Tag Archives: Pacific Film Archive

Big Screen Berkeley: ‘They Live by Night’

They Live by Night
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Cinema is knee deep in films about star-crossed lovers on the run from the law. From Bonnie and Clyde to Badlands to Natural Born Killers and beyond, ‘bad kids in love’ has been a reliable Hollywood trope for decades — and it all began with They Live by Night (1948), screening at Pacific Film Archive at 8:45 p.m. on Friday, July 17 as part of the series ‘The Cinema According to Victor Erice’.

Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell star as Bowie and Keechie, two youngsters brought together by fate after convicted killer Bowie breaks out of prison with Chickamaw (Howard DaSilva) and T-Dub (the magnificently monickered Jay C. Flippen). Keechie is the daughter of Mobley (Will Wright), T-Dub’s alcoholic brother, who’s arranged for the purchase of a getaway car for the three escaped felons. … Continue reading »

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The Asian-American Film Festival comes to town

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If it’s March (and unless someone is playing cruel games with my calendar, it is), it’s time once again for the Asian American Film Festival. As in previous years, 2015’s festival includes a number of screenings at Pacific Film Archive.

This year’s festivities get underway Friday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m. with a film I was unable to watch in advance, Iran’s Tales. It’s double-billed with Vietnam’s Doat Hon (Hollow), a rather late contribution to the turn of the 21st-century Asian horror boom that relies overly on the now passé ‘long-haired ghost’ trope. If you’re a fan of the genre, you could do worse; otherwise this is a very, very average example of the style.

Far more interesting is director Dean Yamada’s Senrigan (Cicada), an endearing character study from Japan screening at the Archive on Saturday, March 14 at 8:15 p.m. What initially threatens to be one of those awful ‘multiple perspective’ storylines develops into a tight little tale about an infertile schoolteacher (Yugo Saso, good but perhaps a wee bit too old for the role), his unsuspecting fiancé (Hitomi Takimoto), and an unfortunate 4th-grade pupil (Houten Saito). It’s a lovely little film anchored by fine performances all around and writer Yu Shibuya’s slightly cheeky screenplay, which manages to blend elements sweet and sour to near perfection. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Mollie Katzen in her garden in Berkeley. Photo: Mollie Katzen
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Want to know what a world-famous chef peruses in the comfort of her own home? If so, rush down to the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library’s store on Channing for its annual cookbook sale. Mollie Katzen, who shot to fame with her “Moosewood Cookbook,” and who has since written almost a dozen others, including 2013’s “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation,” donated about 400 books for the sale. They are cookbooks for which Katzen has written a foreward, has reviewed, and maybe, just maybe cooked from. There are even some of her own cookbooks. And, as usual, the prices are “ridiculously low.” The Friends of the Library store is at 2433 Channing Way and is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There is also a Friends store in the Central Branch but it does not have Katzen’s books) … Continue reading »

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Film of famous Moe’s Books party found at Berkeley dump

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The film was stuffed in an old cardboard box at the Berkeley dump, resting next to other rolls of footage documenting long-forgotten events.

But when the scavenger pulled out the reel, he saw “New Mo Cut” written on a piece of tape on the film. Could that be a reference to Moe’s Books, the scavenger (who asked not to be named) wondered? He took the film home to find out more.

When he unraveled the black-and-white, 16mm film he saw images of a man in a black top hat and tails getting out of a vintage Rolls Royce affixed with a sign that reads “Moe’s Books: To the Trade Since 1965.” The scavenger recognized the man as Moe Moskowitz who founded Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. The man had never met Moe, who died in 1997 at the age of 76. But he was a regular at the bookstore and had seen a photo above the front counter depicting Moe dressed in a top hat, tails, and white gloves — an image that looked similar to what was on the film. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Double Indemnity

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When it comes to leading ladies, I’m apparently a bit of a cad. I have no trouble telling my Alan Ladds from my Errol Flynns, but put headshots of (for example) Merle Oberon and Joan Fontaine in front of me, and, despite decades of intense movie watching, chances are no better than 50:50 that my ingénue identification skills won’t let me down.

There are, happily, exceptions: I have no trouble recognizing women who specialized in strong or assertive roles. Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, or Joan Crawford are among my favorite brassy dames – and then there’s Barbara Stanwyck, one of the greatest actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Stanwyck garnered four Academy Award nominations during her career, but never won the big prize. Perhaps her best shot came via the greatest film noir of them all, Double Indemnity (screening at Pacific Film Archive at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17 as part of the series “Ready for His Close-Up: The Films of Billy Wilder”), but it was not to be: Ingrid Bergman took home the gong that year for her performance in Gaslight.  … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five Things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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GOODBYE TO THE OLD BERKELEY ART MUSEUM For 44 years, the Berkeley Art Museum at 2626 Bancroft Ave. has been a galvanizing force for culture in Berkeley and beyond. Many of the world’s greatest artists have performed or displayed their work there. But the Brutalist building designed by Mario Ciampi, and opened in 1970, is not seismically safe. It will close at the end of 2014 as BAM prepares for its move in early 2016 into a new 82,000-square foot home on Center Street designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. To celebrate the transition, BAM/PFA is throwing itself a goodbye party on Sunday called Let’s Go! A Farewell Revel. Starting at 11 a.m. and lasting until 5 p.m., the free celebration includes a create-your-own-museum art workshop, a dance battle by TURFinc, “vibrant vocals” from the women’s group, Kitka, a performance by pianist/composer Sarah Cahill of Gyorgy Ligeti’s 1962 composition “Poème symphonique” for 100 metronomes, and more. (Be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign in progress to record the acoustics of the building.) The day will end with a procession from the Bancroft building through the campus to the new structure at 2155 Center St. Luckily, the forecast calls for a mix of sun and clouds. During the year it is closed, BAM/PFA will put on mobile exhibits around town. The PFA will continue to show films at its current site on Bancroft, across the street from the art museum. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: The Cranes Are Flying

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Tbilisi is the capital city of the republic of Georgia – one of the pawns in what is now being touted by some (including Mikhail Gorbachev) as a ‘new cold war’. Previously known as Tiflis, Tbilisi was the 1903 birthplace of Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov and the youthful stomping grounds of one Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili, also known as Joseph Stalin.

Stalin would become one of history’s greatest monsters, while Kalatozov’s greatest film would only be made possible by the dictator’s death in 1953. Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying) plays at Pacific Film Archive at 5:30pm on Friday, Nov. 28 as part of the series ‘Discovering Georgian Cinema’, and remains a classic of the post-Stalin era – the only Soviet film, in fact, to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. … Continue reading »

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Audrey Martin: A dream fulfilled, plus more Berkeley gigs

Audrey Gilbert. Photo:  Irene Young
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On her 40th birthday Audrey Martin decided to sing. As a marriage and family therapist, she had spent years helping other people work through traumas, resolve deep-seated conflicts, and discover their true selves. Along the way she had set aside her adolescent ambition for a life in music, a sublimated dream that resurfaced with her midlife milestone. Martin’s long and winding creative journey resulted in the captivating debut album Living Room (full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes). She celebrates the CD’s release Sunday afternoon at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory, which played an essential role in her musical education.

“This is the culmination of 17 years of planning and effort at learning the art of jazz and bringing together music that I‘ve wanted to perform and record,” says Martin, a Berkeley resident since 1998. “It also represents an integration of my musical self and my life as a psychotherapist.” … Continue reading »

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Stanley Kubrick’s early films offer rich rewards

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I’ve always been a little ambivalent about Stanley Kubrick. I never grokked the appeal of his science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), found much of A Clockwork Orange (1971) offensive (which was probably the point, but still), and — as much as the word ‘bravura’ could have been invented to describe the filmmaking displayed within it – The Shining (1980) has always left me cold.

On the other hand, there’s the enduring black comic brilliance of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb (1964), the first-half perfection of Full Metal Jacket (1987), and the quiet, literate triumph that is Barry Lyndon (1975). Based on those three films alone, I consider myself a pretty big Kubrick fan.

The director’s early films, however, also offer rich rewards. Pacific Film Archive’s forthcoming series, ‘Eyes Wide: The Films of Stanley Kubrick’, provides film fans an opportunity to view the director’s complete works (thirteen features over a period of five decades) in (almost) chronological order. … Continue reading »

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Gabrielle Selz’s ‘Unstill Life’ provides peek into the modern art world with its glamour, ambition, heartbreak

Gabrielle Selz and Peter Selz. Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Selz
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When Gabrielle Selz was growing up in New York in the 1960s, her house was filled with artists who have become icons of the time: Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and Alberto Giacometti.

Selz’s father was Peter Selz – then a curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, a man whom the New York Times dubbed “Mr. Modern Art.” Peter Selz moved to Berkeley in 1965 to become the founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum, a position that allowed him to showcase West Coast artists. He highlighted Funk, film, and ceramicists like Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson who were not even considered true artists at the time. Peter Selz later became project director for Christo’s Running Fence, the 24.5-mile long billowing fabric fence that ran over the Marin County hills in 1976. … Continue reading »

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Review: Lee Marvin stars in ‘Shack Out on 101’

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Summer is almost over (well, in most of the country; here in California it’s just getting started), but there’s one more seasonal treat in store before the leaves start turning vaguely less green: Pacific Film Archive’s annual free outdoor screening in the BAM/PFA Sculpture Garden. Unreeling at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 27, this year’s feature is a ripe slice of ‘50s paranoia with Red Scare overtones and a terrific performance from Lee Marvin.

Directed in 1955 by Edward Dein (Curse of the Undead, The Leech Woman), the independently produced Shack Out on 101 is a zippy 80-minute programmer starring Marvin as Slob, short order cook at a seedy California burger bar owned and operated by gruff World War II vet George (Keenan Wynn). George doesn’t like Slob, but he’s the only cook he could find to work at his dive, located in a remote, nameless coastal section of Southern California. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Office Space

Gary Cole in Office Space
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It’s summer time, so I’m sure you’ll forgive me for writing about something other than my usual assortment of depressing foreign dramas, grim documentaries, and art-house snoozers. How does a comedy sound this week – and an American one at that?

Despite being one of the country’s most respected repositories of film history, Pacific Film Archive isn’t averse to having a little fun from time to time. How else to explain their decision to host ‘Rude Awakening: American Comedy, 1990-2010’, a series incorporating such decidedly lowbrow fare as Borat and Knocked Up? … Continue reading »

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‘The Saragossa Manuscript’: Jerry Garcia’s favorite film?

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Word on the street for many years has been that Wojciech Has’s 1965 feature Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie (The Saragossa Manuscript) was musician Jerry Garcia’s favorite film. Rumor also has it that Garcia loved the film so much that he purchased a print and donated it to Pacific Film Archive, stipulating only that he could screen it there any time he liked.

Is any of this true? I’m far from sure, but I’ve always held Garcia’s perhaps apocryphal passion for the film against it, as there are few things in life I enjoy less than listening to The Grateful Dead. However, with the film screening at the Archive at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 14 as part of the series ‘Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema’, it’s time for a reassessment. Presumably Jerry will not be in attendance. … Continue reading »

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