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Talk to the Hand: Donnie Yen prepares for action in 'Iron Monkey,' showing Aug. 6 at Cinema San Pedro.

Stars Under the Stars

Cinema San Pedro film series brings six weeks of feature favorites to downtown San Jose

By Richard von Busack and Michael S. Gant

A LTHOUGH THE DRIVE-IN seems to be dying out as a viable medium for watching movies (who, after all wants to peer over the Hummer in the next row?), outdoor film screenings are actually on the rise, at least in San Jose. In addition to the Gypsy Cinema showings at the Circle of Palms by the San Jose Museum of Art and the Picnic, and the Popcorn & Picture series at Park Valencia in Santana Row, Cinema San Pedro inaugurates its six-week slice of cinema on July 30 with a screening of the Marilyn Monroe classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The series runs every Wednesday through Aug. 27, outside in San Pedro Square, between Santa Clara and St. John streets. The movies start at 8pm.

The first feature, made in 1953, presents the larger-than-life CinemaScopic Marilyn in a delightfully brash musical; this is the film Baz Luhrmann hamstrung himself trying to rip off in Moulin Rouge! A pair of ex-Little Rock gold diggers, including the dumb-like-a-fox Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and her shrewder pal, Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell), hit an ocean liner in pursuit of millionaires, diamonds, etc. The tunes are mad, insouciant: "Is There Anyone Here for Love?"--Russell's lament to a very gay roomful of bodybuilders--is the number that seems most outrageous. However, the signature "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" is one of those moments where Monroe--who has been the subject of more mawkish writing than anyone this side of Jesus--really bursts through as the incarnation of a guilt-free Hollywood dream of sex and avarice. "There wasn't a real thing about her. Everything was completely unreal. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was the first one where she really went good."--director Howard Hawks to Joseph McBride.

The series, which is a co-production of POPULUS Presents and Cinequest, San Jose's venerable film festival, also features Iron Monkey (1993; Aug. 6), a martial-arts epic; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962; Aug. 13), the famed Robert Aldrich shocker in which Joan Crawford and Bette Davis do battle; Trekkies (1997; Aug. 20), Roger Nygard's persuasive, funny documentary about the thousands of fans who revere the Star Trek franchise which inspires viewers to get beyond mockery (and some special guests are promised); Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975; Aug. 27), the classic comedy that spawned the exclamation, "I'm not dead yet!"; Hairspray (1988; Sept. 3), the John Waters showcase for Ricki Lake and Divine. All of the features will be accompanied by a complementary short.

Cinema San Pedro plays Wednesday at 8pm, July 30-Sept. 3, in San Pedro Square, between Santa Clara and St. John streets, San Jose; for details, see www.populuspresents.com/main/csp/index.html

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From the July 24-30, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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