an online anime superstore that hopes to secure an exclusive contract with TokyoAnime, thus driving competitor Mangatronics out of business. Elise (Chloe Sevigny), who resentfully toils for Diane, is the liaison assigned to escort Elaine and her associates around Paris, but she may also be working for them, or for Karen (Dominique Reymond), who previously held Diane’s position of power but is drugged and set up for a fall early in the film by Diane, who may be working for Mangatronics. Everyone seems to have double or triple layers of deceit to their personas, but that’s not what makes things complicated: Following a crime that may or may not have really happened, things get positively surreal. — L.Y.T. Olivier Assayas and Jean-Michael Frodon in conversation. (PFA, 6:30)

Videodrome: Writer-director David Cronenberg’s Videodrome isn’t a great horror movie, but it has such crazy bursts of inspiration and derives from such a twisted yet not altogether far-fetched premise — amiable Max Renn (James Woods), who runs a soft-core cable station, isolates a satellite signal from a pirate station that specializes in snuff cable and also induces frighteningly real hallucinations in its viewers — that ones wishes Cronenberg had made it all come together. Deborah Harry plays glitter-shrink Nicki who has her own show, Emotional Rescue, and who likes her porn a lot tougher and harder than poor Max’ soft-core stuff. A funny, dangerous movie, but it disintegrates finally into a mishmash of hallucinatory effects and an ending so wretched as to make the viewer wonder if a reel got lost. With Sonja Smits, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson (89 min., 1983). — M.C. (PFA, 9:20)

Sun., Oct. 7

Cold Water: Rebellious French teenagers Virginie Ledoyen and Cyprien Fouquet crack up gracefully. Directed and written by Olivier Assayas. (1994) Assayas and Jean-Michael Frodon in conversation. (PFA, 3:00)

Compound Eye: World premiere of John Balquist’s documentary about cartoonist Jesse Reklaw, creator of the cartoon Slow Wave and a former Berkeley resident who contributed for years to the East Bay Express. Part of the Mill Valley Film Festival. (5:30 at the CineArts at Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley.)

Found Footage Festival: A celebration of odd and hilarious films, featuring exercise videos from OJ Simpson, Marky Mark, and more. (PW, 5:00)

Kitten With a Whip: Classic Ann-Margret vehicle featuring the sex bomb as an underage vixen. (EC: 5:00)

Monika: A 1953 Ingmar Bergman offering in which a restless, sexually harassed vegetable seller teaches her more bourgeois boyfriend how to dance, steal vegetables, and make love. (PFA, 5:30)

Tue., Oct. 9

The Zoom: Wavelength and Serene Velocity: Two classic films explore the properties and effects of zoom lenses in film. (PFA, 7:30)

Wed., Oct. 10

Georgy Girl: Kitchen-sink climate meets mod mannerism in Silvio Narizzano’s comedy on the awakening of a plain young woman (Lynn Redgrave) to the splendors of fab London circa 1966. Character carries the film with James Mason, Charlotte Rampling, and Alan Bates helping out as emblems of worldliness, but it’s Redgrave’s show, all one hundred sentimental, comfortable-old-slippered minutes of it. — K.V. (PFA, 7:30)

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