One Night Stands for the week of December 13-19, 2006 

In this week's rep picks, Kihachi Okamoto and Jacques Rivette

Reviews by Michael Covino, Andy Klein, Melissa Levine, Kelly Vance, and Naomi Wise

Thu., Dec. 14

A Christmas Story — Nostalgic holiday yarn about a boy in Gary, Indiana and his fervent hope he'll get a BB gun for Christmas. Directed by Bob Clark from a story by Jean Shepherd, with Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, and Peter Billingsley as Ralphie (93 min., 1983). (PW, 9:15)

Va Savoir — Jacques Rivette, at 73, is one of the oldest of the original French New Wave directors, but in Va Savoir, which details the interactions of six people, he's lost none of his trademark vigor and playfulness. The structure is like a farce, as the characters intertwine in ways often unexpected (155 min., 2001). — A.K. (PFA, 7:00)

Fri., Dec. 15

Aaltra — Documentary on disabled Belgian farmers and their protest against the defective farm machinery that injured them (running time unknown). (Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 3:30)

Behind the Mask — A documentary on animal-rights activists (running time unknown). (Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, 6:00)

Field of Dreams — Kevin Costner plays an ex-Brooklynite/ex-Berkeleyite turned Iowa corn farmer who one day, heeding an otherworldly message, builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his fields — and within no time all sorts of long-departed players, led by the legendary "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) of Black Sox infamy, are swatting a ball around in the corn. A lot of it grows, too, in this mystic baseball concoction (107 min., 1989). — M.C. (Neumayer residence, 565 Bellevue St., Oakland, 6:30)

Kill — Tatsuya Nakadai leads a band of samurai against a corrupt tyrant. Directed by Kihachi Okamoto (114 min., 1967). (PFA, 7:00)

Sword of Doom — An aristocratic swordsman (Tatsuya Nakadai) develops a bit of a fetish about his sword. His fencing instructor (Toshiro Mifune) tries to straighten him out before he goes crazy. Directed by Kihachi Okamoto (121 min., 1966). (PFA, 9:15)

Sat., Dec. 16

The Organizer/I Compagni — Marcello Mastroianni turns in one of his finest performances as the absent-minded professor and labor organizer who comes to the rescue of textile workers striking for better conditions in 1890s Turin. Director Mario Monicelli, in marked contrast to his typical broad satires, plays the story of solidarity fairly straightforwardly (126 min., 1963). — K.V. (PFA, 8:15)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show — The original 1975 British rock music horror spoof, starring Tim Curry as the androgynous Dr. Frank N. Furter (95 min.). (PW, midnight)

The Thin Man — Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) as the very model of a moneyed modern marriage. An equal camaraderie between the sexes is aided by a mild fog of alcohol, which doesn't dim the deductive powers of the detective duo as they search for the disappeared, thin inventor (Edward Ellis, a character actor of great charm). This delightful blend of screwball comedy with piquant mystery, based on a story by Dashiell Hammett (who, it's rumored, modeled the mildly besotted couple on himself and Lillian Hellman), holds up deliciously as a '30s vision of idyllic sophistication (93 min., 1934). — N.W. (Cerrito, 6:00)

Up/Down/Fragile — Rebel turned elder statesman Jacques Rivette is still making French New Wave films like this sprightly 1995 mock-musical. The lives of three women — an heiress always being followed by the same man, a messenger who loves to dance and feels guilty about the money she stole at work, and a librarian haunted by doubts about her identity — crisscross over a couple of Paris nightclubs, a blackmailing antique dealer, and their common love of music (169 min., 1994). — K.V. (PFA, 5:00)

Sun., Dec. 17

The Thin Man — See Sat. (Cerrito, 5:00)

Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) — Akira Kurosawa's murderous comic masterpiece about an unemployed samurai (hammed up beautifully by Toshiro Mifune) who hires out his sword first to one faction in a town business dispute, then to the other, and then back again, gallops along at a breakneck pace. It is a Japanese Wild Western, and just incidentally this movie provided the model for the first Sergio Leone-Clint Eastwood Italian Western, A Fistful of Dollars. Cynical perhaps, but valuable in its demolition of the heroic mold, and in the last issue too exhilarating to be truly cynical (110 min., 1961). — M.C. (PFA, 4:00)

Wed., Dec. 20

Joyeux Noél — A moving and exceptionally well-crafted film from French writer-director Christian Carion, based on the real-life Christmas Eve truce on the front lines of WWI. It opens in 1914, on the eve of war, and deftly characterizes its key players. There is Sprink (Benno Fürmann), a German opera singer called into service despite his colossal fame; William (Robin Laing) and Jonathan (Steven Robertson), a pair of young Scottish brothers; Palmer (Gary Lewis), their parish priest, who follows the boys into the trenches; and, in the French camp, the buttoned-up Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet), who hides his personal grief, and Ponchel (Danny Boon), the aide-de-camp whose farmhouse is mere kilometers from the front — but behind German lines. The film is not innovative in its portrayal of trench warfare, but except for a few missteps, it is so beautifully and sensitively rendered in its particulars, in its characterizations of soldiers and officers, and its dramatization of a nearly miraculous event, that the result is an affecting piece of cinema (2006). — M.L. (JCCEB, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley, 7:00)

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