Pass the Remote: BAMPFA summer screenings offer something for everyone  

Films by master animator Hayao Miyazaki (“Ponyo” screens on June 29) are featured at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive this summer. (Courtesy BAMPFA)

On your marks, get set, go—right now—and bookmark the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s website.

PFA’s irresistible summer programming has huge variety, from celebrating iconic animated storyteller Hayao Miyazaki to a retrospective of fearless filmmaker Lynne Ramsay, who will appear in person.

This week, we preview PFA attractions from June through August, and offer recommendations. Tickets, $5 to $14, are on sale now.

Les Blank’s “Burden of Dreams” looks at filmmaker Werner Herzog’s obsession with getting the details right on the movie “Fitzcarraldo.” (Courtesy BAMPFA) 

Les Blank: A Life Well Spent (June 7-July 27): The late Berkeley filmmaker’s major passions — music (blues, polka to name a few) and a desire to fully capture the personalities of his sometimes-idiosyncratic subjects and their cultures — shines through in his one-of-a-kind documentaries. PFA is showcasing 10, including the Bay Area 4K restoration premiere of his 1982 eye-opener “Burden of Dreams” at 4 p.m. July 27. The movie, co-directed by Maureen Gosling (who will attend the screening with other Blank collaborators and friends), is about director Werner Herzog’s obsessive attention to detail while making 1982’s Herculean cinematic achievement “Fitzcarraldo” starring Klaus Kinski. (

“Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro” is on the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s program featuring Hayao Miyazaki classics. (Courtesy BAMPFA)

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Cinema (June 8-Aug. 31): Certain to attract an enthusiastic and huge crowd, this 12-film program features enchantments sprung from the imagination of the beloved and revered Japanese animated filmmaker. Many of his greatest achievements are included: the exciting eco-themed adventure epic 1997’s “Princess Mononoke” at 4 p.m. June 8 and 7 p.m. Aug. 29 and his wistful, elegant and transcendent fantasy, 2003 Oscar winner “Spirited Away” at 4 p.m. June 15 and 4 p.m. Aug. 17. I’m particularly excited about “Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro” at 4:30 p.m. June 9 — in a movie theater, not a screen at home. ( )

Film Noir Classics: America’s Dark Dreams (June 14-Aug. 8): Where to begin with this delectable series? How about at the start, with Billy Wilder’s iconic 1944 genre high mark “Double Indemnity”? A 35mm archival print screens at 7 p.m. June 14. Praised for numerous legit reasons, the oft-copied classic gifted the genre with legendary onscreen femme fatale, the manipulative lounge-about Phyllis Dietrichson, played to icicle perfection by Barbara Stanwyck. The schemer lures the gullible, all too susceptible-to-her-charms insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) into her lair, a Los Angeles bungalow.

Other standouts in this collection include a digital restoration of Robert Siodmark’s “The Killers” with Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster at 7 p.m. July 5; a 35 mm print of John Huston’s archetypal 1941 Sam Spade gem “The Maltese Falcon” at 7 p.m. July 11; and Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 taut heist thriller “The Killing” at 7 p.m. Aug. 8.

An added incentive is that esteemed film historian and critic David Thomson will be on hand to discuss noir staples and styles at the 3:30 p.m. June 16 digital restoration screening of Orson Welles’ 1948 “The Lady from Shanghai.” Thomson also will appear at the 7 p.m. June 20 screening of Nicholas Ray’s 1950 “In a Lonely Place” and the 6 p.m. June 23 showing of Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 “Out of the Past.” (

Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America” features an impeccable score by Ennio Morricone that furthers the epic film’s storytelling. (Courtesy BAMPFA

Made in Italy: Morricone, Leone and More (July 12-Aug. 31): Best known for unforgettable scores in spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone and starred Clint Eastwood, Ennio Morricone also composed memorable scores for other top directors. The PFA’s collection combines the two, and includes his most popular  work: 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars” at 7 p.m. July 12 and 7 p.m. Aug. 1; 1965’s “For a Few Dollars More” at 7 p.m. July 20 and 7 p.m. Aug. 15, the extended cut of 1966’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 and 1968’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” at 6 p.m. Aug. 11. The dandy Western stars Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale.

Other less familiar Morricone scores are in director Marco Bellocchio’s first film, 1965’s “Fists in the Pocket” at 6:30 p.m. July 28 and Lina Wertmüller’s 1963 “The Lizards,” presented in a new 4K digital restoration at 7 p.m. July 18. One of my personal favorites is his sweeping score in Leone’s 1984 American epic “Once Upon a Time in America, which will be presented the way it should be viewed, in the extended director’s cut, at 6 p.m. Aug. 31. (

“Forget Love for Now,” a film by prolific Japanese director Hiroshi Shimizu, finds a single mom facing societal pressures. (Courtesy BAMPFA) 

Hiroshi Shimizu: Notes of an Itinerant Director (July 19-Aug. 28): While previously named directors resonate with American film fans, this program dedicated to a prolific lesser-known Japanese filmmaker here (who made around 150 films) is particularly appealing. Sadly, as the PFA notes, many of Shimizu’s films, often about marginalized people, have been lost. I’m looking forward to checking out 1941’s “Ornamental Hairpin,” about two people coming together at a mountain resort at 7 p.m. July 19 and 1937’s “Forget Love for Now,” in which a single mom confronts the ugly specter of societal backlash, at 7 p.m. July 27. (

Something Different: The Films of Vera Chytilová (July 26-Aug. 30): The Czech feminist filmmaker took immense pleasure in skewering the status quo. This five-film series focuses on her 1960s and 1970s films, including the surreal comedic headtrip, 1966’s “Daisies,” at 7 p.m. July 26 and 5 p.m. Aug. 30. Another buried treasure that sounds tempting is 1970’s “Fruit of Paradise” at 7 p.m. Aug. 10. The relatively unseen film (at least in the U.S.) is an Adam and Eve allegory that envisions Eden as a spa and involves a serial killer, which, not surprisingly, might ruffle some feathers. Chytilová’s work did that with the Czech government, which banned her from filmmaking. (

Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” uncompromisingly probes the ultimate nightmare of a mother, played by Tilda Swinton. (Courtesy BAMPFA) 

Lynne Ramsay in Person (Aug. 22-25): One of our generation’s foremost indie filmmakers refuses to compromise her artistic and creative integrity and vision, as her astonishing oeuvre proves. The fearless Scottish filmmaker will attend screenings of four of her films: 1999’s “Ratcatcher,” a teen-focused drama centered around Glasgow’s 1973 garbage strike at 7 p.m. Aug. 22; her 2002 cult classic road picture “Morvern Callar” at 7 p.m. Aug. 23; her disturbing maternal nightmare “We Need to Talk About Kevin” featuring Tilda Swinton in a monumental scream of a performance, at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 24;  and, a hot ticket: 2017’s unyielding character-driven drama about a Vietnam vet and hired killer, “You Were Never Really Here,” starring Joaquin Phoenix in one of his most searing performances, at 3 p.m. Aug. 25. (

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