The Programming at BAMPFA this Summer is Fantastic

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

Call the Summer 2024 program at the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive (hereafter “BAMPFA”) one filled with gateway drug cinema.  From a film noir series brimming with acknowledged genre classics to a series featuring a local filmmaker who introduced audiences to the joys of garlic and zydeco music to a series reintroducing the work of a forgotten contemporary of Yasujiro Ozu, these films remind viewers that the world of cinema is far bigger and broader than the cultural walls created by movie streamer algorithms.  It’s unlikely an algorithm would recommend catching a short film depicting famed director Werner Herzog eating his shoe live on Berkeley’s UC Theater stage.

Turning back to the subject of cinematic gateway drugs, this writer’s interest in anime was truly sparked by watching the Hayao Miyazaki classic “Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro.”  That viewing led to a search for other anime titles, not always an easy proposition given that this search occurred in the days when liking anime was a cult obsession in America.  But one constant for this writer was always looking forward to the new Miyazaki project, whatever it might be.

The Lupin III feature film is just one of the delights to be found in “Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Cinema (June 8 – August 31, 2024).”  This series brings together all of Miyazaki’s feature films from his first film (the aforementioned “Lupin III: Castle Of Cagliostro”) to his “final” film (the acclaimed “The Boy And The Heron”).  All of these films are shown in the original Japanese with English subtitles.

Some early Miyazaki films to try are:

Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro (June 9, 2024)” takes the larcenous (alleged, as far as the estate of original Lupin creator Maurice Leblanc is concerned) grandson of famed thief Arsene Lupin and his friend incredible marksman Jigen Daisuke to the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro.  Their plans to penetrate the Duchy’s counterfeiting operation soon takes a backseat to their efforts to disrupt the lecherous Count Cagliostro’s sinister plans for innocent Princess Clarisse of Cagliostro.  Also involved in the adventure are Lupin’s ally samurai Goemon Ishikawa, Lupin’s frenemy Interpol Inspector Zenigata, and Lupin’s maybe-girlfriend and fellow thief Fujiko Mine.  

My Neighbor Totoro

Ever wonder what that strange creature is on the Studio Ghibli logo?  Watch “My Neighbor Totoro (July 13 and August 25, 2024).”  In this generously kind-hearted fantasy, sisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe have moved with their father to an old country house to be closer to their mother, who’s recovering from an illness in the area hospital.  As the two girls explore the house and the nearby forest, they discover the incredible spirit creatures inhabiting the area.  One of these spirits is the large, friendly, and incredibly furry Totoro.  (Trivia note: the original Japanese theatrical release of “My Neighbor Totoro” put it on a double bill with “Grave of the Fireflies.”)

Laputa: The Castle In The Sky (June 23, 2024)” offers a delirious mix of “Gulliver’s Travels,” Jules Verne, and even a nod to a classic Fleischer Brothers “Superman” short.  The title refers to a legendary mysterious floating castle created by a long-lost advanced civilization.  Three different parties seek the castle’s location: Pazu, a boy inventor whose explorer father disappeared searching for Laputa; a band of bumbling aerial pirates led by a cantankerous old woman; and some ruthless government agents.  The key to finding Laputa turns out to be a girl named Sheeta, who possesses a pendant with mysterious powers.  (As a local note, an S.F. Examiner review of a theatrical showing of “Laputa” found the Miyazaki film inferior to classic Disney animation.)   

One Text a Week: All the Best Bay Area Events

* indicates required
Broke-Ass Stuart - By providing your phone number, you agree to receive promotional and marketing messages, notifications, and customer service communications from Broke-Ass Stuart. Message and data rates may apply. Consent is not a condition of purchase. Message frequency varies. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.See terms.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the movies being screened in the film series “Film Noir Classics: America’s Dark Dreams (June 14 – August 8, 2024)” were also derided by critics of various stripes as junk at the time of their first release.  But in describing the influences that marked the genre (e.g. German Expressionism, American post-war paranoia, and European emigre directors such as Robert Siodmak and Billy Wilder) BAMPFA Senior Film Curator Susan Oxtoby makes a good case for thinking of film noir as yet another art form birthed in the U.S., like jazz.   

Unlike the Noir City festivals, BAMPFA’s series might be called Film Noir 101.  It’s a chance to see long-acknowledged classics of the genre in either archival 35 mm prints or digital restorations.  Those who have never seen “The Maltese Falcon (July 11, 2024),” “The Lady From Shanghai (June 16, 2024),” or “Sunset Boulevard (July 18, 2024)” should take the opportunity to remedy these holes in their cultural education.

This writer definitely wants to plug some of the holes in his own film genre knowledge by catching one of the following films: 

Out Of The Past

Stanley Kubrick’s suspenseful “The Killing (August 8, 2024)” uses one of the classic noir scenarios, the mastermind who assembles a team to pull off a big score.  In this case, the goal is pulling off a holdup at a heavily guarded racetrack.  The team of larcenists include a cashier with a money-hungry wife, the track bartender, and a crooked cop.  Kubrick balances the part each team member plays in the big plan with the personal dramas and motivations that led to their involvement in the crime.

Jacques Tourneur’s “Out Of The Past (June 23, 2024)” starts with another classic noir scenario, the dark past that catches up to its protagonist.  Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) used to be a New York private detective.  That was until he took a job for gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to find and bring back Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer), a woman who shot Sterling and stole $40,000 from him.  When Jeff himself falls in love with Kathie, he eventually winds up trying to leave his past behind and start over again.  But now Sterling’s man has found Jeff again, and the gangster wants to have a little talk with him…

Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity (June 14, 2024)” stars Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, the prototypical femme fatale, in this adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel.   Successful but bored insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) apparently falls under Phyllis’ sexual spell and becomes part of a plan for a big payday.  Walter sells the awful Mr. Dietrichson a double indemnity policy, and then works with Phyllis to arrange her husband’s “accidental” death.  Yet it’s unclear what the power relationship is between Phyllis and Walter.  Who’s controlling whom, or is their relationship a twisted romance?      

“Twisted romance” definitely doesn’t describe the working relationship between composer Ennio Morricone and director Sergio Leone.  Morricone’s score for Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy played a notable role in propelling these Spaghetti Westerns (and Clint Eastwood) to American fame.  Then again, the film series “Made In Italy: Morricone, Leone, and More (July 12-August 31, 2024)” shows that Morricone also collaborated with such famous Italian directors as Lina Wertmuller (“The Lizards”) and Marco Bellochio (“Fists In The Pocket”) as well as worked on such cinema classics as “The Battle Of Algiers.”  

Among the mix of noteworthy films being shown in this series are:

Once Upon A Time In America

In Elio Petri’s Oscar-winning “Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion (August 17, 2024),” Gian Maria Volonte plays a successful police investigator who one day murders his mistress.  Rather than hide his culpability, he deliberately directs the police investigation to eventually point towards him.  But his motivation is neither guilt nor remorse.  Rather, it’s to prove that he’s in such a position of authority that he can get away with any crime.    

The theorem referenced in the title of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Teorema (August 21, 2024)” holds that “anything done by the bourgeoisie, however sincere, profound, and noble it is, is on the wrong track.”  Pasolini’s film tells of a handsome young stranger (Terence Stamp) whose visit to a comfortable bourgeois Italian home winds up catalyzing the various household members to embrace the desires they’ve suppressed for various reasons.  Whether the stranger’s lovemaking with every household member turns out to be a blessing or a curse is for viewers to decide.

At over 4 ¼ hours with intermission, the Extended Director’s Cut of Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon A Time In America (August 31, 2024)” may seem like a daunting film to view especially given that its story is told atemporally.  Yet the story basics are fairly straightforward:  aging Jewish gangster Noodles Aaronsen (Robert De Niro) remembers (in non-chronological order) how he and buddy Max Bercovicz (James Woods) rose through the ranks of New York City’s underworld over the course of several decades.  That ascent occurs with the accompaniment of double-dealing, street-side ambushes, and terrible betrayals.

The closest the “Les Blank: A Life Well Spent (June 7 – July 27, 2024)” film series comes to depicting the darker shades of human behavior will probably be “Burden Of Dreams (July 27, 2024),” a chronicle of director Werner Herzog’s efforts to film “Fitzcarraldo.”  Otherwise, this series of films from a mainstay of the Bay Area film scene focuses on capturing the joys of American regional culture.  Food, music, or even an artist who dresses as a cowboy provides grist for Blank’s beloved works.  

The June 22, 2024 double bill of “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe” & “Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers” needs to be on a must-see list.  The Herzog film is literally what the title says, the result of a bet Herzog lost to director Errol Morris involving the completion of what became Morris’ “Gates Of Heaven.”  Fortunately, famed chef Alice Waters made the footwear palatable before the event took place live at the UC Theatre.  The second film is what “Good Eats” host Alton Brown calls “the first American food documentary.”  It’s a history of the titular stinking rose and such local fans of its use as Waters and Henry Chung of Henry’s Hunan restaurant.  Sadly, this screening will not be accompanied by somebody from BAMPFA roasting garlic in the theater and then walking up and down the aisle (which is something Blank did at the film’s premiere).

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

National Film Registry selection “Chulas Fronteras (July 13, 2024)” joyfully celebrates Tejano music and border culture.  Along with interviews with such iconic Tejano musicians as Flaco Jimenez and Lydia Mendoza, the film introduced the South Texas music known as conjunto to the outside world.  For those who wondered what San Antonio was like in the 1970s, this film is your answer.         

A Poem Is A Naked Person (June 15, 2024)” is a free-form portrait of singer-songwriter Leon Russell.  Over the course of three years, Blank and then-assistant Maureen Gosling shot footage of Russell at his Grand Lake recording studio in northeast Oklahoma recording studio as well as filming the musician rehearsing and performing in concert.  But the film also took time to capture the mood of life in this part of Oklahoma, whether it’s by showing lake footage or Oklahoma folk.

Gosling, who will make several appearances during the Les Blank series, also became a solo director in her own right.  Her recent documentary “The 9 Lives Of Barbara Dane (June 26, 2024)” offers a portrait of the titular activist performer whose decades of singing in support of social justice movements earned her an impressive FBI file.

This upcoming screening is part of the BAMPFA’s ongoing Special Screenings section, dedicated to showings of acclaimed recent films and restored classics.  Other announced titles in this series include Oscar and Cannes Grand Prix award-winner “The Zone Of Interest (June 12 & 16, 2024),” the restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic “Nostalghia (June 9 & 29, 2024),” and Julie Dash’s seminal “Daughters Of The Dust (June 13, 2024).” 

Another female director being given her due this quarter at BAMPFA is Lynne Ramsay,  The film series “Lynne Ramsay In Person (August 22-25, 2024)” brings together all four (to date) of the Scottish director’s acclaimed feature films plus several of her short films.  The feature films are: “Ratcatcher (August 22, 2024)” (a working-class Scottish boy living in Glasgow during the 1973 garbage strike is wracked by guilt over his complicity in another boy’s accidental death), “Morvern Callar (August 23, 2024)” (Ramsay’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s supposedly unfilmable novel stars Samantha Morton as the title character, a young woman whose decidedly unconventional reaction to her writer boyfriend’s suicide involves literary theft and clubbing in Spain), “We Need To Talk About Kevin (August 24, 2024)” (Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, a suburban mother trying to figure out her culpability in creating the cunning sociopath that her son Kevin has become), and “You Were Never Really Here (August 25, 2024)” (Gulf War veteran turned hired gun Joe (Joaquin Phoenix)’s job of rescuing a Senator’s underage daughter from a sex trafficking ring spins out of control when the ring’s protectors happen to hail from the highest levels of government).          

Something Different

Another female filmmaker getting a film series this quarter is probably best known to art film veterans for “Daisies (July 26 and August 30, 2024),” her classic anarchic comedy about two young women friends willing to break their sex’s  regimented societal norms to find something different in life.  But as the film series “Something Different: The Films Of Vera Chytilova (July 26 – August 30, 2024)” shows, this Czech New Wave feminist filmmaker offered more than one treatment on this theme of women’s changing roles in society. 

Something Different (August 2, 2024),” the film that gives this series its name, follows the lives of a professional gymnast and a harried housewife.  They never meet, yet they share similar lives of being controlled and tracked by men.  “Fruit Of Paradise (August 10, 2024)” sets the Adam and Eve story at an Eastern European spa where wife Eva doesn’t appreciate husband Joseph’s wandering eye.  Enter a handsome but murder-minded stranger who offers Eva a few immoral pleasures and a certain apple.  “The Short Films Of Vera Chytilova (August 14, 2024)” presents the three short films “Ceiling” (an artist’s model learns to escape the repetitive nature of being a “walking mannequin”), “A Bagful Of Fleas” (the conformity of a communal factory dormitory fails to prevent its women workers from finding freedom and joy), and “Automat Svet” (at an overrun bar, two female workers struggle to keep the beer-hungry hordes out while a strange but handsome man meets a prospective runaway bride).  The last film in the series, the satirical “Panelstory (August 18, 2024),” follows a group of people trying to survive while living in a half-completed/half-destroyed “new” government-constructed suburban housing block.

Finally, fans of the SF Silent Film Festival may recall seeing HIroshi Shimizu’s powerful “Japanese Girls At The Harbor” a few years ago.  That film turned out to be the proverbial tip of Shimizu’s output.  The “Hiroshi Shimizu: Notes Of An Itinerant Director (July 19 – August 28, 2024)” film series offers more surviving samples of the 150 films made by this acclaimed golden age of Japanese cinema director.

For example, try these films:

For those who thought neorealism was invented by the film classic “The Bicycle Thief,” they should check out “Children of the Beehive (August 16, 2024).”  It’s a portrait of a scarred postwar Japan filmed entirely on location, including a scene or two set in the relatively recently atom bomb-blasted Hiroshima.  The story concerns a group of orphaned vagrant children (played by actual war orphans) who join a demobilized veteran in a search for work and even hope in this country bombed back to the Stone Age.

Children Of The Beehive

Viewers interested in seeing Shimizu’s hard-edged side in films will be interested in “A Hero Of Tokyo (July 31, 2024).”  Young Kanichi has been physically abandoned by his parents: his father Nemoto keeps late work hours (supposedly because he’s an important company official) and his mother is dead.  Shortly after Nemoto weds the widowed Haruko, he abandons his family (now expanded by Haruko’s two children) when one of his shady mining deals falls apart.  Haruko is forced to become a bar hostess to help make ends meet.  She becomes successful enough to eventually return the family to middle-class stability…but at the price of hiding her involvement in a profession that’s not far removed from sex work.  When the truth about Haruko’s job comes out, will Kanichi stand by her?

Mr. Thank You (July 21, 2024)” is the nickname for a perpetually cheerful bus driver plying his trade in mid 1930s Japan.  In this adaptation of a Yasunari Kawabata tale, the film follows this driver as he travels among the country’s hills and villages.  The passengers the driver picks up include a man wearing a fake mustache, a sassy moga (modern girl), and Korean laborers.  By film’s end, the viewer will get a picture of how industrialization changed Japan for good and ill.

Whether a viewer decides to check out the films of Miyazaki or Chytilova, their choice can be one they make instead of being mediated by an impersonal algorithm.

Broke-Ass Stuart works because of reader support. Join us now.

Howdy! My name is Katy Atchison and I'm an Associate Editor for Broke-Ass Stuart.

I want to take the time to say thank you for supporting independent news media by reading Supporting independent news sources like Broke-Ass Stuart is vital to supporting our community because it amplifies the voices of a wide variety of diverse opinions. You also help support small businesses and local artists by sharing stories from Broke-Ass Stuart.

Because you're one of our supporters, I wanted to send over a pro-tip.

Our bi-weekly newsletter is a great way to get round ups of Broke-Ass Stuart stories, learn about new businesses in The Bay Area, find out about fun local events and be first in line for giveaways.

If you’d like to get our newsletter, signup right here, it takes 5 seconds.

Previous post

All The Cool Stuff Coming To Netflix In June 2024

Next post

"Company" Revival Debuts in San Francisco – With a Twist

Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.