Now Playing! Summer in the City, Dirty and Gritty Noir at the Castro

Still from 'Nightmare Alley.'

Still from 'Nightmare Alley.' (Courtesy of I Wake Up Dreaming)

Leave the computer screen behind and venture into Bay Area theaters this week with silver screen recommendations from our film critic Michael Fox.

I Wake Up Dreaming: The End of Noir!

Aug. 3 – 31
Castro Theatre, San Francisco

The one thing we’ve learned from movie sequels (and rock ‘n’ roll bands) is that no franchise, no career, is ever over. “Reboot” has replaced “retirement” in the dictionary. So I refuse to believe local treasure Elliot Lavine’s declaration that I Wake Up Dreaming: The End of Noir! is his last series at the Castro. Arguably the Bay Area’s most beloved repertory programmer, Lavine has devoted the last 25 years to digging through studio vaults in search of forgotten films, undervalued oddities, dubious (and sometimes deservedly so) rarities and prime-quality prints. Nothing turns on Lavine more than turning on new moviegoers to prime and lesser cuts of ‘40s and ‘50s Hollywood despair and depravity.

The altogether twisted Nightmare Alley (1947) kicks off I Wake Up Dreaming on Wednesday, Aug. 1 and stars matinee idol Tyrone Power as the most ambitious and amoral con man this side of — well, let’s leave current events out of it. A revelation when Lavine unearthed and revived it many years ago at the Roxie, it’s now part of the noir canon. Lavine’s last hurrah, if it is that, casts shadows every Wednesday in August.

Still from 'Titicut Follies.'
Still from ‘Titicut Follies.’ (Courtesy of Zipporah Films, Inc.)


Banned from public exhibition for more than two decades, Frederick Wiseman’s verité horror show Titicut Follies was first presented in the Bay Area by the S.F. Cinematheque in the late ‘80s. A record of the callous and cruel everyday treatment of inmates of the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Mass., it provoked a public outcry and major institutional changes upon its release in 1967. It would be nice to say that Titicut Follies (Thursday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts) plays today like a historical artifact of a bygone era rather than a contemporary social-issue exposé. Indeed, it would. The documentary marked Wiseman’s filmmaking debut, and set him on an astonishing career that’s approaching the half-century mark.

Now Playing! Summer in the City, Dirty and Gritty Noir at the Castro 2 August,2016Michael Fox


Michael Fox

Michael Fox has written about film for a variety of publications since 1987. He is the curator and host of the long-running Friday night CinemaLit film series at the Mechanics’ Institute,  an instructor in the OLLI programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State, and a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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