Monday, February 5


Down From the Mountain

Wow, it's been quite a while since my last post here! Where to begin? Perhaps with an apology; I spent a good portion of the last few weeks away from Frisco Bay. I've been visiting friends in Salt Lake City and writing posts for Greencine Daily on the Sundance Film Festival. I'd meant to write a post explaining my absence but it somehow slipped through the cracks of my to-do list.

Anyway, I had a very good time at the festival, if more because it was a vacation from work and my Frisco routine, and because I got to spend time with friends and run into a few familiar faces, than because the films themselves were that spectacular. Don't get me wrong, I saw some really good ones and will send a heads-up here if any of them get scheduled to play in town. These ones were the best, in my opinion, and already of those, Everything Will Be OK played here as part of the Animation Show 3 while I was in Utah; it'll be swinging back through Northern California this Friday at Sacramento's Crest Theatre. But considering I had to miss Frisco opportunities to view rarely-screened films by Lubitsch, Jodorowsky, Altman, Herzog, Anthony Mann and more while I was there, I'm not sure if I'd call the Sundance programming a bigger attraction than the year-long film festival at my fingertips living in Frisco.

Luckily I made it back in time to catch the new print of Aguirre: Wrath of God at the Red Vic, and a few Noir City 5 gems. And now I feel I'm getting back in the swing of things here at home, but am totally, completely backlogged with information on upcoming screenings I have yet to mention on this site.

I'll start with one I learned while up at Park City: the SFIFF and IndieWIRE teamed up to host a party where one teaser title of a film to play at the upcoming 50th edition of our town's International Film Festival was announced. Appropriately enough, it's a documentary on Frisco filmmaking called Fog City Mavericks and it will play the Castro Theatre April 29th. The press release contained what seemed like a major grammatical error: the mentioning of Chris Columbus in a list of "awe-inspiring iconoclastic filmmakers". But I couldn't really fixate on that once I noticed that along with the usual (Lucas, Eastwood, Lasseter, Coppola) suspects, Bruce Conner's name was also mentioned. It certainly deserves to be, and I'm crossing my fingers that it means the doc spends a generous amount of time on Frisco's avant-garde filmmaking scene.

Other Castro Theatre events on the docket include a new touring print of the Jean Renoir masterpiece the Rules of the Game, March 9-14, a series of films scored by the genius composer Ennio Morricone April 20-25, and a Michaelangelo Antonioni retrospective in March and April. The Castro will also play host to the upcoming SF International Asian-American Film Festival screening of an Anna May Wong silent film called Pavement Butterfly on March 18th. This screening will be a co-presentation of the SFIAAFF and the Silent Film Festival, as will a March 24 Oakland Museum screening of the newly-inducted National Film Registry selection, the Curse of Quon Gwon from 1916. I'm excited about the new venues the SFIAAFF is trying out this year while the Kabuki undergoes renovation: the AMC 1000 (with its stadium seating easy on the eyes for subtitled filmgoing) and the Opera Plaza (the closest theatre to my workplace).

But before all that there's the IndieFest to contend with at the Roxie and other venues (February 8-20). The full program was announced just before I left for Utah, and it's packed with items that look too good to miss. A small sampling: the first screening of Ten Canoes in Frisco proper Feb. 12 (reprised Feb. 17, and in Berkeley Feb. 15), the Shaw Brothers camp classic Infra-Man Feb. 10, and of course the opening night film Inland Empire, playing on the Castro's huge screen Feb. 8 before being sent for a week-long run at the Embarcadero starting the next day.

Other notable week-longs openings this coming Friday: Tears of the Black Tiger at the Lumiere, Becket at the Opera Plaza (it also plays a date at the Castro: Feb. 7) and, last I heard (from the mouth of Frank Lee when I passed by the ticket window a few weeks ago, though it's not confirmed on the film's official website), the wonderful Linda Linda Linda at the Four Star.

The Stanford Theatre is launching into its latest program schedule, and it's filled with little-screened gems from Hollywood's Golden Age. Each Wednesday-Friday pairs a noir with a Val Lewton horror film, until, after nine weeks, the latter runs out, at which point noir double-features take over. Saturdays and Sundays offer a musical with a drama. Yes, The Thing on March 7-9 and Topper on April 14-15 throw wrenches at these genre generalizations, but realize I have to move fast to pack everything I need to say in before bedtime! The Stanford Theatre Foundation is also co-presenting two Friday night silent film screenings to be held at the California Theatre in San Jose as part of the Cinequest Film Festival (Feb. 28-Mar. 11): the General with Chris Elliot at the organ March 2nd and Pandora's Box accompanied by Dennis James March 9th. Anyone with other suggestions from that festival is welcome to pipe up!

The Balboa has some cool events on the imminent horizon as well, including free Oscar-nominated documentaries all day Feb. 20 and 21, and its annual birthday celebration screenings of Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. and the Playhouse Feb. 27. It's also one of many theatres (also including the Lark, the Rafael, the Parkway and the Cerrito) planning Oscar night festivities Feb. 25th. The Cerrito is remaining on the Oscar bus in March by screening previous Best Picture winners like It Happened One Night (Mar. 3-4) and the Apartment (Mar. 24-25) as part of its Cerrito Classics series. For the real calendar-watching obsessives, it's worth noting that the newly reopened theatre has special events planned all the way up to an October 18 double-bill of Brides of Dracula and House of Frankenstein! Who says it's too early to start planning for Halloween?

Another Oscar-focused series is being held at SFMOMA, where documentary filmmaker Rob Epstein has curated a set of Academy Award-winning documentary shorts and features each Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon this month. Each program includes shorts like Jessica Yu's Breathing Lessons (Feb. 8) and John Ford's the Battle of Midway (Feb. 11) as well as a feature-length film.

Meanwhile, the SF Cinematheque has its new program calendar up, packed with avant-garde goodies from Conner, Andy Warhol, and too many others to quickly name. Warhol fans get a few chances to see his films in the next several weeks, as Artists' Television Access is also presenting Haircut (No. 1) on March 7th.

But finally, after all of this I'm probably most excited about some upcoming items on the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts schedule. On April 11th the venue is expected to screen Hyenas, Djibril Diop Mambéty's brilliant adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's play the Visit. I'm thrilled for a chance at seeing it on the big screen. But even that may be overshadowed by the fact that two films from the New Crowned Hope project commemorating Mozart's 250th birthday last year, and picked up for distribution by Strand Releasing, are going to be previewed there in April. April 13-15 brings Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, and April 20-22 brings Tsai Ming-Liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. I'm dying to see them both, and now I know I'll have a chance!

Lots of great info as always, Brian. But that last entry really made my day (my week? my month? my year?). Like yourself, I'm dying to see the new Joe and the new Tsai. I have it on good authority that one of them will be part of this year's SFIAAFF, but I'd just as soon wait and see it at the YBCA. Also, I've 'heard' that Joe will be at the PFA on Friday, April 6 to do a shot-by-shot discussion of TROPICAL MALADY.
As much as I'm excited about all these films, I'm more excited that Brian Darr is back in da Richmond!!! Whoop! Whoop!
Really! I just don't know what to do with all these calendars when Brian's gone.

Welcome back, dude, and great reportage from Sundance.
Thanks for the warm welcome back, guys.

I'm so eager for next week's announcement of the full SFIAAFF line-up. Every bit of advance info I've heard about the festival up to now has been so enticing!

Michael, (both Michaels) speaking of out-of-town festival coverage, I really enjoyed reading your write-ups from Palm Springs so far, even though I didn't have time to leave comments. Will we be seeing more tips from the desert? How was the Yacoubian Building, for example?
Bla-DOW! Your blog is a necessity for any film fan in the Bay. I'm super busy with school but I hope to follow your index finger guide to, at least, a few films here and there in my new return to this area.

I actually cut my visit to my hometown over Christmas break short so that I'd make it back to Pittsburgh in time to see the new print of Aguirre. Then they extended its run. I gained a week of screenings, but I lost my sense of hurry and I ended up missing the film. There's a lesson in here somewhere, I know it!

And it's official: all I need to do is see the title Linda Linda Linda and I start whistling that song immediately. It's an irrepresible reflexive reaction...
"Syndromes and a Century" is awesome. You won't be disappointed. I'm dying to see it again, and to see Tsai's film for the first time.
Forgot to put my name in the previous post. I'm also looking forward to "Colossal Youth" and "The Yacoubian Building" here in New York at Film Comment Selects.
Brian, I'm hoping to eventually write up all the films I saw at Palm Springs, but it may take a while. My coverage of the French films I saw went up on The Evening Class and Twitch last night.

The Yacoubian Building does a good job of taming Alaa' Al-Aswany's sprawling novel into a 'lean' 160 minute film, altho the final act, when the personal calamities all start piling up, feels very rushed. There's some wonderful acting by many of the greats of Egyptian cinema, and the money (it's the most expensive Egyptian film ever made), as they say, is all up there on the screen. But just as Alaa' Al-Aswany is no Naguib Mafouz, director Marwan Hamed is no Youssef Chahine. This is no 'art' film, in other words, but well worth seeing.
Great info, Brian. For those who have some Oscar catching up to do, the AMC Mercado in Santa Clara will have a marthon of the 5 Picture nominees the weekend before the awards--one flat fee for all 5 films (or however many you want to visit/revisit). I think you can find more info on the AMC website (it's something that's happening at select locations across the country).
Last year that AMC deal would have made at least a little sense but, really, in any year, who wants to watch all five as a 'marathon'?
Ok, so Linda Linda Linda is definitely NOT opening today at the Four Star. Hopefully nobody's crossing any bridges on my advice.

Thanks, archiveguy, for the AMC Mercado tip! I still haven't seen Babel yet, and would like to catch the Departed in theatres once more. But I rather doubt I'll be making the trip to Santa Clara.

I don't quite get your comment, Ryland. Are you saying that last year's slate of nominees is head and shoulders above this year's? For me that's debatable (still having not seen Capote). But none of last year's BP nominees had me wanting to go back for a second viewing.

Speaking of Oscar, the new Landmark Filmcalendar is out and starts off with Oscar nominated short films opening Feb. 16th. at the Lumiere. There are several other notable titles on the calendar. I missed Julian Temple's Joe Strummer documentary at Sundance, but was recommended his previous Glastonbury by a longtime Sundance-goer as the highlight of last year's festival. It opens March 2. Into Great Silence, which I was sorry to miss at the last SFIFF, opens march 16th. The Page Turner which Michael makes sound so intriguing here, opens April 6th, and the restoration of Mafioso April 13th. But probably my #1 must-see from the list is Jafar Panahi's Offside. I can't wait to see what he's been up to since the Circle and Crimson Gold.
Oh, and the SFIFF just announced its opening night film (April 26, pushed back a bit to avoid festival competion with the Cherry Blossom Festival): the Golden Door, which will play the Castro theatre.
Great to hear that The Page Turner is opening here in April, and very happy to hear about Offside.

By the way, I'm really stunned that Le Petit Lieutenant is beginning the EIGHTH week of its run in San Francisco today. You get so used to films like this just disappearing after a week. There must be a lot of word-of-mouth going on.
I was just walking by the Opera Plaza and thinking the same thing. I suspect the rave review from the Chronicle, which is often fairly stingy when rating foreign films, is a help.
More screening news:

Bruce Conner's the White Rose and other films will play the SF Art Institute tonight at 8PM.

The Castro is brining a new print of Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her March 30 - April 5.

In preparation for the Frisco release of Bong Joon-ho's the Host, the director's two previous films, Barking Dogs Never Bite and Memories of Murder will be screened at the Clay with Bong in attendance, March 5th.

And, as Michael Guillen notes, the Roxie will be holding an Irish film festival March 1-4.
I really enjoyed your post about upcoming films and festivals in the Bay Area. Very thorough! I am writing a blog for Cinequest and plan on running features about the films and forums. You can check it out at

Sorry for the shameless self promotion! Keep up the great blog!
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