Tuesday, February 27


Spring to Attention

It may still be rainy February here in Frisco, but it won't last (the month, at least; I can't guarantee the weather). At this time of year, as the days get longer and the equinox approaches, the movies have to get better and better in order to compete with the popularity of outdoor activities. The first big street fair of the spring is the Cherry Blossom Festival, and it runs April 14, 15, 21 and 22. In past years local cinephiles have often thought of the event as something of an annoyance, as it tied up traffic and even sent the sound of taiko drums reverberating throughout the Kabuki Theatre during its simultaneous hosting of the biggest annual film event in town, the SF International Film Festival. This year we can appreciate the Cherry Blossom Festival for what it is, because for the SFIFF's golden anniversary, the Film Society has decided to push its screening dates back so as not to conflict with the Japantown street fair. The 50th SFIFF will open with Emanuele Crialese's the Golden Door at the Castro Theatre, on April 26th, and then will continue through May 10th at venues across Frisco Bay: the Castro, the Kabuki, the Museum of Modern Art and the Cowell Theatre here in Frisco, the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, the Aquarius in Palo Alto, and more.

According to the festival's history project, the first SFIFF, held back in December of 1957, featured screenings of now-classic films such as Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, Andrzej Wajda's Kanal, and Satjajit Ray's Pather Panchali, which won the festival's first awards, for Best Picture and Best Director. The opening night film was the less-remembered the Captain from Köpenick, directed by Helmut Käutner. And the festival included the very first screening of a Michelangelo Antonioni film in the United States. The film was Il Grido, his last credited film before embarking on his great "trilogy of alienation": L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse.

Though the 50th edition of the festival won't begin for almost two months, we Frisco cine-history lovers can prepare ourselves by watching some of these films, and others screened at various editions of the SFIFF since that first year. On March 13th the Goethe-Institute is starting a series of DVD screenings of Käutner films each Tuesday, culminating with a showing of the Captain from Köpenick introduced by SFFS Creative Director Miguel Pendas April 17th. A near-complete Antonioni retrospective will begin at the PFA this Friday with the Red Desert, and ten of the films will have encores on the Castro's screen March 19-22, April 6-7, 11-12 and 18-19. Il Grido plays the PFA March 10th and the Castro on April 7th. It's worth noting that several other Antonioni films have played the SFIFF, most notably in 1968 when the great master was honored with what we now might call an early-mid-career tribute by the festival.

But the big upcoming pre-SFIFF-focus, also at the PFA, is an 18-film retrospective of films programmed at past editions of the festival, from this weekend's screenings of Shadows (4th SFIFF) and Aparajito (2nd SFIFF) to screenings of the Match Factory Girl (34th SFIFF) and the Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (31st SFIFF) the weekend before the 50th edition starts. Shirley Clarke's the Cool World (10th SFIFF) shows March 9th with Bruce Baillie's beautiful short Castro Street (10th SFIFF) Three essential films by the under-discussed collagist Arthur Peleshian screen on a program together on April 8th, before Otar Iosseliani's Pastorale the same day. Usually March and April are the months I cross the bridge to the PFA the least often, but I'm not sure that will hold this year.

On the other hand, there's plenty to tempt me on this side of Frisco Bay as well. The Castro, in addition to the above-mentioned programs, will be showing Renoir's the Rules of the Game March 9-14, (it plays the Rafael March 16-22) Godard's Two Or Three Things I Know About Her March 30-April 5, and Burnett's Killer of Sheep May 18-24. They're all absolute must-attend engagements. The Red Vic has its new (slightly shorter than usual, to make room for ads) calendar available around town too, and in addition to the usual late-run showings of recent releases (Romántico March 26-27, Volver April 4-5, Tears of the Black Tiger April 14-15) the co-op is also bringing back Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting April 17th, its now-annual engagement of the Big Lebowski 4/19-4/21, and the new prints of El Topo (April 22-23) and the Holy Mountain (April 29-30) that I missed out on when they played the Castro last month.

More time-pressing events include the Noise Pop Film Festival at various venues inbcluding the Roxie Feb. 28- March 4, and Tazza: the High Rollers, the second-biggest box office hit in South Korea last year (after the Host) and playing at the Four Star through Thursday, March 1st. That happens to be the day the Documentary Film Institute begins a four-day series of wartime documentaries through history called Witness To War. Some will be excited to see the new Ken Burns film at the Castro and the Premiere Theatre (this is the first I've noticed the Presidio venue open to the public), but I'm more excited by a chance to see films by the great British documentarian and former surrealist Humphrey Jennings shown on the screen at the De Young Museum this Saturday- for free! The most poetic of all "propaganda" films, Listen To Britain and a Diary For Timothy play at noon, introduced by David Thomson, and the feature-length "Fires Were Started-" screens at 2PM. Other films, including Iraq in Fragments, which I was rooting for (but not expecting) to win an Oscar the other night play the venue, also for free, over the weekend. And of course the Balboa's birthday bash featuring Buster Keaton films and vaudeville-style performances happens tonight at 7PM.

Other Cinema is back up and running for the season. Every Saturday night the series infects the Mission District with the most eclecticly curated experimental films imaginable, through the open wound known as Artists' Television Access. The gash will be stitched shut for the summer after the final screening in the series on May 26th, a selection of new work including Martha Colburn's seriously cine-reflexive, political splatter movie Destiny Manifesto.

The Clay is showing Where the Boys Are with Connie Francis in person beforehand this Friday, March 2nd. Speaking of Landmark, its Filmcalendar is currently up and running and includes the Page Turner opening April 6th, Mafioso April 13th and Offside April 20th. These films as well as other one-week (sometimes longer, but you never know) stands are scheduled for either the Opera Plaza or Lumiere in Frisco, and the Shattuck in Berkeley.

And since I've so smoothly segued back to the East Bay, I'd like to mention that the Parkway Theatre's African Diaspora Cinema series is about to get rolling again, beginning with Daughters of the Dust this Sunday, March 4th, and continuing with Rolf De Heer's The Tracker May 6th and more. The long-standing Parkway series known as Thrillville will split its time with its sister theatre to the North, the Cerrito. But Oaklanders will be glad to know they won't have to trek that far to see Night of the Lepus March 8th or Thunderball July 12th.

David Lynch fan alert: the Tiburon Film Festival will be screening Lumiere and Company as part of a tribute to French Film Pioneers March 25th. You may be aware that Premonition Following an Evil Deed, Lynch's contribution to the omnibus/documentary was almost universally acclaimed as the best segment of the film when it first made the rounds more than a decade ago. I quite liked the film overall, though, and remember minute-long films made by Youssef Chahine, Zhang Yimou, Claude Lelouche, Spike Lee and numerous others as among the highlights. More shorts, such as collection of Pixar offerings, and Olivio Barberi's Site Specific: Las Vegas are also programmed for the festival, which runs March 22-30th. There's also a tribute to Tunisian cinema and some documentaries on great filmmakers: Peter Bogdanovich's revised Directed By John Ford, which is supposed to be quite something, as well as Searching For Orson and Satyajit Ray Negatives which I hadn't heard of before, like most of the films at this Marin County festival I haven't attended before.

Finally, a touring film festival called Lunafest, featuring "short films by, for and about women" is coming the Auctions By the Bay Theatre on the island of Alameda. This is one of the most gorgeously restored theatres on Frisco Bay, and even if the shorts are of unknown quality, it's a very rare chance to see films in such an inviting environment.

Awesome update, and I especially love your poetic description of Other Cinema. It almost makes me wish I could live in San Francisco just for the movies. :)

P.S. Thanks for the tip to see TEN SKIES!!!
KILLER OF SHEEP, KILLER OF SHEEP, KILLER OF SHEEP!!! Finally it's getting a release. Dreams do transcend into real life sometimes.
Jen, thanks for the kind words. I'm so glad you made it to Ten Skies. I noticed that somebody linked to my piece on it under the film's "eternal reviews" imdb page, which was a nice surprise.

I understand New York's not so shabby for intriguing screening venues. Maybe sometime you should come out here and visit, "just for the movies".

I think I'm almost as excited as you about Killer of Sheep, Adam, though I've never seen it before at all.
All those "must-attend" engagements are just that. Rules of the Game in brand new 35mm?! Omfg.

Also, the Antonioni rep fest at PFA (my backyard) has practically everything from BAM/Rose's fest last spring, including the uber-rare Chung Kuo Cina, which, at 4.5 hours long, is quite an investment but one you'll never forget. I just may give myself over to it since I couldn't bring myself to attend Satantango. I know, of course, I'll be seeing Zabriskie Point and The Passenger on back-to-back nights. Plus, there's that mini Archepetal Werekereasdlaithenc (sp?) celebration with Joe in attendance. Definitely going. Do you know, Brian, if Syndromes and a Century will be playing here sometime soon? SFAFF? I could probably find out but you're a wealth of information like this so I figured I'd just bug you.
I'm very excited about the upcoming Apichatpong Weerasethakul events at the PFA, which I'd announced here a few weeks ago when I first learned about them. Syndromes and a Century is indeed playing an upcoming film festival; not the SFIFF but the SFIAAFF, on March 21st. The same day as my Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors Blog-a-Thon, so I might have to miss it then. Luckily it's coming back around to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on April 13-15.

Thanks for the Chung Kuo Cina tip, Ryland. I don't think I can make that one myself, but I'm sure other readers stumbling across this page will appreciate the recommendation.
I understand New York's not so shabby for intriguing screening venues.

Brian, this weekend New York cinephiles have a choice of Tarr's "Satantango," a return engagement of Rivette's complete "Out 1," Tsai's "The Wayward Cloud," Renoir's "Rules of the Game," Imamura's "Vengeance Is Mine," the monk doc "Into Great Silence," recent French films at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, and a slew of rare Kiarostami films (that's my top priority). Whew!

Still, I'd love to see Joe introducing "Syndromes" and Antonioni's "Chung Kuo Cina" at PFA, not to mention the SFIFF. I miss the Bay Area.
Jim, that "typical weekend in New York" is too much for my brain to compute. If I was living there, I wonder if I'd be unable to navigate all the options and just decide to stay home.

I am crossing my fingers for the Imamura and Kiraostami retros to make their way Westward.

And, to be clear, Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul has, at this moment, not been announced as expected to appear at any of the seven scheduled screenings of his new film. His weekend at the PFA April 4-6 consists of screenings of Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady and a close examination of the latter.
Brian, this post only emphasizes why I placed Hell on Frisco Bay on my SF360 list for top five blogs with a gimmick. Your announcements are as much a cinematic experience as the films themselves and I, among many, remain grateful for the heads-up you provide us month after month.
I'm supremely honored to have been placed on your list, Michael! Corgratulations on your sf360 gig; I can't wait to see what more is in store!
Brian, it wasn't exactly a typical weekend in New York, but pretty amazing. I saw three programs of eary Kiarostami films, featuring 8 mostly short films (I arrived late and missed one). Two Solutions for One Problem, Orderly or Disorderly, and The Traveller were especially great--formalist, allegorical, witty and humanist. Tonight I'm seeing possibly my favorite Kiarostami, And Life Goes On, for the third time. I hope this series plays other major cities including the Bay Area.

Also found time to see Christophe Honore's terrific new film Dans Paris.

Thanks for a great site! I know it's a lot of work to keep up on all the action in the Bay Area.

Please pardon the self promotion, but FYI, you might check out other programming at ATA as well. Irina Leimbacher and the Arab Film festival just presented two weekends of recent docs by Lebanese women, and she and myself have started a monthly series there called Kino21 on fourth Thursdays (or so).

Continuing the work we did at SF Cinematheque, we're showing experimental film, focussing on personal essays and film in performance. Our first sold-out show last month was a locally produced English text version of Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle." Our next screening is March 29th, Yvonne Rainer's "Journeys From Berlin, 1971." In April a show of Bruce Baillie's late work; and in the future, Marker's "Grin w/o a Cat," live film narration (benshi), James Benning ("10 Skies" rules!), live music and film and more.

ATA will not close for the summer if we can help it, even though Other Cinema will take a break.

Keep an eye on http://www.atasite.org/

konrad steiner

PS We in fact wanted to show Killer of Sheep, but there is no longer a 16mm print in circulation.

And i can vouch for the greatness of "Syndrome" having seen it in Chicago at the festival there last autumn.
Konrad, thanks for chiming in with info. about the ATA. I've noticed the frequency of interesting screenings increasing there in recent months, and your Kino21 line-up sounds terrific! Baillie, Marker and Benning I can vouch for heartily, and I'm curious to check out the Rainer, though that's the same night as Mystery of Oberwald at the PFA so I'm not sure...

I actually made it to an ATA screening last week: Warhol's Haircut No. 1 was scheduled to play as a tribute to Freddie Herko. Unfortunately, the print broke about two minutes in, and we were refunded our admission. My roommates attributed it to the screening time apparantly being right when Mercury was coming our of retrograde. I don't know about that, but I won't let superstition of any sort prevent me from attending more ATA programs in the future.

Yes, i spoke to Fara, ATA's program director, about that fiasco. I wanted to see Haircut too, but was in Chicago (by chance seeing some marvelous Saul Levine restorations at the Film Center).

Together we are researching getting new projectors ASAP for ATA (Other Cinema uses its own), to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. I had a similar thing with screening Judex there a few years ago, though we got the show going again.

Please say hello if you see me introduce a show, since we've not met.
Actually I believe we have, briefly, though you wouldn't know that since I didn't mention my blog. It was nearly a year ago at the Edinburgh Castle music video night. I remember liking your contributions, especially the one showcasing 6th street through some kind of camera effect I wouldn't know how to describe.

If you remember a minute-long Super-8-to-VHS black-and-white piece showing a man in an adidas tracksuit chopping wood to a blues song, that was my contribution to the event.

I'm hoping to make a contribution to the next Edinburgh Castle Film Night this Monday, but between the SFIAAFF, a lingering cold, and various writing projects, I may not go through with it. We'll see.
Yes, i do remember you, and your film, and your making that remark about 6th St. Forgive me if next time we meet, i don't remember your face though -- it was brief! That was a fun night, but for a while Jackie took a break, and i stopped checking. So now seems she's back on. And you may note that at ATA, David Enos has a show at the end of the month.
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