Reel World

Shattered Image, Sinners in the Sun, and Out of the Past

Shattered Image
East Bay shaker: The UC Theatre is suddenly on course to close when the current calendar ends Sept. 30. No, it's not the multiplex virus -- it's a $300,000 seismic retrofit bill from the landlord. To be sure, Landmark Theatres, the art-house chain that started in the mid-'70s with the UC and two SoCal theaters, knew the hit was coming. Negotiations have descended into brinkmanship: If the landlord doesn't blink, Landmark will make a business decision to pull the plug. Our source puts the likelihood of the 83-year-old theater shuttering at 80 percent.

Sinners in the Sun
"This is the most important story in the history of women in film," declares Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle. The '80s arrival of muscular heroines Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton? Or the '90s trend of singers-cum-thespians like Madonna, Courtney Love, and Björk? No, LaSalle is raving about the adult movies produced in Hollywood before the Production Code Administration was created in 1934 to sanitize popular entertainment. "The early '30s were for women what the British invasion in the '60s was for rock and roll -- a huge influx of talent that was not seen again for the rest of the century," LaSalle says.

Now LaSalle's written his first book, Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood (Thomas Dunne Books), a breezy, insightful read that employs the conversational tone of his newspaper pieces rather than an academic style. In fact, LaSalle (a pseudonym, incidentally) was so overwhelmed by the strong actresses of pre-Code Hollywood that he pursued publishers for nearly five years with one revised book proposal after another. "I want people to have the pleasure of discovering these films," he says. "I want these women to get what they deserve from film history."

LaSalle presents a lecture with film clips of pre-Code actresses next month at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Out of the Past
Another man who loves words and pictures, film critic Terrance Gelenter, kicks off the distinctly retro CinemaLit Fall 2000 film series this Friday, Sept. 15, at the Mechanics' Institute Library on Post at Market. It's not only the films that are from a distant era -- the lineup includes Bringing Up Baby, Body and Soul, and The Bad and the Beautiful -- but the concept. "We're trying to recapture the urgency of talking about film, and dissecting a film, to create an informal forum," Gelenter explains. "We're after the confluence of conversation and cinema -- but with a little sex." Info: 393-0100 or www.milibrary.org. -- Michael Fox

 
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