Saturday, December 23


Looking ahead to 2007: Wish List

It's the season for making lists, and I can't resist joining in the fun. Expect me to post a list or two wrapping up my year 2006 in film, but don't expect to see it until after the calendar year is officially over. I tend to be a literalist that way (and who knows what the next week or so might bring?) In the meantime, this one is, like a Christmas list for Santa, a list of a selfish nature. A top 20 films and film series I hope might make their way to a Frisco Bay screen sometime in 2007, not necessarily in order. Don't anyone take it too seriously, though. I'd like to see all these films grace a local screen, but even if they do, I suspect a greater portion of my cinema-going pleasure next year will come from films I wouldn't even be able to think of hoping for, while this list is made up of films I know to be available to some degree. The film programmers on Frisco Bay are knowledgeable, creative and unpredictable people, and I'm doing this for my own personal pleasure, not to second-guess professionals who I trust to do their jobs better than I possibly could.

1. First of all, of the twenty items on the wish-list I drew up last year, half were at least partially fulfilled. Thanks to the SFIFF, the SFIAAFF, the PFA, the Castro, SFMOMA, the Roxie, the Rafael, the Red Vic, the Balboa and the Camera 12 for choosing at least one of my hoped-for films to bring to town (I suspect most if not all of these selections were in the pipeline long before I drew up my list). But that still leaves ten wishes to roll over for 2007 screenings. I'm no less eager to see them than I was a year ago. So slot #1 on this year's list goes to the "leftovers" from last year's.

2. I was shocked and saddened by the death of one my favorite filmmakers, Robert Altman, this past November. It made me all the more grateful that I got to be in his presence at the Castro Theatre back in 2003. We'll never see fascinating projects he'd been developing like Voltage and Paint come to fruition, but there will always be the films he completed and left for us. Many of which I've never watched the way they were meant to be: on the big screen. I hope a retrospective of his work as large as possible might come to town soon. Something along these lines would be ideal, though even that line-up excludes films I'd love to visit or revisit in film form, like a Wedding and the Company.

3. One of 2006's most enticing World Cinema projects was the commissioning of seven filmmakers from outside Europe and North America to make films for the New Crowned Hope festival celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. I just learned that Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century and Tsai Ming-Liang's I Don't Want To Sleep Alone have been picked up for distribution by Strand and presumably will make their way to Frisco one way or another, but five other films, including Paz Encina's Paraguayan Hammock, have far less certain fates. I hope all seven films get their chance to play here sometime in 2007.

4. The Alloy Orchestra has brought the 1928 Pál Fejös film Lonesome back into its repertoire, and I know they'll make Frisco's many silent film fans (including me) very happy if they play their score in front of it here as soon as possible.

5. Another, completely different sort of silent film making the rounds with live musical accompaniment is Paolo Cherchi Usai's Passio. Sounds beautiful.

6. Something's got to be done about the availability of Johnnie To film prints here. None of his last three films (Election, Election 2 or Exiled) have played in town yet. His previous three all made it: the Balboa played Breaking News last February and the Four Star brought Throw Down and Yesterday Once More in 2004. Might 2007 be the year we get caught up again with one of Hong Kong's most intriguing directors?

7. I don't mean to seem ungrateful, as the Jacques Rivette retrospective that recently came to the Pacific Film Archive was a wonderful highlight of my filmgoing year. But knowing it was missing a few titles seen elsewhere in 2006 (most notably Out 1) has my appetite whetted for more Rivette to come here in 2007. Here's hoping it does.

8. The Fall issue of Landmark's FLM magazine tells us that Jean-Luc Godard's seminal Two Or Three Things I Know About Her is supposed to be making the rounds. I want at least one of those rounds to be around here.

9. The paper copy of that same issue also contained a promising blurb for Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves, which has been picked up for distribution by Palm Pictures. Since it's a national magazine I don't always trust that an appearance in FLM will lead to a Frisco Bay screening, but this one has got to come through this way, right? Mixed reviews be damned, I'd like to see it.

10. Speaking of Pen-ek, I know that he, along with Eric Khoo and Derezhan Omirbaev, contributed to a digital omnibus film for Korea's Jeonju International Film Festival. Last year the three contributors to that festival's inaugural project were Shiya Tsukamoto, Song Il-gon and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. So far of the six, only Tsukamoto's Haze has shown here (in a slightly longer version than the one used by Jeonju). How about some more?

11. After being exposed to Malaysian filmmaker Amir Muhammad's cinema in 2005 through the Year of Living Vicariously and Tokyo Magic Hour, here's hoping his latest, the Last Communist will be seen in Frisco soon.

12. Any chance the Fox pre-code film series that just wrapped up at the Film Forum might make its way Westward? I'd love a chance to see Zoo in Budapest and all the others.

13. Though this wish list was pretty much finalized before I started poring through the indieWIRE Critics Poll Best Undistributed Film list, there are several films from the top tier of the list that I particularly hope play nearby soon. Two directed by Jia Zhang-Ke, Still Life and Dong, have been said to "belong together" by Girish Shambu, so I'm keeping them as a single entry here. Hopefully they'll be brought here together as well?

14. The latest by Alain Resnais, Private Fears in Public Places also came in very high in the indieWIRE poll.

15. Another intriguing film with a strong showing in the poll is Sophie Fiennes' documentary the Pervert's Guide to Cinema, the "pervert" in question being philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek.

16. Lisandro Alonso's Fantasma didn't make the top twenty in the indieWIRE poll, but after his quietly disquieting Los Muertos I very much want to follow up on this young Argentinean's work.

17. Bruce Conner has a new short film called His Eye on the Sparrow that I'm dying to see.

18. & 19. Here's a pair I probably wouldn't even know about if I didn't maintain a film blog. Tim Lucas recently pointed out that being a blogger all but requires a certain amount of time spent reading others' blogs, and it's true, though I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it. As a result, two internet-connected filmmakers have succeeded in getting me to hope a theatre near me books their latest features. One, Sujewa Ekanayake, director of Date Number One, through his friendly, open, positive, generous and forthcoming internet presence. The other, Murali K. Thalluri, director of 2:37, through, shall I say, a very different sort of internet presence. (Note that there are other filmmakers who blog and/or conduct concentrated awareness campaigns on the internet, whose films I'd also very much like to see play theatrically in Frisco next year, but these two in one way or another have created the strongest blips on my radar screen right now.)

20. Last but not least, as excited as I am that the SFMOMA and the Red Vic are both showing Werner Herzog films early in 2007, one title I wish hadn't been left out is the Enigma of Kaspar Hauser a.k.a. Every Man For Himself and God Against All. It's been playing in a new print in New York, so might it arrive here sometime later next year?

Brian, the LISTMEISTER!! Good work, dude. Keeping my fingers crossed for you as well. Glad to hear about the Mozart tributes being picked up by Strand.
Brian--Duh! I don't know how I forgot to mention (I think it was late at night when I was writing it) the astounding score performed by the Alloy Orchestra to Lonesome at Eastman. It was the most telepathically precise silent movie accompaniment I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. I had never seen them perform before.

In some ways, it was also torture. I was constantly torn between all the great things happening on screen and the itch to watch the musicians performing, interacting with each other and the projected image, etc.

Happy holidays, Brian!
The films may not be on your list, but the Noir City retrospective at the Castro sure looks like something to look forward to.
Oh, absolutely, Peter. Even if not a single one of these twenty wishes is granted in 2007, I know there will be a wealth of great film options in Frisco, certainly if the first couple months are anything to go by. I don't mean to sound like I'm taking for granted the tantilizing 2007 film programs mentioned here, here, here and here.

Girish, I've seen the Alloys perform for five films so far, and Lonesome sounds like the kind of film that suits their sensibilities perfectly.

Happy holidays, everyone!
Brian, that's great news about Syndromes and Sleep Alone getting distribution; I saw the latter at TIFF but missed the former. I hope both make their way to Southern California eventually. I saw Still Life but missed Dong, and everything Girish said about Dong made me wish I had stayed in Toronto long enough to see it. They are indeed companion pieces (though Still Life is a magical experience even on its own). And Fantasma -- I didn't really like it that much at first (I was more mystified by it than anything) but as time has gone by, I admire it more and more. An experiment, to say the least, but a layered, enriching one at that. I hope you're able to catch these films.
Seasons Greeting from the free internet services at the Singapore Changni airport, Brian, where I am returning to Manila w/ a double set of DVDs of Eric Khoo (12 STOREYS and another title I forget, but isn't BE WITH ME). So it goes w/o saying that I'm with you in your desire to see those Jeonju digital omnibus project. We can hope, but at least there's something to hope for, which is always positive in my book.
I saw "Syndromes and a Century" and "Private Fears in Public Places" at the NYFF and both, in completely different ways, are extraordinary films. And don't miss Hong Sang-Soo's "Woman on the Beach" if it comes to the SFIFF. I also saw Godard's "Two or Three Things" again at Film Forum and appreciated it more than ever.

I look forward especially to seeing "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" and "Invisible Waves" in 2007, and would be very happy if "Lonesome" turned up at the Walter Reade.
Thanks, Michael, Adam, Jim, for helping me reconfirm some of these wishes. I do somewhat wonder if the North American "highbrow" critical consensus that builds around certain films that play in Toronto and New York but don't get picked up for distribution actually can harm their chances of playing here in Frisco. Reading the comment made by Tom Hall of the Sarasota Film Festival here certainly felt enlightening, voicing the suspicions I've had kicking around in my head for a few years now.
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