Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Mr. Klein,’ ‘The Brink,’ ’63 Up’ and ‘Midnight Family’

‘Mr. Klein’. Photo courtesy Pacific Film Archive.

Joseph Losey went into European exile shortly after being blacklisted in 1951, so it’s probably not terribly surprising that much of his post-blacklist work focused on the persecution of innocents (The Damned, 1961) or skewed power relationships (The Servant, 1963).

One of Losey’s best films, Mr. Klein (screening in a newly restored print at Pacific Film Archive at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, and again at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18) effectively blends both themes into a single powerful narrative. Beautifully shot by Gerry Fisher in wintry metallic blues, it remains an under-appreciated gem in Losey’s long and impressive filmography.

Robert Klein (Alain Delon, wearing a more severe haircut than usual) is a wealthy Catholic art dealer mistaken for a Jewish man of the same name during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Self-centered and arrogant, Klein is a decidedly unsympathetic character, but seeing him slowly being stripped of his privilege due to bureaucratic malfeasance is a decidedly troubling viewing experience.

As we watch Klein desperately trying to prove his gentile character to the authorities – all while declaiming “this does not concern me!” – it’s clear that Losey is suggesting that, quite to the contrary, ‘this’ concerns all of us. Co-starring Jeanne Moreau and everyone’s favorite Anglo-Frenchman, future Bond villain Michael Lonsdale, Mr. Klein is as powerful and important today as it was when first released in 1976.


‘The Brink’. Photo courtesy Pacific Film Archive

Making its world premiere at PFA at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15, The Brink is a heady 40-minute celebration of the beat generation shot during its early sixties heyday. Directed by poet ruth weiss – who will be attending this screening – The Brink was filmed in 1961, came into the Archive’s possession in 2016, and has now been fully restored.

Accompanied by weiss’s poetry, the film records the unscripted silent adventures of a pair of lovers played by the filmmaker’s wonderfully named friends Lori Lawyer and Sutter Marin. There’s period footage of Chinatown’s Great Star Theater and Sutro Heights’ headless ‘Satyr’s Dream’ sculpture, as well as a brief shot of weiss herself aboard a Muni bus. It’s an irresistible cinematic time capsule.

I first encountered Michael Apted’s Up series via 1981’s 28 Up, and am somewhat astonished that he’s still at it at the age of 79. The latest chapter, 63 Up, opens at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Dec. 13.

This is the first series entry forced to contend with its participants’ mortality – one of them has passed since the previous chapter, and another is sick with cancer – and an air of mournful nostalgia hangs over the proceedings. If you’re a fan of the series, however, you won’t want to miss it. Will an octogenarian Apted be able to deliver 70 up come 2026?

‘Midnight Family’. Photo courtesy Brambilla PR.

Finally, Midnight Family (opening at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater on Friday) shines a light on the private ambulances that provide a vital medical lifeline for residents of sprawling Mexico City. The metropolis of nine million only has a few dozen government ambulances (I wonder how many Alameda County has?), so the void is filled by entrepreneurs like the Ochoa family, who seem to do their best for patients before awkwardly (though politely) shaking them down after transporting them to hospital.