Thursday, February 15


So, what else is playing?

Ah, the cruelty of riches. I'm so excited about the Hong Sang-soo retrospective being brought by the 25th SF International Asian American Film Festival that I've felt compelled to organize a Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors Blog-a-Thon. But this seven-film retrospective, which is the first Hong series of that size in the United States, has an opportunity cost. It means I'm not going to be able to fit in many of the other SFIAAFF films I want to see. Any feelings of disappointment over the absence of potentially programmed candidates all but disappear once I sit down with the festival calendar and my day planner. The SFIAAFF only lasts eight days (March 15-22) in Frisco proper, with a few extra days in Berkeley and (frankly inconvenient for car-less me) San Jose, so it's tough to pack in everything that sounds good.

For me, the most astonishing casualty of my scheduling is the 2006 film I've been most longingly anticipating since its premiere in Venice last fall. Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century will play just once at the festival, the very same night that Hong Sang-soo appears in person at the Pacific Film Archive with Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors. That's March 21st, the day of the aforementioned Blog-a-Thon here at Hell on Frisco Bay. I must admit a part of me is tempted to pick the new Apichatpong film over the Hong in-person alongside a film I've seen before, even if I am hosting a Blog-a-Thon on it. After all, Hong is also expected to make an appearance at a screening of Woman on the Beach at the AMC 1000 the previous night. Thankfully, I think I have enough patience to be able to stand waiting until Syndromes and a Century has its theatrical engagement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts April 13-15. And just before that on April 5th and 6th Apichatpong will be appearing at the PFA for a SFIAAFF-co-presented screening and "shot-by-shot exploration" of his previous Tropical Malady. My personal favorite of his wonderful films so far, Blissfully Yours, will also screen there April 7th.

Another film high on my to-see wish-list also has its only festival screening on March 21st: Exiled by Johnny To. It's expected to be distributed later in the year by Magnolia Pictures. (Tartan will distribute another To film from last year, Triad Election and, in an event unrelated to the SFIAAFF, is letting us sneak a peek this coming Friday -tomorrow- at the Four Star.) SFIAAFF selections Summer Palace and the King and the Clown also have small distribution deals so I may have to de-prioritize them as well. There are simply too many other films I want to squeeze in!

Like In Between Days, So Yong Kim's debut feature which placed #4 on the indieWIRE critics poll of undistributed films (topped by Woman on the Beach, incidentally). Its critical pedigree plus the way it perfectly puts the IAAF in SFIAAFF, with its Toronto setting and its Korean American director, point to it possibly becoming the biggest "buzz" film of the festival. Or It's Only Talk by Japanese auteur Ryuichi Hiroki. Or some of the "Out of the Vaults" and other revivals (especially the recently discovered silent the Curse of Quon Gwon). Of the documentaries being shown, Koryo Saram - the Unreliable People and Kabul Transit look the most fascinating to me, but many of the others sound good too.

My recent trip to Utah didn't help me narrow down much. Though I saw several features there I thought might get picked to play the SFIAAFF, none of them did. Instead, four Sundance features I didn't see there are set to play, including Justin Lin's opening night film Finishing the Game, Nick Broomfield's Ghosts, the rotoscoped Year of the Fish and closing night gala film Dark Matter. I'd tagged the latter as the least-interesting film at Sundance based solely on its write-up in that festival's program guide, but SFIAAFF Director Chi-hui Yang's write-up makes it sound far better. I have to admit I didn't hear much Park City buzz, positive or negative, on these films. But I did hear a steady roar of excitement about Slamdance entry American Zombie, directed by Grace Lee of the Grace Lee Project. A fake documentary on "high functioning zombies"? Shot by the guy who shot Mutual Appreciation? I'm so there.

And now for a few notes on upcoming screenings not (as far as I know) directly connected to the 25th SFIAAFF:

Tonight is the last night to see Tears of the Black Tiger in its gorgeous, faux-Technicolor glory on the Lumiere or Shattuck screens. I did last Friday and found the film even better than I'd even remembered it to be. But if you can't make it, be sure to mark your calendar (with a florescent pink pen, naturally) to catch it at the Red Vic on April 15th.

In preparation for the Frisco release of Bong Joon-ho's the Host, that director will be in town screening both of his two previous films, Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite at the Clay Theatre March 5th.

That theatre will also host screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Frisco March 31st and May 12th, after a very long absence on this side of the Bay. At midnight, of course. Did you really have to ask? It's part of a midnight movie series that also includes Cannibal Holocaust March 23-24, Dead Man April 27, and Naked Lunch May 18-19. The Shattuck in Berkeley has its spring midnight series schedule out too now. The Guild in Menlo Park will also be starting up the Rocky Horror Picture Show each first and third Saturday, but that appears to be Landmark's only South Bay midnight series this season. Of course the East Bay Rocky fans are covered by the long-running weekly screenings at the Parkway in Oakland.

Ahhhhh the complaint of too much privilege, that’s what the treasure of SFIAAF brings. Here are the films I’m most excited about that you haven’t mentioned, Brian -

Along with my interest in film, I also have an interest in Sports from a sociological perspective. This interest has brought me to be a regular listener of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (TheABC) show THE SPORT FACTOR, hosted by Mick O’Regan. And it’s on that show that I believe I first heard about Khoa Do’s FOOTY LEGENDS. So I’m soooooooooooo happy to see they’re bringing that film. I have no idea how good it is, but I don’t care. Julie Rigg on The ABC’s MOVIE TIME said it was, if I recall correctly, ‘earnest’ and had a ‘a lot of heart’, which is usually a way of dropping praise for a less than stellar film, but, again, I don’t care, I’m gonna see it anyway because it provides another opportunity to look at how Sport is utilized in Cinema with the added extra of presenting a Sport that doesn’t get much props in the U.S. I like watching Rugby because it’s as if they took my favorite part of American/Canadian Tackle Football - one big long punt or kick-off return – and looped it like the best break of a dance record.

TIE A YELLOW RIBBON by Joy Dietrich was a big surprise for me. I saw her brilliant short SURPLUS at a previous SFIAAF and it just blew me away. So to be informed that she has a debut feature, and that I’ll soon get the chance to see it, life is good.

MADE IN KOREA: A ONE-WAY TICKET SEOUL-AMERSTERDAM? is a film I missed while in Busan and my friend Annie saw it and greatly enjoyed it, so I’m so thankful I have another chance to check it out, (like I do with IN BETWEEN DAYS too).

All around for me, the folks at CAAM have done yet another stellar job putting this festival together, with the one exception of that loser they had write the essay for the Hong Sang-soo Retrospective. Where did they ever find him?!
Maybe in the well with that pig?

Thanks for chiming in with your anticipations, Adam!
Brian, if it helps you out at all, I really think you should catch Joe's film. I'll be going to the Virgin Stripped Bare screening with Sang-soo in attendance and my transcript of that event was going to my contribution to your blogathon; so, you won't really have missed what he says because I'll record it for you.

Plus, it looks like I'm going to get to interview him so what do you want to know?

I'm primarily focusing on the panels and other social events. I'll be interviewing Eric Byler as well. And Greg Araki. And Grace Lee.

I'm feeling a great need to have fun as well this go-round so I'm planning on Big Trouble in Little China and The Flower Drum Song singalong. I'm really looking forward to Castro Sunday (the 18th), with Pavement Butterfly, King and the Clown, Hollywood Chinese and Umrao Jaan.
Wow. Very tempting, Michael. Your transcripts are always the next best thing to being at an event. Still, since I'm expecting to be thinking about Hong's film a lot that day, I may not be able to pass up the chance to see it on the big screen again, with director in tow. I still have some time to decide though...

Your schedule indeed sounds like great fun. I'm sure we'll be bumping into each other a lot...
My copy of "Virgin" should be arriving Tuesday or Wednesday from Netflix. Looking forward to seeing it and reading the blog-a-thon.

I would tend to agree with maya about catching Joe's amazing "Syndromes," but since it's opening soon I understand your decision to see Hong in person.

I'm thrilled that Tsai Ming-Liang's "Wayward Cloud" is finally playing this week at Anthology in New York. Saw the DVD but it needs to be seen on a big screen. Hope you get to see it in SF soon. Now when is "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" going to turn up.
Jim, fortunately the SFIFF brought the Wayward Cloud last year and I was able to attend two screenings of it. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone will be getting a very short (3-day) distribution in Frisco in April, the week after Syndromes and a Century plays. I suspect you'll get a crack at it in New York too relatively soon.
Jem Cohen's excellent Chain has been playing at the SF Camerwork for the past month and ends this Saturday. (Jem also makes an appearance on Saturday at Other Cinema - ATA, 922 Valencia).Not sure how the other two works in the series are ... but the title of series alone (Traces of life on the thin film of longing)is meditative enough for a visit :)
Thanks for the tip! I would like to see Chain; maybe I'll attend tomorrow.

The Joy of Life, which is another of the films playing there, is one of my favorite films of recent years.
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