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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

The second annual Noir City Xmas, featuring a pair of lost Deanna Durbin classics, arrives at the Castro Theatre this Wednesday.

Seeking an antidote to the holiday season's traditional tidings of great joy? Director Takeshi Kitano (1997's Fireworks) returns this week at the Lumiere Theatre with Outrage, a bloody, deliriously eccentric gangland drama about rival yakuza clans competing for the favor of their head family in the Japanese underworld. Elsewhere:

1.
Noir City Xmas
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Dec. 14
Why: San Francisco's Film Noir Foundation hopes to dampen your holiday spirits with two "noir-stained" yuletide classics starring former siren Deanna Durbin: Lady on a Train, Charles David's 1945 sinister comedy about amateur sleuths on the trail of killers; and Christmas Holiday, Robert Siodmak's 1944 adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel, an oppressively bleak tale of murder, betrayal and revenge. Pre-show festivities include the unveiling of the full schedule for Noir City X, which begins at the Castro on Jan. 20.

2. Catechism Cataclysm
Where:
SFFS-New People Cinema, 1746 Post St., 415-525-8600
When: Dec. 12, 14
Why: Todd Rohal’s follow-up to Guatemalan Handshake – the first offering from Danny McBride, David Gordon Green and Jody Hill’s recently formed production company, Rough House Pictures – is a funny, cheerfully confusing collection of surreal gags. Eastbound and Down’s Steve Little stars as Father Billy, a frail, scatterbrained, heavy metal–loving priest who bases his sermons on urban legends and relies on YouTube videos for theological research.

3
. The Artist
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Michel Hazanavicius' Palme d'Or-nominated, black-and-white romance, which took the Audience Favorite Award at this year's Mill Valley Film Festival, traces the peaks and valleys of a silent-movie star (Jean Dujardin, of last year's Little White Lies) whose burgeoning love affair with an up-and-coming young dancer (Bérénice Bejo) coincides with the rise of talking pictures. A tribute to early Hollywood, the movie is joyous, mostly weightless, and likely to delight cinephiles of all ages.

4. Another Happy Day
Where: Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa St., 415-221-8184
When: All Week
Why: Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Screenwriting Award, Happy Day marks the arrival of writer-director Sam Levinson, whose bruising feature debut follows the darkly humorous melodrama of aging matriarchs (two Ellens, Burstyn and Barkin) struggling to survive a toxic family gathering. The misery we witness eventually wears out its welcome – there's only so much we're willing to absorb – but the raw nerves Barkin's award-worthy performance exposes are hard to ignore.

5. The Room
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: Dec. 10
Why: Popularly hailed as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," Tommy Wiseau's story of a well-to-do San Francisco banker undone by his insatiable hedonism has predictably become a midnight favorite. (Its outspoken supporters include Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd.) No surprise there – everybody loves a car crash, and whether you consider Wiseau's 2003 debut a profoundly incompetent drama or an intentionally dreadful comedy, The Room is the still-smoldering wreckage that keeps on giving.

6. Shame
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Shame's NC-17 rating might have been a deathblow to an indie struggling to find an audience, if not for Michael Fassbender’s powerfully unsettling performance, which is sure to earn awards consideration. Almost wordlessly, he captures the essence of a downward-spiraling sex addict whose conquests are explicitly photographed and not the least bit titillating. The movie is devastating at times, but difficult to embrace: Fassbender's broken soul is so aloof we’re hard-pressed to forge an emotional connection with him.

7. My Week with Marilyn
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: Michelle Williams delivers an impressively convincing, Oscar-caliber performance in Simon Curtis' directorial debut, about the week Marilyn Monroe spent acclimating to the simpler pleasures of British life with Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), an assistant on the set of her 1957 romantic comedy The Prince and the Showgirl. Clark – then 23 and, like so many of the men who gravitated toward the sweet, almost childlike starlet, hopelessly smitten with her charms – published his diary of the experience 40 years later. This is his story, slight but skillfully told.