As the Castro calendar turns
by David Lamble
A peek at the Fall Castro Theatre schedule shows how far the theatre's dynamic new programming team has come to revisiting the peaks of the theatre's heyday as America's foremost repertory cinema.
Gomorrah (2008) Matteo Garrone's harrowing survey of today's Italian gangsters takes 45 minutes to deliver its most explicit homoerotic beat: the sight of two petty hoods, the wafer-thin Ciro and his torrent-of-rage buddy Marco, clad in briefs, ejaculating clips from their machine guns stolen from the mob. This breathtaking kinetic moment where the boys are the freest, close to both their impossible dream and their doom, echoes the pistol-swaggering scene between Montgomery Clift and John Ireland in Howard Hawks' Red River. Ciro and Marco are poster boys for doomed youth. Their naive refusal to roll over and take it up the ass for the local Don becomes the basis for Gomorrah's brutal epilogue. Plays with Vittorio De Sica's classic take on the perils of Italy's post-WWII economic miracle, Umberto D. (9/19)
The Rules of Attraction (2002) With the passage of time plus gay marriage and gay soldiers, what was once soft-core titillation starts to take on the sheen of a minor classic. Rules, Roger Avary adapting Bret Easton Ellis' shameless bestseller, is the story of queer undergrad Paul Denton (doe-eyed beauty Ian Somerhalder, late of ABC's Lost), who has a book-length affair with drama student and campus cocaine dealer Sean Bateman (once-superhot James Van Der Beek of Dawson's Creek), who, in turn, is pursuing the elusive and slightly dykey Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), who could care less. Paul muses, as he seeks to bed Sean for the first time, "I wondered suddenly if he was Catholic. My spirits rose: Catholic boys will usually do anything." Faye Dunaway, Swoozie Kurtz and Capote 's Clifton Collins, Jr. top off an eye-popping ensemble. Plays with Can't Hardly Wait (1998) on the Midnight for Maniacs program. (9/20)
Drive In this high-octane noir bloodier than it has to be, Gosling is a cross between Clint's Deadly Stranger and Steve McQueen's cop with a code (Bullitt ) as a young film stuntman who moonlights as LA's top getaway driver. His code is enforced with a stopwatch. "If I drive for you, give me a time and place. I give you a five-minute window: anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours, no matter what. I don't carry a gun. I drive."
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, whose oeuvre is splatter-bent, provides honest thrills in the driving sequences, particularly a spellbinding opener where The Kid is carefully reckless evading the cops to deliver holdup goons safely into the belly of the Staples Center before blending into a Lakers crowd. Drive's guiltiest pleasure is seeing the satirical gifts of Albert Brooks reduced to a Eugene Roche-worthy villain.
Only God Forgives Refn returns with Gosling in a Bangkok-based, revenge-fueled melodrama that is so weirdly and repellently violent that it would be funny if it weren't so dull. Gosling's loner is running a kickboxing club with his brother as a front for a nasty drug cartel. His bro's murder at the hands of a corrupt cop leads to a gusher of bloodletting that reaches its apex upon the arrival of the boys' tough-as-nails momma, a Kristin Scott Thomas turn that redeems this mess for some. (both 10/3)
3:10 to Yuma This 1957 adaptation of an Elmore Leonard story about a small-time farmer (Van Heflin) out for the price on the head of a convicted killer (Glenn Ford) is deftly "old school." As in the 2007 remake with Russell Crowe, it hinges on a suspenseful series of mind games by the outlaw. Plays with Out of Sight, the 1998 Steven Soderbergh-helmed Leonard story converted into a George Clooney/Jennifer Lopez caper. (10/1)
Swimming to Cambodia (1987) Jonathan Demme's astonishingly intimate film of Spaulding Gray at the peak of his solo monologue career is insanely better than any summary can suggest. Sitting at a desk with a microphone and a glass of water, Gray spins a riveting tale of how the Cambodian genocide, as depicted in The Killing Fields, became a catalyst for enormous changes in his love life, based on a widely held view that with the right mantra one can connect the dots on any of life's exasperatingly meaningful-meaningless coincidences. (9/21)
Boogie Nights (1997) Paul Thomas Anderson's sleight-of-hand send-up of the San Fernando Valley 70s porn-film scene becomes a launching pad for a stellar young cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, John C. Riley and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well as an improbable comeback for Burt Reynolds as a grizzled sex-film director who sees his once-stable world spinning out of control under the pressures of fragile egos and quickly-changing technology. Plays with Thank God It's Friday. (9/28)
Mean Streets (1973) The sight of Bobby De Niro blowing up a mailbox is unforgettable in Martin Scorsese's breakthrough 1973 buddy film. Conscience-plagued hoodlum Harvey Keitel is bedeviled by his Little Italy neighborhood's "honor code," while sweet-talking his loose-cannon fuck-up best friend (De Niro) into making nice with an insecure goon. Incendiary performances, real settings, and the Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash" frame a delicious character study that doesn't date. Plays with Elaine May-directed buddy film Mikey and Nicky, with real-life friends Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. (9/25)
House of Wax in 3D (1953) My nine-year-old self learned what scary at the movies means as museum proprietor Vincent Price performs some rather unseemly plastic surgery. Plays with, yes see it for the title alone, Creature from the Black Lagoon. (9/29)
The Shining (1980) Stanley Kubrick lost control of this Stephen King thriller that's done in by Jack Nicholson's succumbing to his off-screen rep. "He-e-re's Johnny!" (9/27)