One Night Stands for the week of August 9-15, 2007 

In this week's rep movies, "Russian Fantastik Cinema" at the PFA and an ongoing Kiarostami season.

Reviews by Michael Covino, Bill Gallo, Kelly Vance, and Naomi Wise

Thu., Aug. 9

2007 Drum Corps International World Championship Quarterfinals — Documentary brings the thunder of drums (running time unknown). (UAEB, 4:00)

Fellow Citizen — A Tehran traffic cop finds it hard to do his duty in Abbas Kiarostami's satiric "documentary" (52 min., 1983). (PFA, 8:45)

Firefly — More episodes of the TV series (total running time unknown). (EC, 9:15)

First-Graders — Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami sets up his camera in a Tehran school, where kids get sorted out quickly (84 min., 1984). (PFA, 7:00)

Open Screen Night — Bring a VHS of whatever you have and the Parkway screens it at this amateur filmmakers' showcase. Three-minute time limit (total running time unknown). (PW, 9:15)

War Made Easy — Documentary about the military-industrial complex, narrated by Sean Penn and adapted from Norman Solomon's book (running time unknown). (GL, 7:00)

Fri., Aug. 10

The Amphibian Man — A super box-office hit in the USSR, this 1961 fantasy about a man-fish and a fisherman's daughter is directed by G. Kazansky and V. Chebotaryov (95 min.). (PFA, 9:00)

Grease — This sanitized musical version of 1950s high school life is less realistic than Rock Around the Clock, less perceptive than High School Confidential, and less sexy than Rock, Rock, Rock. The music is terrible, the choreography stinks, the acting is banal, the whole thing is of no use at all. Where are you, James Dean, when we need you? With John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (110 min., 1978). — N.W. (CLC, midnight)

Planet of Storms — Cosmonauts encounter trouble on Venus in this Russian sci-fi, directed by Pavel Klushantsev (83 min., 1961). Preceded by a short: The Cameraman's Revenge by Ladislaw Starewicz (12 min., 1912). (PFA, 3:30)

Sat., Aug. 11

And Life Goes On — In the wake of the northern Iranian earthquake that killed 50,000 people, filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami traveled to that region in search of the two young nonprofessional actors who starred in his earlier feature, Where Is the Friend's Home? With Farhad Kheradmand and Pooya Pievar (108 min., 1992). (PFA, 8:35)

A Hard Day's Night — This is the film that made it okay to like the Beatles and to do crazy things with a camera in an "overground" production. The movie remains tough, wacky, and exhilarating, pure pyrotechnic filmmaking, and the music is downright thrilling. If you don't like where John, Paul, George, and Ringo ended up (not to mention Bobby D.), this film provides the closest and most accurate look at why they went there; four stained-tooth Orpheuses try to retain their perspective in the face of their fans worshipful but relentless Maenadic frenzy. With a new Dolby soundtrack (91 min., 1964). — N.W. (EC, 6:00)

My Neighbor Totoro — Japanese animated children's fantasy about two young girls and their imaginary (or are they?) little friends called totoros. Directed by anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (87 min., 1993). (EC, 3:00)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show — The original 1975 British rock music horror spoof (95 min.). (PW, midnight)

Taste of Cherry — For the first half-hour Mr. Badii (Homayon Ershadi) appears to be cruising in his Range Rover, very slowly, for a gay pickup in the dry, hilly outskirts of Tehran. But then it emerges that he's searching for someone willing to bury him, should he succeed in committing suicide. An Afghan, a Kurd, a Turk, a prisoner, a soldier, a seminary student, etc., refuse for various reasons. It's a parable — and interminable. Worse, in the end the film turns into a bad filmic joke. Directed by Abbas Kiarostami (95 min., 1997). — M.C. Preceded by a Kiarostami short: Birth of Light (5 min., 1997). (PFA, 6:30)

Sun., Aug. 12

The 39 Steps — Be sure you see Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 original and not the '50s remake: Hitch brooks no imitations. And beware of a man with half a finger, especially if he looks like Franklin D. Roosevelt and you're hiking on the Scottish moors. Pay careful attention to the "bondage" theme as the hero (Robert Donat) and heroine (Madeleine Carroll) are handcuffed together, and note the scene of the old farmer with a young wife. One of the greatest, most utterly paranoid suspense films of all time. Written by Charles Bennett and Alma Reville, based on the novel by John Buchan (87 min.). — N.W. (GAIA Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 3:00)

Aelita, Queen of Mars — A silent fantasy-drama adapted from the story by Alexei Tolstoy about three Russians who fly to Mars and become involved in a revolutionary uprising among the Martians, while one of them falls in love with Aelita, the Queen of Mars (played by Julia Solntseva). Directed by Yakov Protazanov, one of the most experienced directors of the pre-Revolutionary period in Russian cinema. With Valentina Kuinzhi, Nikolai Tseretelli, and Igor Ilinsky (100 min., 1924). Judith Rosenberg on piano. (PFA, 4:45)

Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka — A Russian village blacksmith gets sent on a Christmas Eve quest in this fantasy directed by Aleksandr Rou (69 min., 1961). Preceded by a short: Soviet Toys by Dziga Vertov (13 min., 1924). (PFA, 7:00)

A Hard Day's Night — See Sat. (EC, 5:00)

My Neighbor Totoro — See Sat. (EC, 2:00)

Mon., Aug. 13

2001: A Space Odyssey — Time has not been kind to Stanley Kubrick's then-marvelous philosophical sci-fi flick. What were state-of-the-art special effects in 1968 now look dated, and we're left with his despairing theory of evolution, in which humankind reaches farther than it can grasp and a computer named HAL is the warmest character (143 min.). — K.V. (Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd., 6:15)

Tue., Aug. 14

Buena Vista Social Club — Filmmaker Wim Wenders accompanied guitarist Ry Cooder to Havana to visit and record with Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén Gonzàlez, Eliades Ochoa, Orlando "Cachaito" López, Compay Segundo, and many more traditional Cuban musicians, and to make this charming documentary. This is the film that set off the Cuban music craze (105 min., 1999). (GAIA Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 7:00)

Stalker — Russian science fiction as slow and ponderous as Star Wars is quick and light. A meteorite, or perhaps a visit by extraterrestrials, has created a mysterious Zone where the laws of Earth no longer hold sway and anyone entering is in danger of not returning. Nonetheless, and despite a State ban, people slip in because deep in the Zone exists a room where any wish is granted. This long, somewhat shaggy-dog story follows the journey into the Zone of a writer whose inspiration has dried up, and a scientist, accompanied by a "stalker" (the smugglers who guide folks through the trips and snares of the place). Heavy, like a steel drum filled with cement. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (163 min., 1979). — M.C. (PFA, 7:00)

Wed., Aug. 15

Silent Running — Sci-fi flick has gentle astronaut Bruce Dern rescuing the remaining flora and fauna of planet Earth, but when his fellow astronauts want to abort the mission he kills them. Which leaves him in a lonely place. With Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, Jesse Vint. Written by Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, and Steven Bochco (89 min., 1972). (PFA, 7:30)

What the #$*! Do We Know!? — Oregon-based collaborators William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente have made a complex, provocative docudrama that poses the Big Questions of Life. Who are we? Where are we going? What might be available, in the heightened consciousness department, to help us along? Skeptics may see this as New Age self-absorption, but it's also a serious inquiry, steeped in the riddles of quantum physics, molecular biology, and theology, into the eternal mysteries of being. The overburdened target of these weighty ideas is a dour art photographer named Amanda (Oscar winner Marlee Matlin), who struggles with an unhappy life while a Greek chorus of Ph.Ds — physicists, mystics, biochemists — bombards her (and us) with state-of-the-art science and philosophical discourse that mean to make sense of our lives. The film is amateurish in places, but fascinating: Bring your eager hypothalamus and your tuned-up frontal lobes with you. They'll get a workout (113 min., 2004). — B.G. (Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, 7:30)


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