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September 6-12, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack


Movie Times Breakfast at Tiffany's/Pillow Talk
(1961/1959) Like the cat she carries on her shoulders, the jet-age courtesan Holly Golightly seeks shelter without work, and love without responsibility. The song "Moon River" sums up Breakfast at Tiffany's, a film about an outpost of scroungers in Manhattan during the Kennedy era. As Golightly, Audrey Hepburn is elfin enough to eclipse the more troubling memories of the film: Mickey Rooney done up as Japanese and George Peppard, bland as mayonnaise itself. BILLED WITH Pillow Talk. A serial lover (Rock Hudson) has to share a party line—a group telephone, that is—with an interior decorator (Doris Day); Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter keep the couple apart with bad advice. Patrons of hangover scenes need to see Ritter pantomiming the wrath of the grape. It is a funnier movie than you've heard. Usually we men are dragged to see it, but we don't end up disappointed, and the novel use of split-screen by director Michael Gordon was much imitated afterward. (Plays Sep 8-11 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Breakfast Club
(1985) Five students at an affluent suburban Chicago high school endure weekend detention. They include Molly Ringwald as the alpha-female, a jock (Emilio Estevez), alterna-boy Judd Nelson, a geek (Anthony Michael Hall) and the odd girl (Ally Sheedy). The fantasy is, basically, of a high school where the students of all different cliques learn to bond together against their common enemy, the school administration. That fantasy must be what's kept this film alive, along with the soundtrack of on-the-nose 1980s hits. But doesn't this once-lauded teen movie sum up the Reagan years? Banding together, the five realize that big government (the school administration) is preventing them from realizing their essential need to conform to each other. The unforgivable scene of Sheedy's make-over forecast director John Hughes' future as a creator of spineless movies (the Home Alone trilogy, Baby's Day Out). (Plays Sep 6 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.)

Movie Times Captain's Courageous/For Me and My Gal
(1937/1942) Freddy Bartholomew as the pampered child rescued and put to work by Portuguese fisherman Spencer Tracy. BILLED WITH For Me and My Gal. Judy Garland is playing the sticks to make money for the college education of her little brother (Richard Quine, later a movie director of some note). Gene Kelly (debuting) convinces her they ought to team up and try for the Palace in New York, but she can't live off his promises. Even in this early performance, Kelly is a bit of a heel, out to dodge the draft by any means necessary; Busby Berkeley's direction brings out the undertones in this occasionally tragic musical. Songs: "Ballin' the Jack," "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," and the title. (Plays Sep 12-14 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
(1993) "German expressionism combined with Dr. Seuss," co-director Tim Burton (with Henry Selick) calls this claymation classic. The jolly, macabre king of Halloween, Jack Skellington, discovers the portal to the realm of Christmas, where happiness reigns. ("Absolutely no one's dead!" he exclaims.) He schemes to take over the job of bringing about Christmas. Despite the warnings of the woman who loves him—Sally, a ghoulish version of Raggedy Ann—Skellington proceeds. Unknown to our hero, the real Santa Claus ends up in the dungeon of the villain of the piece: the Boogie Man, an animated burlap bag full of bugs. The film merges Halloween with that other haunted holiday, Christmas. Christmastime often overwhelms people with the memories of long-gone loved ones and lost childhoods. One could object to the film as a bid for an extended Christmas season lasting from Oct. 31 to the end of December. The film favors not yuletide sentiment but the idea of Halloween as the best day of the year. The happy cadaver Jack, the patchwork Sally busily taking a needle to her sawdust limbs—these are what interest the filmmakers, not stodgy Santa Claus. Unfortunately, directors without Burton's sensitivity and his taste for black light and comedy turned murk into a new cliché. But The Nightmare Before Christmas still looks rich and strange—happy proof that a filmmaker's personal obsessions will age better than any decision by committee. (Plays Sep 8-9 at midnight and Sep 9-10 at noon in Palo Alto at the Aquarius Theater.)

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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