November at the Castro Theatre
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The Castro Theatre waits until Turkey Month to get back to its best rep programing. There's also time for local festivals — check the theatre's website for details on the Scary Cow and Third i [South Asian] film festivals.
"Studio 54" (2018) This lively doc, closing-night film at this year's LGBTQ Film Festival, may remind some of "54" (1998), the cringe-worthy discomania version from director Mark Christopher. But relax, this film draws on previously hidden sources to show what went on behind the velvet rope.
Director Matt Tyrnauer zooms in on Studio 54's celebrity owners Steve Rubell (dead from AIDS in 1989) and Ian Schrager, who met at college and lived to showcase the exhilarating highs and deadly lows of the club scene. The disco era was a moment when post-Stonewall kids got down with their oppressors, a society crowd used to deciding who was and was not fit to be seen. So strap on your dancing shoes, feather your hair, and get down with this electrifying documentary about the infamous dance parlor where Elton John, Cher, Grace Jones and other celebs bumped up against common guys and gals lucky enough to get past the velvet rope. (11/3, 5)
"Harold and Maude" (1971) Hal Ashby directed this intergenerational love story between 20-year-old Harold (Bud Cort) and feisty, 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon). The definitive early-70s cult movie, it has a memorable score from Cat Stevens.
"Hal" Ashby was obsessed with film. He'd smoke some pot, then work all night. His film career got off to an accidental start when he got a temp job as a machinist at Republic Studios. Ashby was born into a Mormon family on the cusp of the Depression, and directed 17 features, seven in the 1970s that practically defined the indie sensibility. His 1988 death in Malibu is widely thought to have aborted another decade of studio-commissioned masterpieces.
"Shampoo" (1975) Ashby pulls the ultimate hedonistic rabbit out of the Hollywood hat: Warren Beatty as a woman-chasing hairdresser to the stars. With Julie Christie, Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Goldie Hawn and Carrie Fisher. (all 3, 11/7)
"Grand Illusion" (1937, France) Jean Renoir offers a taut drama of WWI-era French prisoners of war and their ongoing relationship with their German warden. In French with English subtitles.
"Coming Home" (1978) Another Hal Ashby gem stars Jane Fonda as the wife of a Vietnam-era Marine (Bruce Dern) who's overseas while she develops a crush on a wounded vet (Jon Voigt). Signaled the beginning of Hollywood's belated engagement with narrative films critical of the war. (both 11/12)
"Touch of Evil" (1958) Queer fans note sightings of a cute Mexican thug in a leather jacket; Janet Leigh tortured by Mercedes McCambridge's scary dyke; and director Orson Welles getting a third-act send-off from Marlene Dietrich: "You're a mess!" That this film has possibly eclipsed "Citizen Kane" as Welles' greatest achievement is due to a magnificent restoration and the unflagging support of co-star Charlton Heston.
"Stage Fright" In this 1950 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, an American drama student in London (Jane Wyman) turns sleuth when her actor boyfriend is murdered. With Marlene Dietrich, Michael Wilding, Patricia Hitchcock, Richard Todd, Kay Walsh and Sybil Thorndike. Dietrich sings "The Laziest Gal in Town." (both 11/14)
"Blue Velvet" (1986) Director David Lynch's extraordinary exploration into the Id of young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) kicks off when Jeffrey discovers a severed ear in the fields outside his deceptively sleepy hometown. Jeffrey has a dangerous liaison with the torch singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini). Even odder is Jeffrey's hookup with blonde sweetheart Sandy Williams (Laura Dern). Perceptively, Sandy opines, "I can't figure out if you're a detective or a pervert. " But the most perverse chapters are reserved for Jeffrey's near-death encounters with dangerous drug criminal Frank Booth, a role that Dennis Hopper inhabits like none other in screen history.
"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992) The big-screen version of the David Lynch TV serial that attracted a cult following. (both 11/15)
"Sing-Along Sound of Music" (1965) I used to consider myself a "Hills are alive" virgin, but I succumbed. You're on your own as to whether to attend this sing-along extravaganza. (11/21, 23-25)
"Milk" (2008) "This is Harvey Milk speaking on Friday, November 18. This is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination." It's a trick from Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard": a dead man tells the story behind his untimely demise. This Greek tragedy made in San Francisco, nimbly staged by Gus Van Sant from Dustin Lance Black's meticulously researched screenplay, becomes a political thriller with a grasp of the nuts and bolts of government, and their impact on real lives.
"The Times of Harvey Milk" (1984) The greatest LGBTQ political biopic, Robert Epstein's Oscar-winning tribute to assassinated SF Supervisor Harvey Milk never grows old. Featuring onscreen interviews with friends of Harvey and a stirring narration by Harvey Fierstein. (both 11/27)
"North by Northwest" (1958) Cary Grant calls on his entire skill set in Hitchcock's thriller, from love scenes with Eva Marie Saint to acrobatic chase scenes. Plus a lovely villain turn from James Mason.
"Charley Varrick" (1973) A motley gang holds up a hole-in-the-wall bank in Tres Cruces, NM. The gang leader, Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau), figures it to be an easy, score, only to realize they have knocked off an organized crime bank that launders the proceeds from big-time crime. Charley plays a dangerous game with Mafia henchmen Maynard Boyle (John Vernon), who dispatches paid assassin Molly (Joe Don Baker) to recover the loot by any means necessary. Directed by Don Siegel. (both 11/28)
"The Man Who Fell to Earth" Directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring androgynous David Bowie, 29, as an alien who visits our wet planet in hopes of finding water for his dry one. The film provided the Bowie film template: an otherworldly creature who inspires a perilous mix of lust, envy, S/M, and control issues. A good adaptation of Walter Tevis' novel.
"Pink Floyd The Wall" (1982/UK): Alan Parker directs this seminal slice of rock history. (both 11/30)