A very Castro Theatre August

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday July 30, 2019
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A very Castro Theatre August

The Castro Theatre seeks to provide cinematic relief for the deep-summer dog days with an August schedule that combines the newest fare ("The Last Black Man in San Francisco") with the old reliable widescreen treats ("Lawrence of Arabia"). In celebration of humankind's 1969 Moon Walk, the theatre has some far-out screenings ("Bladerunner," "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial" in 35mm).

"Amazing Grace" 29-year-old Aretha Franklin in concert, the release delayed for decades due to technical problems with the sound-and-picture sync.

"Gimme Shelter" David and Albert Maysles provide a harrowing 91-minute documentary of the now-infamous Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway. The concert, brokered by San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli after San Francisco's Golden Gate Park was deemed unavailable by city officials, turned into a disaster after Hell's Angel members, hired to provide security, killed an African American man in the audience. The film shows Mick Jagger and stunned fellow bandmates viewing footage of the assault. Jagger recently turned 76, and the band continues to tour. (both 8/1)

"The Little Mermaid" Sing Along. (8/2-4)

"The Last Black Man in San Francisco" This festival-launched African-American indie provides a fresh take on SF's ongoing struggles over gentrification and its effect on greatly reducing the city's black population. (8/5-6)

"Lawrence of Arabia" The most beloved of British master David Lean's epic stories, the four-hour widescreen classic features then-30-year-old Peter O'Toole as perhaps the most controversial figure in the British Empire's century-long struggle to dominate desert lands far from home. Based on T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," the nearly-four-hour widescreen version features a stellar cast: Omar Sharif, Alex Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle and Jose Ferrer as the clearly gay Turkish Bey.

The film, scripted by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, includes a number of suspiciously queer characters, including two lovely Arab boys ferociously dedicated to serving Lawrence. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Director and Cinematography. Musical score by Maurice Jarre. (8/10-11)

"Paris Is Burning" First released at the height of the AIDS health crisis, director Jennie Livingston's 1990 feature-length documentary embeds us with a subversive, nimble community of gay and trans, white, black and brown kids who, in the upper precincts of mid-80s Manhattan, invented a style of dancing ("vogueing") so layered, intricate and private that people residing even a few blocks away may have been completely unaware of its existence.

The film wowed a mainstream audience with a thrilling "backstage" view of young Latin and African American men staging their own fantastic drag balls. Livingston shrewdly allows her young subjects to describe the stakes involved in this offbeat competition that derives its name from the grandmother of high-fashion magazines. As one of the young dancers, Dorian Corey, puts it, "I always had hopes of being a big star. But as you get older, you aim a little lower. Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think you've made a mark on the world if you just get through it and a few people remember your name. Then you've left a mark. You don't have to bend the whole world. I think it's better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues, and just enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you!"

Filmed at a time when desperate people were reduced to considering Chinese cucumbers a treatment for AIDS, "Paris Is Burning" is a scintillating example of how art can serve life without compromising its long-term objective of preserving and adding meaning to humanity's precarious journey. A half-century into an era of gay liberation, queer self-expression and increased visibility for all manner of sexual minorities, the film can be seen as a fab and pioneering work of art that complements our knowledge of how oppressed people can evolve and thrive, but not without real pain and damage. At least one of the film's subjects was later found murdered, a case that remains unsolved.

At the time of its initial release, Livingston was criticized in some quarters as a white filmmaker "appropriating" a minority art-form. Now in this special re-release, the film is clearly a precious record of the artistic vitality of a truly gifted gaggle of LGBTQ kids. Stars Dorian Corey, Pepper LaBeija, Venus Xtravaganza, Octavia St. Laurent, Willi Ninja, Angie Xtravaganza, Sol Pendavis, Freddie Pendavis, Junior Labeija & Paris Dupree, photographed by Paul Gibson. Rated PG, in color, running time of 78 minutes. (8/19-20)

"Bladerunner" In a time of climate change, director Ridley Scott's sci-fi peek at 2019 LA, based on the short novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," seems like the nightly news. With Harrison Ford and the recently deceased Dutch character actor Rutger Hauer. This one has been released several times with new "director's cuts." (8/22)

"The Thing" John Carpenter's monster aliens from outer space kick off in Antarctica and feature Disney regular Kurt Russell, Wildred Brimley and Richard Dysart.

"Cat People" Paul Schrader directs this stylish 1982 remake of the 1942 thriller. With Malcolm McDowell and Nastassia Kinsky. (both 8/23)

"E.T. The Extra Terrestrial" Steven Spielberg delivers a singular alien-in-suburbia comedy drama. With Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote and C. Thomas Howell.

"Poltergeist" Average family invaded by unfriendly spirits in this Spielberg-written and —produced comedy directed by Tobe Hooper. (both 8/24)

"Goldfinger" Third in Sean Connery-starring James Bond series features one of the series' best villains (Gert Frobe). The movie also spun off one of the year's bestselling single record hits.

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" First non-Connery Bond adventure soars on the strength of special effects.

"Moonraker" TV actor Roger Moore ("The Saint") stars in this cartoonish entry in the fabled series. (all three, 8/25)