One-Night stands 

Repertory film listings for Dec. 6-12

Reviews by Kelly Vance, Melissa Levine, J. Hoberman, Michael Covino, Don Druker, Jean Oppenheimer, and Richard von Busack

Thu., Dec. 6

Chaplin at Mutual: Four Short Comedies — Four shorts from Chaplin's days at the Mutual Film Corporation (1916-1917). Total running time 96 min. (PFA, 5:30)

Wild Strawberries — Ingmar Bergman's 1957 voyage through time, memory, and the unconscious. An old man (the great actor and director Victor Sjöström) approaching death takes stock of his life and its failings and is confronted by those who loved and hated him, admired him for his contributions to science, and detested him as a humorless, self-centered idiot. The nightmare and memory sequences are memorable, notably the old man's vision of his own death and his bittersweet recollections of a perfect summer in 1907, a summer he was too prim to treasure (90 min.). — D.D. (PFA, 7:30)

The Wizard of Oz — Unforgettable children's classic with young Judy Garland skipping out on dull old Kansas for the fantasy world of Oz, which lies just "Over the Rainbow." With the rest of Yellow Brick Road crew: Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, Clara Blandick, Charley Grapewin, and the Singer Midgets (101 min., 1939). — M.C. (PW, 9:15)

Fri., Dec. 7

Men in Black — From the opening credit sequence of a dragonfly flying along at night trying to avoid car windshields, to the closing credits of space creatures playing marbles with whole universes, the sci-fi adventure comedy Men in Black emerges as an energetic, savvy, seamless, and hilarious picture. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith pair off beautifully as the unofficial government agents who provide immigration services and regulate all things alien on earth. Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty) keeps the direction brisk, with visual flair to spare but no time wasted lingering on effects, and Ed Solomon's screenplay (based on Lowell Cunningham's comic) supplies both a tight structure and witty out-of-this-world dialogue for humans and aliens alike (98 min., 1997). — M.C. (CLC, midnight)

Mod Fuck Explosion — A punk rock epic, full of sound and fury, by Jon Moritsugu (Der Elivs, Terminal USA) (76 min., 1995). (PFA, 7:00)

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom — Paolo Pasolini's last and most scandalous film, a sort of appalling political Mondo Cane of the last days of Salò, the second Italian fascist state set up in 1943 in Northern Italy under the protection of the Nazis. Salò is an anti-erotic study in the ultimate sadism of rulers, with kidnapped youth subjected to every humiliation imaginable, including, finally, murder – the destruction of life as an aesthetic experience of the highest degree. Pasolini shot the film with a cool distance, a formalistic rigor such is found in few films. Yet few viewers can distance themselves from what they are witnessing, and in this way Salò shatters any notion of aesthetic preoccupation with formalism (115 min., 1976). — M.C. (PFA, 9:00)

Sat., Dec. 8

A Dog's Life, The Idle Class, Shoulder Arms — Three Charlie Chaplin shorts from 1918 and 1921 highlighting elements of social commentary. Total running time 118 min. (PFA, 2:30)

The Circus — Perhaps cinema killed the circus even more effectively than it killed theater, but it allowed Charlie Chaplin, who otherwise might have achieved but a small measure of fame as a great clown, to emerge as one of the great comic-lyric poets of the century. The Circus, more than any other feature length film of Chaplin's, is a treatise (proceeding by indirection of course) on the state of the arts. It's also very, very funny (71 min., 1928). — M.C. (PFA, 4:50)

Saraband – This uneven new film, a series of dialogues from the legendary Ingmar Bergman, is assembled like movements of a concerto. It opens with Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson), the stars of Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage (1973), in the same roles. But the film is largely about another couple, engaged in a duel: Henrik (Börje Ahlstedt), Johan's unstable son, and Karin (Julia Dufvenius), Henrik's daughter. Henrik has mapped out Karin's future; Karin yearns to break free, but she stays with her father out of loyalty and grief. Both are mourning the loss of Anna, Karin's mother and Henrik's wife, who died two years before. Scenes from a Marriage suffered from a certain degree of suffocation, and it's a pleasure to add new characters to the mix. But Henrik is a brute, entrenched in his pain and inflicting it upon others. For Karin, the question of whether or not to leave her father is dire; for us it's a no-brainer (108 min., 2003). — M.L. (PFA, 6:30)

Persona — Ingmar Bergman's 1966 psychological study of an actress (Liv Ullmann) who decides to stop speaking and her empathetic nurse (Bibi Andersson) defines what "Bergmanesque" has come to mean. Nowhere near as cinematic as his most famous '50s works, Persona's tight close-ups, laden with angst and spiritual duplicity, contributed to the revisionist revulsion Bergman now faces (85 min.). — K.V. (PFA, 8:40)

The Wizard of Oz — See Thursday. (EC, 6:00)

Peter Pan — "All children, except one, grow up ... ." So begins J.M. Barrie's classic children's fable about the boy who defiantly refuses to grow up and the girl who is torn between remaining a child with him or accepting the inevitable passage into adulthood. Australian director and co-screenwriter P.J. Hogan turned to the original source material (Barrie wrote both a play and a novel of the story), which is far darker than the child-friendly version that is always done on stage and was done in the animated version. Children who attend the film will be oblivious to the dark undercurrents and see only the grand adventure. Adults will find far meatier material to sink their teeth into (77 min., 1953). — J.O. (RCE, 10:00 a.m., noon)

Sun., Dec. 9

The Great Dictator – Charlie Chaplin plays Adolf Hitler in this somewhat uneven parody of the master race, memorable primarily for Chaplin's dance with the world globe. Pure evil defies simply ridicule, and the film is less funny than the rest of Chaplin's works (128 min., 1940). — N.W. (PFA, 2:00)

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu – If there's a tougher sell than a Romanian movie by an unknown director, it's a Romanian movie by an unknown director that takes two and a half hours to tell the tale of a 62-year-old pensioner's final trip to the hospital. The second feature by ex-painter Cristi Puiu is an ode to mortality, albeit not without a certain grim humor. Retired engineer Dante Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) wakes with an unfamiliar headache and a bad stomach, and, following a day of futile self-medication, calls the local equivalent of 911. After 45 minutes (film time), the ambulance arrives, and from the limbo of his squalid flat, our Dante enters the first circle of hell. For the remainder of the movie, he will be transported from hospital to hospital, to be variously diagnosed, ignored, browbeaten, humiliated, and finally processed by a harried succession of brilliantly acted doctors and nurses (150 min., 2005). — J.H. (PFA, 4:30)

The Wizard of Oz — See Thursday. (EC, 5:00)

Peter Pan — See Saturday. (RCE, noon)

Tue., Dec. 11

Limelight — Charlie Chaplin plays an over-the-hill vaudevillian trying to keep a despondent ballerina in love with life. The movie is slow, but pulls together for what is perhaps one of the loveliest scenes of any Chaplin film, with Chaplin taking the stage as a comic violinist accompanied by Buster Keaton at the piano. The two washed-up comics have trouble making their music come together, but then slowly, patiently, they begin to hit the right chords — and what emerges is not funny but beautiful. With Claire Bloom. Directed by Chaplin (137 min., 1952). — M.C. (PFA, 7:30)

Living on the Wedge and Farming on the Edge — A TV special about Wisconsin's artisan cheese makers and a short film about farmers living on the edge of development. (Hillside Club, Berkeley, 7:00)

Wed., Dec. 12

Loose Change: Final Cut — Third and final version of the 9/11 conspiracy documentary. (GL, 7:00)

Fresh Kill — Pro: ravishing love object Sarita Choudhury and the occasional flashes of humor in a script by Jessica Hagedorn for this Shu Lea Cheang film, self-described as "an exercise in ecocybernoia." Con: the problem that no amount of technique can disguise the dreaded eco-movie, especially when sewn together (like every bad East Village movie you've ever seen) with TV parody. It's the near future, and lesbian couple Choudhury and Erin McMurtry are raising a kid in Staten Island while toiling at a horrible, high-altitude sushi bar. From this post, serving tainted fish, they're able to witness a mysterious worldwide catastrophe involving dumped radioactive waste. A strange combination of hipness and piousness, especially since it targets the (perceived) foolishness of food-conscious folk (80 min., 1994). — R.vB. (PFA, 7:30)


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