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June 7-13, 2006

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This Week's Revivals


Movie Times Harold and Maude
(1971) Locally shot cult film about a wealthy but morbid young eccentric (Bud Cort) who caps his love affair with death by falling for an elderly bohemian (Ruth Gordon). There was a time when two tickets to this and a marijuana cigarette counted as a date. How well it has aged (along with its Cat Stevens score) may depend on when you first saw it. Unlike many hippie films, it is still remembered fondly, probably because it was well aware of an aura of doom that was already clouding over the flower-people's skies. Probably, it is easier for more people to critique a childhood toy than to evaluate this movie without emotion, but its lasting popularity says it all. (Like so many cult films, it was a flop in its time; Gordon claimed that it took 20 years for her to get any royalties from it.) (Plays Jun 14 at sunset in San Jose at San Pedro Square; www.cinequest.org; free.) (Richard von Busack)

Movie Times The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
(1935) Ronald Colman plays a White Russian nobleman turned taxi driver who out-gambles the famous casino in pursuit of money for a poor friend; Joan Bennett plays the femme fatale who tries to get the loot back. Sounds like a lively 66 minutes. One contemporary witness, an English scribbler called Graham Greene, responded neither to Colman ("an excellent dresser's dummy [mannequin] ... no personality of his own ...") nor to the tragedy of an aristo turned cabby: "Unlike other taxi drivers, they have had their champagne." Colin "Dr. Frankenstein" Clive and Nigel Bruce co-star. (Plays Jun 7-9 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times The Monster Squad
(1987) Watching this movie two decades later, I can't believe it wasn't a hit. Ghostbusters meets Goonies? Modern kids vs. classic monsters? Should have been box-office gold. But hey, that's what '80s retro is for, and now this quirky, funny and great-looking film from director/writer Fred Dekker, co-writer Shane Black (who went on to script monster hits with the Lethal Weapon series) and creature-featurer Stan Winston is right up there with John Hughes' oeuvre and the other cult faves from that decade. Saturday's screening features a reunion of the film's director and cast in a special Q&A session. (Plays Jun 8 at midnight at the Los Gatos Cinema, Jun 9 at midnight at Camera 7 in Campbell and Jun 10 at 7 and 9:30pm at Camera 12 in San Jose.) (Steve Palopoli)

Movie Times Pee-wee's Big Adventure
(1985) Tim Burton's minor classic of Expressionist cartooning is a retake on The Bicycle Thief, with a Los Angeles child-in-a-man's-body named Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) on the trail of a beloved bike stolen and spirited away—apparently to the basement of the Alamo. The score by Danny Elfman—his first—brings out the well-developed sinister side of this comedy; almost single-handedly, Burton went on to invigorate bland '80s moviemaking with the long shadows and theatrical menace of the old Universal horror movies. This begins the annual outdoor series of screenings known as Cinema San Pedro, sponsored by Cinequest. The series runs Wednesdays through Sept. 6. (Plays Jun 7 at sunset in San Jose at San Pedro Square; www.cinequest.org.) (RvB)

Movie Times Romola
(1924) George Eliot's 1862 romance of Renaissance Florence in the days of the Borgias, as the preacher Savonarola stands against the powerful, corrupt family. Dorothy and Lillian Gish star as sisters seduced and traduced by the villainous William Powell. Eclipsed by Powell, Ronald Colman has a small part. Henry King's adaptation was so full of authentic Florentine locations that it got a recommendation from the director of the then-director of the Uffizi Gallery. The only known copy of this film is screened with accompaniment by Dennis James at the Stanford's Wurlitzer. (Plays Jun 10-11 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times The Sandpiper/The Long, Long Trailer
(1965/1954) A kind of celluloid memento mori: as Brad and Angelina are today, so were they; as Liz and Dick are now, so will Brad and Angelina be. Richard Burton is a pastor drawn away from his wife Eva Marie Saint, and toward a counterculture girl as free-spirited as the shorebird of the title. (The big-boned Elizabeth Taylor conjures a less delicate fowl when the woolen ponchos she wears flap in the breeze.) "Not completely beneath contempt," enthused director Vincente Minnelli. BILLED WITH The Long, Long Trailer. More like it. A pair of newlyweds become "trailerites," purchasing a 3-ton, 24-foot rolling behemoth for a trip across the West. They handle surcharges, breakdowns and the hazards of serving dinner at a 45-degree angle. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz aren't quite Lucy and Desi from the TV show, but they bring everything that made them famous to this frequently convulsive situation-driven comedy: both their imperishable rapport and their hint of heat (they lay a nice kiss on one other). What's slightly different is the slapstick—on the show, Desi was a slow-burner, but here he's an expert at the old vaudevillian facial expression called "The Skull": the pop-eyed, bared-teeth grimace of a man going over a cliff. As director, Vincente Minnelli does his best in a job that might have been better suited to Leo McCarey, and of course William Frawley and Vivian Vance are much missed. (Plays Jun 11-13 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times A Tale of Two Cities
(1935) "Of all the children of his fancy, Ronald Colman had in his heart of hearts a favorite child, and his name was Sydney Carton."—R. Dixon Smith, Ronald Colman, Gentleman of the Cinema. Carton is a hard-drinking, embittered jackal of the English courts, lured by a sense of purpose into the whirlpool of French politics near the beginning of their Revolution. Like so many misfits before and since, he becomes a hero in turbulent times. It's impossible to imagine anyone else beside Colman as this Dickens hero or to imagine anyone else's recital of the closing words: "It is a far, far better thing ..." The film accurately reflects Dickens' mixed emotions about the revolution—he understood why, but did they have to be so brutal about it? The brutality is captured by Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton's startlingly good second-unit work depicting the storming of the Bastille. (Plays Jun 7-10 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)


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