Tag Archives: Pacific Film Archive
Few things personify the musky odor of mid-20th century American masculinity quite as potently as the writings of Mickey Spillane. Born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn in 1918, the jut-jawed, fedora-wearing beer enthusiast penned a series of wildly popular Ayn Rand-approved pulp novels featuring a private eye named, with appropriate lack of subtlety (or perhaps candor), Mike Hammer.
Selling several hundred million books is a sure way to get Hollywood’s attention, and, since his print birth in 1947, Hammer has appeared on the big screen half a dozen times — most memorably in 1955’s Kiss Me Deadly, an ink-black nuclear noir directed by Robert Aldrich. As for Spillane, he was celebrity enough to play himself in Ring of Fear (1954), a goofy but enjoyable circus-set thriller, and actor enough to play his own creation in 1963’s The Girl Hunters, one of a double bill of Hammer adaptations screening this Thursday, June 29th at Pacific Film Archive as part of the pulp writers series ‘One-Two Punch ’. … Continue reading »
The late enfant terrible of British film-making, Ken Russell, is perhaps best remembered for bringing nude male wrestling to the movie-going masses (Women in Love) and for producing a film so profane it was virtually impossible to see unexpurgated for 40 years (The Devils). Never a man for half measures, Russell’s last feature film was the inelegantly titled Whore (1991), after which he rode off into the sunset via a legendary (and abbreviated) appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.
His November, 2011 passing is acknowledged by Pacific Film Archive this Thursday, June 14th at 7:30 pm with a rare screening of one of Russell’s late period indulgences, 1986’s tribute to drug-fueled creativity Gothic. The film will be preceded by a performance by Brale, a musical group described as “the world’s only Ken Russell tribute band”.
Filmed at Hertfordshire’s magnificent Gaddesden Place, Gothic relates the mythic meeting of minds that helped spawn Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel ‘Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus’. … Continue reading »
Daisies, of course, are a colorful and common species of wild flower that bloom in the spring and summer. In Vera Chytilova’s 1966 feature Daisies (Sedmikrasky, screening at Pacific Film Archive at 8:30 pm on Saturday, June 9 as part of a brief, three-film Czech New Wave series), they’re a pair of colorful but decidedly uncommon young women rebelling against the strictures of Communist orthodoxy.
Jitka Cerhova and Ivana Karbanova play Jarmila and Jitka, two teenage dolly birds who delight in defying convention at every opportunity.* Spoiled brats with no self-control, the girls steal money, magazines, and food, play with scissors, set fires, and delight in ignoring ‘no entry’ signs.
Their favorite game, however, involves dating older men, taking advantage of their generosity at expensive restaurants, and ditching them at the nearest train station before delivering the expected sexual quid pro quo’s. At heart, Jarmila and Jitka are American teenagers who consume, consume, consume — which is probably why a Czech parliamentarian strongly objected to the film’s release. … Continue reading »
The Greek people have been through a lot over the past few years: the whipping boys of European austerity, they’ve suffered brutal wage cuts, deep job losses, and endless benefit takeaways since the country’s slow motion debt crisis began in 2009. The social, economic, and emotional fallout of their national crisis is the unspoken subtext of writer-director Filippo Tsito’s brutally frank drachma — er, drama — Unfair World, screening at Pacific Film Archive as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival at 8:15 pm on Sunday, April 29th.
Sotiris (Antonis Kafetzopoulos) is an Athens policeman at the end of his tether. Though honest to a fault, he also feels deep empathy for the petty thieves and insurance scammers he’s tasked to interrogate — after all, times are hard, and people must do what they can to survive. When off duty he drinks to forget, tippling enough ouzo to send him toppling from his favorite park bench on a nightly basis. … Continue reading »
If it’s spring in the Bay Area, it’s time once again for the San Francisco International Film Festival. While the Festival proper commences with appropriate pomp and circumstance this coming Thursday at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, its East Bay offerings begin the following day, Friday, April 20th, with a pair of down-to-Earth Northern European character studies screening at Pacific Film Archive.
Up first, at 6:30 pm, is German writer-director Ulrich Köhler’s Sleeping Sickness (Schlafkrankheit), winner of the Silver Bear at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Set in the West African republic of Cameroon, it’s an elliptical examination of the uneasy relationship between the First and Third Worlds, a film that doesn’t tip its hand until the very last frame — and arguably not even then. … Continue reading »
Fill your brain with enough ephemera, and eventually you’ll lose track of some of it. Consider the case of Where the Sidewalk Ends, an Otto Preminger noir cum police procedural screening at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 22nd as part of Pacific Film Archive’s ongoing series, “Dark Past: Film Noir by German Emigrés.”
Though I’d seen Where the Sidewalk Ends in the past, my addled brain had long since conflated it with Fritz Lang’s 1956 crime drama While the City Sleeps — perhaps in part because both films are headlined by Dana Andrews. Of course, Lang was an Austrian, technically disqualifying his work from this series. Then again, Preminger was born in the Ukraine: perhaps PFA should have called this series “Film Noir by Citizens of the Former Habsburg Empire.” Maybe next time. … Continue reading »
The 30th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival is already under way, with screenings taking place in San Francisco, San Jose, and — as in years past — at our very own Pacific Film Archive. As usual, PFA will be screening some of the Festival’s most interesting and prestigious titles, and the week ahead offers a solid selection of documentaries and dramatic features, with fans of non-fiction cinema particularly well served.
Produced with the assistance of HBO, Iranian-born filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian’s Love Crimes of Kabul kicks things off at 9:00 pm on Wednesday, March 14th. The director’s previous film, Be Like Others, was an eye-opening and genuinely shocking look at the lives of gay Iranian men forced to undergo sex change operations in order to circumvent their homeland’s onerous morality laws. … Continue reading »
It’s hard to imagine Sam Fuller and Douglas Sirk sharing much common artistic ground: the former was a one-time journalist whose films were notable for their gritty and sometimes shocking realism; the latter, a German romantic whose florid melodramas seem to exist in an alternate Technicolor reality.
Believe it or not, however, the two did once work together — and the fruit of that collaboration, the black and white thriller Shockproof, will be screening at 8:40 pm on Thursday, March 1st at Pacific Film Archive as part of the series, “Dark Past: Noir Films by German Emigrés“. … Continue reading »
When Peter Selz arrived in Berkeley in 1965, the university only had a small art gallery to display its modest collection of art. Selz had been recruited from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to oversee the construction of a new, contemporary museum, the Berkeley Art Museum on Bancroft Way.
He did that and more. With Selz at the helm, the Berkeley Art Museum redefined many aspects of modern art and brought overdue attention to California artists.
Selz was already “something of a star,” when he arrived in Berkeley, according to Paul J. Karlstrom, whose new book, Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life, has just been released by UC Press. He had been one of the first curators to trumpet the work of Mark Rothko. His star grew even brighter in Berkeley after he put on groundbreaking shows such as “Directions in Kinetic Sculpture,” an exhibition of the Surrealist René Magritte, and Funk!, which showcased ceramicist Peter Voulkos, Bruce Conner, and other California artists. Selz, who had fled Germany during the Nazi regime, also created the Pacific Film Archive. … Continue reading »
The utterance of the words ‘virgin’, ‘mistress’, and ‘seduce’ were enough to get Otto Preminger’s film The Moon is Blue banned in Boston in 1953. Three years later, however, things went from bad to worse for the Legion of Decency upon the release of director Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll, which — while avoiding its predecessor’s intemperate language — went far beyond The Moon is Blue by actually depicting the seduction of a virgin.
That was more than enough for Cardinal Spellman to condemn Baby Doll as “sinful”, and the film was ultimately banned both inside and outside the United States, including (oddly) in ostensibly liberal Sweden.
Screening at Pacific Film Archive at 9:00 pm on Saturday, December 3rd as part of the Archive’s current series, “Southern (Dis)comfort: The American South in Cinema”, Baby Doll may no longer have the power to shock, but is still likely to provide some surprises for first-time viewers. We generally don’t expect frank discussions about sex and race in films of this vintage; though Baby Doll’s story is somewhat undercut by its Tennessee Williams’-inspired histrionics, it delivers on both counts. … Continue reading »
What’s more patriotic than hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet? Why, 1942’s left-wing documentary Native Land, of course. Produced by independent outfit Frontier Films and narrated by Paul Robeson, this remarkable piece of agit-prop comes to Pacific Film Archive at 7:00pm on Sunday, October 2nd as part of UCLA’s Festival of Preservation.
Directed by Leo Hurwitz and Paul Strand (who had cut their cinematic teeth together on Pare Lorentz’s agrarian documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains in … Continue reading »
For many years, director Floyd Mutrux’s 1971 feature Dusty and Sweets McGee was as good as lost. Buried beneath a mountain of lawsuits revolving around music clearance issues (and hardly a good commercial proposition to begin with), it spent most of its days resting comfortably in a climate-controlled studio vault. It was a film few expected to see again outside the confines of a Warner Brothers’ screening room.
Then it stirred: an expurgated print of Dusty and Sweets McGee aired … Continue reading »
Few bands in jazz find musical pay dirt as consistently as Phillip Greenlief’s Lost Trio.
Launched about 17 years ago with bassist Dan Seamans and drummer Tom Hassett, the group brings the same gruff, unfussy eloquence to tunes by Hank Williams and Herbie Nichols, Billy Strayhorn and Nino Rota, Irving Berlin and Joni Mitchell, Beck and Bjork.
While focusing more on original material these days, Greenlief launched the stripped-down ensemble as a vehicle to investigate material outside the standard jazz repertoire, whether the source was Tin Pan Alley, Nashville, or Iceland. It’s a loose-limbed combo marked by an off-the-cuff poetic sensibility, full of earthy humor and soaring lyricism.
“The challenge is how can we arrange these tunes in a way that’s interesting,” Greenlief says. “That’s what we’ve really been trying to work on the last couple of years, to get past convention of head, sax solo, bass solo, out. It seems like because of our repertoire we’ve somehow developed a sound that’s unique, if that’s possible in this music.”
Performing Friday night as part of the Berkeley Arts Festival, the Lost Trio celebrates the release of the group’s fifth album, “Mysterious Toboggan,” on Greenlief’s invaluable label Evander Music. A stellar cast of improvisers will be joining the trio throughout the evening, including Santa Cruz-raised, Brooklyn-based vocalist Sasha Dobson, Nice Guy Trio trumpeter Darren Johnston, Berkeley guitar explorer John Schott, invaluable reed expert Cory Wright, and electronics wizard Tim Perkis. … Continue reading »