Now Playing! Silent Scaries at Grace and Doc Stories at the Vogue and Castro

'The Apollo' is Roger Ross Williams’ made-for-HBO study of the Harlem landmark of African American culture. (Courtesy SFFILM)

Hallowe’en has evolved significantly from its religious and psychological roots to the point where it’s a children’s holiday in danger of being usurped by adults. This year, on Oct. 31, SFJAZZ offers a spiked treat for each demographic with back-to-back screenings of silent-era classics at Grace Cathedral.

As both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), John Barrymore effectively evokes Robert Louis Stevenson’s chilling cautions about human nature and scientific meddling. (So much for better living through chemistry.) Then Max Schreck—who some believe still stalks the planet after dark—devours the cast and the scenery in F.W. Murnau’s deeply disturbing vampire epic Nosferatu (1922). Dorothy Papadakos masterfully wrings every iota of dread and soulless destruction from Grace’s massive pipe organ. Details here.

'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' screens at Grace Cathedral with a live organ score.
'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' screens at Grace Cathedral with a live organ score. (Courtesy SFJAZZ)

Reality is plenty scary for many of us, yet SFFILM’s annual Doc Stories series (Nov. 1-4 at the Vogue and Castro Theatres) typically steers clear of social-issue documentaries. Artists command the spotlight this year, with the weekend bookended by The Apollo, Roger Ross Williams’ made-for-HBO study of the Harlem landmark of African American culture, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (with the director on hand).

Alla Kovgan’s ambitious Cunningham interweaves the saga of the brilliant dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham with stunning sequences of his dances performed for the camera. (It returns Jan. 3 for a theatrical engagement in San Francisco and Berkeley, if you miss it this weekend.)

Doc Stories also salutes Julia Reichert, the gutsy pioneer of U.S. political nonfiction, with a rare showing of her 1971 debut, Growing Up Female. Another icon, UK filmmaker Kim Longinotto, turns her camera on Sicilian photojournalist Litizia Battaglia (Shooting the Mafia), while Lauren Greenfield’s latest expose of conspicuous consumption, The Kingmaker, focuses on Filipino fashion icon and legend in her own mind Imelda Marcos.

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Finally, Ric Burns’ Oliver Sacks: His Own Life is a long-overdue portrait of the influential neurologist and writer who—among his many significant accomplishments—will forever be linked (in my mind, at least) with the late Robin Williams. Details here.

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