Sunday, May 7


Summer on Frisco Bay

I hope to sum up my experiences at the 49th SFIFF in the next few days, but before I do I'd like to do a little summer preview as is customary during the season. You may have thought it was still mid-spring, but in the movie industry summer has officially launched now that there's a gigantic Tom Cruise threequel hogging screens across the country. Luckily there are a few left in Frisco for showing more adventurous fare. In fact, in the face of all the oxygen that gets sucked up by the weekly tentpole releases appearing at multiplexes in the coming months, it seems as if some local arthouse bookers feel freed up by the diversion of expectations onto would-be blockbusters to experiment a little more than they have done lately.

Take the freshly-printed calendars for the Shattuck, Lumiere, and Opera Plaza: after many months of focusing mainly on documentaries and Indiewood films, the new batch has a very healthy selection of foreign-language narrative features. Olivier Assayas's Clean, for which Maggie Cheung won the Best Actress award at Cannes 2004, is finally opening May 26, for example. Dominik Moll's Cannes 2005 opener Lemming comes June 23. André Téchiné's Changing Times arrives July 21 and Claude Chabrol's the Bridesmaid finishes off the calendar on August 11th. And it's not just French films either: Cavite from the Philippines, the Death of Mr. Lazarescu from Romania, and the Hidden Blade and Azumi from Japan will begin week-long stints June 16, June 30, July 7 and July 28 respectively. And though it's not on the printed calendar, Eran Riklis's excellent The Syrian Bride will be opening at the Opera Plaza May 12th. Back in the Anglophone domain, one of the SFIFF films I kept hearing good things about, but not in time to rearrange my schedule to see it, was the British mockumentary Brothers of the Head. I'm glad to know I'll have another chance starting August 4th.

The Red Vic's new calendar can be picked up around town now too, though it's not yet available online. The first half focuses on last-chance theatrical screenings of recent releases you may have blinked and missed, like four films that played the SFIFF last year and had short runs in theatres subsequently: Following Sean (now playing through May 8), the Boys of Baraka (May 14-15), Duck Season (May 21-22) and the Real Dirt on Farmer John (June 4-7). And then there are films that had slightly longer runs but are worth catching at least once more before the prints disappear into the vault, most notably Caché (May 16-17), the New World (May 18-20) and I Am a Sex Addict (June 23-27), though the latter is digitally distributed so there's no physical print to be vaulted. The other side of the calendar features the only Red Vic premiere this time around, July 12-15th's Rise Above: the Tribe 8 Documentary, but it also contains some healthy repertory selections. If you missed the currently-circulating the Conformist at the Castro and the Balboa (For some reason, possibly connected to the closing of the Act 1 & 2, it didn't play at an East Bay Landmark last week as scheduled after all), it comes to the Red Vic July 16-17. Though as far as I know the theatre isn't equipped with a polarized screen, perhaps by mid-July a license to sell beer and wine will be in place as hoped, which will more than make up for slightly technically inferior 3-D projection of Creature From the Black Lagoon July 20-22 and It Came From Outer Space July 27-29. And it seems like every time Hiroshi Teshigahara's meditative documentary Antonio Gaudi comes to Haight Street it earns a longer run; this one lasts August 6-10.

I mentioned the Castro and the Balboa; they both have exciting new calendars available now too. The Balboa's, which has been available in hard copy for a little while, is now online too. Currently they're playing the Bollywood hit Rang de Basanti, and the fascinating-sounding Yang Bang Xi: the 8 Model Works arrives Friday. They also host a Jazz/Noir Film Festival May 19-21 to get you back in the mood for the Film Noir Foundation's rescheduled Charlie Haden Quartet West concert May 27 at the Herbst. But I'm most eagerly anticipating the Boris Karloff series that runs from his pre-Frankenstein days through his Val Lewton stint (represented by the Body Snatcher June 6) to his 1960's work with cult-film directors like Mario Bava and Roger Corman and finally Peter Bogdanovich's directorial debut Targets (June 16). I'm particularly excited to see the original Scarface on the big screen on June 6, Edgar G. Ulmer's elegantly bizarre the Black Cat on June 21, and a John Ford film I've never caught, the Lost Patrol (June 7). There's even a pair of films not starring Karloff but absolutely connected to his pivotal role in the Frankenstein mythology: Spanish auteur Victor Erice's the Sprit of the Beehive June 9-15 and Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters June 16.

The Castro's new calendar wasn't ready to hand out at the SFIFF closing film Thursday night, but it's available online now. It starts May 12 with a 5-film Jacques Demy series, then a pair of Liza Minelli double features (perhaps to go along with her dad's series still chugging along at the Stanford.) May 25th will bring a Jane Russell double-bill of Hot Blood (by Nick Ray) and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (not by Howard Hawks). On June 1 F.W. Murnau's Faust will screen, followed by a week of Raiders of the Lost Ark and on June 9 another MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS triple-bill (this time actually a Latch-Key Kids quadruple-bill, as it begins with the rare 16mm short Cipher in the Snow before collecting fans of Rumble Fish, the Warriors and Streets of Fire under one roof.) Before you know it, it's June 15, the opening night of Frameline's 30th annual festival. Opening with Puccini For Beginners and closing June 25 with the Spanish film Queens, most of the rest of the so-far announced films have been off my radar screen, except for François Ozon's latest Time to Leave June 20 (and his 8 Women which is getting a Monday matinee reprise June 19) and Backstage (also June 20), which I hope I'm not wrong in assuming is the same film that just played at Tribeca and the SFIFF to strong acclaim. I was sorry to have missed it.

Frameline is teasing fans with only a hint of its schedule for now, but it also will be spreading the festival to four venues outside the Castro district: the Victoria, the Empire (smart choice; it's just a quick MUNI trip under Twin Peaks to the Castro), the Roxie and, in Oakland, the Parkway. The latter has a full plate of special events coming up too, everything from Lucio Fulci's the Beyond May 25 to Euzhan Palcy's Sugar Cane Alley July 2 to the Big Lebowski May 18. The Roxie, meanwhile, is currently in the midst of a Psychology-themed series and is gearing up for the DocFest running Friday, May 12 until May 21 (also at the Women's Building), and beginning June 9 the third Another Hole in the Head festival, to include Shinya Tsukamoto's Haze and a revival of Walerian Borowczyk's the Beast. The Roxie will also have a week of Jeff Adachi's the Slanted Screen starting May 19.

In the North Bay, the Rafael Film Center joins the Balboa in playing Spirit of the Beehive June 9th, plays the SFIFF Audience Award winner Look Both Ways starting June 17th, and runs a motorcycle film series throughout June. The Lark is hosting a May 31 appearance of Claude Jarman and screening of the film he won an Oscar for sixty years ago: the Yearling. And if you ever wanted to check out Copia in Napa, June 23rd seems like a good time, as Les Blank will be there to screen his Burden of Dreams.

I could go on and on with this. Artists' Television Access has a bunch of interesting programs on the docket. The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum has its May schedule in place, and it's quite enticing: D.W. Griffith's Hearts of the World on the 13th, Harold Lloyd is a Sailor-Made Man on the 20th, and Allan Dwan's Manhattan Madness on the 27th. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has its screenings set through June; they include the Perfumed Nightmare May 21, the fascinating and ironic Al'leessi...An African Actress June 14, and a selection of films made by Edinburgh Castle Film Night regulars (disclosure: many of them are my friends) June 25. I have confidence that these films will hold up to the scrutiny of a non-inebriated audience, though I'll be curious to hear how this afternoon's similarly ECFN-infected screenings at the PFA go. I notice the Berkeley venue has given itself several weeks to clean up after the event before it reopens May 25 with the Weeping Meadow.

Have I left anything particularly interesting out?

You are amazing!! Talk about one-stop shopping!
Yes, you left out DRAWING RESTRAINT 9! But leaving it out is all part of the resistence ". . .that works as a catalyst for muscular growth" so Bierney should be happy you failed to mention that it's releasing next weekend, May 12th, with a whole big shebang at SFMOMA along with apparently screening at Landmark Embarcadero as well.
Aargh!!! I meant to type BARNEY. But, hell, I'm going for Bjork anyway, so who cares about Barney.
Thanks a lot for this post! As a local, I found it really interesting & helpful.
Ah yes, Matthew Barney. I'm so so tempted to hop on the anti-Barney backlash, but to be honest I found segments of almost all the Cremaster films pretty astonishing when I saw them at the Lumiere a few years ago (not Cremaster 5, though; that one was just dull I thought). And I'm kinda tickled by a film being advertised as "Never to be Released to TV or DVD!" (though perhaps I'd be pissed off instead if I lived in Arizona or Nebraska) Maybe I'll go see it. I dunno.

Thanks for the encouragement, each of you. k, a peek at your profile reminds me that I should probably spend a little less time watching movies and a little more reading books.
I'm just kidding. I only ride the anti-Barney bandwagon because it brings me w/in a block of my house.
I got a lot out of CREMASTER 3. Visions of the dental fetish scene helped calm me down when I had my first root canal actually.
Have I left anything particularly interesting out?

Um, yeah. You left out PFA's entire June calendar, which contains a massive Kieslowski series (including two complete run-throughs of The Decalogue) and an Isabelle Huppert retro with some rarely-screened titles.
That's true; I skimped on the PFA (and the Stanford with its Ronald Colman series). I guess it's because that calendar has been out for a while, but you can say the same thing about the Rafael and the Balboa too, so consider it an oversight. Thanks for speaking up, Jim.
I can't believe you're being criticized for leaving something out!! To me you are MOVIE CALENDAR GOD and probably always will be!

With regard to "Drawing Restraint 9", it definitely had some moments I wanted to resist. You might want to know that as part of the Barney retrospective at SFMOMA "Drawing Restraint 9" will be shown every day in their theater free after museum admission.
Is it criticism? I just took it as an honest response to a genuine question.

Thanks for kind words and the heads-up on Drawing Restraint 9 at MOMA, Michael.

One more tidbit to add: Alain Corneau's Fear and Trembling screens at Delancey Street this Saturday at 5PM.
I recommend checking out Liu Jiayin's Oxhide, which is playing at the Yerba Buena Center later in June.
Which venue to see Seventh Heaven at? How about the one where Janet Gaynor used to work as an usher?
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