It's not a big news week here in San Francisco: The Guardian is writing about weed again, and the Weekly's cover story is about a disaster that happened in 1900. With everyone's eyes still rolling from Outside Lands and the weather moving from cloudy to …partly cloudy, who can blame you for wanting to take it easy? Unfortunately, movie distribs are also taking it easy and the new releases really aren't much to look at. As Colonel Kurtz might have said: When the dominating culture doesn't satisfy, the best thing to do is go native. Here are 7 films worth catching in the smaller rooms around town during this mini-movie-drought.
Love in the City
In a weekend nearly bereft of them, SFFS digs all the way back to 1953 to find a gem to satisfy art-house fiends. This Italian omnibus, including early works by cinema giants Fellini and Antonioni, deals out sepia-toned portraits of love and longing one after another, and is the clear choice for the best date movie of the weekend, easily surpassing the over-cranked faux-indies on offer elsewhere. Plays at SF Film Society Cinema.
One of the few films on this list that's new (or at least new to you) Takashi Miike's samurai slow-boiler Hara-Kiri is a semi-sequel to his massively lauded battle epic 13 Assassins, but favors tense drama over blistering action, despite being filmed by the outré Japanese director entirely in 3D. Why one has to travel all the way to the Outer Richmond to see an Asian film in a town with a massive Asian population is still beyond me, but I thank my lucky stars on numerous occasions that I live next to the adorable 4-Star Theatre, which also put on our only Asian Film Festival for many years. Unfortunately Hara Kiri only screens in two dimensions, but that should be enough to get you out of your normal routine and out to the land where the fog meets the sky–and some of the city's best accessible dinner options. Plays at 4-Star Theatre.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
SFMoMA's–and presumably San Francisco's–love affair with beguiling self-portraitist Cindy Sherman apparently extends all the way into the museum's screening room, where she's curated a highbrow/lowbrow mashup the likes of which the art-leaning single screen of the museum has likely never seen. This Thursday night the series hits either its nadir or its pinnacle, (depending on how highbrow you'd like to be) with a screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tobe Hooper's entry into the then-budding "based on a true story" genre is still one of its most activating and terrifying. If you like the makeup transformations in Cindy Sherman's pictures… oh god. Plays Thursday at Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA.
The Godfather & Goodfellas Double Feature
See your two favorite I-tailans before all they started delivering all their lines in whispers! If you've somehow never seen either of these movies then MAN have you got some catching up to do. Even if you have, they're invariably more exciting on the big screen. Between the two epics there's almost five hours of mafia madness (and stoicism, and remorse), so bring some granola or something–you're not a teenager any more and red vines and coke just aren't going to cut it. Plays Saturday at the Castro Theatre.
Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man
If the last selection was entering "guilty pleasure" territory, this one is just plain guilt. Known for its low entry price ($7 bucks) and rowdy crowd, Dark Room's Bad Movie Night has been an Sunday staple in the Mission for quite some time but I've somehow managed to avoid attending. Now that it's become Mickey Rourke Bad Movie Night (for a limited time only) I don't know how much longer I can hold out. Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man certainly isn't the worst of Rourke's bad movies, but, I mean… look at this guy. Also starring Don Johnson, an actor fully deserving of his own Bad Movie series, is actually a tribute to Paul Newman/Robert Redford buddy flick Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and if you remember that while watching, it'll seem a whole lot smarter. Plays Sunday at Dark Room Theater.
YBCA continues its Kaneto Shindo retrospective with his excitable ghost thriller (and certified classic) Kuroneko. Kuroneko's dreamy eroticism combines the ambiance of Shindo's other ghost-woman classic, Onibaba, with the theatricality (and revenge themes) of Masaki Kobayashi's original Harakiri. If you miss the Thursday screening there is another one on Sunday, so you have no excuse to miss it. Plays at YBCA Screening Room, 735 Market Street.
Streets of Fire
Transplanting the Wild West to a pomade-soaked Rockabilly future, Streets of Fire lives and dies by the words Diane Lane sings in the trailer: "There's nothing wrong with going nowhere baby, but we should be going nowhere fast." Even with some great character acting by a seething Willem Dafoe, an astoundingly young Diane Lane, brooding shlock-pinup Michael Paré (who?) and the ever-lovable Rick Moranis, SoF is perhaps justifiably one of The Warrior's and Last Man Standing director Walter Hill's lesser known films, but it's still a bucket of fun. The Vortex Room, one of the city's best underground screening rooms, is a gleaming little bit of nowhere itself, if you don't know where it is, ask somebody (or go online). Plays Thursday with Captain Apache at Vortex Room.