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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Charlie Chaplin skewers the Industrial Revolution in his brilliant 1936 comedy Modern Times.

San Francisco's Latino Film Festival, featuring contributions by emerging and established filmmakers from Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the U.S., runs through Sunday evening at the Roxie, while House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou's darkly humorous new thriller A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop arrives at the Embarcadero. Elsewhere:

1. Modern Times
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Sept. 20
Why: Once "the most famous man in the world," Charlie Chaplin takes over the Castro this week, with a must-see retrospective of comedy classics including The Circus, City Lights and Modern Times, in which the Little Tramp (in his final on-screen adventure) whimsically seeks employment and finds romance with Paulette Goddard's waifish vagrant.

2. The 400 Blows
Where:
Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When:
Sept. 19-20
Why: François Truffaut’s 1959 debut, the semi-autobiographical story of a bright, mischievous adolescent who flees his unhappy home and lands in a juvenile detention center, is widely hailed as the film most responsible for the rise of the French New Wave. Yet for all its cultural significance, it remains, at its core, an extraordinarily moving human drama, capturing with poignancy, sadness and subtle humor the uncertainty of a boy yearning for freedom but not yet sure what to do with it.

3. The Town
Where: Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa St., 415-221-8184
When: All Week
Why: The boy from the wrong side of the tracks falling for the girl who brings out the best in him is a familiar story, but The Town, a robustly constructed heist drama about a former hockey star (Ben Affleck) who robs banks and armored trucks for a living, makes it work. Based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, the movie finds Affleck, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay, mining his Boston hometown for potent pulp fiction.

4. I'm Still Here
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Ever wonder what happened to Joaquin Phoenix, the talented star of Gladiator and Walk the Line, who abruptly ended his acting career to become a hip-hop wannabe? So did we. Casey Affleck's new documentary, boasting the production values of a glorified home movie, captures Phoenix's fall from grace with depressing precision. Is it an elaborate hoax? According to Affleck, it is – he admitted as much just this week – but I'm Still Here cleverly keeps us guessing.

5. Mademoiselle Chambon
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: The Clay soldiers on with Stéphane Brizé's Chambon, an affecting romance about a happily married contractor who falls for his son's schoolteacher, played by César nominee Sandrine Kiberlain. A modern-day Brief Encounter, their love story is, at times, too restrained for its own good, but the subtleties of Brizé's screenplay are integral to its understated charm.

6. Winter's Bone
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Debra Granik's subtle, suspenseful thriller finds Jennifer Lawrence (The Burning Plain) braving the frigid Ozarks and its criminal underworld as she searches for her father, a methamphetamine cooker gone missing after his latest arrest. If the premise sounds familiar – a gritty slice of small-town Americana embedded in the fabric of a hopelessly grim coming-of-age fable – Granik's understated execution and Lawrence's fierce performance transcend caricature and cliché.

7. The Kids Are All Right
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: In Lisa Cholodenko's Kids – its title inspired, somewhat whimsically, by a 1979 documentary about The Who – Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play Jules and Nic, a same-sex married couple whose teenage children, both products of artificial insemination, track down their birth father. The ensuing drama, rich with sharply observed humor, rarely strikes a false note.