One Night Stands for the week of December 6-12, 2006 

This week's rep picks.

Reviews by Michael Covino, Don Druker, Rob Nelson, and Kelly Vance

Thu., Dec. 7

Education as a Site of Indoctrination — Shorts from the Middle East, with the emphasis on teaching (74 min. total running time). (PFA, 7:30)

The Giant Claw — Huge flying whatzit terrorizes Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday in this cheapo monster pic, directed by Fred F. Sears (75 min., 1957). (PW, 9:15)

Intensive Care — A program of stressful shorts (66 min. total running time). (PFA, 5:30)

Fri., Dec. 8

Burning Man: Just Add Couches — A documentary by Joe Winston (running time unknown). (Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 7:30)

Il Posto — Ermanno Olmi made his debut with this film, an engrossing neorealist essay on how urban society and corporate consciousness degrade and dehumanize workers. A young man attains what is now known as an "entry-level" position at a huge, faceless corporation, and it's all downhill from there. The movie has charm, humor, sympathy, and honesty; the neorealist style, which had almost faded out of the Italian cinema by this time (1961), is sharp and biting (93 min., 1961). — D.D. (PFA, 6:30)

The Story of Marie and Julien — Director Jacques Rivette's eerie love story, derived from Jean Cocteau and Edgar Allan Poe, stars Emmanuelle Béart and Jerzy Radziwilowicz (152 min., 2003). (PFA, 8:25)

Sat., Dec. 9

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). (VL, 11:00 a.m.)

The Framing and Execution of Mumia — A documentary on the United States' most notorious political prisoner (60 min.). (Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar St., Berkeley, 7:00)

High Society — Charles Walters' 1956 musical remake of George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story is usually damned by comparison with its source, but while Walters is no Cukor, he is not without his pleasures. His simple but polished shooting style, once a routine satisfaction of the cinema, now carries the aura of a long-lost classical grace. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly star, doing well by a nondescript Cole Porter score. And dig Louis Armstrong, singing his role as himself (107 min.). — D.D. (Cerrito, 6:00)

La Strada — So what if it's an overblown, sentimental weepie with Giulietta Masina outdoing Old Yeller in the big sad eyes department? Federico Fellini's 1954 neorealist road pic has by now passed over into a critical neverland where Masina, as the devoted companion of brutish traveling strongman Anthony Quinn, gazes forever from the back of the Great Zampano's three-wheeled caravan, drinking in the world. Fellini spent the rest of his career refining the themes he lays out simply and tenderly here, but La Strada is the original melancholy circus (107 min.). — K.V. (PFA, 5:00)

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 Seven Samurai — The ideal samurai film. In fact, Akira Kurosawa's 1954 village epic of feudal Japan is in many ways the perfect blend of heroic action and subtle characterization; all the more remarkable because it's Kurosawa's adaptation of the ancient Greek legend of the Seven Against Thebes into a setting so Japanese we can hear the wind in the bamboo shoots. In one of his most exciting roles, Toshiro Mifune plays a comic would-be samurai, drunk with bravado, who joins six other down-on-their-luck swordsmen on a mission of mercy (and honor) to defend a farm community from raiding bandits. A true masterpiece (208 min.) — K.V. (PFA, 7:10)

Sun., Dec. 10

High Society — See Sat. (Cerrito, 5:00)

Joan the Maiden — Jacques Rivette's two-part Joan of Arc story stars Sandrine Bonnaire as the Maid of Orleans. In part one, "The Battles," Joan's martial exploits are described interview-style by witnesses; in part two, "The Prisons," her refusal to don women's clothing forms the film's central metaphor (Part 1, 160 min.; part 2, 176 min., 1993). (PFA, 1:00, 4:30)

Tue., Dec. 12

Personal Narratives — A collection of shorts (78 min. total running time). (PFA, 7:30)

Trading Places — This is Mark Twain's Prince and the Pauper with a vengeance as two ultra-rich brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) on a whim elevate a black street hustler (Eddie Murphy) to the head of their commodities trading firm while utterly ruining the snot-prep former head (Dan Aykroyd). One of the most solid and biting comedies in years (118 min., 1983). — M.C. (PW, 9:15)

Wed., Dec. 13

The Devil Wears Prada — The main tweaks to this adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's fluffy roman à clef about life as a Vogue underling are, appropriately, cosmetic. A blond graduate of Brown in the book, young go-getter Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) now is a lanky brunette from Northwestern when luck (mostly good) shoves her into the feng shui/white-on-white corner office of Runway editor Miranda Priestly, here silver-haired and played by Meryl Streep as a cross between Cruella de Vil and the whipcracking sadist essayed by Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl (2006). — R.N. (JCCEB, 7:00)

OIFF Monthly — A regular screening of new material compiled by the Oakland International Film Festival (total running time unknown). (Maxwell's, 341 13th St., Oakland, 7:00)

Throne of Blood —- Kurosawa moves Shakespeare's Macbeth to feudal Japan, with Toshiro Mifune as the paranoiac tragic warlord, and a single white-haired hag in the misty forest to replace the three witches. Shakespeare's tale of accursed ambition travels well, but the heart of the film is kinetic spectacle — cavalry charges and showers of arrows speak louder than words in this case. The poetry here is simply cinematic (109 min., 1957). — K.V. (PFA, 7:30)

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