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Film Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Richard von Busack

Freeway/The Naked Kiss
Sept. 25 at the Roxie Theater
3117 16th St.; 415/863-1087

Freeway (1996) is Little Red Riding-Hood staged in crack-ridden California, all oleanders, motels and billboards. The wolf--or rather, Mr. Wolverton--is a suburban psychobabbler (Kiefer Sutherland, never better) who moonlights as the I-5 killer. Running away from a tragic family situation, Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) hitchhikes to her grandma's house in Stockton. Wolverton, picking her up in his SUV, gradually changes from therapist to "the-rapist." The confrontation between wolf and woman is only the middle of the movie. This exhilarating, morbidly funny feminist pulp fiction has an almost shocking amount of social commentary. It's billed with The Naked Kiss (1964), Sam Fuller's lurid but heartfelt drama about an ex-prostitute who tries to escape the life but can't, thanks to a sleazy small-town cop.

Mitchell Leisen Tribute
Sept. 29-30 at the Roxie Theater
3117 16th St.; 415/863-1087

One of the bright lights at Paramount in the 1930s, Mitchell Leisen at his best rivals Ernst Lubitsch and Rouben Mamoulian for creating sophisticated romances. The four-film series includes Death Takes a Holiday (1934), the story of a mysterious and seductive prince who steals a lady (Evelyn Venable) from her fiancé; and Midnight (1939), in which a broke chorine (Claudette Colbert) arrives in Paris determined to find a wealthy benefactor and is contended for by a poor but honest cabby (Don Ameche) and a charming but corrupt Parisian (John Barrymore, the reprobate's reprobate); Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett wrote the script. Midnight is one of those films that occasioned Lubitsch's remark about the superiority of Paris, Paramount, to Paris, France.

James Ellroy: Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction
Sept. 25-Oct. 1 at the Lumiere Theater
1572 California St.; 415/885-3201

A 1993 Austrian documentary by Reinhard Jud about tough-guy novelist James Ellroy. The author of L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia revisits the park in El Monte that was the scene of his mother's death, as recorded in his harrowing memoir My Dark Places.

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From the September 21-October 4, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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