One-Night Stands 

Repertory film listings for January 15-21, 2009.

Thu., January 15

Underworld An epoch-making work and still a gloriously effective and atmospheric mood piece, this was the first genuine gangster film (1927), and it was done by none other than the master of delirious melodrama Josef von Sternberg. George Bancroft, Evelyn Brent, and Clive Brook star in a tale of a gangster on the loose who ultimately sacrifices himself for the friends he thought had betrayed him (97 min.). — D.D. (PFA, 7:30)

Oldboy A man is kidnapped and confined in a room for fifteen years. When he's released, his thirst for revenge is hindered somewhat by his precarious mental state. Such is the post-Tarantino scenario of director Park Chan-wook's thriller, which stars Hwang Jo-yun and Lim Jun-hyeong (118 min., 2003). (PW, 9:15)

Friday, January 16

A Generation Bravura directorial debut by Poland's greatest filmmaker, Andrzej Wajda, and the first of his WWII trilogy chronicling Poland's tragic underground resistance. Tadeusz Lomnicki plays Stach, the film's hero and leader, but equal weight is given to Janek (played by Tadeusz Janczar), a nervous, hysterical youth who practically loses his grip on things after killing a Nazi in a rather sloppy, unprofessional set-up. Wajda's view is pessimistic, tragic, yet broad and poetic in its feelings for all the players. Adapted by Bohdan Czeszko from his own novel (83 min., 1954). — M.C. (PFA, 6:30)

Kanal The second in Polish director Andrzej Wajda's WWII trilogy (which includes A Generation and Ashes and Diamonds), this puts Poland's tragic underground resistance ... underground. Almost the entire film is shot in Warsaw's sewer system, where the survivors of a partisan platoon hide out, live, love, go mad, and die. Jerzy Lipman's cinematography manages to convey a grim, hallucinatory feeling while at the same time somehow suggesting the influence of Italian neo-realism. Notice especially the opening scene, one long continuous take as Resistance members retreat along a wall in bombed-out Warsaw. This, like the other two films in the trilogy, is one of the best war films ever made. Adapted by Jerzy Stefan Stawinski from his short story (98 min., 1956). — M.C. (PFA, 8:15)

Sat., January 17

My Name Is Orson Welles A collection of television programs featuring Orson Welles as director or host (155 min.). (PFA, 5:00)

Ashes and Diamonds One of the first works of the Polish New Wave, Andrzej Wajda's 1958 film is an interesting effort, although it has been seriously overrated by critics who see its story of a resistance fighter's ideological struggle as a cagey bit of anti-Soviet propaganda, and hence admirable. Following the technique of the art cinema of the time, Wajda tends toward harsh and overstated imagery, but he achieves a fascinating psychological rapport with his lead actor, Zbigniew Cybulski, who was known as Poland's James Dean (102 min.). — D.K. (PFA, 8:00)

Children's Film Festival Review A preview of the short films selected for the upcoming Danville International Children's Film Festival and California Independent Film Festival. Seven shorts in all, running a combined 63 minutes. (Front Row Theater, San Ramon, 2:00)

Sun., January 18

Unfinished Work by Welles Excerpts from Orson Welles' unfinished films The Deep, The Dreamers, and Don Quixote (total running time 140 min.). (PFA, 2:00)

The Last Command Emil Jannings, the ox-like German actor who would later star in The Blue Angel, and go on to become a Nazi, indulges in his patented brand of masochism here as a Russian ex-general reduced to parodying himself as a Hollywood extra. Before it slides irretrievably into bathos, director Josef von Sternberg's silent film manages a characteristically sardonic vignette of the movie business, regarded by the artful Sternbergian eye as a refuge for charlatans, hustlers, and clowns. Photographed by the great Bert Glennon (96 min., 1928). — K.V. (PFA, 5:30)

Tuesday, January 20

Children of Divorce Director-scenarist Benjamin Christensen's 1939 social-problem drama focuses on the mishaps of a young Danish woman, the victim of moral laxity by her parents and others. It stars Johannes Meyer and Grethe Holmer (94 min.). (PFA, 7:30)

The Big Lebowski Laid-back bowler and ex-radical Jeff Bridges watches some thugs, who think he's someone else, piss on his carpet, which "really tied the room together," then spends the rest of the movie, more or less, trying to avenge his carpet. This rambling, amiably goofy tale of mistaken identity from the Coen brothers features some radiantly hilarious dream sequences and manages to make bowling look like the most surreal of sports. But ultimately it's like a bowling ball thrown with so little force it just rolls to a halt halfway down the lane. With John Goodman, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston and, in what amounts to cameos, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Ben Gazzara, and Sam Elliott. Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, directed by Joel (117 min., 1998). — M.C. (PW, 9:15)

Wed., January 21

Ashes An epic film by Andrzej Wajda, featuring a cast of thousands, about a Polish legion that fought on the Spanish from during the Napoleonic Wars to secure the freedom of their country (168 min., 1965). (PFA, 7:00)

Planet Earth Two episodes ("Great Plains" and "Jungles") of David Attenborough's award-winning documentary television series, originally broadcast on the BBC in 2006 (total running time 100 min.). (Humanist Hall, Oakland, 7:30)


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