Thursday, June 23


Human/Nature at the Balboa

The opening shot of Werner Herzog's international breakthrough Aguirre, Wrath of God depicts a procession of conquistadors and slaves snaking down the side of a mountain, deeper and deeper into the Andean jungle. The haunting music of Florian Fricke's Popul Vuh seemingly captures the sound a curtain of mist makes as it clings to this thread of adventurers blazing its path toward the inevitable disaster that lies ahead for Klaus Kinski and company. Akira Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala provides a countering outlook on wilderness expedition; the title character maintains a sort of harmony with the Siberian landscape he traverses. Both films are among the most cinematic of the 1970's, and having them on the same double-bill at the Balboa Theatre on Wednesday, June 29 is a rare treat.

Or it would be, except that they're playing as part of a two-week series called Human/Nature that's filled with one creatively programmed double-bill after another. It all starts off tomorrow (and Saturday) with Walkabout and Whale Rider, each a coming-of-age tale from "down under". Sunday pairs the original Japanese versions of two cautionary tales that are more familiar to U.S. viewers in versions mutilated by cuts and/or bad dub jobs: the anime masterpiece Princess Mononoke and kaiju monster classic Godzilla. Other days will feature silent-era documentaries directed by the duo who later made King Kong (Grass: a Nation's Battle For Life and Chang: a Drama of the Wilderness, both on Tuesday, June 28), Himalayan showcases (Saltmen of Tibet and Himalaya, next Friday and Saturday), and even a Sunday (July 1) program particularly suited for families: The Black Stallion and The Secret of Roan Inish. The series will conclude on Wednesday July 6, with a particularly clever paring: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (with the director in attendance) and Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. The optimism for our ability to understand the natural world found in the one film might be the perfect antidote for the pessimism of the other. Or vice versa, depending on which order you might decide to take them in.

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