May 08, 2002


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film

Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Meryl Cohen, David Fear, Dina Gachman, Susan Gerhard, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Patrick Macias, and Chuck Stephens. Film intern is Summers Henderson. See Rep Clock, page 88, and Movie Clock, page 89, for theater information.

Opening

The Accountant Winner of the Oscar for best live-action short, this comedy is about a "backwoods accountant" who aims to help a farmer save his land. (:38) Balboa.*The Cockettes See "True Glitter" and "Party Time," page 35. (1:39) Castro, Rafael.

Chelsea Walls Ethan Hawke makes his directorial debut with this ensemble drama set in New York's Chelsea Hotel. (1:52) Galaxy, UA Berkeley.

Love Undercover Homegrown hero (and H.K. hunk) Daniel Wu stars in this comedy about a gangster who unknowingly falls for the undercover officer (Miriam Yeung) who infiltrates his world. (1:35) Four Star.*Maelström See Movie Clock, page 89. (1:23) Lumiere.

The New Guy Professional high school dork DJ Qualls (Road Trip) uses a stint in the clink to go from zero to hero. (1:30) Century Plaza, Jack London, Shattuck.

Shanda Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi is one of Zimbabwe's most popular musicians, and this reverential documentary by Steve Riber and Louise Riber tells his story and spotlights his concert performances. Shanda means "work" and the film concentrates on that aspect of Tuku's life, though at the expense of insights into his personality and the nation he comes from. The music itself is sweetly delightful African pop, with soft guitar melodies above rollicking, lively percussion and a mixture of rhythms. Tuku sings with spirit, and his lyrics respond to the political issues of the day, going back to his first song in 1976 under British rule. Contemporary songs speak of AIDS and changes in Zimbabwean society. At the end of the film Mtukudzi offers the insight "The future of Africa is very bright," but American viewers will sorely miss the explanation of more about African history and culture to put Tuku's optimism in context. At the Tues/14 world premiere of the film (an abbreviated version for this night only) you can see a performance by Mtukudzi in person. (1:20) Rafael. (Henderson)

*Time Out See "White Collared," page 41. (2:12) Act I and II, Lumiere.

*The Triumph of Love See Critic's Choice. (1:47) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.

Ultimate X Extreme sports, eight stories tall. (Run time not available) Metreon Imax.

Unfaithful Diane Lane cheats on Richard Gere with Olivier Martinez in the latest from Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction). (1:21) Alexandria, Empire, Grand Lake, Jack London, Oaks.

*'Underground Zero: Independent Filmmakers Respond to 9/11' See Script Doctor, page 41. Fine Arts Cinema, Rafael, Roxie.

Ongoing


*Amadeus, the Director's Cut (3:08) Balboa, Opera Plaza.

Amélie (1:55) Clay, Piedmont, Shattuck.

Beauty and the Beast: The Large Format Cinema Special Edition (1:30) Metreon Imax.

*Blade 2 (1:48) Kabuki.

*The Cat's Meow The Cat's Meow is classic Peter Bogdanovich turf, being a dramatization of a fabled Hollywood back chapter, with an ethereally gorgeous young blond (Kirsten Dunst) in the lead. Dunst plays Marion Davies, silent screen star and offscreen mistress of William Randolph Hearst. In the events fictitiously reimagined here, Davies, Hearst (Edward Herrmann), Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), Eurotrash-lit sexpert Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley), and gossip maven Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly) are aboard Hearst's yacht for a weekend in 1924. They're all under suspicion for the death of early industry kingpin Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes) – whose birthday has provided the partying occasion and who may have been shot on board. But like another recent period piece-cum-whodunit, Gosford Park, The Cat's Meow's pulp-mystery aspect is almost incidental to its real, deeper pleasures. The movie captures a few days in the lives of the almost impossibly rich-and-famous with just the right mix of nostalgia, balloon pricking, and stupefaction. (1:47) Albany, Bridge, Orinda, Piedmont. (Harvey)

Changing Lanes British director Roger Michell has a way of exceeding expectations. As he proved with 1999's Notting Hill, clever writing and innovative editing can raise even the most clichéd story to the level of something original. So imagine what he does with an edgy and compelling script, a cowritten effort by first-timer Chap Taylor and veteran Michael Tolkin (The Player) that digs unmercifully into the moral fabric of a corporate-driven America. With the help of unconventional D.P. Salvatore Totino (Any Given Sunday), Michell deftly weaves two polar stories – those of high-powered lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and recovering alcoholic Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson) – into an unforgiving and eye-opening whole. Though the film avoids predictability, its true Hollywood nature does eventually rear its ugly head as too many loose strings tie themselves into a neat little bow just in time for the closing credits. (1:35) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Cohen)

Deuces Wild Director Scott Kalvert's 1995 feature debut, The Basketball Diaries, was a frightening, fascinating, and strikingly sincere portrayal of drug abuse among disaffected youth. It was also, apparently, a fluke. Kalvert's sophomore effort, the grim tale of a 1958 Brooklyn gang war, is part nostalgic cliché, part melodramatic teen movie, and wholly unpleasant to sit through. With a cast full of edgy young actors (Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, and James Franco, to name a few) strutting around in pseudo-greaser garb, the film is highly reminiscent, in its premise, of Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders, but it deserves no such comparison. Kalvert's barely likable gang of square and scrawny good guys are hard-pressed to evoke the rebel mystique that propelled their cinematic predecessors, but the most flagrant mishap here is Kalvert's own failed attempt at directorial irony, for super slow-mo and a fog machine do not a gangster movie make. (1:36) Century Plaza, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Cohen)

*Dogtown and Z-Boys No question: the Z-Boys, a 1970s-era crew of skateboarders who adapted slashing, style-laden surfer techniques to the asphalt, were seminal. Dodging the Man, the team – Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, and the rest – stole into empty backyard swimming pools, pushing off from the shallow end and flowing along the concrete curves. Setting out only to kill time in Dogtown, their entropic seaside neighborhood, the teenage Z-Boys somehow managed to find transcendence, at least for a few moments. Really, they were accidental Buddhists. So what do you do when corporate culture/the Hollywood machine announces its intent to make a feature flick about your life as a proto-skate punk? If you're Peralta, now a 44-year-old documentary film director, you shoot back. Hitting up the Vans shoe company for the David-esque sum of $400,000, Peralta stitched together Dogtown and Z-Boys, a 90-minute preemptive strike now in theaters. Narrated by Sean Penn, the film is a generally dazzling excavation of a skate history unknown to the X-Games generation. It's a narrative Darwin would like: the Z-Boys (10 guys and one girl) started in the water, surfing the breaks off Venice Beach, moved to the land, skating when the waves were flat, and eventually became skate-obsessed, flying their skateboards into the sky and accelerating the art form's evolution exponentially. (1:41) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (A.C. Thompson)

*Frailty This thriller touches on some controversial areas (religious extremism and children committing violence) and achieves moments of genuine creepiness in its story of a small-town Texas father (Bill Paxton, making his feature directing debut) who believes he has received a life-changing vision from God. He is given a list of seemingly innocent victims, and he ropes his two young sons into the task of killing these "demons." The movie begins with a contemporary frame story in which one of the sons (Matthew McConaughey) confesses to an FBI agent that his brother is an infamous serial killer. In explanation, he narrates an extended flashback to 1979, when the two brothers have conflicting responses to the religious mania of their otherwise kind father. The young actors carry the film, with Matthew O'Leary as Fenton, who is dazed by his father's gruesome task, and Jeremy Sumpter as his younger brother, Adam, who believes in the Christian righteousness of it all. The plot gets weighed down a bit by the heavy-handed baroque imagery, and there are several predictable developments, but the story ends with a satisfying surprise twist. (1:40) Four Star, Kabuki. (Henderson)

Hollywood Ending Woody Allen's regression from significant filmmaker to the broad comic hyphenate of his early years has seen his output range from harmlessly slight to downright odious. His new film, Hollywood Ending, is so meaningless and miscalculated it manages to make even the wispiest of his latter larks seem downright mythic. Down-and-out director Val Waxman (Allen) gets tapped by his producer ex-wife (Tea Leoni) to helm the new film of her studio boss-fiancé (Treat Williams). Right before principal photography starts, Waxman suddenly goes blind ... but directs the movie sans sight anyway. Relying on fusty caricatures and stale semaphore satire (NY = neurotic, arty; LA = superficial, sunburned), this attempt at screwball Tinseltown trash talk plays like a vaudeville routine with a flat-lined pulse. The threat of creative bankruptcy and fatigue has hovered menacingly on the edges of Allen's last few efforts; wheezing toward a predictably ironic finish, Ending's stale shtick may have finally signaled the beginning of a true artistic end. (1:14) Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Metreon, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda. (Fear)

*Human Nature Noted Björk video director Michel Gondry makes his feature debut with Human Nature, a film starring Patricia Arquette as Lila Jute, a woman whose hormones cause her to sprout hair where hair is usually not there. Human Nature's comedic quest for embarrassment is effectively painful when love forces Lila to shave off her full-body locks, pluck and paint her face, and bury herself beneath a wig. Human Nature's screenplay is by Charlie Kaufman, and traces of Being John Malkovich have spilled from that film's portal into Kaufman's follow-up. Much like Malkovich, Human Nature is a roundelay of misfired desires in which the least cunning identity thieves can't get no satisfaction. Kaufman doesn't provide blazing insights, or even pick sides, in the battle between nature and culture. Instead he uses the conflict to expose neurotic fault lines and compose a mini-encyclopedia of insecurities. Kaufman on an off day out-I.Q.s his comic screenwriting contemporaries, and while Gondry doesn't extend the technical innovation of his videos, he still has a signature style of picture-making and motion. (1:36) Four Star. (Huston)

Ice Age The Triassic, Jurassic, and Late Cretaceous have been thoroughly picked over Spielberg and his many descendants, but the last Ice Age – which gave us the woolly mammoth, the saber-toothed tiger, and the giant ground sloth – has enough fossil left in it to fuel a whole new period in movies. This early entry into the genre opens auspiciously, with a determined squirrel setting off the entire continent-shifting chain of events by attempting to bury an acorn in hard-packed ice. Chris Wedge's cool 3-D computer animation style can compare with the latest from Pixar. But his story arc feels almost as old as the 10,000-year-old era that spawned it: a mammoth and his slothful friend (voiced by Ray Romano and John Leguizamo, respectively, in the Shrek and Donkey roles) set off to save a human child from saber-toothed tigers (including one who joins them, voiced by Denis Leary). The laughs are sitcom-ready and the outcome, history. (1:24) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Gerhard)

In the Bedroom (2:26) Four Star.

*Iris The late novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch was regarded as one of the most brilliant women of her generation, and so it was especially tragic when Alzheimer's disease stole her capacity for expression. Richard Eyre's film seeks to depict the uncommon love between Iris and her husband, John Bayley, but it succeeds more in exposing the devastating effects of her disease. The actors who portray Iris, the enchanting Kate Winslet and legendary Judi Dench, deftly convey the vitality and wit that made her so widely loved in her prime. But as her condition worsens, we are subjected to continual cuts between past and present, which are intended to provide a backdrop for John's devotion but feel mostly like an eerie glimpse into Iris's own mental regression. Her deterioration is quite painful to watch, but Eyre does manage to reveal enough of Murdoch's unique philosophy to intrigue those unfamiliar with her work. (1:30) Four Star. (Cohen)

*Italian for Beginners An ensemble of lonely misfit adults – a pastor being badgered by his bitter predecessor, a beautician who seems to break down frequently during haircuts, a baker who can't help dropping the goods, and a few expected others – flicker around the flame of a night-school Italian class. When the teacher dies of a heart attack early on, one of the students, a brutish soccer fan-failed restaurateur happily takes over in this first Dogme movie by a woman, director Lone Scherfig. The waning movement could use the sweetness and light that this romantic comedy provides. Its cast of characters may be a little cute, but by the time they get together for a well-earned metaphorical big group hug in the form of an Italian-class field trip, you'll forget your fear of handheld camera. (1:39) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Gerhard)

*Jason X Crystal Lake's most famous son has weathered horny counselors, biker gangs, 3-D, Corey Feldman, lightning, the sewers of Manhattan, being blown to bits by the FBI, and hell, and he returns once again to conquer outer space. Within the first five minutes, a snooty doc (yep, that's David Cronenberg) and his cronies who doubt the awesome power of Voorhees are sliced and diced. But the good times don't really start to roll until Jason – who's been cryogenically frozen for 400 years – is brought aboard a space ship full of midriff-bearing students. Our hero's methods of slaughtering the young and promiscuous become ever more creative, even as he's stymied by a foxy android and some self-referential virtual reality. For sure, it's the same old song and dance we've been seeing since the '80s heyday of franchise horror, but for nostalgic Friday the 13th fans (and anyone who eagerly anticipates this summer's Halloween: Resurrection and/or the now seemingly inevitable return of Freddy Krueger), Jason X comes loaded with good old-fashioned carnage candy of the highest order. (1:33) Colma, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Metreon, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)

Kissing Jessica Stein Adapted by its leading actors from their stage play, director Charles Herman-Wurmfield's feature is the WASPiest NYC Jewish romantic comedy since Crossing Delancey, and the story's gender-preference-identity-crisis gist is about as full of depth as it would be on an episode of Friends. None of which prevents this breezy movie from being a audience-pleasing experience, but those in search of something more than an indie-flick sitcom won't be among the most pleased. The title character (Jennifer Westfeldt) works at a newspaper and endures the usual parade of loser boy-men dates. Her attention is perked by a personal ad that quotes Rilke – but the problem, ahem, is that it's a woman-seeking-woman ad. She pursues anyway and winds up in a tortuously tentative relationship with art gallery assistant manager Helen (Heather Juergensen), the sticking point being Jessica's reluctance to "go" lesbian and terror of breaking the news to her friends and family. One thing that's nice about Kissing is its last-lap concession that in the Big City, changing partners, remaining friends, and shuttling about the Kinsey Scale can get to be a less than big deal. But a more conventional predictability dominates most of the progress here, with laughter and tears professionally extracted at familiar junctures. (1:47) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Lantana Starting with a view of a body facedown in some dense shrubbery, this Australian drama looks set to become a murder mystery, but Andrew Bovell's sharp screenplay is more interested in the impulses toward infidelity and doubt that trouble several interconnected relationships. Police detective Leon (Anthony LaPaglia) guiltily cheats on a wife (Kerry Armstrong) who senses that the commitment's gone out of their marriage; she sees a psychiatrist (Barbara Hershey) whose own husband (Geoffrey Rush) seems to be drifting away. Several other well-defined characters figure notably in Ray Lawrence's tightly wound film, which builds considerable tension despite some implausible plot connections and a final sequence that strains a bit to deliver its closing flourish. (2:00) Balboa. (Harvey)

Life or Something Like It In this romantic comedy from director Stephen Herek (Rock Star), star Angelina Jolie adds a certain amount of excitement to what is otherwise yet another picture extolling the virtues of love, sweet love. Seattle television personality Lanie Kerrigan (Jolie) could give a rat's ass about anything in her life besides her career and her daily workouts, and last on her list is greasy cameraperson Pete (Edward Burns), with whom she argues constantly; predictably, their fighting words mask an attraction that takes a while to emerge. In the meantime, the station sends Lanie to interview a homeless fortune-teller (Tony Shalhoub), who tells her she'll die in a week. A kooky existential crisis/mental breakdown follows. Ultimately, the film rests too heavily on the conceit that the possibility of a romantic relationship requires scaling back lifelong career aspirations – though Jolie is captivating enough to give the old-fashioned Life a little spring in its step. (1:39) Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Kabuki, UA Berkeley.

*Monsoon Wedding Director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!) returns to contemporary India but shifts her focus to the tribulations of upper-middle-class Punjabis. At the center of Monsoon Wedding is a multiday, traditional Indian marriage ceremony that gathers family and friends for feasting, celebration, and rituals. The film's sprawling, multicharacter story adroitly weaves together numerous intersecting lives: the bride, who is really in love with an already married man; the father, who is terrified his son is gay; the cousin, who must confront the childhood trauma of sexual abuse by her uncle; and the wedding planner, who is falling in love with the family maid. By compressing so much drama and conflict into three days, Nair treads dangerously close to soap opera, but she's saved by some intense, honest performances and a style that captures the poetry and lyricism of real life. (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero. (Henderson)

*Monster's Ball (1:48) Lumiere, Shattuck.

Murder by Numbers In Barbet Schroeder's latest, the mysterious slaying of a local woman adds wrinkles to the highly controlled life of homicide cop Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock), especially when she becomes convinced the guilty are a pair of high schoolers: rich, handsome Richard (Ryan Gosling of The Believer) and rich, brilliant Justin (Michael Pitt of Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Of course, we know they did it, since we've been privy to their scheme all along – although the actual mechanics of the crime, and who did what exactly, remain cloudy until the end. Bullock is fine in this atypically dramatic turn, but Murder by Numbers belongs to Gosling and Pitt, whose scenes together have a riveting urgency that adds depth to a fairly standard crime-scene thriller. (2:01) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon. (Eddy)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2:01) Jack London, Metreon, Shattuck.

*Nine Queens Argentina's most successful homegrown feature in years is this clever and accomplished caper movie, which writer-director Fabián Bielinsky pulls off like a less cold-blooded David Mamet or Claude Chabrol. Always looking to milk others for whatever they've got, veteran con artist Marcos (Ricardo Darín of Son of the Bride, also currently in theaters) saves younger, petty swindler Juan (Gastón Pauls) from potential arrest, in return inviting the kid to participate in some larger-stakes schemes. The tentative partnership proves useful when a huge prize falls into their laps: the chance to sell a forged set of extremely rare stamps. As matters proceed, Juan turns out to be not quite as green as he looks, unscrupulous Marcos rather less Teflon-shelled, and the latter's straight-arrow sister Valeria (Leticia Brédice) a not-unwilling collaborator given the right circumstances. Shot in a sleek Buenos Aires of high-end hotels and corporate headquarters, this wryly tricksome tale of power reversals, betrayals, and dangerous bluffs comes complete with the requisite last-lap, 180-degree plot twist. (1:54) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Panic Room (1:52) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.*The Piano Teacher The brittle-boned mother (Annie Girardot) of Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) obsessively monitors her daughter, who leaves their apartment to conduct abusive piano lessons – and smell semen-stained tissues in peep-show booths. Erika falls in love with Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel), a vain, handsome, and aggressive young man from an arts-patron family who has campaigned to become her student, and the film's main event begins: a fight between romanticism (represented by Walter) and sadomasochism (represented by Erika). Though French in tone, director Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher is set in Vienna, home of its musical and psychoanalytical themes. Late in the movie, Erika seems to age years in a matter of seconds, suddenly resembling her mother. The process is so seamless that Huppert's method isn't apparent. What's missing, though, is any kind of hope or humanity; in place of uncovering a woman's soul, however distorted, Huppert's performance journeys deep into rotten recesses only to discover emptiness. That's the point – a misanthrope's comedy, The Piano Teacher is the feel-bad European art film of the season, perhaps to a fault. (2:10) Balboa, Castro, Opera Plaza, Rafael, Shattuck. (Huston)

The Rookie (2:09) Century Plaza, 1000 Van Ness.

The Salton Sea This overly dark and brooding thriller seeks to revise the drugs-and-crime genre but instead falls flat on its face. Val Kilmer plays Danny Parker, a tattoo-covered crystal meth addict living in the seediest of worlds. But wait – actually, he's Tom Van Allen, accomplished trumpet player, whose beautiful wife was murdered by masked gunmen. The story drags out some suspense over why Tom has become Danny, but it winds up being the most predictable exercise in masculine heroism. Director D.J. Caruso shows flashes of Guy Ritchie-inspired visual tricks, but these are incongruous with the otherwise lame material. The screenplay is littered with offensive racial stereotypes and even worse Hollywood narrative clichés, and while Vincent D'Onofrio is frighteningly unrecognizable as a crazed meth dealer, he contributes nothing to the film's search for a deeper theme about identity and trauma. The only insight of lasting interest in the film is the peek into the criminal world of crystal addicts, but does the world really need an exploitative film about tweakers and crankheads? (1:43) Metreon, Shattuck. (Henderson)

The Scorpion King (1:32) Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Space Station 3D (:47) Metreon Imax.

Spider-Man The fact that Spider-Man is one of the least openly brain-rotting blockbusters, as well as one of the most faithful comic book adaptations, in recent memory is something to be genuinely thankful for. Sure, Spidey could have used a few more wisecracks, fussed more neurotically over his superhero-caliber "super-problems," and looked less like an escapee from a PlayStation game, but the final product is solid enough to dodge serious disaster even if it also lacks in true greatness. After a fantastically engaging first half, wherein Tobey Maguire discovers he can do "whatever a spider can" (shooting string out of his butt excepted, of course), things take a downturn as Willem Dafoe's less interesting Green Goblin takes center stage and the supporting cast gets lost in an overwritten script. You can feel the studio pressure on director Sam Raimi, who (while hitting all the right notes) sadly holds back on the kind of mad visual invention that made his previous superhero outing, Darkman, such a blast. Perhaps if all of the web slinger's screen debut had been rendered in Raimi's crazed expressionism, audiences and fans would have had a truly amazing Spider-Man, rather than a satisfyingly adequate one. (1:51) Alexandria, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda, Presidio. (Macias)

The Sweetest Thing (1:27) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

*Y tu mamá también Alfonso Cuarón, the latest director to owe a stylistic debt to Godard, is less concerned with praising love per se than its physical manifestation, be it in onanistic, coupled, or ménage à trois variations. Handheld camera work shakes and snakes around corners à la Raoul Coutard. Sound drops out occasionally so a narrator can digress into characters' past, present, and future. People sprout manifestos full of dogmatic statements like "Truth is cool but unattainable" and "Pop beats poetry." Of course, one of those statements is "Whacking off rules!," which I can't remember ever hearing in any of Godard's films. Welcome to someone else's glorious masterpiece. Tenoch (Diego Luna) and his best friend, Julio (Amores perros's Gael García Bernal) have the bond of being raging hormone collections trapped in the form of teenage boys on the hunt. Spotting a beautiful Spanish woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú) at a lavish wedding reception, the two would-be Lotharios invite her on a road trip to the beach. The trio hits the road in search of paradise. What they get instead is a series of sexual rocket blasts, some painful doses of maturity, and Mexico in all its permutations. (1:45) Act I and II, Century Plaza, Embarcadero, Piedmont. (Fear)

Rep picks


*'Films by Peter Sempel' For the past 20 years Peter Sempel has been the cinematic chronicler of Europe's premier punks, poets, and outlaw philosophers, all connected by an individuality and purity of artistic purpose the director shares with his subjects. Little of his work has been seen 'round these parts, but thankfully the German-born, Australian-bred "cosmopolitan idealist" will be commanding four nights at the Goethe-Institut to showcase some of his finest forays. The exquisite, lyrical Jonas in the Desert (May 14) pays tribute to legendary cine-diarist, archivist, and Film Culture founder Jonas Mekas in an appropriately left-of-center fashion, though it's pretty uncomplicated compared with Dandy (May 16), his performance-art musical loosely based on Voltaire's Candide. And then there are his shorts (May 9), brief dreamscape snippets featuring Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Nick Cave, and Blixa Bargeld, plus one with the immortal title "Wim Wenders Is Funny." These works are funny, frightening, and unforgettable. Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes. (Fear)*'Kung Fu Kult Classics and Saturday Midnites for Maniacs' This week's Kult Klassics double feature is Sammo Hung's 1993 Kung-Fu Cult Master, with Jet Li; and the immortal Jimmy Wang Yu's Return of the Chinese Boxer, produced by the Shaw Brothers. The Saturday midnight shows pick up again starting next week (Sat/18). Four Star.

'Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation Best of the Fest' The veteran animation fest celebrates 25 years of bringing short films to the masses with a special "best of" collection. There are many proven winners here, both audience pleasers ("Bambi Meets Godzilla") and Oscar nabbers (Pixar's "Tin Toy," Chris Wedge's "Bunny," Nick Park's "Creature Comforts"), as well as newly minted 2002 Oscar winner "For the Birds" (also Pixar, as seen before showings of Monsters Inc.). All delightful stuff for first-timers, though these oft-screened works may be too familiar to attract perennial Spike and Mike fans. Grand Lake. (Eddy)

*Town Bloody Hall Shot in 1971, left unedited until 1979, and even then barely screened publicly, this rediscovered documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker captures a peak moment in the initial excitement surrounding "women's lib." A literary guild orchestrated a one-night-only panel discussion at New York City's Town Hall, and many leading feminists apparently declined the invite, fearing it would all turn into a circus – which, of course, is just what happened. The main reason for that was the presence of "moderator" Norman Mailer, who had just written a fairly sympathetic if mixed-message treatise on gender relations ("The Prisoner of Sex") but could be reliably counted on nonetheless to behave like an A-list alpha male (or "pinnacle of the masculine elite," as one participant labels him). Panelists who consented were critic Diana Trilling, The Female Eunuch author Germaine Greer (Mailer's, and everybody else's, most prickly and articulate combatant), NOW president Jaqueline Ceballos, and lesbian activist-writer Jill Johnson. The idea was for all to debate aspects of the "feminist agenda." But in a flash the main subject becomes Mailer's ego – at which, indeed, many harpoons are flung, though he wails and foams even (perhaps especially) when he's not the focus of attention. At best, he insists on calling the women panelists and members of the packed audience (who include Susan Sontag and Betty Friedan) "ladies," and at worst, he behaves less like a gentleman than like a ranting child ("I'm not gonna sit here and listen to you harridans harangue me!"). He is Circus Maximus indeed: a lion who'll light his own flaming hoop if no one else will. Nevertheless, the breadth of ideas at this moment in the gender-role debate still comes through, and Town Bloody Hall remains both immensely entertaining and instructive. (1:28) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Harvey)