This Week's Revivals
By Richard von Busack
The Big Sleep /Double Indemnity
(1946/1944) Easygoing L.A. private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is hired by a crippled general to keep tabs on his nymphomaniac daughter, who is wrapped up in a case of blackmail and murder—all a matter of less importance to Marlowe then matching wits with the ladies over cocktails. No one has ever cared as much about the plot as they have about Howard Hawks' staggeringly impudent direction—or as much as they cared for Lauren Bacall, who plays the smoky-voiced, tough good girl who assists Marlowe. For once in the movies, the playing field is leveled between women and men—as seen in the friendly rainy-day tryst between Marlowe and a bookstore clerk (Dorothy Malone), a scene supposedly improvised on the spot. It is just about the most confident movie ever made and one of the most watchable (and rewatchable). Also stars tragic little Elisha Cook Jr. and the unweaned Martha Vickers. BILLED WITH Double Indemnity. The deathless film version of James Cain's steel-trap mystery novel in which a hustling insurance salesman outsmarts himself, a heartless blonde loses an unwanted husband and a worn, fatherly little troll almost figures the scam out. It is an unusually graceful tale of murder directed by Billy Wilder, with Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale Phyllis. Stanwyck—the most versatile of Hollywood studio leading ladies—excels in everything the role requires, from the harsh chemical allure to the salty dialogue and the serious-as-cancer underpinnings. Fred MacMurray is the perfect sucker who narrates the story from the edge of the grave; Edward G. Robinson plays the smart, sad boss, who gives him a light for his last cigarette. (Plays Feb 2-4 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)
Noir City 5
The festival of film noir rarities continues through Feb 4 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. See story.
The Spinning Wheel Film Festival
A daylong fest of films related to the Sikh experience, including documentaries, made-for-on-line shorts and feature films. Highlights: Priceless Being a Sikh, New Mexico's Sat Bir Singh's parody of the Mastercard commercials. Kavi Raz directs and stars in The Gold Bracelet (2006), which played at last year's Cinequest. It's the story of Arjun Singh and his family, and their life in California, where they face everything from assimilation to discrimination. The film is inspired by the real-life tragedy of a Sikh who was shot by a hate-addled American who thought he was avenging the World Trade Center. (Raz and writer Tami Yaegar will be attending.) Saka Sirhind demonstrates the historical irony behind the killing of Sikhs by our deluded would-be patriots who got blood in their eye when they saw a turban. This is an animated version of the martyrdom of the two children of Guru Gobind Singh, who refused to convert to Islam. Professor Narindra Singh directed this as well as the equally instructive short Sikhs Protect America, about an FBI agent of that faith. Dominic Ozanne's Who Do You Think You Are, Gurinder Chadha, is a profile of the director of Bend it Like Bendham and the locally shot The Mistress of Spices. In Amu, the American-raised Kazu (Konkona Sensharma) arrives in Dehli, feeling caught between two worlds. In the flashback sequences, writer-director Shonali Bose recalls the anti-Sikh violence following the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, violence the director saw firsthand working at the relief camps. On hand is the film's co-producer Dr. Bedabrata Pain. (Plays Feb 3 in Palo Alto at Stanford's Cubberly Auditorium; www.bayareawheel.com.)
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