July 25-31, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Citizen Kane
(1941) Orson Welles' famous debut film remains the great touchstone of American cinema. This seemingly inexhaustible epic swiftly and deftly tells the story of one newspaper magnate (Welles as William Randolph Hearst and a host of contradictory American dreamers) and his rise to wealth and fall to emotional regret. The cinematography, the acting, the dialogue, the music—all are dazzling. (Plays Jul 27 at sundown in Campbell at the Casa de la Cultura Mexica, 247 E. Campbell Ave; free.) (AR)

Movie Times Goldfinger
(1964) If memory serves, years before that Pontiac in Transformers, there was a certain Aston-Martin. After two more or less serious adventures, the James Bond series went cosmic and comic. The title songs turned into arias; the number of extras killed on camera grew to the triple digits. Our hero, the saturnine British agent, began to stake his life against the fate of the world. And from now on, 007 trusted in Balzac's law: Behind every great fortune is a great crime. In this opus, Bond encounters the Swiss industrialist Auric Goldfinger (a chortling, gemultlich Gert Frobe), a gold smuggler who yearns to be the Napoleon of larceny. To pull off his stupendous robbery, he has acquired some pop-art tools: a laser, an atomic bomb and an all-lesbian air force commanded by Miss Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman, the lead with whom the ever-aloof Sean Connery had the nicest rapport). He gets along with the villain nicely, too. This despite the fact that "the man with the Midas touch/ A spider's touch," as Shirley Bassey wails, is the possessor of a fetish so unusual that they don't even know about it San Francisco. Too bad his early victim Shirley Eaton didn't have a "safe word." ("The image of me will last forever," Eaton said, describing her gilded self.) In many ways the best of the series; Bond adventures that followed this map never got very far lost. (Plays Jul 25 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square;; free.)

Movie Times Midnight/Swing Time
(1939/1936) Mitchell Leisen's film features a sophisticated triangle: a penniless chorus girl (Claudette Colbert), a Parisian tax driver (Don Ameche) and a wealthy rogue (John Barrymore) who hires the girl to lure away his own wife's lover. BILLED WITH Swing Time. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were poetry in motion. Unfortunately, the plots of their films were prose. Lucky (Astaire) and his equally penniless partner Pop (Victor Moore) head to New York to raise the dowry for Lucky's fiancee, but the dancer has his heart stolen by Penny (Ginger Rogers), who works at a dance school. As a partnership, it's perfection: Astaire is so graceful that even when he's running for a train, it looks syncopated. On the other hand, Rogers' street-level sarcasm keeps her partner from looking too ducky in his tuxedos and morning coats. (Plays Jul 28-31 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Monster House
(2006) Halloween, about 25 years ago: in a small Middle American town, a haunted house goes off its rocker. In this computer-animated horror story, the phrase "may be too intense for small children" comes to mind—when the rotting planks gape like gnashing, snaggled teeth, when the house going ambulatory on a pair of twisted oaks. (Plays Jul 25 at 8:45pm in Redwood City at Courthouse Square; bring lawnchairs or blankets; free.)

Movie TimesNiles Essanay Film Museum
Weekly programs of silent films. Tonight: Anna May Wong in Toll of the Sea (1922), an early Technicolor silent based loosely on Madame Butterfly. Also: The Floorwalker with Charlie Chaplin, in which the Tramp (billed as "An Impecunious Customer") is mistaken for a look-alike embezzler at a department store. And: Laurel and Hardy in Their Purple Moment, in which the ill-fated pair have to deal with a very large nightclub bill with no money. Jon Mirsalis at the piano. (Plays Jul 28 at 7:30pm in Fremont at the Edison Theater, 37417 Niles Blvd;

Movie Times Suspicion/A Damsel in Distress
(1941/1937) A shy, well-off girl (Joan Fontaine) marries a man with a reputation (Cary Grant). Gradually, he begins to believe that he is a murderer. It was emasculated by cold-footed RKO executives, who made the exactly wrong decision about its ending. Yet it is still very suspenseful. Grant's "Got milk?" moment on the staircase carries plenty of menace even after all these years. BILLED WITH A Damsel in Distress. Fred Astaire plays a hoofer newly arrived in London trying to make time with an English lady (Fontaine, who tries to keep up with Astaire on the dance floor). Some more typically exhilarating moments are supplied by Burns and Allen, who join Astaire in a fun-house number. (Plays Jul 25-27 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Whirl of Life/The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
(1915/1939) Irene and Vernon Castle, the popular society dance, star in a semiautobiographical film based on their own career. Silent. BILLED WITH The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, based on Irene Castle's memoir Castles in the Air. This last Rogers and Astaire musical is set in the years before the Great War, where the dance team has triumphs and tragedy. Edna May Oliver plays their agent; the songs are all revivals of turn-of-the-century popular hits. (Plays Aug 1 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.)

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