Thursday, October 6


I Know Where I'm Going: San Rafael

It's not nearly as hard to get to as Kiloran was for Wendy Hiller in the Michael Powell / Emeric Pressburger masterspiece, I Know Where I'm Going!, but ever since I donated my car a couple years ago I haven't been over to Marin County very often. Which means that I've completely missed out on the last few editions of the Mill Valley Film Festival (this year's festival opens tonight and runs through October 16) much to my regret. I don't so much mind that I miss out on the Bay Area premieres of films eventually destined to play here in Frisco, like (to take examples from last year's lineup) Vera Drake, Moolaade, and Nobody Knows. But the festival is becoming an ever-increasingly reputable place for exclusive NorCal screenings of important, intriguing films like James Lee's the Beautiful Washing Machine, Abbas Kiarostami's Five, and Rob Nilsson's SAMT, none of which have screened anywhere in the area since I missed my chances in Marin. One indication of the MVFF's growing reputation for premiering major work was that when I asked a member of the SF International Film Festival's programming staff why Taiwanese titan Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Cafe Lumiere hadn't been selected for that festival this past spring, the response was "didn't that play Mill Valley?" I answered no, but wondered to myself if perhaps Hou's stylistically austere films do seem a better fit there than at the SFIFF of late (I suspect I'll need to resort to the copy at Le Video if I'm going to be able to see Cafe Lumiere.)

I'm not sure if there's anything as unique and daring as Five in the lineup this year, but a few of the offerings that sound particularly intriguing and don't (to my knowledge) have distribution deals at this moment include the International Premiere selection Girlfriend, Someone Please Stop the World by Vibrator director Ryuichi Hiroki, Bye Bye Blackbird, which stars Charlie Chaplin's grandson James Thierree, the South Korean hit Springtime, and The Lady From Sockholm, which, as the world's first-ever feature-length sock puppet movie (based on an Edward Gorey tale!) sounds absolutely too weird to let slip through my fingers. Of all the festival's selections, though, I'm most excited about the Powell/Pressburger films. Having only seen their films on television sets, I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to see I Know Where I'm Going! and the Red Shoes on the big Rafael Film Center screen.

The Rafael is one of several theatres hosting the MVFF this year (the majority of screenings are held there, the Sequoia or 142 Throckmorton) but it's also one of the most thoughtfully programmed theatres in the Bay Area year-round. And its newest calendar, running through December, is now showing up in the usual spots (bookstores, theatres, etc.) around town, though it's not online quite yet. Among the more compelling reasons for me to learn to use Golden Gate Transit is an October 21-23 Artist-in-Residency for cinematographer/director Joan Churchill in which Punishment Park (which she shot) and Soldier Girls (which she directed with Nick Broomfield) will be shown. A collection of Jay Rosenblatt short films including Phantom Limb and the extraordinarily moving Prayer will play for a week (November 18-24). A "Reel Politics" series brings Bay Area politicians to screen and speak about a favorite film; Senator Barbara Boxer with Norma Rae October 29, Assemblyman Mark Leno with the Grapes of Wrath December 8, etc. And the Powell/Pressburger films will continue past the MVFF every Sunday and Thursday through the rest of the season, culminating in a Jack Cardiff tribute screening of A Matter of Life and Death on December 7.

Other selections I'm personally less likely to cross the bridge for (if only because I anticipate a chance to see the film on this side, if I haven't already) include The Overture, the prosaically-scripted but spectacularly-soundtracked Thai xylophonist drama that opens there October 17 (after a run at the Balboa starting tomorrow), a filmmaker-in-person screening of the extraordinary the Joy of Life December 6, and a run of the new documentary Ballets Russes that starts November 11, a week after its November 3rd opening slot at Kanbar Hall in the Film Arts Foundation Festival of Independent Cinema (which, incidentally, also just released a strong-looking lineup.)

I'm curious about Pierre Yameogo's Delwende. From what I've seen of his work, he's a bit like Sembene-lite: tackling ills and stereotypes of contemporary Africa by poking fun at themselves. His films aren't earth shattering, but like Sembene's films, they're celebratory of African identity.
I've never seen any of them. Thanks for the suggestion, I may just try to go see the Thursday night screening. I've really liked most of the Sembene films I've seen. (I've seen his early films from Black Girl through Emitai, and his last two. Faat-Kine was something of a letdown in comparison to the wonderfulness of the others, but Moolaade was perhaps my favorite yet)
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