The Castro Theatre does April
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April showers find the Castro Theatre movie palace fulfilling several roles: presenting classic repertory in style, and hosting screenings of the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival.
"Vertigo" (1958) Of the 53 films in the Alfred Hitchcock resume, this unsettling San Francisco-set drama had the hardest time with contemporary critics and the filmgoing public. Featuring the final and perhaps boldest of James Stewart's four turns for Hitch, the film (based on a French novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Nancejac) pivots on the weakness of Scotty, a retired police detective (Stewart) whose attempts to solve a crime and save a young woman (amazing Kim Novak) backfire. A great home exercise before renewing your relationship with "Vertigo" is to climb onto a kitchen stool set close but not too close to an open window. Now you're Scotty: let the fun begin. With Barbara Bel Geddes, and a haunting Bernard Hermann score. (4/3-6)
"Pal Joey" (1957) Novak returns as a naive aspiring showgirl who falls under the spell of nightclub singer Frank Sinatra. Based on a collection of John O'Hara stories and a 1940 Broadway show. The conflict arises when Rita Hayworth's wealthy patron agrees to furnish the dough for the singer's own club. Featuring timeless Sinatra takes on Rodgers & Hart classics "The Lady is a Tramp," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," directed by George Sidney. (4/4)
"Dark Passage" (1947) Delmer Daves helms this melodrama featuring the era's top on- and off-screen couple. Humphrey Bogart teams with real-life partner Lauren Bacall in an escaped inmate's recovery from identity-altering plastic surgery. With Bruce Bennett & Agnes Moorehead. (4/5)
"San Francisco" (1936) Castro veterans revel in the nightly organ rendition of the title tune from S. Van Dyke II's lively telling of the great 1906 city-leveling quake. The special effects from this pre-digital masterpiece are still breathtaking, and the cast is without peer, headed by Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Jeanette MacDonald. (4/6)
Peaches Christ's "First Wives Fight Club" live stage show, no film. (4/7)
SFFilm Festival opening night: "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City" (2019) The former SF Chronicle columnist updates his newspaper-launched serial that has contributed mightily to this city's contemporary reputation. (4/10; find our film fest coverage beginning in next week's issue.)
"Gallipoli" (1981) Aussie director Peter Weir's brilliant betrayal-of-innocence drama finds youthful buddies Mark Lee and Mel Gibson having the time of their young lives before cruel fate delivers them into the meat-grinder of WWI's grimmest tragedy. The final freeze-frame shot of a young soldier at the moment of his death is one of the most poignant moments in modern cinema. It tops all other anti-war statements. Plays with "They Shall Not Grow Old." (4/22)
"Police Story" (1985) Hong Kong-based Jackie Chan is a one-man movie machine with this first of five episodes about a crime-fighting cop. With Bridget Lin, Maggie Cheung & Kenneth Tong. Plays with "Police Story 2" (1988), more popcorn-cool action from Hong Kong. (4/23)
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966) Edward Albee's 1962 stage drama gets a perfect widescreen B&W treatment from first-time director Mike Nichols. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor rock as an aging academic couple with secrets galore. Those secrets come tumbling out in a 131-minute dramatic exorcism that laid the groundwork for the last half-century of American adult cinema. With a great supporting turn from a young George Segal.
"Boom!" (1968) Burton & Taylor team up again for an imaginative treatment of Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." One-time blacklisted director Joseph Losey finds odd meanings in this hybrid with a stellar supporting cast: Noel Coward, Michael Dunn and Joanna Shimkus. Shot on location in Sardinia and Rome. (both 4/24)
"Mulholland Drive" (2001) If David Lynch is your taboo-smashing cup of tea, this latter-day noir is must viewing. A young actress arrives in Hollywood and uncovers the plight of a woman with memory lapses. With Naomi Watts, Ann Miller, Robert Foster, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lee Grant, Chad Everett and others. Plays with "L'important c'est d'Aimer." (4/25)
"Wings of Desire" (1988) Wim Wenders' delightful tale of angels hovering over the then-divided city of Berlin and wondering what it's like to be human. With Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk.
"The American Friend" (1977) Wenders adapts Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley's Game" into a meditation on American gangster movies. Dennis Hopper is the title character in a story that pivots on an assassination attempt on a mobster. With supporting roles for American directors Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller. (both