One-Night Stands 

Repertory film listings for March 20-26

Written by Vicki Cameron, Michael Covino, Kelly Vance, and Naomi Wise.

Thu., Mar. 20

Yi Yi Writer-director Edward Yang's portrait of a middle-class Taipei family has plenty of drama: it opens with a shotgun wedding (grandma refers to the woman as "that pregnant bitch") and ends with a funeral. In between, the father (Wu Nienjen) deals in bad faith with the imminent collapse of his software company and with his own turmoil when his high school sweetheart (Sherry Chang-Breitner) shows up; his wife (Elaine Jin), depressed over her mother's stroke, joins a cult; and their daughter (Kelly Lee) and mischievous son (Jonathan Chang, who could carry a Chinese Home Alone) have their own problems. But perhaps what's most striking is how Westernized everything is: they snack on New York bagels and play "Porgy and Bess" on the piano, Chinese and Japanese businessmen communicate in English, dad drives a BMW, and the big-city architecture is soulless and homogenized. Despite all that, though, Yang finds his characters' own souls. Overlong at 173 min (2000). — M.C. (PFA, 7:00)

Fri., Mar. 21

881 Royston Tan's re-creation of the Singaporean musical performance genre known as getai centers on a group named the Papaya Girls, their quest for success, and the magic powers they come to possess (105 min., 2007). (PFA, 7:00)

The Unseeable A classic ghost story set in 1930s Siam and steeped in traditional Thai folklore. Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng (97 min., 2006). (PFA, 9:15)

Sat., Mar. 22

National Velvet Enchanting film version of Enid Bagnold's novel about a young girl (Elizabeth Taylor) whose adolescent obsession for a horse named Pi leads her to disguise herself as a boy and compete in the prestigious Grand National Steeplechase. Director Clarence Brown never lets the characters take themselves too seriously, thereby creating a whimsical look at family life that's impossible to resist. Taylor is endearingly enthusiastic and surrounded by such talents as Angela Lansbury as her lovesick sister, Donald Crisp as her skeptical father, and Arthur Treacher in a droll came as a racetrack patron. But the true glory (sorry, Pi) that holds the movie together is provided by the quiet strength of Anne Revere (who won a deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role) and Mickey Rooney's splendid performance as a jaded jockey who becomes swept away by Velvet's passion in spite of himself (125 min., 1944). — V.C. (PFA, 3:00)

Desert Dream On the Mongolian steppes, to the detriment of his family life, a man becomes obsessed with transforming the encroaching desert into a forest. Zhang Lu directs (123 min., 2007). (PFA, 6:00)

The Flight of the Red Balloon An ephemeral, somewhat experimental update of the beloved French children's film The Red Balloon, set in Paris and directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien (113 min., 2007). (PFA, 8:40)

On the Waterfront Well, yes, two brothers take a taxi ride and only one of them knows that the other one is probably going to be dead at the end of it. But gentle, moody, intense Terry Malloy, failed boxer turned lower echelon unionhood, delivers a speech that saves his life. "Oh Charlie, oh Charlie, you don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody ... instead of a bum ... which is what I am." A nearly great movie with one of Marlon Brando's greatest performances, and strong supporting performances from Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, and Karl Malden. Directed by Elia Kazan (108 min., 1954). — M.C. (EC, 6:00)

Sun., Mar. 23

Macbeth Orson Welles' thrilling, raggedy, uneven version of Shakespeare (made for Republic, home of the cheap serials) sets the tale in its proper era — a Dark Ages Scotland peopled by Druid priestesses and Celtic barbarians. With costumes of splendid savagery, spare sets, rain, fog, and shadows, Welles built the dark atmosphere. Unfortunately, his own performance in the title role is the only marginally acceptable in the film — at least, in the "American version." The new print restores 21 minutes of material previously cut by the studio, and Welles' original, Scottish-accented soundtrack, which was re-recorded in Americanese for the film's US release. It remains to be seen if Jeanette Nolan manages Lady Macbeth better with a burr, but any Welles is worth seeing, any time, and Macbeth, made quickly and cheaply, is a master's wild experiment (119 min., 1948). — N.W. (PFA, 2:00)

Othello Orson Welles' artful discombobulation of Shakespeare's tragedy is notorious for several seasons, not least of which is its four-year, bicontinental production schedule, owing to Welles' chronic lack of funds. On the screen, however, this Othello is a riot of shadows, a plunge into an emotional maelstrom, the frantic decline and fall of the reckless Moor, brilliantly caricatured by Welles, with Michael MacLiammóor as a sexually inadequate Iago and Robert Coote (dubbed by Welles) as Roderigo. The murder of Roderigo, filmed in a steamy bathhouse in Morocco, is a scene to rival any in Citizen Kane or The Magnificent Ambersons. Welles should have been set free to make dozens of ultra-personal films like this, but always had to act in other people's pics to pay the bills. A cockeyed masterpiece, directed, adapted, and produced by Welles (91 min., 1952). — K.V. (PFA, 4:30)

On the Waterfront See Saturday. (EC, 5:00)

Revolution by Cinema: Two Films by Jonas Mekas By the legendary avant-garde filmmaker: Guns of the Trees (85 min., 1964) and The Brig (68 min., 1964). (PFA, 7:00)

Tue., Mar. 25

Enter the Dragon Probably the best — certainly the splashiest — Bruce Lee film ever made (and his first American production). The plot centers on an opium ring operating out of an island protected by martial arts gangsters, but the island also serves as the site for a kind of kung-fu Olympics, so the two — the gangster element and the aesthetic element — are brought together rather artfully. Kung-fu sequences choreographed by Lee (97 min., 1973). — M.C. (PW, 9:15)

Wed., Mar. 26

Sicko Michael Moore's documentary on the woeful state of healthcare in the US has most of the strengths and weaknesses of Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine, and his other muckraking entertainments. That is, it's short on facts and figures (other than that the US spends $2.1 trillion annually for healthcare and still ranks only 37th in the world in that department) and long on Moore's personal touches, like his grim prank of taking sick 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for free medical treatment after they were denied it here. By now, it should only matter that Moore has been right about every social ill he's addressed — from gun control to off-shoring to the depredations of the petro industry — and that he's one of the few effective antidotes to corporate-think that people will actually buy tickets to watch. The rest is politics. Best scene: Cuban firefighters honoring their "brothers" injured in the line of duty. — K.V. (Pinole Public Library, 6:30)

Bush Family Fortunes Greg Palast takes on the Bush family, from voting in Florida to friends in the Middle East (60 min., 2003). (Humanist Hall, Oakland, 7:30) 


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