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August 30-September 5, 2006

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This Week's Revivals


Movie Times Enter the Dragon
(1973) Stunningly good-looking, and it started 100 imitations. Bruce Lee plays a martial artist named Lee who is asked by the Hong Kong government to investigate the villainous Han (Kien Shih). If only the movie had a fraction of the wit of the Bond films. The dead seriousness of Enter the Dragon left it ripe for parody. ("A Fistful of Yen" in Kentucky Fried Movie, an early work by the ZAZ brothers, got it all down and then some.) Ultimately Jackie Chan—a far more exciting screen personality than Lee—lampooned Lee's scowling, howling and neck-crunching style. Nevertheless, the two best known Hong Kong martial artists in the West share a quality that distinguishes them from the chorus line of kickboxers in American movies. Asked to define his style by a minor character in Enter the Dragon, Lee explains, "It's the art of fighting without fighting." Lee may be depressingly serious, but braggadocio isn't part of his persona. His pantherish squall raises the hair on the neck, and he was poetry in motion. (Plays Aug 31 at 9:30pm in Los Gatos at Los Gatos Theater; plays Sep 1 at midnight in Campbell at Camera 7; plays Sep 2 at midnight in San Jose at Camera 12.) (Richard von Busack)

Movie Times Office Space
(1999) A most amusing and sometimes cringe-worthy examination of the petty horrors of life in a tech business (although any large organization would do). Ron Livingston plays Peter, who decides to opt out of the daily grind. "You've been missing a lot of work," asks a snarky John McGinley at an employee evaluation. "I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob," quips Peter. Gary Cole is chillingly familiar as the overbearing manager, Lumbergh ("Oh, and next Friday ... is Hawaiian shirt day ... so, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans"). Also stars Jennifer Aniston as a chain-restaurant-indentured servant forced to wear "flair." It is, without a doubt, her finest moment on the big screen. (Plays Aug 30 at sunset in San Jose at San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.) (Michael S. Gant)

Movie Times The Phantom of the Opera
(1925) The only acceptable version of this warhorse. Lon Chaney stars in this, the first and best-remembered version of Gaston Leroux's novel. It was a lavish production that included a studio-built replica of the Paris Opera House, but it wasn't a success, hampered as it was by inferior supporting actors and weird comic relief. Still, check out one of the most indelible horror movie moments ever: the sneaking up of Mary Philbin on the masked protagonist as he plays on his organ. It would have been something to see the teaser billboards for this: the head of Chaney masked in his skeleton "Red Death" outfit, lacking any caption or explanation, leering over the skyline. Dennis James at the Stanford's Wurlitzer. (Plays Sep 1 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times Picnic/The Quiet Man
(1955/1952) For Labor Day weekend: William Holden as a studly drifter who crashes a small town's Labor Day picnic and steals away with the most beautiful girl in town (Kim Novak). The handsomely dissolute Holden also ignites the dormant hearts of Rosalind Russell and the late Susan Strasberg. BILLED WITH The Quiet Man. John Wayne in love, holding flowers. He plays a retired boxer from Pittsburgh, who has come back to Ireland to live in the house he was born in. While there, he spies a country girl herding her sheep—she's Maureen O'Hara, splendidly redheaded in Technicolor—and, with typical Wayne understatement he murmurs, "Hey, is that real?" Unfortunately, what's all too real is the girl's brother (Victor McLaglen, an ex-pug himself), a vicious Dickensenian bully of a squire, with a blackthorn cane and a wicked sucker punch. In John Ford's celebrated piece of Hiberniana, local color abounds ("I'll try one of those black beers," decides Wayne). A flicker of restlessness intrudes on the viewer during every interior scene; you want to get back outside, like a cooped-up kid. And the famous fistfight scene is the kind of dumbness that would become more popular as cinema got older and more decadent. Still, Wayne and O'Hara generate sparks as well as a gentle sweetness. Wayne makes you proud of that one unique American virtue: the belief that snobbery is bad form, though I fear years of jingoism have worn away this trait. And we all know the other side of the coin, our native anti-intellectualism. So, this is probably the movie that the Pogues were thinking about when they wrote that song "The Body of an American." Barry Fitzgerald plays the leprecaunish local fixer; Ward Bond co-stars as a peculiarly hard-boiled village priest. Winton C. Hoch's 40-shades-of-green photography is landmark work—"Hoch was a physicist," declared one admirer, noting how difficult it was to get the light right in Galway. Ford was fortunate to get to that part of Ireland in the instant before electricity and automobiles transformed the landscape. The castle seen here is Ashford Castle. The Quiet Man is screened there every day for tourists at 4pm. (Plays Sep 2-4 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times Strike Up the Band/Little Nellie Kelly
(Both 1940) A high school band polishes up its act to compete in a national contest to be judged by famed band leader Paul Whiteman. Mickey Rooney is torn, as custom has it, between a rich girl (June Preisser) and Judy Garland. The film includes the Gershwin title song, a typically outré Busby Berkeley interlude of stop-motion animated fruit performing as a miniature orchestra (purportedly the work of an uncredited George Pal, and it sure looks like it) and a parody of Victorian melodrama with Garland and Rooney performing a number of vintage songs, including "Heaven Help the Working Girl" and "I Ain't Got Nobody." BILLED WITH Little Nellie Kelly. Garland in the film version of a George M. Cohan musical of the 1920s. She plays, subsequently, the wife and the daughter of a big-hearted New York policeman (played by hoofer and later U.S. Sen. George Murphy). (Plays Aug 29-30 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times Ziegfield Girl/Life Begins for Andy Hardy
(Both 1941) Three girls, actually: Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr, all chosen by the noted producer Florenz Ziegfeld to be bedecked in feathers and arranged on Cyclopean staircases. The girls head off into separate showgirl fates, in between multiple numbers, including "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." Choreography by Busby Berkeley. BILLED WITH Life Begins for Andy Hardy. Andy leaves the sticks and heads for New York; it was Judy Garland's third go-round as the local girl who that date-crazy Andy Hardy overlooks when there's a new filly (Patricia Dane) in his life. The 11th in the series, and supposedly the most lucrative of them all. Critic Otis Ferguson suggested the next one ought to be Andy Hardy Meets Dracula. (Plays Sep 5-7 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)


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