Our holiday spirit is so sick of all the Nutcracker-this and Christmas Carol-that of the past few weeks that it's curled up and died just in time for Christmas. It's the eternal paradox of the holiday season: If the point of all this "Peace on Earth" nonsense is to boot the deep-seated Scrooge of the soul, why is it that by the end of it all, our internal Grinch wants to paddle Santa's ass? Luckily we're not alone this year: A handful of local rep houses open their doors to the cheerless cynics who've been run down by one too many yuletide sleigh rides.
UC Theater serves up Terry Gilliam's Orwellian nightmare Brazil in a double bill with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's The City of Lost Children. In Lost Children, the filmmakers behind Delicatessen create yet another beautifully dystopian world in which a mad scientist -- unable to dream himself -- kidnaps children in order to steal their dreams. A strongman (Ron Perlman) enlists the aid of a little girl in order to track down his own brother, who's been abducted by the scientist's cloned henchmen. Upping the absurdist ante, Brazil follows an idealistic yet spineless clerk (Jonathan Pryce) stuck in the unending bureaucracy of his job. Trying to escape from the Big Brotherly eyes that watch his every move, Sam Lowry retreats from his overwhelming world into dreams, while dodging work to pursue the woman of his dreams and cavort with terrorist Harry Tuttle (a hilarious Robert De Niro).
The Red Vic turns its eyes to classic visions of the millennial future (circa 1926) with Fritz Lang's silent Metropolis. In a tale that may sound less than futuristic to basement-slaving cubicle-drones, the year is 2000 and the idle elite oppresses a working class forced to live underground. The son of a fat cat falls for a subterranean beauty and, seeing the squalid conditions of the laboring cast, decides to campaign for humanitarian reforms -- but not before an evil scientist creates a robot diva programmed to lead the masses off the path to liberation.
The Shining hardly needs introduction. It screens at the Castro as part of a tribute to Stanley Kubrick. Needless to say, blood-filled elevators, dismembered creepy twins, and an ax-wielding Jack Nicholson at his very finest are enough to warm the hearts of those in need of some unholiday-like bliss. Three cheers for Christmas carnage.
Brazil screens at 7 p.m. Friday and 2:10 and 7 p.m. Saturday, The City of Lost Children at 4:50 p.m. Friday and 4:50 and 9:35 p.m. Saturday, both at UC Theater, 2036 University (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $5-7; call (510) 843-FILM. Metropolis screens at 7:15 and 9:40 p.m. Tuesday at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $3-6.50; call 668-3994. The Shining shows at 1, 4, 7, and 9:50 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-6120.