Recommended Films 9/28-10/5
DAVID LYNCH'S new film, INLAND EMPIRE, makes its U.S. debut at the New York Film Festival on October 7. The film is ready for regular release throughout Europe and Japan, but there has still been no formal announcement of an agreement with a North American distributor. ComingSoon.net suggests that Magnolia Pictures will pick up the film, but no one knows for certain what will happen. Astonishing, given the success of his last release, Mulholland Drive (2001), which was all but abandoned by its U.S. distributor, Universal. Of course, U.S. viewers have been treated to Jackass Number 2, Beerfest and Talladega Nights. They can also look forward to another Harry Potter rehash, Flags of Our Fathers, another Batman, another Spider-Man, another X-Men. . . and probably another bit of pseudo-historical fluff based on a Jane Austen novel to satisfy that occasional date that demands something other than explosions.
Well, there's only four months left before the next Noir City festival. >Sigh.<
THE ABSOLUTE coolest film series in the Bay Area right now is The Mechanical Age at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. These examinations of the romance of machinery as seen through the brilliant device of cinema offer a rare look at the greatest obsessions of the 20th century. Thursday, 9/28 brings David Francis, curator of the British National Film Archive for 16 years, and head of the Library of Congress' Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division, until 2001, and Joss Marsh, Indiana University professor of Victorian Studies, with a collection of serial chapters from the silent era, starting at 7:30 p.m. The episodic film began long before TV came along. Movie-goers from the 'teens into the 1950s were accustomed to seeing weekly installments of adventure serials. Each chapter ended with the hero or heroine in mortal danger, and the next began with a miraculous rescue. Machinery, from automobiles to Zeppelins to giant robots, were frequently featured in these films, and Francis presents several of these chapters in archival 35mm prints, including The Perils of Pauline with Pearl White, The Exploits of Elaine, and Nick Carter, Detective. Judith Rosenberg plays the piano, thrillingly.
FRANCIS AND MARSH return to the PFA on Saturday, 9/30 at 7 p.m. for an exploration of ur-cinema: the Magic Lantern. Before pictures moved, Victorian viewers were dazzled by images projected in sequence, accompanying storytellers recounting travels to exotic lands, stories of literature, fairy tales, and other narratives. This evening offers a very rare opportunity to see this progenitor of cinema. This one's a must, folks. Note that it occurs in the Berkeley Art Museum's Theater Gallery at 2621 Durant Avenue, not the usual PFA screening room.
THE MECHANICAL AGE continues at the PFA on Sunday, 10/1, at 2:30 p.m., with Adam Curtis' Pandora's Box, Episode One: The Engineer's Plot (1992). Curtis's series examines the 20th century's technophilia; this chapter examines the Soviet Union's fabled Five Year economic plans as an effort to mechanize systems of human interaction. It obviously offers lessons for today's “science” of “inevitable” globalization. It's followed at 4 p.m. by Sergei Eisenstein's The General Line (1929), the saga of a Soviet woman's efforts to create a collective farm, featuring a glorious montage poem to a cream separator. It's preceded by Ralph Steiner's and Jay Leyda's 1930 short Mechanical Principles (Gears in Motion and Design), a U.S.-produced prayer to the almighty machine.
ANOTHER GREAT series, Arrr, Mateys: Pirates and Piracy, continues at the PFA Wednesday, 10/4, 7:30 p.m., with A High Wind in Jamaica (1965), Alexander Mackendrick's saga of a buccaneer (Anthony Quinn) who finds himself the father figure of a shipful of lost children. The “piracy” half of the bill features Jim Gladman's and Negativland's No Business (2006), a mash-up of Ethel Merman and dog-only-knows-what-else. Viva fair use!
FRATRICIDE (2005) looks like an interesting film from Germany. Director Yilmaz Arslan focuses on an odd couple: a Kurdish teenager who takes a Turkish waif under his wing. As they try to eke out a living amid Germany's EU guest worker community, they find that their friendship may not be enough to transcend the expectations of Kurdish-Turkish antagonism. It plays at the Roxie Cinema, through Wednesday, 10/4.
MAYA DEREN'S films transgressed on at least two levels: they were avant garde, often surreal, and they were made by a woman working in a form and style dominated by men. Her first, and best-known, is Meshes in the Afternoon, in which lovers become killers. Her second film, At Land (1944), explores presence, invisibility, and significance. Both screen at Artists Television Access Friday, 9/29, 8 p.m., with the premiere of new scores by Reel Change, who will also perform for experimental films by David Michalak.
MARTINA KUDLÁCEK gained attention with In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2002), a documentary about the avant garde filmmaker. She's set her editing scissors to a new film about another woman experimental director in Notes on Marie Menken (2006), presented by the San Francisco Cinematheque at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Sunday, 10/, 7:30 p.m. Menken was a denizen of Andy Warhol's Factory, where she appeared in a number of the films made there, as well as making her own, such as Arabesque for Kenneth Anger (1961) and Watts With Eggs (1967).
ROBERT GREENWALD continues his series of digital video guerilla documentaries [Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004), Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)] with Iraq for Sale (2006), a hard-hitting exposé of the corporations getting very fat off of that ongoing abomination against all that is good and right. Like Greenwald always does, he's avoiding the regular theater circuit, and showing it in benefit screenings at various locations. It plays in San Francisco 10/8 at a screening sponsored by Box Dog Bikes, and 10/8 at CellSpace. Contact the hosts through their respective websites. There are other screenings coming up, check out the Iraq for Sale screenings website for details.
LONG BEFORE Terry Gilliam was preparing cut-out animations for Monty Python, Czech animator Karel Zeman put together an epic film of The Fabulous Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1961), based on the same fables and legends that Gilliam would mount in 1988. Combining live actors and sets with stop motion, puppetry and other cinematic tricks, Zeman crafted an unusual interpretation. See it at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Wednesday, 10/4, 7:30 p.m.
OPENING SOMEWHERE in the Bay Area this week is The U.S. vs. John Lennon. See what I've already said about this film here. Heaven help us all if it roosts at the new Century abomination at what used to be the Emporium.
SET YOUR CALENDARS ahead for the 1920 film of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with John Barrymore in the title roles, featuring a new score by Boston's Devil Music Ensemble. At the Balboa Theater, Thursday, 10/12.
Text copyright 2006 by Richard Hildreth. All rights reserved.