One-Night Stands 

Repertory film listings for December 4-10, 2008.

Thu., December 4

The Cross of Love Early and innovative melodrama from Finnish director Teuvo Tulio (99 min., 1946). (PFA, 6:30)

The Big Knife Robert Aldrich makes his first stab at a slashing portrayal of Hollywood corruption. Based on his biting Clifford Odets play, it's more coherent (albeit less richly sardonic) than the director's later Legend of Lylah Clare, and has the advantage of a thoroughly monstrous cast, including Jack Palance as a blackmailed star, Ida Lupino as his discontented wife, Rod Steiger as a tyrannical producer, and Everett Sloane, Wendell Corey, and Shelley Winters (who was still a young glamour girl free of annoying Jewish Mama mannerisms) in the supporting roles. Nasty, nasty, nasty, and very nice (110 min., 1955). — N.W. (PFA, 8:30)

The Way Bobby Sees It Documentary on 45-year-old legally blind mountain biker Bobby McMullen, produced by Bay Area filmmakers Jason Watkins and Wendy Todd. (Livermore Cinema West, 7:30)

Fri., December 5

The Battle of Algiers This might be the most powerful revolutionary movie ever made, and imprints itself on our memories so well precisely because director Gillo Pontecorvo, who wanted to make a revolutionary film, assigned himself the most difficult task imaginable — to show civilian men, women, and children getting blown to bits in restaurants, and still maintain our sympathy for the revolutionaries. He did not have to show this. It would not have occurred to the most radical filmmakers to show this. In fact, it would have occurred to them not to show this. But it was Pontecorvo's honesty, his necessity — his cunning — to show this. For he believed enough in what he was doing to know that if he could film the most problematic acts of terrorism and still convince us of the necessity of the Algerians' revolution, then he would have made his case all the stronger, certainly stronger than anyone before him (123 min., 1966). — M.C. (PFA, 6:30)

Boy Based on an actual court case in Japan, this film by Nagisa Oshima tells of a couple who travel the country having their young son run in front of moving automobiles so he can get hit and they can collect damages. Oshima treats the material in a matter-of-fact manner that serves to heighten the dramatic impact and to make this film, by the Japanese filmmaker most often compared with Godard, one of the most interesting films about children ever made (97 min., 1969). — D.D. (PFA, 9:00)

Sat., December 6

Attack! A 1956 anti-war film by Robert Aldrich. It has always been the most popular of his works among anti-Aldrichians, and the reasons are fairly obvious: it is one of this few films with an overt social message. Still, Aldrich's real interest seems to lie with the war of nerves waged between hard-nosed lieutenant Jack Palance and the chicken colonel Eddie Albert; his obsessive theme has always been the personal divisiveness of men united by action, and it is realized here to grinding effect (107 min.). (PFA, 6:00)

Kiss Me Deadly Mickey Spillane meets Robert Aldrich and produces a nuclear fission called Ralph Meeker in this slam-bang dirty detective story. As private eye Mike Hammer, Meeker punches out everybody but the cameraman while roaring around on the trail of a mysterious black box, the stuff that screams are made of. Los Angeles plays itself as a sun-splashed inferno of leering goons and crooked intentions. Director Aldrich's muscular ethos was never expressed more succinctly in any of his subsequent films. Cloris Leachman and Albert Dekker costar. Recommended (105 min., 1955). — K.V. (PFA, 8:45)

Sun., December 7

Black Rain Although it's set in a quiet rural village, Shohei Imamura's story of Hiroshima survivors has a dramatic and emotional grandeur that is indelible. The main character is a young woman (played heartbreakingly by Yoshiko Tanaka), tainted by radioactive rain, who has trouble finding a husband. With her aunt and uncle, she's part of a "community bound by the bomb," a group of people uneasily awaiting sickness and death. One or two rough comic touches in the Imamura manner relieve the solemnity, but this film's power is in its immense sadness, which permeates every frame (123 min., 1989). — K.V. (PFA, 2:00)

Onibaba Kaneto Shindo's sensuous fairytale, set in a waving, whispering sea of marsh grass, is simple and earthy: a woman tries to prevent her widowed daughter-in-law from deserting her for a lover by means of demonic trickery, and comes to a bad end. Shindo's camera, the peasant cunning in feudal Japan, the naturalistic power of Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura as the two women: it all congeals into a truly poetic film, a revisionist folk tale (written by Shindo, incidentally) which can be read on several different levels (105 min., 1964). (PFA, 4:30)

Negroes with Guns The story of Robert F. Williams, a forefather of the Black Power movement who advocated armed self-defense during the civil rights era. (PW, 2:00)

Tue., December 9

A Tribute to Bruce Conner A collection of five short films by this San Francisco-based artist, who was one of the earliest proponents of repurposing art and assembling salvaged materials (total running time 67 min., 1958-2008). (PFA, 7:30)

Wed., December 10

Rocco and His Brothers When cinema scholars talk about the "operatic" aspects of Luchino Visconti's films, this classically structured 1960 family saga is probably what they're thinking of. A mother and five sons from the impoverished Italian south make their way in a go-go Milan of boxing matches and motor scooters. Told in five acts (one per sibling), the story crescendos as a struggle between sweet Rocco (Alain Delon) and brutish Simone (Renato Salvatori) over hard-luck prostitute Nadia (Annie Girardot). Contributing to the gritty inevitability of the neorealist tragedy are Katina Paxinou as the mother, Paolo Stoppa as the boxing impresario, and Max Cartier as brother Ciro. One of Visconti's most influential works (cf. Raging Bull) because it is one of his most personal (180 min.). — K.V. (PFA, 7:00)

The Way Bobby Sees It See Thursday. (GL, 7:30)


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