The Long Goodbye 

Berkeley's Fine Arts Cinema set to close in February 2003.

The last time we reported that the Fine Arts Cinema was closing, it didn't. The revered Berkeley rep house's plans to go into hiatus while developer Patrick Kennedy builds it a new mixed-use home ("Intermission at Fine Arts," June 19, 2002) were temporarily delayed, but now there's a brand-new closing date -- Sunday, February 2, 2003, the last day of the Fine Arts' current calendar. If all goes well, about a year and a half later there will be a new 300-seat theater, plus offices for Fine Arts chief Keith Arnold's Cinema Preservation Society and a Newsreel Cafe snack bar, inside Kennedy's new apartment complex on Shattuck Avenue at the south end of downtown Berkeley. So get your fill of Jacques Demy, Gummo, and the Fine Arts' funky interior while you can. They've been held over for a limited time only.

Lots of movie fans know the names Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune but have never seen their films. Not many of the Japanese director-actor team's best works have been theatrically available recently, but now Cowboy Pictures has struck new prints of their classics for a retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive. The eleven-title Kurosawa and Mifune series begins Friday with the lone-samurai adventure Yojimbo (it inspired Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood's A Fistful of Dollars) and Mifune's parody of his own renegade samurai image, Sanjuro. Almost all of the pair's most famous films -- Rashomon (artiest of the lot), Throne of Blood (a samurai Macbeth), The Hidden Fortress (which George Lucas remade as Star Wars), and even early gangster-pic collaborations like Drunken Angel and Stray Dog -- are being screened. The most notable omission is The Seven Samurai. That epic, arguably the best film ever made in Japan, is just finishing a week's run at Landmark's Shattuck Cinemas. The PFA's retrospective runs through December 22, and each film shows at least twice.

Once it was the most modern movie house in Oakland, but Signature Theatres' Jack London Cinema has gotten a bit tatty since it opened as the city's first multiplex back in 1995. Competition for the Oakland movie dollar has heated up considerably since then, especially with the impending December 18 opening of AMC's new Bay Street 16-plex in Emeryville, so what does the Jack London do? Fix the seats. Signature has sunk some $2 million into new high-back rockers, with cupholders, set stadium-style in all nine of the London's auditoriums. New carpeting, concession stands, and restroom accoutrements, too. The author of The Call of the Wild would be flabbergasted.


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