Big Screen Berkeley: ‘The Wait,’ ‘Another Dawn’ and ‘Smashing the O-Line’

L'Atessa (The Wait) opens in Berkeley on
L’Atessa (The Wait) opens in Berkeley on Friday May 6

It’s not always easy to find interesting films to review or write about, but this week is different. Call it a picture show potpourri, or perhaps a cinematic smôrgasbôrd: this weekend, Berkeley filmgoers have plenty to choose from.

On the new release front, consider L’Attesa (The Wait), opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, May 6). Directed by Piero Messina, the film is a lovely-to-look-at chamber piece about two women and the man who’s brought them together.

Jeanne, Giuseppe’s French girlfriend, has been invited by her beau to meet the family at their Sicilian villa. Arriving from the airport, however, she discovers her visit has come at a rather awkward time – coincident with the mourning period for Giuseppe’s recently deceased uncle, who (we presume) has died on extremely short notice.

Giuseppe’s mother Anna (Juliette Binoche) tries to be a gracious host under trying circumstances, and as the days pass the two women begin to develop an understanding, if not a close relationship. But as the wait continues – and as Giuseppe stubbornly refuses to make an appearance – Jeanne begins to wonder if there’s more to the story than she’s been told.

L’Attesa does, indeed, make both its characters and its audience wait – and when the mystery is finally resolved, doesn’t quite live up to the expectations developed during its first hour. Nonetheless, the film looks great thanks to Francesco di Giacomo’s colorful cinematography, and Messina makes good use of music (most notably, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Waiting for the Miracle’).

For those more inclined to the repertorial, some very exciting new series begin at BAMPFA this weekend. 1943’s Another Dawn (Distinto Amanecer) kicks off ‘Mexican Film Noir’ at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, and, despite the fact that I watched a screener sans English subtitles (and that I don’t understand much Spanish!) struck me as being a real gem.

Matinée idol Pedro Armendariz stars as Octavio, a union organizer who meets cute in a movie theatre with old flame Julieta (Andrea Palma) while fleeing a weaselly fellow in dark glasses. It seems Octavio has the goods on a strike-breaking state governor, who wants the evidence back before it can be shared with the feds in Mexico City (who, we must assume, are both pro-labor and incorruptible).

Directed by Julio Bracho and shot by the legendary Gabriel Figueroa (Los Olvidados, La Perla), Another Dawn is a prime slice of Golden Age Mexican cinema. If it had been made in Hollywood, I suspect film fans would speak of it in tones of hushed reverence. Check it out.

Finally, after Another Dawn’s final reel unspools you may as well stick around for Smashing the O-Line (Mikkō zero rain, 1961), the first film in the series ‘The Films of Seijun Suzuki’. Screening at 8:40 p.m., it’s an early example of the director’s gritty approach to the crime drama, and while not peak Suzuki provides plenty of clues to the direction he’d take in his later, better known films. Neither film is available on English-language DVD or Blu-ray, so this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

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