Saturday, January 31, 2015

I Only Have Two Eyes: 2014 Edition

Screen capture from Warner DVD of Macao
We're already well into the 2015 film-going year, but it's not too late to take time to reflect on the cinematic character of 2014 before it recedes into memory too far. One major release bucked trends by bringing 35mm and 70mm projectors back to life in a few cinema spaces. Otherwise, 35mm screenings of new films all but disappeared from the Frisco Bay screening landscape, with only the 4-Star in San Francisco and the Bluelight Cinemas in Cupertino by year's-end still regularly playing whatever new commercially-available films they're able to track down prints for from the studios still striking them. Remaining film projectors at a place like the Opera Plaza were so under-utilized in the past twelve months that learning that the venue just the other day removed them from all but one of its tiny screening rooms (installing DCP-capable equipment into its two comparatively "larger" houses) felt completely unsurprising and barely disappointing at all to me. It's safe to say that film festivals are no longer a home for 35mm either; as far as I'm aware the only new films that screened in that format at any local fests in 2014 were the throwback short Broncho Billy and the Bandit's Secret at the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival in June, and Yoji Yamada's The Little House at Mill Valley in October.

Most of the major local festivals have only kept the embers of sprocketed film warm in 2014 either by showing 16mm works by "experimental" artists still employing celluloid, or by showing a few revival titles in 35mm. Indeed, revivals and repertory houses are now where almost all of the action is at for those who like to view light passing through 35mm strips onto screens. Frisco Bay still has venues where this is a major component of programming, as well as a growing contingent of cinema spaces finding creative ways to attract audiences out of their home-viewing patterns (which are shifting themselves) by embracing digital-age developments. I'm eager to see what 2015 will bring to the cinephiliac landscape in San Francisco and its surroundings. Changes are afoot; the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley will be closing midyear to prepare for a move to a new, more transit-connected space; meanwhile the biggest DCP advocate among its programming team has just retired. The Alamo Drafthouse is expected to open its first branch in the region in 2015 as well, at a site within walking distance of several cherished repertory haunts. As highlighted in the new Film-Friendly Links section of the Film On Film Foundation website, Alamo CEO Tim League appears committed to involving 35mm in his company's continued expansion. I'm excited to see how that shakes out.

My annual "I Only Have Two Eyes" survey of local cinephiles' favorite screenings of revival and repertory films may have more mentions of digital screenings than ever for 2014, but as you'll see as I unveil the various contributions over the next week or so, there is plenty of diversity of format, venue, and of course the films themselves, in their selections. I'm so pleased to have gotten a strong turnout for this year's poll, including many participants from the past seven years when I've conducted it, as well as new "faces". Enjoy perusing their lists and comments as more are added!

January 26: Veronika Ferdman, who writes for Slant Magazine, In Review Online and elsewhere.
January 26: Lucy Laird, Operations Director for the SF Silent Film Festival.
January 27: Michael Hawley, who blogs at his own site film-415.
January 27: Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, educator at the Academy of Art & MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS
January 28; Margarita Landazuri, who writes for Turner Classic Movies & elsewhere.
January 28: Ben Armington, Box Cubed Box Office guy for many Bay Area Film Festivals.
January 29: Terri Saul, a visual artist who posts capsule reviews on Letterboxd.
January 29; Lincoln Spector, the proprietor of Bayflicks.
January 30; Michael Guillén, schoolmaster of The Evening Class and contributor to other publications.
January 30; David Robson, editorial director of Jaman and caretaker of The House of Sparrows.
January 31; Jonathan Kiefer, critic for SF Weekly and the Village Voice.
January 31; Adrianne Finelli, artist, educator, and co-curator of A.T.A.'s GAZE film series.

IOHTE: Adrianne Finelli

"IOHTE" stands for "I Only Have Two Eyes"; it's my annual survey of selected San Francisco Bay Area cinephiles' favorite in-the-cinema screenings of classic films and archival oddities from the past year. An index of participants can be found here.

Contributor Adrianne Finelli is an artist, curator, educator & film lover. She co-curates the GAZE film series at Artist Television Access; its next screening is February 13.

After a couple years of extended visits to the Bay Area, this past June I relocated here for love. Fortunately for me, my love of film is flourishing here as well. In the summer sun, my partner and I drove 2600 miles across the country straight to the Pacific Film Archive. Having only been here for six months of this year, I feel like I’ve missed a lot of treasures, but I’m grateful that I was able to see what I did. I’m looking forward to seeing much more in 2015. As requested by Brian Darr, whose film blog has become one of my bookmarks, here’s my list of my 10 favorite repertory film screenings of last year. Thanks to Brian and Hell on Frisco Bay for the invitation.

Favorites are fun, but they’re always so hard to whittle down:
Screen capture from Eclipse DVD

1) Sisters of Gion 
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1936) 
Pacific Film Archive  
This was my first opportunity to see a Mizoguchi film on the big screen; this screening also marked my first week in the area as an official resident. Apart from that, the film, Sisters of Gion, may be my favorite of his works and is a quintessential feminist film. Rebellious and decades ahead of its time, a critique of traditions and the clash of eras—the film looks deep into the lives and issues that the women of the Geisha tradition faced. Mizoguchi’s empathy is with the lives sold and not the salesman that are buying. Oh, that ending.  

2) A Woman of Rumor 
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1954) 
Pacific Film Archive  
Another poignant Mizoguchi feature about the personal lives of sex workers in Tokyo, that pays special attention to issues of what it means for these businesswomen to age. A fascinating portrait of two generations of women, somewhat Mildred Pierce, tragic drama of a mother and daughter in love with the same man. However, Mizoguchi does not let the man get off so easy, as the daughter’s love and empathy for her mother as a fellow woman grows and strengthens their bond. Such a beautiful film on so many levels, stunning and more mature camera, art direction and editing.


Screen capture from Ruscico DVD
3) Magdana’s Donkey 
Tengiz Abuladze, Rezo Chkeidze (USSR, 1955) 
Pacific Film Archive  
Simple and beautiful—a story about a working class widow and her day to day struggles to provide for her children. The family’s luck changes when they nurse an abandoned and abused donkey back to health, allowing Magdana to transport and sell more yogurt, but then she is brought to trial for stealing the donkey. There is definite documentary influence in this neorealistic drama, yet the rich black & white cinematography has its own style. I would love to see this film screened along side Bresson’s 1966 Au hazard Balthazar—donkeys might be the most honest animals in cinema.  

4) Sikkim 
Satyajit Ray (India, 1971) 
Pacific Film Archive  
I am so glad that I caught this, I had no idea how much I would learn and love about this film. A documentary about the sovereignty of Sikkim, a kingdom in the Himalayas situated between China and Indian, commissioned by the King of Sikkim and later banned until 2010. All copies were thought to be destroyed until one was uncovered at the British Film Institute. Very lyrical camera and sound—it’s more like a personal essay than a typical anthropological documentary of a foreign culture. Satyajit Ray’s refreshing and candid portrait has real heart and respect for the people and their traditions.

Screen capture from Columbia DVD
5) Lost Horizon  
Frank Capra (USA, 1937) 
Smith Rafael Film Center  
One of the few Capra films I had never seen, and maybe the strangest. Lost Horizon is a utopian film about an archetypal crew of five western passengers whose flight is hijacked and crashes somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains. The group is then escorted through the terrifying yet beautiful terrain to a magical palace—a warm and plentiful oasis from the harshness of the surroundings—known as Shangri-La. A dreamlike paradise where time is for passions and beauty, and no one ages. The story is bizarre and has a lot of political and social commentary embedded in it, and the set design and photography are worthy of seeing for their own merits.

6) A Night at the Cinema in 1914 
SF Silent Film Festival, Silent Autumn 2014 
Castro Theater  
A delightful collection of eclectic silent short films that were all produced in 1914 with live musical accompaniment by the brilliant Donald Sosin. A few of my favorite shorts to make note of are: Palace Pandemonium, a newsreel of Emmeline Pankhurst and 50 other suffragettes being arrested at Buckingham Palace; Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine, endearing cardboard sets and lots of quirkiness; and The Perils of Pauline directed by Louis J. Gasnier and starring the adventurous Pearl White as a woman who wants to explore life before she gets married.  

However, the short that really stood out, Daisy Doodad’s Dial directed by Florence Turner, who also starred in the film as the main protagonist. A super silly, sassy and creative little tale about a couple that enters a face-pulling contest. The story employs a great use of the close-up and superimposition. The score that Donald Sosin composed for this film was half the joy of watching it, I wouldn’t want to see it any other way. One of my favorite things I’ve seen all year, and it was made in 1914!

7) Molba 
Tengiz Abuladze (USSR, 1967) 
Pacific Film Archive  
Like a poem in black & white, a visual metaphor with absolutely stunning cinematography and editing. Definitely one of the most unique films I have seen this year, and a film that most be seen in a dark theater, on a big screen, and on 35mm.

Screen capture from Indiepix DVD of It Came From Kuchar
8) A Criminal Account of Pleasure: The George Kuchar Reader with Andrew Lampert  
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 
Presented by SF Cinematheque 
Corruption of the Damned (USA, 1965) 
The Exiled Files of Eddie Gray (USA, 1997)  
What can I say? If you are not a Kuchar fan, then this isn’t for you. If you are, you should definitely pickup a copy of the The George Kuchar Reader edited by Andrew Lampert before it’s out of print. It’s an amazingly rich collection of journal entries, drawings, scripts, photos and other findings compiled into an impressive 336-page volume. I was so glad that I made it out to the event; Steve Polta of SF Cinematheque gave a moving account of George and introduced Andrew Lampert to read a few excerpts before the screening. Corruption of the Damned was screened on a 16mm print from Anthology Film Archives. It features a very baby-faced George in all his campy glory, and was a much more scripted and serious production than most of his later works. The pairing of this early film with The Exiled Files of Eddie Gray, a even more campy revisit or remake of sorts with some the original cast from the 1965 film, made the night for me. Shedding light, or rather pouring it, onto issues of aging and sexuality, through crude reenactments of love scenes from 32 years ago. There are no words to describe the fabulous Floraine Connors, I laughed so hard I cried.  

9) Flight of the Sparrows 
Teimur Babluani (USSR, 1980) 
Pacific Film Archive  
The first several minutes I was sure I disliked this film; it felt like a not-so-great student film—clunky, bad acting, horrible lighting. After letting my expectations drop, I was taken by surprise at what turned into a really dynamic camera matched by a fresh, beat driven pace. The story is really simple, but weird and oddly poetic and bittersweet. There are two men traveling on a crowded third-class passenger train among a large cast of characters whose diverse profiles become fixtures in the background of the confined camera. The two men are opposites, one a rough-looking rebel of few words whose only friend is the tiny sparrow he carries next to his heart, and the other a pretentious, bragging traveling salesman that leads people to believe he is a world renown opera singer. The final scene shifts to a barren landscape and a surprising battle ensues.      
Screen capture from vimeo trailer for Desire Pie
10) Radical Sex Educational Films from San Francisco’s Multi-Media Resource Center 
Curated by Herb Shellenberger 
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts  

A curious and alluring collection of extraordinarily artistic and avant-garde Sex Ed films, like a time capsule into a different, more radical era. I imagine we would all be better, more inventive lovers if we had the occasion to see these films in our health classes. Although every film different and compelling in its own right, three films really resonated and charmed me. The program opened with Jerry Abrams’ Eyetoon (1968) very easily the most experimental sex education film I’ve ever seen, a collage that combines a variety of techniques with a mesmerizing score. This film takes intimacy into another dimension. Constance Beeson’s hypnotic and lyrical Unfolding (1969) was a visual verse about the emotional side of lovemaking, a song for the two souls becoming one. Unfolding is a more sensitive portrait from a woman’s perspective, about the closeness of sex. Desire Pie (1976) by Lisa Crafts was a fun, tripped-out cartoon of the wacky and weird journey of sexual desires.  

It was also notable to see Alice Ann Parker’s Near the Big Chakra (1972) for the second time, having been lucky enough to meet her during her retrospective program at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival. It is such a radical educational film through pure observation.    

A special shout-out to the many generous venues and to the people behind the projectors and programming that make this city and the surrounding area an amazing place for those of us that love cinema. Thank you to those that tirelessly search through the archives, those that make new work from old, those that share and connect the community.  
Craig Baldwin & Other Cinema 
Pacific Film Archive 
Artists’ Television Access 
SF Cinematheque 
The Exploratorium 
Shapeshifters Cinema 
Black Hole Cinematheque 
Oddball Cinema 
Canyon Cinema 
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 
SF Silent Film Festival 
Internet Archive 
Rick & Megan Prelinger 
California Film Institute 
Castro Theater 
Roxie Theater 
Kala Art Institute 
& the many others that made my first six months here unrepeatable.

IOHTE: Jonathan Kiefer

"IOHTE" stands for "I Only Have Two Eyes"; it's my annual survey of selected San Francisco Bay Area cinephiles' favorite in-the-cinema screenings of classic films and archival oddities from the past year. An index of participants can be found here.

Contributor Jonathan Kiefer is a critic for the SF Weekly and Village Voice; follow him on twitter at @Kieferama
Screen shot from Criterion DVD
Very briefly, I’d like to mention two moviegoing experiences here. The first was a mid-morning matinee, at the Vogue, of Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour. My SF Weekly review didn't mention that somehow I'd never seen it until now -- which was ok because this time and place proved mysteriously just right after all. Of course this cherished memory also reminds me of my greatest regret of the year, perhaps of many years: missing out on a rare glimpse of Resnais’ Je t’aime, Je t’aime when it showed up all too fleetingly at the Castro.

Friday, January 30, 2015

IOHTE: David Robson

"IOHTE" stands for "I Only Have Two Eyes"; it's my annual survey of selected San Francisco Bay Area cinephiles' favorite in-the-cinema screenings of classic films and archival oddities from the past year. An index of participants can be found here.

Contributor David Robson is "the editorial director of Jaman.com, a site that offers a smarter search for movies to watch online. Yet his moviegoing takes place almost entirely offline; he documents his viewing with increasing semi-regularity at the House of Sparrows, and he cohabitates with those adorable simian cinephiles at Monkeys Go To Movies."

My year in San Francisco rep began and ended with screams. In between it was an insanely lively and robust year for rep programming, with fine fine series of movies showing pretty much straight through the year. Even without the stuff I missed there're a lot of things to choose from, so in the interests of covering a breadth of films within the space limits imposed by Mr. Darr I'll limit myself to one movie per series/festival.

Screen capture from Code Red DVD
--The first movie I saw last year was Teenage Mother, a last-minute replacement for a film in an early January teensploitation series at the Roxie. The 16mm print was loaned to the Roxie by L.A.'s Cinefamily, who promised that it was an "audience destroyer." Sure enough, when the educational-film-level-acted story of a crusading sex ed teacher at an uptight, whitebread high school gave way to some clinical footage of a surgical birthing procedure, holy crap, NO ONE in the house was unaffected. I don't remember ever being quite so shattered by a year's first screening, and like the slashed eyeball in Un Chien Andalou it set a nice fever pitch for everything else to come in 2015.

--I don't often discuss Noir City in these roundups, as most other sets of Two Eyes have it covered and I'm somewhat at odds with the yuk-yuk showmanship with which the series is presented. But 2014's Noir City offered an international focus on that most American genre, with a heavy emphasis on rare movies discovered by the Film Noir Foundation during its trips to Argentina. Some of these movies screened at Noir City in their first appearances ever in the US. Yet for all of the truly wonderful international gems unearthed for the series, my most indelible memory of Noir City 13 is Macao (internationally-set, but American made). There was incredible and palpable good will during this final Noir City screening, to the point that it felt like Jane Russell was actually in the house, performing "One for the Road" live for the Noir City faithful. Some of us in the Castro audience aren't as quick to applaud movies as others, but sometimes there's no other way to process what one's feeling.

Image provided by contributor
--A second time through the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men revealed nothing new: I still felt the movie was technically accomplished and smoothly suspenseful, but that Cormac McCarthy's nihilism was a disappointing, over-praised cop-out. The real revelation of the night turned out to be the B-picture: A Serious Man's search for meaning in what's clearly an uncaring (and viciously playful) universe felt more honest and real than No Country, and its depiction of a specifically 1960s suburban weirdness and sensuality rang true, and made this feel like one of the Coens' most personal pictures. And George Wyner's narration of the story of the Goy's Teeth (accompanied by Jimi Hendrix) felt like a setpiece I'd been waiting most of my life to see, though damned if I know why.

--Jonathan Demme's quirkily-charming--til-it-gets-real-honkin'-dark Something Wild made its first appearance in ages at the Castro. It's a strong piece of 80s nostalgia, and its soundtrack includes some of my favorite deep cuts of that decade (Jerry Harrison's "Man With A Gun" especially). But its story of a New York financier grappling with sudden freedom from responsibility, and yearning for a less-stringent, more carefree life resonated strongly here now, its nouveau riche characters poised to seize Manhattan from working class bohemians. And the SPECULATORS OUT! graffiti scrawled across the movie's downtown Manhattan spoke to a very real crisis happening just outside the Castro's doors.

Image provided by contributor
--I'd waited for YEARS to share The Blues Brothers with my good friend Aaron. A nice pre-show meal just up-street from the Castro, a good print of the movie, and the experience of a personal favorite that holds up three decades later (with new things revealed through the laughter and conversation of a good, smart friend seeing it for the first time) all made for a great night out. The movie itself remains a fond homage to the city of Chicago, the greatest iteration of the Belushi/Aykroyd chemistry, and possessed of fine musical performances by some of rhythm & blues' finest performances (as well as a climactic chase that still must be seen to be believed).

--Waiting for The Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto to announce a new calendar can be a frustrating experience. I doubt I'm the only Bay Area cinephile to check the Stanford's website multiple times daily for any sign of forthcoming programming, only to be frustrated as Gone With The Wind is held over for another week. Then another week. But when they finally announced their late summer calendar in 2014, the floodgates just opened: no dark days, rarely screened movies jamming the calendar, with silents every Wednesday. The big attraction for this moviegoer was a damn-near-complete set of the Universal Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series (programmed Thursdays and Fridays alongside Charlie Chan movies, a risky programming choice to which the Stanford worked diligently to provide context). It was difficult to make it to all of them, but I made damn sure to get to The House of Fear, a mystery as atmospheric as any of Universal's classic horror movies, boosted by unusually bold photography and art direction, and the fact that the normally-dim Watson figures the mystery out before we do. Good times!

Screen capture from Loving The Classics DVD
--Yerba Buena Center for the Arts film programmer/local-and-national-goddamn-treasure Joel Shepard threw the doors open wide to the YBCA screening room in 2014, inviting ten Bay Area cinephiles (including this one) to select and introduce a movie for screening during the varied and spectacular Invasion of the Cinemaniacs! series. Sad though it is to limit myself to one selection from this series, as every movie in the series (and be certain: I saw Every. Movie. In the series) offered up its own unique revelations, if pressed I'd probably pick Max Ophuls' The Exile as my favorite. An excellent pairing of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (attempting to make the kind of swashbuckler that made his father famous) and Max Ophuls (capturing the emotion and Shakespearean complexity of the story with style and grace), with Maria Montez and Nigel Bruce (the latter offering a Falstaffian gravitas absent from his Watson to Rathbone's Holmes) in fine support. Presenter David Wong schooled us on the mechanics of Ophuls' style, and their emotional payoffs, in one of the most mind-expanding film intros I've ever had the good fortune to witness.

--The offbeat Canadian fantasy Strange Behavior had been one of those movie grails, often heard talked about yet never experienced. Finally caught up with it at the bottom end of a pre-Halloween double bill at the Castro. If in the end I wasn't swept away by a newly discovered classic, I was certainly captivated by its consistently odd choices, with its low budget necessitating not just an economical approach but what sometimes felt like an eccentric and deliberate rejection of cinematic realism. All this and a costumed dance party sequence at least as beguiling as the "Loco-Motion" scene in INLAND EMPIRE.
Image provided by contributor
--Strongly suspect that the 16mm print of Godzilla on Monster Island seen at Artists Television Access in November was the same print used for the KTVU broadcast that I taped and watched many, many, many times as a kid in the mid-1980s. Juvenile but charming kaiju insanity, with imagination outweighing a low budget and atrocious dubbing. A nicely rounded bunch of human heroes counterbalancing the Godzilla/Angilas team-up, too.

--The final rep screening in SF turned out to be a lovely little Christmas gift from the Castro Theatre. The Mario Bava centennial had been celebrated at a number of venues around the world, and I was a bit miffed that the year had gone by with none of the venues in San Francisco honoring the occasion. But the Castro, just under the wire (and maybe just coincidentally), screened Bava's final feature Shock! (known also as Beyond the Door 2), a minor Bava but one I'd never seen before. The screams from the audience during the movie's truly deranged final reel were enough to fill even the most Scroogelike cinephile with the joyous bounties of the holiday spirit.

IOHTE: Michael Guillén

"IOHTE" stands for "I Only Have Two Eyes"; it's my annual survey of selected San Francisco Bay Area cinephiles' favorite in-the-cinema screenings of classic films and archival oddities from the past year. An index of participants can be found here.

Contributor 
Michael Guillén is the schoolmaster of the essential blog The Evening Class, and contributes to many other online and print publications.

Perhaps not surprisingly, whenever I return to San Francisco from Boise I am keen for repertory programming over contemporary theatrical releases.  Between Boise's art house cinema The Flicks and the ubiquitous multiplexes, I can catch plenty of the latter; but, there is absolutely no repertory programming in the Gem State's capitol. None. So when I return to the Bay Area, I eschew most press screenings to focus on the Pacific Film Archive, the Roxie Theatre, the Castro Theatre and miscellaneous community-based film festivals to sate my thirst.  Kudos to Brian Darr and Hell on Frisco Bay for celebrating repertory programming in San Francisco and environs.  Never take it for granted.  Take it from one who knows.

Despite mournful complaints to the contrary, the advent of digital projection has afforded opportunity for increased repertory programming, particularly at venues like the Roxie and even an archive like PFA, but nothing starts the year out like the annual Noir City Film Festival and its dedicated emphasis on 35mm film.  In its 12th edition, Noir City offered two rare Latin-American gems.

In the Palm of Your Hand (En la palma de tu mano, 1951)—I first caught Roberto "the Ogre" Gavaldón's lush melodrama at the 2013 Morelia Film Festival during their sidebar tribute to Mexican actor Arturo de Córdova and was delighted that this restored print made an appearance in San Francisco.  I brought several friends to this rare screening, which—as noted by Mexican scholar Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro—showcased not only the work of de Córdova and "the pure style" of Gavaldón, but marked an apex in Latin American film noir and "the immense capabilities" of cinematographer Alex Phillips.

The Black Vampire (El Vampiro Negro, 1953)—Connective tissue fascinates me, not only between mediums, but between films.  Argentine director Román Viñoly Barreto's The Black Vampire, based on Fritz Lang's M, premiered in Argentina in October 1953—the month and year I was born—but didn't arrive on North American shores until January 2014, 61 years later.  Talk about waiting a lifetime to see a film!  No shot-by-shot remake, Barreto stages his own interpretation of this sordid tale of child molestation and murder with moody, lustrous cinematography by Aníbal González Paz.

Screen capture from Sony DVD
T-Men (1947)—Although I've seen Anthony Mann's T-Men several times—introduced to the film by noir historian Alan K. Rode as a representative of the fine work of actor Charles McGraw—I never tire of catching it.  PFA's February 2014 series "Against the Law: The Crime Films of Anthony Mann" afforded the opportunity to watch an archival 35mm print introduced by Mann biographer Max Alvarez, who offered impressive insight into the film and its director.

A Hatful of Rain (1957)—Fred Zinnemann's Hatful was just one of several entries in Donald Malcolm's curated Roxie retrospective profiling the career of Don Murray.  Significant in emphasizing the perhaps over-earnest style of drama peculiar to the time, this study of addiction and its effect upon a young married couple addressed urban concerns with head-on honesty.  Murray acted his ass off here and it was a pleasure to watch.

Boggy Depot (1973)—Yerba Buena Center for the Arts offered a program of five shorts by San Francisco legend Curt McDowell, hosted by his sister Melinda and local film critic Johnny Ray Huston in conjunction with YBCA's seventh edition of Bay Area Now and in collaboration with Margaret Tedesco's [ 2nd floor projects ].  The entire evening was an archival delight; but, Boggy Depot was a laugh-outloud send-up of the musical genre.  Watching George Kuchar not-really-sing was almost more than I could handle.

A Kiss For A Killer (Une manche et la belle, 1957)—Donald Malcolm returned to the Roxie with a curated selection of French noir rarieties ("The French Had A Name For It") that packed the house in unprecedented numbers, proving that there is life after 35mm, and that there's a definite market for titles unavailable elsewhere.  There were several winners in this program—Bardot in La vérité (1960), Édouard Molinaro's docu-drama Witness in the City (Un témoin dans la ville, 1959), the two Robert Hossein vehicles Highway Pickup (Chair de poule, 1963) and Blonde In A White Car (Toi Le Venin, 1958), the coiled ferocity of Daniele Delorme in Deadlier Than the Male (Voici Les Temps Des Assassins, 1956) and the truest Christmas noir ever Le Monte-Charge (1962)—but the king of them all proved to be handsome Henri Vidal in the Gallic amalgam of Sunset Boulevard and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Daughters of Darkness (Les lèvres rouges, 1971)—Euro-horror came to the Castro Theatre with a double-bill of Don't Look Now (1973) and Harry Kümel's bisexual vampire cult favorite with Delphine Seyrig as the sensuous if perverse Countess Bathory.  LGBT film studies have never been the same after this glorification of the "other" as nighttime's hungriest denizen.

Screen capture from Warner DVD
The Curse of the Cat People (1944)—Val Lewton, my favorite producer-auteur, took a title given to him by a poverty row studio and turned it into a classic tale of childhood psychology with the lovely Ann Carter as a melancholy child with an imaginary friend.  I never dreamed I'd get to actually see a 35mm print of this film, and to see Ann's plaintive face in close-up on the Castro's giant screen made for perfect entertainment and a moment of thrilling cinephilia.  Not really noir, of course, but a welcome entry to announce the upcoming program and poster for the 13th edition of Noir City.


The Astrologer (1975)—Nothing in the stars could have possibly predicted that 1975 would see two films entitled The Astrologer released on an unwary cinema public; nor that Craig Denney's film—not to be confused with the James Glickenhaus film—would reappear like a Tarot card from underneath a sleeve to pleasurably befuddle audiences at a one-off screening at Another Hole in the Head.  Mike Keegan deserves a big shout-out for delivering this print to Holehead and treating SF's diehard genre fans to such a whacked-out tale of prognostication: the rise and fall of astrologer-to-the-stars Alexander (Denney), which—as Nicolas Winding Refn stated in his introduction to the film at this year's Fantastic Fest—is a movie "that pushes 'auteurism' to a whole other level."  The film has been described as "wanton megalomania" and an "auto-biopic" and a plot synopsis would only prove more confusing than the film itself, which hacks its way through the editing room with a machete.  Great fun to watch this faded-to-pink piece of delirium with fellow 35mm enthusiasts Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, Jason Wiener, David Wong and Maria Fidel.