Saturday, December 24


A New Mission for the Roxie; More on the Four Star

I don't know where I first heard the rumor this summer, but I noticed the announcement on the Roxie website earlier this week, and now Lincoln Spector of the indispensable Bayflicks has posted the interview with Roxie management that I was hoping somebody might do. Anyway, it's official: the Roxie has found a great way to stay open: by morphing into the non-profit Roxie Film Center with help from a partnership with New College of California. The Bayflicks link has all the major details, but I just wanted to add that it seems like a great turn of events for all parties. For the Roxie, of course, because despite the addition of the nice and cozy "Little Roxie" a couple doors down from the main house, it's been struggling. But also for New College, which will hold film classes in the theatre, and I'm guessing will also be able to use the Roxie for certain film & media events it hosts. I remember once trying to go to a video screening at New College (I can't remember if it was something in their Activism and Social Change series, or if a film festival like LaborFest that was using the venue) and being frustrated trying to find the right room, only to find it was standing room only. The Roxie seems like an excellent way for New College to become better connected to the greater Frisco community. I hope the match is as good as it appears to be, and that we can all look forward to the Roxie's 100th anniversary in 2012 instead of worrying about another theatre closure.

Speaking of which, I attended last weekend's benefit to save the Four Star Theatre and had a grand time, watching the incredible
Deaf and Mute Heroine for the first time ever and a Chinese Ghost Story for the first time on the big screen. Though the theatre was not as jam-packed as I'd hoped it might be, apparently lots of people had braved the bad weather to come and drop off kind wishes and donations. As I understand it, the convention in the Hong Kong film industry, at least for some time, was for theatres that exhibited prints to buy them outright rather than rent them, which means that Frank Lee has a stockpile of films from which to help program the annual Asian Film Festival and other classic film showcases like the one last week. Seeing the Lee family's print of Deaf and Mute Heroine was truly a treat, despite a few bad splices. Clearly a major influence on future Hong Kong filmmakers as well as Westerners like Quentin Tarantino, the film chronicles Helen Ma's title character's unsuccessful attempt to escape from the life of a wuxia warrior to one of domesticity, with violently tragic results. The fight scenes are truly spectacular, with an early one set in a muddy swamp being particularly memorable, though even it is topped by the epic finale. And the screening felt particularly precious after I read this article suggesting that this print, as patched-together as it is in parts, might be the only one in the world surviving. All the more reason to support the Four Star in its upcoming legal battle and hope that its landlord can find another solution for its needs. If the Four Star is indeed forced to close I'd hope the Lees would still occasionally exhibit the prints in their collection at one of their Marina District theatres (the Presidio or, once its renovation is complete, the Cinema 21), but in a neighborhood without quite the same Asian flavor as the Four Star's Richmond District, I doubt the fit would be as natural. The Presido has been re-opened under the Lees' management for exactly a year now and the only times I've noticed it playing Asian films were during the Asian Film Festival and just after when One Night in Mongkok had a week-long run.

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