One Night Stands for the week of June 27-July 3, 2007 

In this week's rep picks: Pimps, eels, gremlins, and grease.

Reviewed by Michael Covino, Kelly Vance, Richard von Busack, and Naomi Wise

Thu., June 28

Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Three episodes of the TV series for your enjoyment (total running time unknown). (PW, 9:15)

The Mind Is a Liar and a Whore — Berkeley filmmaker Antero Alli's most accessible feature film is a sci-fi parody (we hope) about four housemates trapped in their East Bay home during a bioterrorist attack. Cassie Powell, Brady M. Woolery, Rebekah Barnett, and David Gauntlett star (92 min., 2007). (21 Grand, 415 25th St., Oakland, 8:00)

Zegen (The Pimp) — In Shohei Imamura's eyes, the life story of one Iheiji Muraoka, who jumped ship in Hong Kong and ended up owning a string of brothels in Malaysia from the 1920s through the '50s, is the ideal metaphor for the expansion of Japanese trade — some might say imperialism — in the 20th century. It's also a nicely pulpy acting vehicle for Imamura regular Ken Ogata, whose Muraoka is always ready to wave the Rising Sun flag in his efforts to "retrieve national honor" in a whorehouse (124 min., 1987). — K.V. (PFA, 7:30)

Fri., June 29

The Eel — In Shohei Imamura's extraordinary career of social satires, this first-rough-then-gentle tale is the closest he's come to an unabashedly tender love story. A quiet man (Koji Yakusho) makes a mistake, goes to prison, and then is released into a small waterfront community, where he opens a hair salon and makes friends with a young woman (Misa Shimuzu) who has troubles of her own. Imamura's working-class chatterboxes have never seemed so endearing (117 min., 1997). — K.V.

Gremlins — One of the most utterly perverse, sick movies of its time, this anti-Christmas Christmas flick has it in for cute little furry creatures (though they'll still market 'em), monstrous moviegoers, Walt Disney, and kitchen appliances. A lot of low-grade auteurship namedropping can't obscure the cynical grab-bag natures of this creep show, though a lot of it is terrifically funny ... like that second-generation Gremlin blowing up in the microwave. Kids, leave your parents home. Zach Galligan is the good-natured teen who gets a gremlin for Xmas; Phoebe Cates, his girl, gets to deliver the most embarrassingly inept and grotesque monologue. Joe Dante directs, and Steven Spielberg has a hand in this as executive producer (106 min., 1984). — M.C. (CLC, 9:15)

Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute — As in his bitterly humorous narrative features, Shohei Imamura's documentaries side with the outcasts of Japanese society, none more so than in this 1975 verité interview. 73-year-old Kiyuko Zendo was sold as a peasant girl to brothels in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and now is ashamed to return home to Japan in her disgraced old age, even though she is desperately homesick. Imamura sees her as a tool of economic and military expansionism, but her story is poignant enough to stand on its own (70 min.). — K.V. (PFA, 7:00)

Sat., June 30

The Dark Crystal — Jim Henson and Frank Oz of Muppets fame directed this "live animation" film about a young elflike creature who journeys through the Mystic Valley to fulfill a prophecy. There are no humans in this adventure fantasy that is highlighted by elaborate sets, special effects, and exotic creatures. Gary Kurtz, who made The Empire Strikes Back, coproduced. Brian Froud is the conceptual designer of the characters (93 min., 1982). (PW, noon, 3:00)

Dr. Akagi — Set on the eve of Japan's 1945 surrender in a seaside village host to a POW garrison and racked by wartime tensions, Shohei Imamura's darkly funny yet deeply humanistic film centers on an eccentric but highly dedicated family physician, Dr. Akagi (Akira Emoto), who in the course of his practice has become a hepatitis expert. Working with a dissolute monk, a morphine-addicted surgeon, a simpleminded ex-whore, and a wounded Dutch POW escapee, he sets out to eradicate hepatitis even as he hears rumors that the Japanese military is researching germ warfare and even as the United States prepares to drop atom bombs on Japan. Offbeat and sage, with a narrative that won't stay put (128 min., 1998). — M.C. (PFA, 6:30)

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. (EC, 6:00)

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)

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge — A recently fired man (Koji Yakusho) gets a job on a fishing boat and meets a lusty woman (Misa Shimizu) in director Shohei Imamura's sexy character study (120 min., 2001). (PFA, 9:00)

Sun., July 1

The Dark Crystal — See Sat. (PW, 2:00)

Grease — See Sat. (EC, 5:00)

The Hero — The stories of various characters trying to reconstruct their lives in the strife-filled aftermath of the civil war in Angola make up this narrative feature by filmmaker Zézé Gamboa (97 min., 2004). Presented by African Diaspora Cinema. (PW, 2:00)

The Importance of Being Earnest — The film presents an argument against "opening up" a play for the movies. From the pastel-as-candy colors (which are improved in a new print) to the artificiality of the gestures, this Anthony Asquith-directed adaptation is, essentially, the stage experience of Oscar Wilde's 1895 "trivial comedy for serious people." A pair of sporting young bachelors (Michael Redgrave and Michael Denison) create elaborate fictions to net some freedom for themselves from the ultimate deadly English aunt, Lady Bracknell, played by Edith Evans. Quite the cast: It includes the lovely young comedienne Joan Greenwood, with the most purring voice in the history of cinema; the Hitchcockian Miles Malleson as Reverend Chasuble; and Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism, the last woman in the world you'd want to trust with a baby or the only draft of a manuscript (95 min., 1952). — Richard von Busack (Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 3:00)

Tue., July 3

Roger & Me — Michael Moore's hilarious documentary casts General Motors as Scrooge, the city of Flint, Michigan (home of the first GM plant) as the Cratchits, and has GM throw Tiny Tim out on the street on Christmas Eve. Yet despite the laughs this is a heartbreaker, a movie founded on a bedrock of political rage. Moore, though not as rigorous or formalistic as Errol Morris, relies on a similar sort of playfulness and willingness to bend the rules. And the result is much the same: a documentary that, in its willful perversity to entertain, stands head and shoulders above the genre (91 min., 1989). — M.C. (Gaia Arts Center, 7:00)


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