Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

For those seeking alternatives to this weekend's surefire blockbuster – the teenage romance New Moon – there are plenty of worthy options now playing at the Bay Area's indie theaters. Among them:

1. Sea Purple
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: Nov. 20-21
Why: Maria Grazia Cucinotta, who will be attending screenings tonight and Saturday as part of the San Francisco Film Society's celebration of new Italian cinema, co-stars in director Donatella Maiorca's remarkably moving story of a rebellious young woman (Valeria Solarino) who finds romance in the arms of her best friend Sara (Isabella Ragonese).

2. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: We’ve seen Nicolas Cage slumming in disposable thrillers like Bangkok Dangerous (2008) and Neil LaBute’s misguided remake of The Wicker Man (2006), but his spirited performance in Werner Herzog's Port of Call New Orleans ranks among his very best. Here, Cage is a lunatic force, a one-man Katrina wreaking havoc on a city already in shambles, and he rises to the occasion with a fearless, man-on-a-tightrope showing. He lets himself go to stunning effect, much as he did in 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas (for which he won an Oscar) and all too infrequently since then. You won’t want to take your eyes off him.

3. (500) Days of Summer
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 20-21
Why: There are euphoric highs and crushing lows in Mark Webb's romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, some of them expected – one character's post-breakup meltdown at work seems almost obligatory – and some of them less so. Yet Webb, making his feature-length debut after directing music videos for Green Day and 3 Doors Down, keeps the story grounded enough to give such moments the feel of true romance – hilariously in the best of times, heartbreakingly in the worst. At the very least, the movie, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, will make you smile.

4. Capitalism: A Love Story
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 25
Why: Michael Moore’s thesis, that the free-market system must go if the divide between the haves and have-nots is to be narrowed, will be greeted with skepticism in some quarters and scornful laughter in others. But that hasn’t stopped him from making his argument to anyone who will listen, and in Love Story, he does so forcefully, documenting some of corporate America’s gravest offenses, including the subprime loan scandal and the subsequent $700 billion bailout pushed on Congress by financial players like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

5. The Maid
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: Winner of two highly coveted awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival, director Sebastián Silva's latest tells the story of Raquel (Catalina Saavedra), a domineering maid who has served the bourgeois Valdes family for more than 20 years. Rather than fire Raquel for her constant moping and increasing lapses in professionalism, the family hires a second maid to help her, but Raquel wages a ruthless (and ultimately successful) campaign to drive the newcomer away. Yet just when it seems Raquel will never willingly cede an inch of what she perceives as her territory in the Valdes household, she meets Lucy (Mariana Loyola), whose unflagging warmth helps Raquel see past her petty bitterness and experience a spiritual awakening. While Silva's sunny ending might strike some as contrived, Saavedra's bruising performance, which is at once intensely caustic and still strangely sympathetic, is a marvel to behold.

6. The House of the Devil
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: The House of the Devil plays like an homage – Rosemary’s Baby is an obvious influence – but the irony here is that director Ti West’s latest is so superior to many of the movies whose spirit he channels, including 1979’s When a Stranger Calls and countless damsel-in-distress flicks from the ’80s. From his era-appropriate soundtrack (featuring Thomas Dolby, Greg Kihn and The Fixx) to the visual style of his opening credits and his slyly reverential camerawork, West gives his movie the look and feel of a 25-year-old relic, yet nothing about Devil seems stale.

7. An Education
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Written by Nick Hornby, who adapted the screenplay from Lynn Barber’s memoir, An Education is the story of Jenny (Carey Mulligan), an attractive 16-year-old whose conservative parents are dedicated to sending her to Oxford. Their well-laid plans are threatened when Jenny strikes up an alarmingly tight friendship with David (Peter Sarsgaard), a 35-year-old whose decadent lifestyle – he's partial to fancy restaurants, luxury hotels and foreign travel – introduces her to lessons not taught in a traditional classroom.