Pass the Remote: At the PFA: Porter, Herzog, Rialto

Klaus Kinski plays Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald in "Fitzcarraldo" directed by Werner Herzog.(Photo by Werner Herzog/Deutsche Kinemathek/Getty Images/Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

The upcoming fall film series at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive includes a packed and eclectic program as well as appearances from an iconic director, a documentarian, and an experimental filmmaker. 

Pass the Remote plucks out a couple of noteworthy titles you can catch over Labor Day weekend and points out programs we’re looking forward to that’ll arrive later in the month and afterward.

The influential works of director Luis Buñuel aren’t intended to be viewed and consumed idly and then summarily dismissed. Anytime you happen upon a feature from the surrealist Spanish Mexican filmmaker, you’re guaranteed to have a rather visceral reaction. Expect that to play out in PFA’sLuis Buñuel’s Magnificent Weapon,” which expands on a summer program that concentrated on the complex filmmaker’s output in the 1960s-70s.

This ongoing series, running Sept. 1 through Nov. 19, showcases his outraged and fiery brilliance, surrealist tendencies and ability to provoke. The 15-film program bundles well- and lesser-known works and includes 1950’s “Los Olvidados” (aka “The Young and the Damned”). The acclaimed feature, screening at 7 p.m. Sept. 1, peers into the lives of slum kids caught up in a no-win, corrupt and spit-you-out system.

Nothing remains certain in the film industry; consider the strikes that go on and on. There is, fortunately, one constant: the great quality of releases from distributor Rialto Pictures. The PFA honors the company’s high standards with the program “Rialto Pictures: 25th Anniversary Salute,” which includes a top-shelf section of their most classic features, including the 4K digital restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt.”

Based on the novel “A Ghost at Noon,” the irresistible 1953 French New Wave film illustrates a battle of egos and libidos playing out when playwright (Michel Piccoli) and his wife (Brigitte Bardot) experience turbulence in Italy where he’s working on an adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey” to be directed by Fritz Lang (portraying himself). The movie screens at 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sept. 22.

“Contempt” is one of the gems in “Rialto Pictures: 25th Anniversary Salute.” (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive).

The PFA continues its esteemed tradition of bringing today’s most innovative filmmakers  – Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Kelly Reichardt, Wayne Wang and so on – to Berkeley to discuss their stimulating work, shed light on their creative process and cut loose the adventures of moviemaking.  

Werner Herzog is equally at home making narrative features and documentaries. (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

Upcoming is prolific risk-taking director Werner Herzog, a filmmaker equally at home making ambitious, sometimes epic, narrative features as he is with thought-provoking documentaries.

The impressive 11-film retrospective Infinite Horizons: The Films of Werner Herzogbrings the vibrant 80-year-old German filmmaker to Berkeley for some of the screenings, and I suspect one of the liveliest discussions might occur Nov. 9 when he discusses his foray into pulp fiction, 2009’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.”  (While many of the programs already are sold out, a limited number of wheelchair accessible spaces may still be available by contacting

And if you’ve never seen the rather insane “Fitzcarraldo” with Klaus Kinski and a riverboat being hauled up over a mountain (a spectacle like few others), here’s your chance, on Nov. 24.

The program runs from Nov. 9 through Nov. 25. I’d recommend getting tickets now. As a bonus, Herzog, who’s also an author, will read on Nov. 10 from his upcoming memoir “Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir,” which will be released in October. What a title!

Dawn Porter will appear at three events at the PFA. Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

Should documentary maker Dawn Porter be making a movie about your life, rest assured, you’ll be in good hands. The award-winning filmmaker will attend two screenings in a September program. On Sept. 21, she’ll attend for her latest feature “The Lady Bird Diaries,” which provides insight into America and its presidential history via the audio diaries of Lady Bird Johnson. 

On Sept. 23 is 2013’s “Gideon’s Army,” an overview of a landmark 1963 Supreme Court case that paved the way for people accused in felony cases to receive a lawyer if they couldn’t afford one.  

Porter will also be on hand for an artist’s talk on Sept. 22 with award-winning journalist Lisa Armstrong, a professor at University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. For details on Porter’s visit, go here.

If you’re a fan of less literal fare, get your elusive self over to the PFA. The 11-film Alternative Visions” program offers much to ponder and unpack, and the opportunity to expand your mind by checking out the adventurous work of Jerome Hiler who, as program notes state, started out showing his films at home screenings.  

His distinctive experimental films make up “Illuminations: Jerome Hiler,” which begins Sept. 13 and will feature Hiler at each of the four screenings.

One thought on “Pass the Remote: At the PFA: Porter, Herzog, Rialto

  1. Thank you, Randy Myers, for this roundup of upcoming BAM/PFA films.
    It’s great to have a guide to help sort through the many types of films, from those by the megawatt director Werner Herzog, to lesser-known directors. Your column is very much appreciated!

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