Close the laptop, drop that tablet, pause the smartphone and join your fellow humans in Bay Area theaters this week with recommendations from our film critic Michael Fox.
Legion of Honor, San Francisco
Saturday, Sept. 10, 1:30-4:30pm
On very short notice, in the wake of Gene Wilder’s death on Aug. 29, several theaters around the country arranged screenings of the beloved actor’s most memorable films. In case you missed that fleeting tribute, the Legion of Honor wraps its six-week-series of Westerns -- programmed in conjunction with the Wild West: Plains to the Pacific exhibition (closing Sept. 10) -- with the giddily irreverent and groundbreaking Blazing Saddles (1974).
Mel Brooks’ still-hilarious parody of the genre’s self-serious moralizing and weak-coffee clichés is filled with great characterizations, including Wilder’s turn as a crack shot with a weakness for alcohol. (Shades of Dean Martin’s Dude in Rio Bravo.) If you take your Westerns straight, High Noon is also on the bill.
Not all actors are pussycats, don’t you know. The handsome Austrian hunk Helmut Berger was a striking, forceful presence on screen in the ’70s, but rather tempestuous, shall we say, in television interviews and his personal life. Linked forever with the great Luchino Visconti, his partner for many years and his director for The Damned (1969) and Ludwig (1973), Berger had the knack (and curse) of getting crazy-deep into his characters. Documentary filmmaker Andreas Horvath’s 2015 portrait, Helmut Berger, Actor, playing Sept. 8-11 at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts, brings us uncomfortably, dangerously close to its subject.