The irony of Frank Perry's career is that his best-known film -- the campy Mommie Dearest -- is his least typical. Perry burst onto the scene in the early '60s with an intimate, low-budget hit, David and Lisa, about two emotionally disturbed teenagers. Drawing on his documentary experience, and filming in an asylum, Perry achieved a no-frills realism that clicked with younger moviegoers and nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
Championed by studio execs as a new-generation filmmaker with insights into the crumbling American psyche, Perry moved beyond Cassavetes-style naturalism and, alas, fair-haired success. Although his idiosyncratic movies about unhappy self-obsessives never failed to fascinate, post-Oswald audiences weren't eager to confront societal moral decay -- at least not through the eyes of angst-ridden bourgeois characters. In The Swimmer, adapted from a John Cheever story, Burt Lancaster's suburban midlife crisis plays itself out around a succession of pools and back yards. In Diary of a Mad Housewife, the late, great Carrie Snodgress is so strangled by the banality of marriage that she embarks on an affair. With the quirky western Rancho Deluxe, which traded on Jeff Bridges' layabout charm, Perry belatedly displayed an irreverent streak. It's rediscovery time: There's more to Frank Perry than wire hangers.
"Outside of the Inside: Films by Frank Perry" begins with a screening of Diary of a Mad Housewife at 7 tonight (and continues Fridays through July 30) in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $4-7; call 978-2787 or visit www.YerbaBuenaArts.org.
-- Michael Fox
Shortsighted record labels, malicious law-enforcement agencies, and a dog pile of drugs helped derail revolutionary Detroit rockers the MC5 in the group's prime, but the proto-punk godfathers forged a high-octane musical legacy that left most of their anemic '60s contemporaries choking on Motor City fumes. The recent documentary MC5: A True Testimonial reunited surviving members Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer, and Dennis Thompson when the filmmakers allegedly tried to jack the band of the rights to its own music; together the three then formed DKT/MC5, which shares the stage with Marshall Crenshaw, Mudhoney's Mark Arm, and Evan Dando at 9 p.m. at the Independent, 628 Divisadero (at Hayes), S.F. Admission is $25; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com.
-- Dave Pehling
Grooves From the East
Though modern clubbers just love gyrating to electronica jitter, that soulless sound leaves me cold. But I do love the way such songs melt into each other so that there's no awkward pause in the dancing action. Wouldn't it be great if some club could create a similar smooth mix without the annoying drum-machine thump? Luckily for dance floor fanatics, El Rio has. Every Thursday, "Arabian Nights" boasts hypnotic, uninterrupted North African pop, rock, and funk for movers and shakers, with free belly dancing classes starting each evening at 9 at 3158 Mission (at Cesar Chavez), S.F. Admission is $5; call 282-3325 or visit www.elriosf.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Do the Worm
For a brief time in the '70s and '80s, some street toughs scuttled their tendencies to settle differences with fights and instead challenged each other to break-dancing battles, where they could pop and lock like the great gladiators they were. Sadly, breaking soon fell out of fashion, and aficionados folded up their cardboard boxes and went home. But the acrobatic dance form is making a surprise comeback, thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of hip hop. Relive the days of parachute pants at "Electric Boogaloo," an old-school b-boy and b-girl battle royal, starting at 10 p.m. at Roccapulco, 3140 Mission (at Cesar Chavez), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 648-6611.
-- Joyce Slaton