Sunday, August 19


Cross That Bridge

On two of the past three Thursdays, I've attended kino21 events at SF Camerawork. Unlike an unsuccessful attempt earlier this at watching Jem Cohen's Chain there as part of a projected-video installation, in which the soundtracks to three simultaneously-running videos kept tripping over each other, these were very cine-respectful evenings. The films were silent works by Frisco filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky, who commented that the set-up, with a smallish screen positioned on the wall of a cozy room filled with folding chairs, reminded him of the way he screens his films in his living room. They were beautiful films. Alaya was a study of grain: both film- and sand- (I personally couldn't help but think of certain parts Woman in the Dunes, and hear Toru Takemitsu's sonic expressions in my head.) Dorsky described Triste as an early attempt to build a film about neither its subject nor its maker, but only about itself (or something to that effect; I wasn't taking notes.) Threnody and Song and Solitude were further explorations down this clearly fruitful path. They're filled with images that seemingly dissipated just at the moment that they were about to become recognizable signals of a concrete object or place. All to the constant whirr of the 16mm projector behind us. I was rapt. I'm looking forward to October 18th, when kino21 returns to the space to show Perfect Film by Ken Jacobs and RocketKitKongoKit by Craig Baldwin. In the meantime, they show Guhy Debord's In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni at Artists' Television Access on September 27th.

Those of you who missed these screenings will get another chance to see Threnody and Song and Solitude, as well as hear Dorsky speak on them at the Pacific Film Archive on September 4th. As an added lure, on the same program will be a film by one of the filmmakers discussed in his wonderful little book Devotional Cinema, Yasujiro Ozu. The selection is Late Spring, probably my own current personal favorite of Ozu's films. It's a very auspicious beginning to the PFA's fall semester Alternative Visions series. The series is packed with tempting programs every Tuesday, other potential highlights being a September 25th program of autobiographical films by Maya Deren, Carolee Schneemann and Su Friedrich, an October 9th pairing of Michael Snow's Wavelength and Ernie Gehr's Serene Velocity, a selection of Bruce Conner films including his newest, a perhaps "post-music-video" called His Eye Is On the Sparrow, and another selection devoted to the Christchurch, New Zealand-born pioneer Len Lye.

Of course there's a lot more to the PFA's September-October calendar. The venue will be hosting tributes to the British New Wave, Sergio Leone, and Tomo Uchida, a Japanese director that, ever since reading Quintin's terrific article on Uchida and modern-day cinephilia, the "bulimic" in me has been particularly curious to sample. There will be more special guest filmmakers, as "Hindi New Wave" director Shyam Benegal brings three of his films including Ankur and former Cahiers critic Olivier Assayas brings five of his films including demonlover, which will be screened alongside David Cronenberg's Videodrome for comparison's sake. Other Assayas films will be paired with classics by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Beware of a Holy Whore) and Ingmar Bergman (Monika--so far the only Bergman film I'm aware of being scheduled for a Frisco Bay screening since the Swedish master's death last month.)

There's much more, including a matinee screening of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances, three international animation programs, and the continuation of a Theatre Near You, this time with Aki Kaurismaki's Lights in the Dusk, Bahman Ghobadi's Half Moon and Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes, which is still hanging on at the Lumiere but probably won't be by October 14th.

But the series I'm most excited about is one called Girls Will Be Boys. It's curated by Laura Horak, who I served with on the SF Silent Film Festival research committee earlier this year (she researched and wrote the program guide essay for Beggars of Life), and it includes a very healthy selection of silent features and shorts, as well as several relatively early talkies, as it delves into the history of female actors dressing in male drag in European and American films. Among the women featured are Asta Nielsen as Hamlet September 21 (shortly before the film plays at the New York Film Festival), Renata Müller as Viktor und Viktoria, also September 21, Katherine Hepburn as Sylvia Scarlett September 23, Marion Davies in Little Old New York and Greta Garbo as Queen Christina, both September 28, Mary Pickford as Little Lord Fauntleroy on September 29, and Marlene Dietrich in Morocco September 30. The piano accompanist duties for the program's silent films will be traded off between Judith Rosenberg and Bruce Loeb, and each film will be introduced by someone who's done a whole lot more thinking about film and gender than I have. For example, Jenni Olson will speak about Sylvia Scarlett, Patricia White will provide context for Queen Christina, and Horak will introduce Little Lord Fauntleroy, Morocco, and the Danish "white slavery" film Shanghai'et!

Another film programmer who I had the pleasure to regularly talk silent film with as part of the SFSFF research committee was David Kiehn, who researched and wrote a fine essay on the Valley of the Giants on top of his duties at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, which hosts terrific film programs in the prettiest corner of Fremont I've ever found myself. Highlights of its current film calendar are another upcoming NYFF retrospective selection, Josef Von Sternberg's Underworld September 15th, a hand-colored 35mm print of Cyrano De Bergerac on September 29th, and a special September 7th fundraiser dinner and screening of Lon Chaney in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a screening sans dinner September 8th.

And while I'm mentioning upcoming films in Berkeley and Fremont, how can I leave out Oakland and the Parkway Speakeasy Theatre? My favorite place to see a movie while drinking a beer always has a bevy of diversely-programmed special screenings squeezed into its everyday schedule of second-run film options. Right now I'm eyeing a September 13th offering of Pam Grier in Black Mama, White Mama, and the Found Footage Film Festival on October 7th. And up by the El Cerrito BART station, the Parkway's sibling Speakeasy Theatre the Cerrito has Cerrito Classics chosen for Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the year. There's film noir throughout September, Universal monsters in October, and more.

So there you have it. A bunch of excellent reasons for Frisco film lovers to cross the Bay Bridge in the next few months. Or for East Bay film lovers not to.

Good news, Brian: You won't have to miss any of Girls Will Be Boys to see GREED when it screens outdoors just yards from where von Stroheim and company filmed the many of the exteriors.

The PFA will screen LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY at 3 pm, and you'll have plenty of time to make it to Hayes Valley in time for 8 pm GREED. (Something tells me you'll be at the Uchida anyway.)
Thanks Miriam, for that reminder of the Greed screening. I've been meaning to look up the info but always forget when sitting down to type. I also see I have two more Saturdays to try to enjoy the mini-golf course (including the Giant Golden Tooth hole) at that location.

I really don't know what I'll be doing with those Uchidas. Definitely trying to see one, at least, but who knows beyond that?

Whatever I do, I suspect September 29th will be a long day. I just learned that, unmentioned on the PFA site as yet, there will be a free panel discussion that afternoon before Little Lord Fauntleroy. The info:

1 p.m. Girls Will Be Boys Panel & Discussion, featuring Patricia White (Swarthmore), Nan Boyd (SFSU) and Laura Horak (Berkeley)
Patricia White, author of Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability, Nan Boyd, author of Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965, and Laura Horak discuss female-to-male cross-dressing and early film. Nestrick Room in Dwinelle Hall. Free.

Also, there a talk by Chris Straayer on 5PM on Thursday Sept. 20th. The info:

5 p.m. Talk by Chris Straayer, Berkeley Film Seminar
Chris Straayer is a professor of Cinema Studies at New York University and author of Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies: Sexual Re-orientation in Film and Video. Nestrick Room in Dwinelle Hall. Free.

hey hey hey- where and when is GREED being shown?
How foolish of me not to post the pesky details! It's Saturday, September 29, at 8 pm on Patricia Walkup Green, which is that little park on Octavia at Hayes Street.

If you don't know the area and its connection to GREED, I urge you to have a look at the restaurant Modern Tea before hand. It's at Laguna and Hayes and it's the location they used for Mac's office in the film! (Hayes Street stands in for the Polk Street of the book, for the most part.)

Jean Hersholt, who portrays Marcus in the film, donated his beautiful production scrapbook of photographs, drawings and shooting script to UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library. It's no wonder they named the Humanitarin Oscar after him! What a great Dane! (sorry)

Anyway, see some of it here:

Oh, Brian, not to fret! Even if you can't get to the FREE miniature golf during its open hours, it is really rather striking spied through the chain link fence, you can't miss the tooth. Or look here:
Stills 35 - 44 contain spoilers. Really, this film has one of the best ever endings, so even if you know the book, let the movie show you.
Just looked over the PFA calendar myself. There's a few gems in there. Have yet to see an Assayas film and am pretty excited about being terrified of Videodrome on the big screen. Also, Monika. But school starts in a week so my time will be full of distractions and I will probably forget to go all that often. Besides, I'm going to be watching movies every Wednesday for my Action Film course, which will be awesome.
Miriam, thanks for the urls and the info! I did manage to make time to pop over and look at the installation/golf course through the chain fence. That only increased my desire to play it!

You don't happen to know if the Greed projection will be of video or film, do you?

Ryland, I'm way under-Assayas-ed myself. I've seen demonlover and nothing else (and honestly, I didn't really know what to make of it.) Irma Vep is the one I've heard the most enticing things about, and having a Fassbinder showing the same night only sweetens the deal. I didn't even notice until after posting this that Boarding Gate is his newest film with Asia Argento, fresh from Cannes, which from what I can tell hasn't screened anywhere on this continent yet, and isn't even lined up for the NYFF or the TIFF! Could this be a US or even North American premiere screening?

That action cinema class sounds fantastic. Will you be viewing some of the Uchida films in conjunction with it?
thanks, miriam.
i'll see y'all there
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