Tuesday, September 4


Welcome Back!

From wherever you were this weekend: Burning Man, Telluride, or just a three-day bender in your apartment. If you were out of town or otherwise out of reach, you missed an excellent MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS evening at the Castro Theatre to ring in the weekend. Can you believe I'd never seen Footloose before? I enjoyed it. I must have been in the mood to watch a game of tractor-chicken set to the music of Bonnie Tyler. The event included an in-person appearance with Rene Daalder, director of Massacre at Central High from 1976. He shared his thoughts about this caustic film about power dynamics in human social systems (which I'd also never seen before), including his fascination with gravity (the murder weapon for several of the most memorable slayings) and his disgust with the soundtrack imposed on the film (so bad he disowned the film and hadn't seen it all the way through in decades until now). MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS host Jesse Ficks revealed that, along with his two previously-announced upcoming events at the Castro in September, he'll be hosting a Wes Craven triple bill there in October, a disco nite in November (featuring Staying Alive, Fame and the Apple), and a Burt Reynolds three-fur before the year is out.

On Saturday for the first time I attended the SF Underground Short Film Festival, which is the annual close of Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass series at the Bridge Theatre. As with nearly any shorts program, there were some duds among the selections, but the wheat-to-chaff ratio was higher than I'd expected. My favorites of the pieces made by people I don't know were the two installments of Winds of Time by Jose Montesinos, and I Know What Girls Like by Steffen Frech. But my main incentive in attending was to see the premiere of new work by a couple of filmmakers I'm friends with (who, as far as I know, don't know each other), Lev and Placenta Ovaries. It's funny you should ask, but no, that isn't his real name. And the only other one of his videos I've seen, I had the strong urge to walk out of during practically the entire movie. But his new bulimia comedy No Fatties, though of course completely offensive and wrong, is comparatively quite watchable. I only found myself wondering if I was starting to taste my own bile at one point during the video. As for Lev, well you likely already know that his Tales of Mere Existence cartoons are all terrific and genuine and funny and just right. His latest, How We Managed To Not Really Date Each Other, must be his most ambitious in the series, and it may be his best yet. His shorts received the heartiest applause of the evening, and deservedly so.

With the close of the Midnight Mass season, Landmark Theatre midnight movies now move to the Clay, with a line-up of films diverse enough to begin this coming weekend with a 21+ only "White Russian" night with the Big Lebowski, and include November 2-3 screenings of the Wizard of Gore with Herschell Gordan Lewis in person, and November 9-10 screenings of Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee. Palo Alto's Aquarius and Oakland's Piedmont (currently celebrating its 90th anniversary as a movie theatre) have new midnight movie schedules up too.

I also watched the hit film by Lee Sang-il, Hula Girls, at the Four Star, that theatre's latest offering of a Japanese film distributed by Viz Pictures. There was a trailer for the next one, the Taste of Tea, which opens October 5th. I absolutely must see this one. Hula Girls was a pretty conventional film in the dance/sport movie mold, and worked best as a showcase for some appealing actors. I was most impressed with Aoi Yu, who won the Japanese Academy Award for best supporting actress, and who you may remember from Harmful Insect and All About Lily Chou-Chou.

Thanks to a reader tip, I tried out a fun little free miniature golf course on the corner of Octavia and Hayes on Saturday. The course took me through the history of Hayes Valley, including a hole devoted to the great film shot there by Erich von Stroheim, Greed. A video projection of Greed (it has not yet been determined which version will be screened, though we can be sure it won't be the ten-hour-long one) will be held the location on the evening of September 29th.

It's been long enough since my last post that there are a lot more upcoming screenings to take note of. The first place to look is undoubtedly Johnny Ray Huston's big fall preview in a recent Bay Guardian. He notes coming film events at just about every venue in town, including highlights from brand-new calendars for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF Cinematheque and Other Cinema. But I'd like to comment on a few particular items he's pointed out, and elaborate with a few more intriguing offerings that have appeared on the horizon since his deadline.

Most time-sensitive is a pair of screenings of the Soviet silent film My Grandmother with a score by Beth Custer, formerly of the Club Foot Orchestra. She and her merry band of musicians will be performing tonight at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley and tomorrow at Dolby Labs (RSVP required at the latter), as a benefit to raise funds for a tour to Russia and elsewhere in Europe.

The Madcat Women's International Film Festival runs September 11-26, and will be showing at least one film I have seen and can strongly recommend. The Days And the Hours is a short, poetic documentary giving voice to some of the people who sleep on the pews at St. Bonaface Church, and it plays on a program entitled "At the Margins" at Artists' Television Access on September 14th. That's just one of 11 programs in this festival's annual celebration of films by women directors. Another program I'm particularly intrigued by is the September 19th tribute to the recently-murdered filmmaker Helen Hill, an outdoor screening which will take place in the backyard of the El Rio bar.

Huston mentions that the Arab Film Festival (October 18-28) will be screening a Tunisian documentary about the making of a video called Tarzan of the Arabs. That must be nothing other than one of my very favorite films seen at Sundance earlier this year, Nejib Belkadhi's VHS-Kahloucha. It follows a truly DIY filmmaker named Moncef Kahloucha, who puts together low-budget action films on the streets of his hometown, the seaside resort of Sousse. The film satisfies on just about every level imaginable: memorable characters including Kahloucha and his cast and crew, plenty of action and gut-busting comedy, strong production values including a pitch-perfect musical soundtrack, and even a peek into social stratification in Sousse, where Kahloucha and his friends live in a downtrodden neighborhood remote from the cash-infused tourist areas of town.

One of the Arab Film Festival's venues will be the Roxie, which for the first time in a year has a new glossy printed calendar available around town. More festival highlights found on this document include a September 22nd all-day reprise of award-winning favorites from this past June's Frameline Film Festival. This months-later recap is a tremendously good idea that I hope other film festivals take note of and try out; I missed all of these selections (including Red Without Blue and Glue) the first time around. The 10th United Nations Association Film Festival makes an appearance October 18th prior to its October 24-28 stint at Stanford University. From November 6-9 the theatre will host the Global Lens 2007 film series (including a chance to see Garin Nugroho's Of Love and Eggs. And on November 18th it's the Fifth Annual 3rd i Festival of South Asian cinema. In addition, the Roxie will have free screenings of Fernando de Fuentes films each Sunday morning in November, and on November 23-29 will host a week of recently-rediscovered RKO films from the 1930's, including several pre-code titles, and a film starring Irene Dunne and directed by William Wellman called Stingaree. I can't pass up a film with a title like that, especially when directed by one of my pet under-appreciated filmmakers.

Oh, and if that's not enough, look what the Castro has promised for select Tuesdays and Wednesdays in October and November: a 15 film Ingmar Bergman retrospective.

Dude, it was great seeing you last night at HULA GIRLS. You made a formulaic pic a bit less redundant.
". . recently-rediscovered RKO films from the 1930's, including several pre-code titles . . "

Thanks, Adam, for providing me with nudge to get out to the screening. It's good to have you back in town!

Miriam, did you read the link to Odie's article? I must admit I'd only skimmed it before making the link. But after reading it, I'm even more excited about this series!
I feared it would contain spoilers so I skimmed it with my eyes squinted. The fabulousness of this programming is not in question! So excited about seeing "Countess de Lave" in another comic role! Toujours Mary Boland!

Adam, Brian's ameliorating effect is an open secret in this berg. Have you ever noticed he also gives out a faint, but not distracting, glow during really good films. It's not so much a light as it is an energy.
Brian, a terrific update as always!

I had no idea VHS-KAHLOUCHA takes place in Sousse, which makes me even more excited to see this. I spent about a week there exactly 20 years ago this fall, staying in a $4 a night hotel right smack in the medina. While I was there a military coup took place, and Habib Bourgiba (then the world's longest-ruling ruler at 34 years) had his government overthrown. No one could enter or leave the country. It was all terribly exciting and I look forward to revisiting the place on screen.

Be sure not to miss A TASTE OF TEA. I saw it at Indiefest 2005 and it's quite a trip.

You probably know this already, but the Bay Area will have a look at Harmony Korine's latest, Mister Lonely, at the Latino Film Festival in November. Korine's not latino (as far as I know), but the film stars Diego Luna, who will be at the festival promoting his directorial debut (a doc about Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez).

The line-up for DocFest was announced this week and it's bigger than ever, with 45 films over two weeks. At the top of my list is AMERICAN SCARY, about the golden era of late-night horror movie TV hosts.

The line-up for Mill Valley will be released in a few days, and based on advance word, I can't say I'm terribly excited (i.e. not a single film from this year's Cannes' main competition.) The festival will, however, be showing a few of the other Cannes prize winners, and I'll wait until I hear the full line-up before making any further pronouncements of disappointment.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Olivier Assayas' 2007 Cannes entry, BOARDING GATE, at the PFA in October, with the director in person. Ditto Herschell Gordon Lewis in person with THE WIZARD OF GORE.

This is a big weekend at the PFA. Can't wait to have my first look at the films of Tomu Uchida tonight, and then two more British new wave films tomorrow.
Thanks for the message and your stories from Sousse, Michael!

I had no idea about Mister Lonely, actually. That's excellent news. I have heard a few peeps about Mill Valley that have me excited about it, that I feel I better not reveal here yet. But I've resigned myself not to expect that festival to bring over much of the Cannes slate. It seems like a missed opportunity that they never seem to (at least, not since Ive been paying attention), but apparently the programmers don't see it as part of their mission.

Every year, Cannes feels increasingly remote to me as a Frisco filmgoer. Perhaps its more a factor of the internet increasingly democratizing the buzz on more films, than an actual decline in the number of films making it to our shores. But that's not how it feels. It feels like certain local festivals are bringing fewer films by established international auteurs, in favor of films by relatively unknown directors hungry to make a mark.

And I feel like I'm perceiving that the few remaining theatrical distributors of foreign films are less likely to release something that made its initial tour of the festival circuit several years earlier, even if it never appeared in a relatively major market like Frisco. Earlier in this decade, it seemed like a new title didn't acquire an aura of "staleness" as quickly. (not that such an aura affects my own desire to see a film, but it does seem to affect programmers' desire to program).

As someone who has kept close tabs on the local festival and foreign film distribution scene for a lot longer than I have, I'd be curious to know what you think has changed over the decades.

I'm also very interested to hear what you think of the Uchida films. I won't make it tonight, but I hope to see at least a few.

I'm excited about the Assayas in-person as well, as I've ony seen one of his films before (demonlover). Some Toronto-goers are grousing about the lack of Boarding Gate in that festival, and I have to admit it's a little salve for my envy of the films they get to see in that festival, that there's at least one anticipated film that it looks like I'll get a chance to see as soon as or sooner than they do.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?