Thursday, January 5


Looking ahead to 2006, part III: Cinematheques and alternative venues

Perhaps you thought I was going to stop after Part II, but no! How could I leave out some of the most interesting places on Frisco Bay to see a film? These venues may not look or smell like movie theatres but increasingly they're the places where the most unusual, obscure, and sometimes even best stuff has a chance to flicker across a screen. This will be by no means comprehensive; there are lots of venues around town I'm not familiar with or have otherwise overlooked. Remind me if there's a particular one you think I should highlight.

I'll start with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which I haven't talked about much on this blog lately but houses one of my favorite screening rooms in town. I especially liked their student prices back when I was eligible to take advantage of them. Their evening programs start up again January 19th with a documentary Monte Grand: What is Life?, and February 1st offers a 16mm print of the 1969 film starring Jean Gabin and Alain Delon, the Sicilian Clan. That month also brings a pair of Carlos Reygadas films, while March features a Human Rights and Film series, and a screening of the vivid Senegalese musical Karmen Gei on the 8th. The YBCA is also a home to the SF Cinematheque's Sunday evening programs, which commence on February 5th with Andy Warhol's Camp. Other intriguing selections include Agnes Varda's Lions Love Feb. 26, James Benning's Utopia Mar. 26, a program of Soon-Mi Yoo videos Mar. 12, and one made up of Stan Brakhage's sound films (including the Stars Are Beautiful, pictured) Feb. 12.

The early favorite for the retrospective of the year is the Pacific Film Archive's 31-film Mikio Naruse tribute starting next Thursday, but to be honest I wouldn't be shocked if they came up with something to top even that. Susan Oxtoby has taken over Edith Kramer's role as senior film curator, and so far from what I can tell, it's still the same vital institution. Tuesdays remain the night of Alternative Visions avant-garde work, the public is still allowed to sit in on the Film 50 screenings (when space is available), and Steve Seid is still curating extremely imaginative and outside-the-box programs like this one appears to be.

Another important venue, one that I didn't get to nearly enough in 2005, is Artists' Television Access. On January 19th that's the place to be to see Pamela Yates' documentary about Peru's war on terror, State of Fear. Presumably, the venue will continue to be the home of Craig Baldwin's Other Cinema Saturday series, which is expected to start up again in February.

The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is now open Saturday afternoons noon-4PM, and continues its Saturday evening programs of 16mm screenings with live musical accompaniment. Starting the year off is Buster Keaton's great the General and the Harold Lloyd short Captain Kidd's Kids. The Alliance Francaise is also hosting a silent film series with musical help from The AHL-I Nafs. January 19 will be a program of George Melies delights including a Trip to the Moon and the Impossible Voyage, while February 16th's selection is Jean Epstein and Luis Bunuel's the Fall of the House of Usher. This is in addition to the usual Wednesday evening screenings hosted there.

The Danger and Despair Knitting Circle, slavish devotees of the 16mm noir film, has laid out its basic plans for 2006. It's not quite world domination or even the greatest heist ever imagined, but it sounds even more fun. Saturday nights in February the group is taking over the North Beach Recreation center and showing films like Robert Wise's House on Telegraph Hill, Nora Prentiss (also Frisco-set) and Search For Beauty (neither noir nor Frisco-set, as far as I know, but looks like a lot of fun). Their free (but by reservation only) Thursday night series will begin again in March with spy films. The dishonest-to-badness film noir returns in June with a focus on Richard Conte, Charles McGraw in the Fall, Robert Ryan in there somewhere, and more. I hope they keep to the schedule- if not to the letter of it, the spirit, because this stuff looks tasty!

I'm not done yet...

The Jewish Community Center's Kanbar Hall is turning into a regular film venue. I haven't checked it out yet, but this spring I'll be enticed by a Jazz on Film series, and a Freudian film series called Cinema on the Couch. The latter includes Hitchcock's Spellbound (April 4) and the Adam Curtis two-parter Century of the Self (May 1 & 8) among other treats.

Davies Symphony Hall will be the venue for a weekend (Feb. 17-19) of the Qatsi Trilogy with scores performed live by the Philip Glass Ensemble.

Perhaps 2006 will be the year I finally visit the Foreign Cinema restaurant. I notice they're playing Death in Venice Jan. 23-Feb. 26.

So much more to mention, including the Edinburgh Castle Film Night, SFMOMA, the Neighborhood Theatre Foundation's presumed Summer series, and way more than I can even think of right now. 2006 is already shaping up to be a busy year for finding film in less-than-obvious places.


I'm having LOADS o' trouble w/ the Yerba Buena website. Do you recall when the KARMEN GEI screening is on Sunday? I've missed that film too many times and want to catch it, hoping it's screening in the evening.

Sorry if my prose was misleading; Karmen Gei isn't screening on a Sunday. It's playing Wednesday, March 8th at 7:30 PM.

Adam, do you know anything about Soon-Mi Yoo (for starters, should I have called her Yoo Soon-mi instead?)
Hey Brian, you wanna come to a Showgirls Blog Party? [scroll down].
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