Thursday, June 14


Two years

Yesterday marked two years to the date from when I first started this blog, with a little recap of films I'd recently seen on home video and at the Roxie.

A few days later I put up what after two years I still consider one of my very favorite posts here, a reflection on the Joy of Life, one of the films in that year's Frameline festival. It's a favorite not only because the film's director Jenni Olson actually read the piece and left a comment, something I didn't notice until months later, but because I felt like I really was able to say a lot about the film, even without formulating my thoughts into a "real" review (a craft I still have little patience for honing myself, knowing there are so many others clearly so talented at it and interested in it), or even complete sentences sometimes. I've often thought I should try using this approach on other films, and maybe I do to an extent. But it never seems to work as naturally as it did for me that one time. There's something about that film, I think...

But enough meta-blog babble. Frameline 31 opened at the Castro tonight and runs through June 24. Where I was completely without bearings, not knowing what films to see or whether to go at all a few days ago, I now feel like I have a handle on at least a good portion of what's playing on the program, thanks to Michael Guillen, Michael Hawley, and the Bay Guardian staff. Typically for me, it's the vintage bottle that's caught my attention the most out of all the wines on the rack. Lizzie Borden's Born in Flames, which I'd never heard of before, sounds like a real must-see.

Of the other must-sees visible on the Frisco filmgoing horizon, surely the most essential is the Jean Renoir in the Thirties series running every Sunday and Thursday in July and August at SFMOMA, starting with La Chienne on July 1, 5 and 8. It's by no means a complete series (the most notable omission of his thirties films I've seen is certainly Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, which I hope plays another nearby screen soon, as I've only seen a rather poor video copy) but there isn't a dud in the bunch, unless perhaps it's the one I haven't seen before, even on video: La Marseillaise (playing July 22, 26 & 29). I'm excited to get a chance to see it on the big screen (I sincerely doubt it's a dud), as well as another shot at the new print of the Rules of the Game August 23, 26, and 30. I'd also like to point to the July 12, 15, and 19 pairing of a Day in the Country with Boudu Saved From Drowning, two films every self-respecting cinephile ought to watch back-to-back at least once in her or his life. Coincidentally, I just wrote a few words on Boudu Saved From Drowning's ending as part of my final post at Cinemarati.

More delightful masterpieces of French cinema (as opposed to "ponderous, weighty masterpieces of French cinema", though these don't want for a certain kind of depth either) coming up: Madame de... on August 17th at the Pacific Film Archive (the rest of that theatre's upcoming schedule yet to be announced, other than an assurance of Barbara Stanwyck films throughout July), and Mon Oncle at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento as part of a French Film Festival July 20-29. I don't consider our state's capital to be part of my purview here (it may be "Hell", but it isn't exactly what I'd call "on Frisco Bay.") However, this festival annually screens a noteworthy title or two that we don't get to see all the way out at this end of the Sacramento River. Tati's 1958 Oscar-winner hasn't shown in 35mm in Frisco for years, making me wonder if a little road trip might be feasible. I'll wait for more titles to be announced to really start to consider it.

Though it's not like we're lacking in film festivals out here on the coast, as anyone who's ever glanced at this blog before should recognize. Sometimes there's two or three running at once, like this weekend when the Black Film Festival overlaps with Frameline (earlier tonight, the closing program of the aptly-named Another Hole in the Head made it three.) Next month, LaborFest, at the Roxie and elsewhere July 5-31, overlaps with the Silent Film Festival at the Castro and the Jewish Film Festival at the Castro and elsewhere. The latter has sent out schedules to the addresses on its snail mail list, and has promised to reveal details on its website on June 19th. Then in August a new festival appears in town: the Dead Channels Festival of Fantastic Film will play at the Castro and Roxie from the 9th to the 16th. Among the sneak peek announced titles are Trapped Ashes, a new omnibus film with segments directed by Ken Russell, Joe Dante and Monte Hellman among others, and David Cronenberg's crucial early work Crimes of the Future presented with a score performed live by members of the sleek and mysterious Frisco band I Am Spoonbender. That should be an interesting event, to say the least. Crimes of the Future is by no means a silent film, but its soundtrack already seems like the sort of thing the Spoonbender folks might have come up with themselves (perhaps it was an early influence on them, even though it was a pretty difficult film to track down until recently?) Several years ago I saw the Eames film Powers of Ten with the band providing a live alternative soundtrack, and they really did a good job making it their own without overwhelming the imagery whatsoever.

Last but not absolutely not least, I was recently informed by Max Goldberg, who writes excellent articles for the Guardian, that SF Camerawork will be presenting 16mm screenings of the Nathaniel Dorsky films that, unless you planned ahead, you were probably sold out of when screened at the Yerba Buena Center last winter. The films will be shown on August 2nd and 16th, and will be presented by Kino21, the best news to come along for Frisco avant-garde film enthusiasts in a while. Thanks for the tip, Max! Kino21 will also be presenting a neo-Benshi event at Artists Television Access on July 7th.

Congratulations on the 2 year anniversary of your blog Brian! I can remember coming across it about 18 or 16 months ago and being really impressed by it. I love how you cover bay area film events and it's so nice to have a blog where I know I can come to anytime and find out what's going on locally.
Thanks! Needless to say I'm really impressed by yours. I love the design, the focus on a particular cinematic era, and of course your clear prose and keen insights.
Happy Second Birthday, Brian!

Speaking of Eames, they have a multi-DVD collection available for rent at Netflix, and I've seen none of the Eames films. Other than Powers of Ten, any recommendations?
Thanks, girish! Other than Powers of Ten, which I've seen a couple times in 16mm projections, I've only seen what's collected on the 2nd volume of the 5 VHS/DVD compilation.

In that set, my favorites are Blacktop, Atlas and Toccata For Toy Trains which, like Power of Ten, features a score by Elmer Bernstein. I believe it played at the first SFIFF back in 1957.

If you delve into any of the other discs, please let me know which ones are particularly worth seeing.
Thanks for the kind words Brian...And keep up the good work!

It's nice to see SFMOMA finally putting their screening facilities to use...I'm sure I'll see you at some of the Renoirs.
Congratulations, Brian! I've come to rely on your blog more than any other source for planning my Bay Area film-going calendar. When you haven't posted for a while, I get nervous that I might be missing out on something unique and important.

Thanks for the Frameline mention.
Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the feedback.

I'll definitely be at some of the Renoirs; wish it could be all but the Sunday shows are all a no-go for me, and there are a few Thursdays when I'll be busy with something else as well. The one I'll regret missing the most is La Chienne, which I've never seen on the big screen.
Girish, you have a treat coming to you!

Everything they did is more than worth looking at, but I cannot resist making some specific Eames suggestions.

My personal favorite is "Blacktop". I have shown this to 3-, 4- and 5-year olds an they love it. At LA County Museum of Art's retrospective on Charles and Ray Eames, there was a small alcove where they projected the film on the floor, and one excited little boy had a nice little frolick on it.

LACMA was the first time I ever had a chance to see "Bread" and "Babbage", and I know "Bread has been added to one of the collections when they came out on DVD.
You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can't take the Brooklyn out of the girl!

PFA schedule is just out and there is much to digest! However, I wanted to note that 10 out of 12 of the features in the Barbara Stanwyck Centennial series are at the Castro as part of PFA at the Castro pilot program thing.

Let's all make a point of going, bringing our pals and buying popcorn. Keep it going!

(NIGHT NURSE and STELLA DALLAS are the "holdouts".)

(Let's also take a moment to thank Sing-a-Long Grease for carrying the Imamura.)
Good to see you stop by, miriam. Looks like Bread is on Vol. 5 of the Eames home video set, and Babbage is on Vol. 6 (I didn't even know there was a Vol. 6) I'll have to track those down.

As for the PFA calendar, you're not kidding! There go all the blank spaces on my July-August calendar. Thanks so much for the alert!
I almost forgot: "House After Five Years of Living" has brought me to tears. A pot of jam will never be quite the same for me, not if it has a beam of sunlight on it.

The Eames's daughter Lucia has really taken good care of their work and kept it out there. These films could have easily fallen into the abyss, like so many fine ephemeral films have.

"Babbage" is noteworthy for me because I don't generally have a lot of curiosity about things like Babbage's Difference Engine, but the film really drew me in. Ah, when computers were made of brass!

While I can't afford one of their chairs, even in reproduction, but I have to put Charles and Ray on the "sharing" side of my "Sharer or Elitist?" dichotomy.

As for the PFA: will this be the year I get through my mental block about Tarkovsky?

Renoir in the Thirties: I wish it was somewhere else . . .
Re: Tarkovsky. I don't know, but this is the second time in the past five years that a rare screening of Stalker is scheduled when I'm supposed to work. This time I may just have to try to rearrange. I've been waiting to see it on the big screen for long enough already; I don't want the first time to be on video, nor do I want to keep running into extended clips from it (as in Distant and the Pervert's Guide to Cinema) without having seen it in full for myself first.

What does this Tarkovsky block entail? Is it a full-scale aversion?

As for Renoir, I still haven't been to SFMOMA's screening room enough recently to have come to any conclusions. I attended some excellent, if sometimes a bit overpriced, events there in the past.
A Tarkovsky-snob boy-pal in I knew my twenties + a screening of SOLARIS at the Castro when I was in a bad mood = a serious issue with a filmmaker, though not of his making.

I could never write a director off for good, so there!

I saw and was stunned by IVAN'S CHILDHOOD at the PFA. It was on a double bill with an Antonioni I wanted to see, so I came early to see the co-feature, which turned out to be Tarkovsky's debut feature.

If boy-pal had not been so "You've never heard of Takovsky and therefore you are a fool! He's more IMPORTANT than Howard Hicks or Hawks or whoever that guy is! IMPORTANT films are important and they are art." it might have been different.

Whenever Tarkovsky comes up in a Q and A, I glaze. It seems so name dropp-y. You know the deal.

Here again, the Sharers vs. the Elitists . . . Tarkovsky must have plenty of nice folks who adore his work and have a better sense of how to interest others in it, but not this guy.


As for MOMA: Maybe the high prices at the events you attended encouraged the organizers to put someone on the door to make sure gallery-goers didn't wander in and disrupt the proceedings. They do seem to want to make it better, I think.
Thanks, Brian and Miriam!

"If you delve into any of the other discs, please let me know which ones are particularly worth seeing."

I sure will, Brian...
Congratulations on two years! By the way, you may want to check out the DVD of Dance Girl Dance. It includes a Freleng cartoon, "Malibu Beach Party", a show biz spoof.
Great, girish.

Thanks for the tip, Peter! You've reminded me to check on this list of bonus cartoons again, which I hadn't in a while. I should definitely rent that disc, as I've never seen a Dorothy Arzner film.

Miriam, maybe I'll see you at Stalker then? (If I can get the time off, that is)
See me at STALKER!? Ha! You gonna follow me there?

DANCE, GIRL, DANCE has one of my favorite Lucille Ball movie moments. I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but in involves a toy bull.
I've been going to the Dead Channels festival (Postal was just ok, btw), and the highlight by far has been the Crimes Of The Future Cronenberg/Spoonbender 1.1.1 show. Wow! Cool 'experimental' movie. During the q+a afterwards, only 2 people said that they had seen this
before Saturday! Every body in the PACKED Roxie was completely hypnotized by the shivering fissions of amazing sound that the group worked up to accompany this unique film. No surprise really, these guys are the most consistently imaginative and transcendent freaks in the Bay Area. Keith and Ali are still talking about what it all means...
Thanks for the report back, Moon Unit. I was sorry I had to miss this show, as I'm a longtime fan of the Spoonbender folks and have been wanting a chance to see this film on the big screen for almost as long. I'm happy to have it on DVD (along with Stereo on the Fast Company Special Edition from Blue Underground) but I can imagine that seeing it in a movie house packed with people experiencing it for the first time would have indeed been quite electrifying.
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