Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

July heats up the Castro Theatre


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This month the Castro Theatre's repertory programming spotlights the work of Roman Polanski with "Repulsion," "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby." The films hint at what Hollywood lost due to a vindictive judge handling the filmmaker's sexual misconduct case. Also on tap: a remarkable double bill featuring the prime of Jack Nicholson.

"Modern Times" (1936) Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp gets a voice in this Depression-era drama. His character meets an attractive young woman (Paulette Goddard), and the two pursue happiness and gainful employment.

"[The Complete] Metropolis" (Germany, 1927) Fritz Lang's masterpiece, restored to its original length with lost footage that turned up in Argentina, is a dystopian fantasy on the horrors of an assembly-line society. (both 7/9)

"Cherry Pop" (2017) This original drag comedy gets a one-night Castro debut featuring a post-screen Q&A with Bob the Drag Queen and Tempest Dujour. (7/11)

"Rocky" (1976) The original Best Picture Oscar winner. A then-unknown Sylvester Stallone plays a down-and-out slaughterhouse worker who turns to boxing and the impossible dream of beating the champ, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Director John Avildsen points his cameras at Philadelphia's least-glamorous hoods, helped by Bill Conti's infectious score and supporting performances from Burt Young and Burgess Meredith.

"Chuck" (2016) Liev Schreiber is sublime as a one-time liquor salesman who attempts to crawl up the lowest rungs of the pro boxing world. Schreiber's Chuck Wepner was the model for Rocky, and this pugilistic double bill shows how life bleeds into commerce, if not art. (both 7/12)

"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick's breakthrough space drama from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke runs 142 mins., plus an intermission, and is projected in 70mm widescreen. (7/13-16)

"Disney's Moana Sing-Along" (2016) This special-admission event plays both days at 1 p.m. (7/15-16)

"Rosemary's Baby" (1968) Roman Polanski, in his American directorial debut, makes terrific use of a young Mia Farrow as a 20-something woman becoming uneasy about her first pregnancy. Ruth Gordon was an Oscar winner as Farrow's older, gabby neighbor. With John Cassavetes and Ralph Bellamy in roles that defied their previous screen personas.

"Get Out" (2017) Former comic/first-time African American director Jordan Peele draws comparisons to "The Stepford Wives" with a horror tale that finds a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) invited to meet his white girlfriend's parents. (both 7/17)

"Repulsion" (1965) A young Polanski teams up with French beauty Catherine Deneuve to create a big-screen portrait of mental disorientation.

"Personal Shopper" (2016) Olivier Assayas directs Kristen Stewart as an errand-running personal assistant who is undergoing a spiritual crisis after the mysterious death of her twin brother. (both 7/18)

"Chinatown" (1974) This latter-day noir begins with the famous Paramount Pictures logo bathed in sepia tones as Jerry Goldsmith's haunting theme washes over us. This is a story about that most precious of commodities, fresh water, and what ruthless men will do to secure an endless supply of it. Set in drought-plagued Southern California in the late 1930s, it's the ultimate LA tale, featuring a battle to the death between a demonic land baron with a Biblical name, Noah Cross (a scary good John Huston) and a cynical private dick, J.J. Gittes (Bogart-worthy turn from Jack Nicholson).

Jake is handed a cheating-husband case that leads to City Hall, then to a dry LA River bed where tons of water are dumped at night. Seeking the culprit, Jake is attacked by a knife-wielding enforcer (played by Polanski) who slashes the detective's nose. "You're a very nosey fellow, Kitty-cat. You know what happens to nosy fellows, huh? They lose their noses. Next time you lose the whole thing. I'll cut it off and feed it to my goldfish. Understand?"

Jake spends the rest of the picture wearing an array of smaller bandages as he attempts to follow the money, but as Noah Cross quips, "Mr. Gittes, you may think you know what you're dealing with here, but believe me, you don't." 

Screenwriter Robert Towne's script (Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) combines literate dialogue with sharply drawn, conflicted characters dealing with incest, murder and insatiable greed. When Jake asks Cross what he hopes to gain from his ruthless tactics, the monster replies, "The future, Mr. Gittes, the future!"

"The Passenger" (1975) Nicholson, at the height of his hipness and screen fame, plays an American TV reporter who trades identities with a dead Englishman in Italian genius director Michelangelo Antonioni's 126-minute African-set drama. (both 7/19)

37th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (6/20-30) Coverage to come.


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