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June 6-12, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack


Movie Times The African Queen/Summertime
(1951/1955) The gin-soaked Cockney river rat Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) has his boat, and his heart, requisitioned in service of the king—or more specifically in the service of a "psalm-singing, skitty old maid": Katharine Hepburn. The unlikely adventure/romance has aged beautifully—both leads showing off their specialties (careless man, learning to care; unbending lady, learning to soften). BILLED WITH Summertime. The Venice movie in an original Technicolor print; Ohio schoolteacher finding herself no match for the city or one of its denizens, an antique shop owner (Rossano Brazzi). (Plays June 8-10 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Lion in Winter/Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
(1968/1967) A sequel without portfolio to Becket, but the change in writer, from Jean Anouilh to James Goldman (duller brother of William), is like descending from John Ford to Michael Bay. King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) has come to have Christmas with his good lady wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), whom he has kept under house arrest ever since she fomented a rebellion against him. All the rebellious Plantagenets are on hand as well: the homicidal Richard the Lionhearted (Anthony Hopkins), the oafish John (Nigel Terry, a total loss), later to be the villain in Robin Hood stories, and John's brother and consiglieri, Geoffrey (John Castle). Also on hand is the devious king of France, played by a Timothy Dalton: so young he has traces of acne, and yet so accomplished it's clear he'll be in the movies all of his life. (At this stage, Dalton is more natural a screen actor than Hopkins; then again, Hopkins wasn't truly comfortable on a screen until he met Johnathan Demme.) The play is a relic of the era when a playwright could assure us with confidence that a mother could drive her son homosexual through rampant coddling. Director Anthony Harvey tries to open it up by bringing in horses and extras. The art direction is unusually smart, though, understanding the muckiness, sordidness and drafty grandeur of castles in the 1180s. John Barry's score tries for similar slightly civilized barbarism; it's an Oscar-winning earache, though it does strangely anticipate Philip Glass's Koyaanisqatsi in its wordless chorus and trumpets. This once-renowned film is revived for Hepburn's sake, and that's fair enough. She looks regal; the profile was still fine, the smile was still wicked, the aged neck was concealed in sweeping cowls, and the voice was capable of giving tremolo to the good-bad old Hollywood dialogue. Example: He, upon the subject of their first meeting: "I could hardly seek you for the sunlight," She: "It was raining." It's the lioness in winter that matters here. BILLED WITH Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. A museum piece. Stanley Kramer bravely takes on the too hot to handle subject of interracial dating, and damn the consequences, with San Francisco liberals Spencer Tracy and Hepburn miming all due discomfort, the discomfort more pronounced in Tracy's case, as he was at death's door during the filming. Sidney Poitier co-stars. (Plays Jun 13-14 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
Regular weekly programs of silent films. Tonight: The Haunted Lounge (1909) with Ben Turpin; Two Sides to a Story (1909), A Ranchman's Rival (1909), The Ranger's Bride (1910) and Broncho Billy's Mexican Wife (1912), all starring Broncho Billy Anderson; the travelogue Lake Tahoe, California (1916); The New Fable of All That Triangle Stuff as Sized Up by the Meal Ticket (1917); and the filmed-in-Niles Charlie Chaplin short A Night Out (1915). co-starring Edna Purviance. Bruce Loeb at the piano. Suggested donation $5. (Plays Jun 9 at 7:30 in Niles at the museum, 37417 Niles Blvd, Fremont. www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.)

Movie Times Without Love/Full of Life
(1945/1956) Washington widow (Katharine Hepburn) takes in a new border (Spencer Tracy) a gruffster aeronautical inventor who sleepwalks. Because of the wartime D.C. housing shortage the two have to share bunk beds, so they decide to embark on a in-name-only marriage. It's based on a play by The Philadelphia Story's playwright Philip Barry but isn't remembered as fondly as that hit. Keenan Wynn and Lucille Ball co-star. BILLED WITH Full of Life. Attention John Fante fans! The L.A. writer whose autobiographical novel Ask the Dust was made into a lamentably miscast movie recently scripted this Richard Quine comedy-drama about a newlywed couple dealing with a lovably pesky old-world father-in-law (Metropolitan opera star Salvatore Baccaloni). Richard Conte, taking time out from his usual activity of shooting squealers, plays husband to Judy Holliday's wife. (Plays Jun 6-7 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)


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