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November 8-14, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Dazed and Confused
(1993) During an all-night party in Texas, different high school cliques bump up against each other. A promising football player named Randy "Pink" Floyd (Jason London) has to decide whether or not to sign a pledge not to take drugs, and a crowd of junior high school kids are hunted down and hazed. From the opening shot of a Bicentennial mural touched up by a wicked vandal to the finale of a party at dawn, Dazed and Confused is one of the few authentic films about what it meant to be in high school in 1976. Director Richard Linklater doesn't wallow in nostalgia, swooning over the clothes and the music. Best of all, it doesn't even use past decadence as a lesson of decorum in the present. The movie made stars out of Parker Posey and Ben Affleck (as Pink's fellow football player). (Plays Nov 10 at midnight in Campbell at Camera 7 and Nov 11 at midnight at Camera 12 in San Jose.)

Movie Times The Muppet Movie
(1979) The little terrycloth buggers cross this vast land of ours, meeting a variety of greats and once-greats. Once upon a time, midnight audiences went to see Pasolini's Salo, damn it. Anyway, this is the bargaining chip you need in your next game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"—everyone this side of Troy McClure (who turned up in the imaginary sequel Muppets Go Medieval) wanted to stooge for Kermit and Miss Piggy. So: co-stars include Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savales, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and escaped muppet Paul Williams. Orson Welles' character's name is an now- impenetrable reference to cheap film executive Sir Lew Grade. (Plays Nov 10-11 at midnight, and Nov 12-13 at noon in Palo Alto at the Aquarius Theater.)

Movie Times My Darling Clementine/The Mark of Zorro
(1946/1940) It fits one definition of a classic: it's a beautiful and strange film, very strange. John Ford's first postwar Western has a wandering narrative, in which traditional Western-movie antics bookend a story of some goings-on at a frontier town. In 1882, the Earp Brothers are herding cattle to California through Tombstone, Ariz. Shortly after Ward Bond's Morgan Earp slips the very bad word "chingadera" past the censors of the time, a genuine chingadera turns up: Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan), a robber in a rat-eaten hat, with a group of bearlike sons. The Earps' cattle go missing, and Wyatt (Henry Fonda) takes up a job as marshal of Tombstone. He encounters that tubercular gunslinger Doc Holiday (Victor Mature, superb). Lady trouble complicates a beautiful friendship; Linda Darnell plays a Mexican or Apache or something named Chihuahua. And Doc's gal from back East, Clementine (Cathy Downs), also turns up, to face the full force of this cowboy Camille's self-loathing and alcoholism. The Bible, the gun, Shakespeare and whiskey are bruited about as the best method for bringing form to the wilderness. Rich as this is, it's easy to see what followed: 20th Century-Fox's Darryl Zanuck reportedly loved it when he saw it, then stayed up all night worrying about how to cut it into shape. Ford cared more about the details than the big picture, and the finale almost comes as an afterthought, an OK Corral shootout amid frightened horses. Fonda's tightly clenched but self-amused Earp is a marvel; the performance includes not just the snakelike speed when striking out at a gunman, but the schoolboy playfulness of a man trying to see how far he can lean back in a chair without falling. BILLED WITH The Mark of Zorro. A key to understanding black-and-white film. Rouben Mamoulian directs this as a series of black/white contrasts: white-hot, sun-struck villages and the black rider who awakens them; the close-up of Zorro's dark mask and the white highlights of his eyes. The film was made under the looming clouds of war, expressing fury at tyranny and championing the vigor to fight it. It is the story of the enigmatic avenger of a California plagued, then as now, by misrule and greedy landlords. Highlights: Tyrone Power's spot decision to pose as a satin-loving pantywaist. An entrance our hero makes, dousing a candle with a flick of his rapier when he comes to visit the governor at night, making it seem as if a dark room is illuminated by the masked hero's glowing eyes. Other versions of this story may be faster; none are as sexy or as beautifully textured. (Plays Nov 11-12 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Tobacco Road/The Grapes of Wrath
(1941/1939) The Dukes of Hazzard of its era. Shiftless hillbillies in Georgia fight off the bankers, hit the jug and say colorful things; their pappy, Jeeter Lester (Charles Grapewin) schemes to hold off the foreclosure. With Gene Tierney and Ward Bond. John Ford directs. BILLED WITH The Grapes of Wrath. The drought and dust storms of the 1930s drive a family to California, but trouble and torment wait for them. Based on John Steinbeck's far more radical novel, this was still a risky film, despite elements of commercial compromise that seem worse with every year this film ages. (By contrast, Jane Darwell's mom replaces the memory of what the real old-time Oklahoma mothers of the Depression were like: a lot tougher and a lot less maudlin.) Despite that matter, Henry Fonda's Tom Joad seems like the genuine article, John Carradine's Casey is a classic of character acting and Gregg Toland's photography bears comparison with Georges de la Tour's paintings. (Plays Nov 8-9 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.)

Movie Times Weekend in Havana/On the Avenue
(1941/1937) New Yorker Alice Faye spirits off on vacation for Havana. She's courted by the dashing lounge lizard Cesar Romero, who mistakes the shop clerk for a rich yanqui. Unfortunately, Romero's gold- digging is interrupted by his girlfriend: the sensual, malapropistic and vaguely scary Carmen Miranda. Miranda's short Hollywood career has often seemed a typical example of how the movies gave Latin Americans the shaft by portraying them as kitschy peasants. Consider the bigger picture: there were other equally strong-flavored comedians who went in and out of style, as Miranda did. BILLED WITH On the Avenue. Agreeable juvenile Dick Powell as a Broadway producer; his newest satire is considered legally actionable by the family it parodies, but then he falls in love with the daughter (Madeleine Carroll). The Ritz Brothers—an energetic song and dance troop of the day—come in and massacre a few Irving Berlin songs as Alice Faye looks on. (Plays Nov 10 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

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