Nestled in Mill Valley's charming, redwood-dotted downtown, the CinéArts @ Sequioa and its towering façade were built in 1929 (designed by the Reid brothers, architects of the Grand Lake Theatre, among others) (source). The Sequoia is predated by Mill Valley's other surviving venue, 142 Throckmorton Theatre, built in 1915, and now host to live performances.
Along with 142 Throckmorton Theatre, Century Cinema in Corte Madera, and the Rafael Theatre in San Rafael, the Sequoia hosts the California Film Institute's Mill Valley Film Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals in the United States. Spanning a week and two weekends each October, the festival highlights more than a hundred shorts and feature-length films, some of them making their U.S. debuts. (My data indicate the Sequoia showed 46 different movies in 2010, however, the festival's daily showtimes were not consistently available on IMDB, and therefore my year-end counts are low for the above theaters.)
The lobby is cute, with an unusual snack bar featuring several unique items, including various cakes.
Twinned in 1975, the theater's two auditoriums seat 342 and 345, for a total of 687. The chairs are plush, with stadium seating in the rear and a healthy raked floor in the front. Golden fabric on the walls, classic patterns on the carpet, and lights on the steps help to make this the best CinéArts theater I've visited.
En ganske snill mann (A Somewhat Gentle Man)
At a remote prison in Sweden, the gates open to release Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) onto a snowy wasteland, without transportation or instruction. (Successfully reintroducing a felon into society is apparently not a priority for their penal system.) Ulrik doesn't complain; he makes his own way back to town, where he's admonished for trying to smoke in a diner (customs have changed), and people who recognize him are surprised that he's out already (how time flies when you're not incarcerated). His friends give him the Lando treatment, acting like they're mad at him, but then hugging him; for his part, Ulrik is so even tempered, he seems just as uncomfortable with the hug as with their feigned anger.
Something was mired in the translation of the film's title, as A Complacent Man would be more apt. (At one point, a dismissive "F*ck Otto!" was translated as "I'm screwing Otto!") When Ulrik's gangster friend, Rolf, arranges a job for him at an auto shop, Ulrik takes it. When his new boss says Ulrik can stay with his grumpy-looking sister, Ulrik accepts. When that sister makes an awkward sexual advance, Ulrik shrugs his lips then lies down on the bed. Being so easily nudged, it's no wonder he was pinched. Conditioned to follow orders, he must have adapted easily to the structure of prison life.
The boss is constantly giving speeches about second chances, and is genuinely decent to Ulrik, but that doesn't stop Ulrik from beginning an affair with the boss's wife, the auto shop's unhappy office manager. This new relationship makes Ulrik less interested in satisfying the urges of his landlady, whose foreplay is comically grotesque. Perhaps in that mechanical sexual exchange Ulrik first develops a backbone. Speaking nostalgically of when they used to steal cars together, Rolf attempts to draw Ulrik back into the criminal underworld, asking him to dispose of a pregnant woman who can finger them. Ulrik, in his own non-commital way, resists.
This film is enjoyable for its odd spectacle of characters and their stuttering interactions. Skarsgård keeps his emotions neutral, such that like Stephen Rhea's "I'm not good for much" in The Crying Game, it's unclear whether Ulrik even feels remorse, or if he just puppets his own body to match something he once saw on TV.