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July 11-17, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack


Movie Times The Band Wagon/Funny Face
(1953/1957) Wish you could see another movie as good as Singin' in the Rain? You can't, but The Band Wagon, directed by Vincente Minnelli and written by Betty Green and Adolph Comden, is the next best thing. The first image is of Fred Astaire's top hat and cane about to be put under glass in a museum, while Astaire (playing Astaire, pretty much) prepares to be put out to pasture. He leaves Hollywood and returns to 42nd Street, finding what once was a sea of black coats and white ties is now a riot of color: Times Square is in the process of becoming what it was going to be when Travis Bickle found it. Thanks to the help of a young actress (Nanette Fabray), this tuxedoed, genteel figure of the Art Deco 1930s finds harmony with the widescreen brassiness of the 1950s. The highlight is the Mike Hammer–themed "Girl Hunt" number, in which Astaire has his best duet with Cyd Charisse. BILLED WITH Funny Face. Astaire plays a fictionalized version of fashion photographer Richard Avedon. During a photo shoot in a New York bookstore, he is taken with the offbeat beauty of the store assistant (Audrey Hepburn) and sweeps her into the Paris fashion world. Songs include "How Long Has This Been Going On?" and "S'Wonderful." (Plays Jul 14 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Blue Hawaii
(1961) Elvis stars as a pineapple prince who starts a tourist agency, though his sahiby parents (Angela Lansbury, Roland Winters) disapprove; songs include the title theme, "Aloha Oe" and "Can't Help Falling in Love With You." (Plays Jul 11 at sundown at San Pedro Square in San Jose; free.)

Movie Times Easter Parade/Silk Stockings
(1948/1957) Fred Astaire stars as a 1912 vaudevillian who loses his conceited dance partner, Nadine (Ann Miller). At a bar (and under the influence), he decides to pick a chorus girl to be her replacement. He chooses well: Hannah Brown (Judy Garland). The uncertain girl spends the movie proving that even though she's not an elegant piece of work like Ann Miller, she has good points of her own. Garland's lovable performance of "Down on the Farm," a novelty tune by Irving Berlin, beats the film's most famous number, the kind of repulsive tramp-comedian tune "A Couple of Swells." It seems to be a consensus among musical fans that Miller is a showoff. But her almost disturbing sensuality deserves more praise—check out her ballroom dance with Astaire early in the film, as opposed to the more typical Miller moment: the cold, impressive pre–Jennifer Beals audience-slayer she whirls out at the end while draped in a flamingo-colored gown. BILLED WITH Silk Stockings. The musical remake of Ninotchka featuring Cyd Charisse as the commissar on a business trip who gets seduced by capitalism, as embodied by a Hollywood movie director (Fred Astaire). The songs—with the exception of "All of You"—aren't Cole Porter's top-drawer material. (Plays Jul 16 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times El Otro Ladro
(2005) Natalia Almada's documentary about Magdiel, a Sinaloan who writes corridos about the narco trade, and who longs for a fuller life on el otro ladro ("the other side") of the border, just like his idols, San Jose's own Los Tigres del Norte. (Plays Jul 11 at 7pm in San Jose at MACLA, 510 S. First St. Admission is $5.).

Movie Times Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(2005) The Goblet of Fire is the first prize in a Tri-Wizard Tournament between Hogwarts' rivals in France and Bulgaria. Though 14-year-old Harry is too young to be in the tournament, some enchantment recruits him. Mike Newell is the first English director of the series, and he drops in British slang that gives the film needed flavor. (Plays Jul 11 at 8:45pm in Redwood City at Courthouse Square; free.)

Movie Times Jaws
(1975) Bruce the Great White Shark comes to visit the seaside community of Amity; the city leaders dither and a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a hardened fisherman (Robert Shaw) head out to track down the beast. (Plays Jul 13 at sundown at 247 E. Campbell Ave, Campbell; free; sponsored by Casa de la Cultura Mexica.)

Movie Times Monkey Business/Carefree
(1952/1938) Cary Grant imbibes a youth potion accidentally invented by a chimpanzee. His wife (Ginger Rogers) is similarly reduced to thumb-sucking in this minor Howard Hawks comedy, which has its defenders. They include critic Jacques Rivette, claiming that Monkey Business critiques "the subtle poison of the Fountain of Youth, the temptation of infantilism ..." Tempting infantilism is also represented by Marilyn Monroe, who plays the decorative secretary of old scoundrel Charles Coburn. BILLED WITH Carefree. Unethical psychiatric techniques are exposed in this RKO musical, with Fred Astaire as a therapist who cultivates transference in his latest patient—Ginger Rogers. It seems that she can't figure out why she's broken her engagement with Ralph Bellamy three times, though fans of Bellamy's myriad performances as stodgy fiances won't need counseling to understand Ginger's plight. (Plays Jul 17–20 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Old School
(2003) Stereo salesman Vince Vaughn troubleshoots Luke Wilson's suddenly single life by establishing a fraternity in Wilson's new rental on university property, much to the consternation of an evil dean (Jeremy Piven). Wilson wants his sudden celebrity status erased while his homey Frank (Will Ferrell) wants to relive his golden years as frat-boy lightning rod. (Plays Jul 18 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square; see Cinequest.org for details.) (Todd Inoue)

Movie Times Shall We Dance/Follow the Fleet
(1937/1936) A magnificent introduction to the dance and cinematic magic of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Features "They All Laughed," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." BILLED WITH Follow the Fleet. USN Sailor (Astaire) meets scrappy dancer (Ginger Rogers), and the two try to hang on to each other for the duration of shore leave. (Plays Jul 12 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Swing Time/Flying Down to Rio
(1936/1933) Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were poetry in motion. Unfortunately, the plots of their films were prose. Lucky (Astaire) is a hoofer by trade but a gambler by vocation. He and his penniless partner, Pop (Victor Moore), head to New York to raise the dowry for Lucky's fiancee, but the dancer has his heart stolen by Penny (Ginger Rogers), who works at a dance school. Astaire is so graceful that even when he is running for a train, it looks syncopated. Rogers' street-level sarcasm keeps her partner from looking too ducky in his tuxedos and morning coats. The dazzle of the "Bojangles of Harlem" number—a tribute to tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson—is arrested a little by the blackface Astaire wears. Still, it is about as discreet as blackface gets. The film highlights Astaire's essential solitude, seen in the half-bow he makes as his lover leaves, and he is left alone onstage at the finale of the "Never Gonna Dance" number. BILLED WITH Flying Down to Rio. Playboy song-and-dance man Gene Raymond loves Dolores del Rio, unhappily affianced to a Brazilian tycoon. It all gets sorted out during the flight to Brazil. As his accordion-playing "assistant loafer," Astaire learns of a dance trend called "The Carioca," and he is taught by his partner Rogers. (Plays Jul 11 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Three Little Words/Royal Wedding
(1950/1951) It's the kind of bad-time musical in which Fred Astaire is laid up through a third of the picture with a bum leg. It purports to be the story of Harry Ruby (Red Skelton) and Bert Kalmar (Astaire),Tin Pan Alley songwriters. While Ruby was a legendary wit, Skelton plays him as a clumsy oaf obsessed. Astaire dances with Vera-Ellen, an athletic though bland partner, in a gaudy Hermes Pan-choreographed jitterbug number about the home life of two dancers. BILLED WITH Royal Wedding. Astaire is in London to attend the nuptials of Princess Elizabeth. In the most memorable sequence, he takes a little twirl on the ceiling (a revolving set built in a drum is how it was done). Sarah Churchill—Winston's daughter—co-stars, romancing Peter Lawford in an attempt to tickle the juveniles of the day. (Plays Jul 15 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times You Were Never Lovelier/ The Sky's the Limit
(1942/1943) Astaire plays a hired hand at the Latin American nightclub belonging to Rita Hayworth's old-fashioned father, Adolphe Menjou. BILLED WITH The Sky's the Limit. Astaire in the typical Astaire role modified slightly for wartime. He's a Flying Tiger pilot who poses as a civilian slacker to avoid all the fuss and adulation. We all have that problem sometimes, don't we? Joan Leslie plays a photographer from some Life-like magazine who suddenly finds herself being pestered by Astaire. (Plays Jul 13 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)


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