Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Only Have Two Eyes 2010

In a digitally-defined age when motion pictures in their various forms are more ubiquitous, available, and seemingly disposable than ever, one might conclude that movies have become devalued. Increasingly, we expect to be able to fulfill our every movie-watching whim as easily and conveniently as we send a message to a friend without bothering with stamps or lines at the post office. It may be counter-intuitive to propose that the overwhelming media choices before us in fact make the art of curation all the more valuable. The expectations we bring when we pick a video to watch at home are different from those we bring to a movie theater to watch a film selected by another individual with a specific set of tastes and experiences. I feel I can sometimes achieve a certain kind of transcendent experience of cinematic art through the latter situation, not available to me through the former. This is why I annually compile a survey of San Francisco Bay Area repertory & revival cinemagoing, through the eyes of a number of its many discerning observers.

Modified from last year, when "I asked for lists of up to ten filmgoing experiences had in Frisco Bay cinemas...watching repertory/revival films. Some contributors followed my "rules" to the letter, while other bent them according to their own predilections." This year, instead of presenting all the lists on my blog at once, I will be revealing a few and updating this pointer post every day over the next week or so. I'm so honored to have each of these fine contributors to this project:

Cinephile/critic Michael Hawley, who blogs at film-415.
Film preservationist/researcher Rob Byrne, who blogs at Starts Thursday!.
Researcher/writer Victoria Jaschob of the SFSFF writers group.
Critic Lincoln Spector, who operates Bayflicks.
Independent curator/art director Betty Nguyen, who blogs at First Person Magazine.
Writer Adam Hartzell, who contributes to sf360 among other places.
Writer/educator Margarita Landazuri, who has written for the SFFS and elsewhere.
Author/filmmaker Monica Nolan, whose activities are described on her website.
Critic Max Goldberg, who blogs at Text Of Light.
Cinephile Larry Chadbourne, also of the Film On Film Foundation.
Projectionist/writer Lucy Laird, who blogs on and off at Lucible.
Cinephile Jason Wiener, who blogs at Jason Watches Movies.
Projectionist Carl Martin, co-founder of the Film On Film Foundation.
Writer/filmmaker Ryland Walker Knight who blogs at Vinyl Is Heavy.
Cinephile Ben Armington, Box Office Emeritus.
Artist/writer Terri Saul, who blogs at Sister Rye.
Journalist/critic Jonathan Kiefer, who archives reviews here.
Projectionist/filmmaker Austin Wolf-Sothern, who blogs at Placenta Ovaries.
Film buff, festival volunteer and SFFS member Maureen Russell.
Teacher, writer & impresario Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who hosts MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS.
Filmmaker/Film On Film Foundation co-founder Brecht Andersch, who blogs at SFMOMA's Open Space.
Brian Darr- hey that's me!

My Two Eyes

I've been so pleased with the participation in this year's "I Only Have Two Eyes" project, collecting lists of favorite repertory/revival film watching experiences had in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010 from 21 other Frisco Bay film-watchers. The entire set of contributions is collected here. But I haven't yet published my own list of ten. Here it finally is, in the order in which I saw them:

Pitfall
Outfitted with a series pass, I was able to catch more of Noir City 8 than any of its previous Castro Theatre editions. The best of the set, to my determination, was the this series opener, a still-underrated marital thriller directed by Andre De Toth. This searing critique of post-war America's stifling suburban ideal stars Dick Powell at his most embittered, with Lisabeth Scott and Jane Greer terrific in supporting roles. However, it's Raymond Burr who nearly steals the show as the extremely menacing villain of the picture, a role that prefigures his own future as one of filmdom's most effective heavies, as well as the terrorizing Burl Ives role that drives the action in De Toth's later masterpiece, Day of the Outlaw (which later in the year played the Roxie if unfortunately in a severely compromised 16mm print).

Trafic
Only two things could have enhanced this year's complete Jacques Tati retrospective, held on both sides of the Bay at the Pacific Film Archive and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (with other Tati screenings at the Red Vic and Rafael): a supplimental 70mm screening of Playtime at a venue equipped to show the increasingly-uncommon format, and a showing of Tati's first feature Jour de Fete at a time that didn't conflict with my unavoidable non-cinephile activities. The plus side of the latter "defect" in the otherwise tremendous undertaking is that I still have an unseen Tati film to look forward to. Trafic, which I also had never seen until YBCA's screening in early 2010, is something of a spiritual sequel to Playtime, and nearly as great. Where the 1967 film wanders through Paris like a seemingly-directionles tourist, this one takes a more linear road-movie approach to its playful but cutting jibes at modern transportation and leisure.

That Night's Wife
In 2010 I was thankful that the VIZ Cinema provided numerous opportunities to revisit some of the best films by perhaps my most consistent favorite of Japanese directors, Yasujiro Ozu: Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn, etc. But this Pacific Film Archive screening of Ozu's 1931 silent That Night's Wife, shown with an accompaniment by the superb pianist Judith Rosenberg, trumped even those screenings in opening a window to a younger filmmaker's creative range; the sequence of a vigil in a cramped apartment space shows just how radical (and dramatically effective) Ozu's approach to cinematic temporality could get.

Dodsworth
More than any other cinema on Frisco Bay, the Stanford (or the St. Anford, as a friend recently re-Christened the venue) functions as a temple to one man's cinematic taste. Lucky for us, David Packard has great taste in 1930s-50s Hollywood (and British) cinema! I shuttled to Palo Alto more often than usual in 2010, and was particularly excited to see a 35mm print of the heartrending Make Way For Tomorrow, which I'd only ever seen on a bootlegged VHS tape before. That its previously-unfamiliar-to-me double-bill mate, William Wyler's Dodworth was nearly able to match Leo McCarey's masterpiece in its emotional pull, and even surpass it in its unpandering sophistication, seemed miraculous and still does months later.

Ran
I usually like to reserve slots on my own personal "I Only Have Two Eyes" lists for films I'd never seen before at all, but I had to make this exception this year, for this film that jumped most dizzingly highly in my estimation when finally viewed in 35mm. When I viewed it on VHS as a college student, it was my first exposure to Kurosawa and, indeed, to non-sci-fi Japanese motion pictures, though in fact at the time its 16th Century feudal mileu felt more alien to me than any animated robot or rubber-suited beastie. I'd never gotten around to revisiting it even after becoming a guarded Kurosawa fan, and still harbored the suspicion that it had been overrated by those who ranked it among his best films. But in 2010, "the Emperor"'s centennial year, when I was able to employ the VIZ & PFA to fill in a number of my Kurosawa-gaps (the Quiet Duel being my favorite new discovery) and revisit a couple favorites (Stray Dog, High & Low), it was the extended engagement of Ran at the Embarcadero which provided me with my most fundamental re-understanding of the master's bold artistry. It cannot hurt to know how closely the re-worked Lear story sometimes parallels Kurosawa's late-career struggles as a cast-off from the industry he did so much to build. It also cannot hurt to see those colors (all that blood-and-fire red!) cast in a glorious new print on a big screen.

Le Bonheur
Speaking of color. It seems fitting that I caught up with what I now think of as Agnès Varda's greatest masterpiece (though I love Cleo From 5 To 7, Vagabond and The Gleaners & I deeply) thanks to a PFA series devoted to preservation. Not just because it seems miraculous that these natural, vivid but never gaudy hues and cries could have been photographed in the mid-sixties, and restored lovingly for us today. But also because, in its way this painfully truthful fable is all about the possibilities and impossibilities of preservation and restoration of love relationships and families. Just drawing the film up in my mind again months after seeing it, I find myself shuddering to the memory of its beauty and its ultimate, still shocking agony.

The Chelsea Girls
I've never held much truck with the frequent assertion that the proper role of music in film is: not to be noticed. Becoming something of an aficionado of live musical scores to silent films has only solidified my position. It's harder to dispute that the performative element the projectionist provides to a film showing should be unnoticed if it's to be appreciated. But there are clear-cut exceptions, and The Chelea Girls is the most prominent one. With two projectors running reels side-by-side on the screen, with a fair amount of latitude available to toggle between soundtracks from the control booth, it's probably fair to say there can (and should) be no frame-definitive version of this Andy Warhol film, making a screening (this one was at SFMOMA) feel something akin to a maddening, exhilarating, frustrating, but somehow also illuminating concert experience. "Everything is more glamorous when you do it in bed," Warhol once wrote. I would hope he'd make an exception for watching The Chelsea Girls.

Pastorale D'ete
I could easily have made a respectible top ten, or twenty, or thirty, culling only from the locally-produced experimental short films I watched and re-watched as part of the still-ongoing Radical Light series in support of the fantastic book published last year. Supplemented by a number of SFMOMA screenings in the Spring (and a couple in the Fall), the Radical Light project made 2010 the year the filmic floodgates really opened for me, and the trickle of knowledge and appreciation I had for Frisco Bay's storied history of avant-garde film scenes became a hearty river. Any year allowing me to finally see Will Hindle's Chinese Firedrill, Kerry Laitala's Retrospectoscope, John Luther Schofill's Filmpiece for Sunshine, Dion Vigne's North Beach, Barbara Hammer's Dyketactics, Sidney Peterson's The Lead Shoes (three times!), Jordan Belson's Allures, Ernie Gehr's Side/Walk/Shuttle, Dominic Angerame's Deconstruction Sight and Premonition, Dorothy Wiley's Miss Jesus Fries on the Grill, Allen Willis, David Myers and Philip Greene's Have You Sold Your Dozen Roses?, Chuck Hudina's Icarus, and Frank Stauffacher's Sausalito, and to rewatch Tominaro Nishikawa's Market Street, Bruce Conner's Looking For Mushrooms, Take the 5:10 to Dreamland and a Movie, George Kuchar's Wild Night in El Reno, Curt McDowell's Confessions, Hy Hirsch's Eneri, Chris Marker's Junkopia, Gunvor Nelson's Schmeerguntz, and especially Bruce Baillie's The Gymnasts and All My Life (and meet the man himself), and just as especially Christopher Maclaine's The End (and become involved in an intensive collaborative project attempting to retrace Maclaine's steps and talk to survivors of his cohort, most notably Wilder Bentley II) is simply an astoundingly rich one. But above even all of these, it was a new restoration of Hindle's first film Pastourale D'été whose nine minutes burned most brilliantly into my retinal hippocampus during its PFA screening. Shot in the kind of hillside landscape I'd always incorrectly imagined to be typical of the famous Canyon, California until I finally visited the forested town last September, and edited to an Arthur Honegger composition on equipment built by Hindle himself, this nature study is the clearest justification of the zoom lens I've ever observed. The first film made by a director (scarcely) better known for his more claustrophobic later works, it won an award at the 3rd San Francisco International Film Festival in 1959.

Times Square
One of the most heartening developments on the Frisco Bay film scene last year was the re-emergence of the Roxie as a genuinely adventurous, calendered, repertory theatre that can play excellent host to imaginative events. The only known print of this feisty teenaged melodrama set against the punk and new wave scene in 1980 Manhattan provides a unique semi-documentary look at a very specific historical moment, but the film is also special because of how seriously director Allan Moyle takes the relationship between his two leads. Nicky Marotta & Pamela Pearl may represent the 'bad girl' and the 'daddy's girl' but they bust out of their archetypes thrillingly.

Braverman's Condensed Cream of the Beatles
I'm slightly embarrassed that after hearing about the place for years, it took my April move into a loft space shockingly nearby to Oddball Film & Video for me to actually start visiting this unique film archive and screening venue. I took in four of the locale's regular weekend evening shows, including a Saturday-after-Thanksgiving pair of not-exactly themed shorts programs compiled by Lynn Cursaro and Carl Martin of the Film On Film Foundation. Amidst delightful rarities like Red Ball Express, Doubletalk, and Zoo was Charles Braverman's (and Gary Rocklen's) psychedelic collage of music and graphics tracing the birth, growth and public separation of the Fab Four. Constructed between the Beatles' break-up and the tragic assassination that quashed all hope of a real reunion, this nostalgia head trip seems unlikely to ever be cleared for a commercial release in these intellectually proprietary times. It brought me waves of joy and reminiscence to my boyhood in a house where The Beatles ruled the record player over The Stones, The Beach Boys, and practically everybody else.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brecht Andersch's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from filmmaker/projectionist Brecht Andersch, who writes for the SFMOMA Open Space Blog and who co-founded the Film On Film Foundation:


Ahh..... 2010 is the year I met my cinemaniac Waterloo. After decades of dashing round that hamster's wheel of immediate gratification, I found myself transferred by my Masters to a new, smaller wheel which one could only hope to "traverse" by means of application of fingers to a qwerty-pad. My fingertips have become calloused to match the scars in my heart, and yet the fingers march on and on...

Sadly, I have only a few moments of cine-glory to share with you, but share I've promised, and share I shall.

1) The year began with the heaven-and-hell clash of perhaps the most strangely apt/un-apt double bill I've yet encountered, the PFA's January 23rd pairing of Playtime and Salo. I meant to write a piece on this utopian/dystopian death match, with the resonating, and irresolvable question: which, in fact, was which? But time escaped me, and I was forced to narrow, or at least alter my considered theme. No doubt this was for the best, for such concerns, dragged into the public sphere, can only lead to the dubious but justified rewards of the shamed exhibitionist.

2) My friend Ross Lipman flew into town, in part, for a Sunday, February 28th afternoon screening of his restored versions of the great amateur filmmaker Sid Laverents. I worked up an Open Space post covering this show, as well as Ross's other many exciting activities, and showed up on that glorious sun-graced Sunday to find myself part of an audience of eleven, of which Lucy Laird was another. This was the moment I discovered the power of the press. Who loves the sun? Not I, since it broke my heart... It was a great show anyway, and since then, I sleep days.

3) Again we go with the PFA. On March 6th, I treated my wife to a double feature of Joseph Losey's M and The Big Night for her birthday. Included was the short Youth Gets a Break, which, unlike the features, I'd never before seen. Gents, I gotta tell you -- when you splurge on the little woman's big day in this manner, you won't have to wait 'til heaven to receive your rewards.

4) Later that month, I wrote about the PFA's screenings of Eve and Accident, then savored the narcissistic delusion, as the lights dimmed, that I was in some fashion the ringmaster. Of course, as the light hit the screen in each case I was immediately brought up short -- for in Losey, only the Goddess calls the shots.

5) Not April 1st, but the 2nd and 3rd proved my Fool's Days, or rather nights. On each there was a Cinematheque programmed Jim McBride/Stanton Kaye double bill at Yerba Buena: Fri, the 2nd's was McBride's David Holzman's Diary with Kaye's Georg, and the next night it was Kaye's Brandy in the Wilderness and McBride's My Girlfriend's Wedding. Of these, I'd only seen David Holzman, but that's a film I've watched obsessively since my first screening in '86, appropriately by means of a 16mm print in my own tiny filmmaker's abode. McBride and Kaye were scheduled to be there, and indeed they showed up both nights and did due diligence to all fifteen-or-so people in the audience. The Cinematheque's director, Jonathon Marlow, does things in style, and parties were thrown and catched (or is the term crashed?) by those daring enough to stick their noses amongst their betters. I remember scotch-fueled discussions with Jim and Tracy McBride, as well as one Mr. Brian Darr, and lo-and-behold! Who did I find amongst the crowd other than my hero, Holzman himself -- L.M. Kit Carson! I swiftly made my approach to commence that long-promised "talk about Vincente Minnelli". Yes, for those who're curious, he's indeed a fan... One of my favorite moments of this weekend was standing next to my friend Mindy Bagdon as he reunited with Stanton Kaye after forty-plus years. Mindy had worked for a bit in some kinda cinematographic capacity on Brandy all those years ago, but had never seen it. Imagine his joy and surprise to discover it a semi-masterpiece...

6) A couple of weeks later found me again at Yerba, finally catching up with a film always a block or two ahead of me these past couple decades -- Marguerite Duras's Le Camion. For those who've heard about but haven't seen, it does indeed consist of long conversations between Duras and Gerard Depardieu at a table discussing a proposed screenplay, intercut with images of a camion driving thru the French countryside. I gotta tell you, tho -- that camion's some truck! If Duras were with us today, I'd exhort her to "Keep on Camionin'!"

7) Ryland Walker Knight has already waxed well on our ventures with Brian Darr to southern climes to take in McCarey masterpieces (Make Way for Tomorrow and Ruggles of Red Gap), both of which I'd only seen before on 16mm or video. I'll come down on the side of Make Way for diversity's sake, and because I love to have my heart broken. (But yes, we all need more of Ruggles's joy.)

8) In May and June, in my role as projectionist at SFMOMA, I enjoyed the hell out of warlocking the spindles o' magick for screenings of Model Shop and Play Misty for Me, with all their sun-drenched Californian autocentricity... If Eastwood had kept up the level of Play he'd begun at with Misty (no doubt with help from mentor Don Seigel), he could justifiably be discussed with directors on the level of Jacques Demy on a regular basis. (Sadly, this is not the case.) Demy's film, on the other hand, is fully emblematic of a directorial vision which seems to broaden and deepen with every screening of almost any one of his films...


9) Nine?! Already? Time for to make the mad dash thru all the pictures I really shoulda talked about -- the three days in a row in August I managed to make it out to revisit semi-favorite Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence at the VIZ, Death in Venice (for me one of the great Transcendent Masterpieces of Cinema) at the Roxie, and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (again at PFA). It's true I gotta penchant for all that homoerotic farrin' stuff, but what my id's really hankerin' for is just one -- just one measily hour to rampage in the proper heterosexist, fanny grabbin', Tommy-gun tottin' Legs Diamond manner 'til goin' down in my very own glorious blaze of bullets, only to wake and thank my luck stars, that no, indeed, I'm not that wayward mick run amok... Thank God, and thanks very much, Mr. Budd Boetticher. Then there was my 2nd 35mm viewing of House of Bamboo (9/10 PFA), some much later viewings of Dreyer films (Nov. and Dec. at PFA), such as uber-favorites Ordet, and Gertrud (the latter for the first time in 35), and my first-ever encounter with Two People, which, if they had been directed by anyone other than Carl Th., would be considered at least the inhabitants of a minor masterpiece, but instead have to suffer the ignominious status of having been disowned by the severe Dane. There was also that sacred work of degradation, Accattone (12/10), which I hadn't seen for some time, and finally I must make mention of my first-ever viewing of Rolling Thunder (9/2 Roxie, part of Not Necessarily Noir, programmed by Elliot Lavine) amidst my on-going Jacob/Devil wrastlin' match (I'll leave it to you to figure out who was who) with my extended series on the 70's work of Paul Schrader, which came just in time to deliver a key line (both for his oeuvre and my piece): "You learn to love the rope… That’s how you beat people who torture you — you learn to love them."

10) At last we are at our final number which invokes for me a work by that recently departed figure who ranks amongst the Greatest (and most profoundly underrated) of Major American Film Directors. But this isn't the time for your eulogy, Blake (that time will come), but rather to truly wrap up the wrap-up by conducting those readers not yet appropriately alienated by this Big Parade of Vanity thru the most glorious of my gloriest involvements in the local cinematic scene, i.e. those I've been directly involved with in some fashion: there was the FOFF screening of Endless Love (8/22 PFA), with its screenwriter, Judith Rascoe, in attendance; Bay Area Ecstatic, the first show I've been allowed to program and present at SFMOMA (and let me just say in passing I'm very gratified to see mentions of these programs by my fellow wrap-uppers), and last, and by far the most exciting was the 9/29 screening of 1953's The End (at the PFA, as part of the fantastically extensive series conjoined to the book Radical Light). This was a key moment in the project I've been involved with for most of the last year with Brian Darr to investigate, document, and analyze all things having to do with Christopher Maclaine's Very Great Masterpiece. After making contact with Wilder Bentley II, who plays Paul, one of the film's rotating protagonists, we now found ourselves seated next to "Paul" himself for this latest unspooling of The End upon the PFA screen. As the Paul episode came up, I couldn't help surreptitiously glancing back and forth between "Paul"s. This was truly a glorious moment.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jesse Hawthorne Ficks's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who teaches Film History at the Academy of Art University and runs the MiDNites For MANiACS screening series:


1. SF International Film Festival's screening of Ted Kotcheff's Wake In Fright (1971) with the director IN PERSON giving perhaps the greatest story of tracking down a print I've ever heard. Did I also mention that the jaw-dropping exploitation film showcases one of the greatest performances ever captured on the screen by Donald Pleasance!?

2. SF Silent Film Festival's screening of the Complete Restored Metropolis at the Castro Theatre with the archivists IN PERSON!

3. MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS screening of Jennifer's Body @ The Castro Theatre with an 8-month pregnant Diablo Cody IN PERSON!

4. Another Hole in the Head's screening of Giorgio Moroder's 1984 synth-soundtrack version of Metropolis at the Viz the following week after the restored version! That is brilliant programming!

5. SF Symphony's Halloween screening of Buster Keaton's The Haunted House (1921) and John S. Robertson's Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde (1920) with a terrifying performance by John Barrymore and Dennis James playing the Ruffatti Organ!

6. PFA's tribute screenings of Kelly Reichardt's Ode and Old Joy with the director IN PERSON!

7. MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS screening of the restored unrated version of MANiAC with William Lustig IN PERSON!

8. Watching the uncompromised genius of Nobuhiko Obayashi's House, (a forgotten 1977 Japanese Horror) at a jam packed Saturday nite screening at The Castro Theatre.

9. Watching the uncompromised genius of Nobuhiko Obayashi's House, (a forgotten 1977 Japanese Horror) at a jam packed Saturday nite screening at The Red Vic Theatre.

10. The Roxie's double feature screening of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant with Paul Schrader's Blue Collar.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maureen Russell's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from film buff, SFFS member and Noir City/SFSFF volunteer Maureen Russell:



1) WAKE IN FRIGHT (OUTBACK)
Ted Kotcheff, director (Australia, 1971)
Once lost film, rediscovered print, restored
Director in person for Q&A 4/30/10
When I attend many screenings during a festival, not many of the films get stuck in my head. I was so taken with this film, I went across town just for the Q&A I found out director Ted Kotcheff was doing – worth it! This film caught me like I woke up on the floor with flies, empty beer bottles everywhere and broken furniture and … I like a good film with a protagonist getting caught in a downward spiral.

2) THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
Carl Th. Dreyer (France, 1928)
An Oratorio with Silent Film; Music by Richard Einhorn
At the Paramount Theatre, Oakland
Presented by the Pacific Film Archive, Paramount Theatre and Silent Film Festival
December 2, 2010
I’d seen this film once maybe 25 years ago and the images stayed with me. A rare treat to see a beautiful print with a small orchestra and huge choir, which I was sitting directly behind.
The lead actress is amazing, plus there’s Antonin Artaud as the cool monk. Dreyer’s use of the closeup is something else. This was a perfect way for my first visit to Oakland’s incredible art deco Paramount Theatre.

3) ROTAIE
Mario Camerini, director (Italy, 1928)
Live accompaniment by Stephen Horne
July 2010
A charming and beautiful film of a young couple, in love but without money, who find a lost wallet filled with cash. Neo-Realist yet dreamlike, beautifully shot and acted. Stephen Horne’s piano accompaniment fit the film perfectly.

4) METROPOLIS
Fritz Lang, 1927
restoration to original cut, found footage in Argentina not seen since film’s original release
live accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra
July 2010
I’d heard the buzz about the restoration with found footage, and it was great to go to the SF premiere during the Silent Film Fest with a full house. I’d seen this film a number of times over the years in different edits, but this time it really made sense – no holes in the story. And the driving score by the Alloy Orchestra really added to the drama. I was not disappointed.

5) CRY DANGER (1951) Robert Parrish, director, USA
Restored premiere, with co-star Richard Erdman in person (best wise cracking noir lines)
THE MOB (1951)
1/23/10 double feature
Noir City festival theme: Lust & Larceny
The Castro Theatre, San Francisco
This was one of the strongest nights at last year’s record attendance premier noir film fest. It was a treat to see Cry Danger restored.

6) JOHNNY COOL (1963) – “Rat Pack noir”
COP HATER (1958)
May 22 double feature
I STILL WAKE UP DREAMING: NOIR IS DEAD! / LONG LIVE NOIR! Rare B Noirs from Hollywood’s Poverty Row - The Roxie
A very fun double feature. Johnny Cool had the Italian tough man brought to the US to take out some business competition, featuring appearances by Sammy Davis Jr. and many who starred in favorite tv shows after appearing here.
Cop Hater had one tough femme fatale.

7) Western noir double feature
NOT NECESSARILY NOIR series – the Roxie Theater
TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN
Written by then-blacklisted screen scribe Dalton Trumbo. Great performance by its star, Sterling Hayden, with Sebastian Cabot too.
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis.
DAY OF THE OUTLAW
Atmospheric psychological black and white western set in the winter, with fog and snow, photographed by Russell Harlan. Great acting starring Robert Ryan against a sadistic band of outlaws led Burl Ives! And if it wasn’t enough seeing Burl Ives heading the outlaws, a young Tina Louise co-stars. Directed by Andre DeToth.

8) Special event: CLUB FOOT Presents: A Generous Illusion, Post-Punk SF (1978-82)
July 29, 2010. Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, Main Library.
This special evening included films and videos of actor/musician Richard Edson, Christian Marclay's Bachelors Even, Bruce Geduldig's Childhood Prostitute (starring JoJo Planteen from Inflatable Boy Clams) and much more, compiled and curated for this presentation. Standing room crowd for rare videos and films of live music performances.


9) HUNGRY HEARTS
E. Mason Hopper, director (US, 1022)
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Castro Theatre
7/26/10
Restored melodrama of immigrants arriving in New York. I enjoyed the new commissioned score performed live on stage by the Moab Strangers, composer Ethan Miller, innovative Bay Area psychedelic and folk heroes and even a female Gamelan band

10) DANGER ON TIKI ISLAND
Mystery Science Theater 3000 work over this film which set on an island with issues like virgin sacrifices and mutating man-eating plants, a guy with dwarf servants, etc. Commentary from the MST3K Cinematic titanic crew which includes Joel, Crow, Tom Servo and others from the TV show.

2/2/10 – San Francisco – SF Sketchfest – The Castro Theatre- Danger on Tiki Island aka Brides of Blood (1968) My first time seeing this group live, it was fun to laugh along with the full house at the Castro.

Austin Wolf-Sothern's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from projectionist/filmmaker Austin Wolf-Sothern, who blogs at Placenta Ovaries:



Sensitive 70s, Oddball Film+Video
-Francesca, Baby, The Drug Scene, Your Self Image, I'm Feeling Scared, Suicide: It Doesn't Have to Happen
A selection of 16mm shorts dealing with serious issues for kids and teens. The sweetest, most sincere two hours of my life. Flawlessly heartbreaking.

Midnites for Maniacs, Castro
A very productive year for Jesse Ficks' fantastic film series, including two all day five-film fests (the themes being Macho Mania and Robots). The year provided a nice mixture of old favorites (Fright Night, An American Werewolf in London, The Gate, RoboCop) and some incredible new discoveries (Nighthawks, Bloodsport, Too Much). My favorite overall program would be the triple feature of Just One of the Guys, Point Break, and Maniac. Jesse insisted there was a common thread between the three, but I actually prefer to think there isn't, and I adored the randomness of three entirely different movies, which if they're linked by anything, it's that they are all fucking great.

Bad Lieutenant/Blue Collar, Roxie
I missed almost every night of Roxie's intriguing Not Necessarily Noir series, but I'm thankful I made it out for this double feature of Films That Assault You.

Phantom of the Paradise, Bridge
The Bridge started up a new series called Citizen Midnight, showing a rock 'n roll classic, with a live rock pre-show inspired by the night's film, performed by a band made up of Bridge staff. Phantom was unfortunately not a print, but the event was a blast, and holy shit, that fucking movie is amazing.

Gone with the Pope, Bridge
If you were one of the other four people in the theater, you already know that this was a genuine treasure discovered by Grindhouse Releasing.

Man with a Movie Camera, Castro
A great film with the most powerful, overwhelming live score (by Alloy Orchestra) I've ever experienced. I wish I could relive this one.

Castro Double Features
There were three double features at the Castro this year that paired up some of the most perfect movies ever made. The Thing/Videodrome, Blue Velvet/River's Edge, and Gremlins/Black Christmas. Most exciting was Videodrome, which I've yearned to see on 35mm for years. Many of the others I had seen on the big screen before, but they are all movies I could watch forever.

Also These
Castro: Showgirls, The Beguiled, A Star Is Born, Roxie: The Brood, Surf II: The End of the Trilogy/Times Square, Wet Hot American Summer, Paramount: Wait Until Dark, Red Vic: The Room with Tommy Wiseau in Person, Hausu.

I had seen Hausu previously under shitty circumstances, having driven up to San Rafael only to discover it was being shown via the ugliest digital projection I've ever seen, and as a result, I found the film underwhelming. But this year, I saw it properly at the Red Vic (on 35mm) and I was able to get wrapped up in the delirious, hilarious, adorable, fun absurdity of this completely nuts horror ride. I'm not wholly against digital projection, as I've seen some stunning HD screenings, but if it looks like shit, it defeats the purpose of the big screen and I'd much rather watch it in better quality on my substantially smaller television at home. Alternately, a film print feels special and amazing even in terrible condition. A film like Hausu definitely deserves ideal presentation.

I'm Still Miserable About Having Missed
Mac and Me at the Castro, Night Train to Terror/A Night to Dismember at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jonathan Kiefer's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from journalist/critic Jonathan Kiefer, who archives reviews from his many outlets at JonathanKiefer.com:


Five local showings I’m ashamed to have missed in 2010

I need to get out more, by which I mean sit quietly in the dark with strangers for hours at a time more often than I already do. I’m still missing so much of the good stuff.

Of course the blessings of a professional obligation to see movies like Going the Distance and The Back-Up Plan sometimes can be mixed. And that’s all the more reason for me to be a better supporter of the persistently splendid Bay Area repertory scene. But I only have two eyes!

So here’s a shortlist of the many offerings from last year that I regret having missed.

1. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? God asked me the same question when that film played at the Red Vic in April and I didn’t go see it. David Lynch produces, Werner Herzog directs, Michael Shannon stars -- and I can’t even manage to show up? What the hell is wrong with me?

2. Thundercrack! at the Roxie, April. Written by and starring George Kuchar, directed by Curt McDowell, and rightly described -- even by Glenn Beck -- as “the world’s only underground kinky art porno horror film, complete with four men, three women and a gorilla,” yet still never seen in its entirety by me. The shame!

3. Orlando. In late July and early August, Landmark briefly offered another chance for a theatrical view of Tilda Swinton as the sex-shifting 400-year-old nobleman in Sally Potter’s 1992 movie of Virginia Woolf’s novel. Guess who apparently had better things to do?

4. I Want to Live! at the PFA, in July. Actually, I want to live at the PFA most months. Having studied the relentless, true-ish story of Barbara Graham’s mid-1950s stint on San Quentin’s Death Row, I am convinced that watching it on my flat-screen by myself instead of on a big screen with other people is indeed a miscarriage of justice.

5. In September, the Red Vic showed Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 horror-fantasy Hausu, which has been called “a fear too beautiful to resist!” And yet, unaccountably, I did resist it. Idiot!

Terri Saul's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from artist/writer Terri Saul, who blogs at Sister-Rye:



1) GOD’S WEDDING (Portugal, 1999)
Directed by João César Monteiro
Seen at the Pacific Film Archive on October 9th, 2010, at 8:10pm
Part of the series Elegant Perversions: The Cinema of João César Monteiro

Monteiro (lead actor, writer, and director) plays a ravenous and emaciated bag of bones who lusts after a tin of sardines, then carelessly throws them in a river, like a satiated elitist who has never known hunger. An angel delivers power to our anti-hero João de Deus in the form of a suitcase full of cash. de Deus then leaves it behind, unguarded, to rescue a drowning woman and deliver her to a nunnery.

Later in the film the two reunite for a sumptuous meal she prepares for him (perhaps as a way of thanking him for saving her life). de Deus piles up food on his plate, bit by bit, arranging each piece carefully and with great anticipation. He then takes one bite and quickly sends it away, wiping his lips with a well-starched napkin as if he had eaten the entire mound. I wonder if he represents a ghost in purgatory, unable to consume earthly meats.

Like a more depaucherous Chaplin’s tramp, de Deus lives in the moment. Whether suddenly rich (by no fault of his own), or sleeping in the park (though not during a picnic), his devil-may-care persona remains intact and unshaken. When his merely visual appreciation of gluttonous delights is captured (leaving the audience to drool), or when the beginning of a sexual encounter is just getting hot, it turns out he cannot eat, perform, or experience orgasm.

Monteiro casts himself as an undeserving and unappreciative recipient of miraculous blessings he then tosses off, neglects, or abuses. From the Harvard Film Archive I learned that João de Deus is “named for the Portuguese-born saint of prostitutes, the infirm, and fishermen,” but that he is “a wholly secular figure.” At one point, de Deus experiences “a hard-on attack,” something like a magical boner that literally blows him over in a garden path, although he’s impotent while waiting for his lover in bed. In another scene, our hero consults the animated stone face of a Homeric-looking god who emerges from some sort of altar-hearth, referring to Monteiro’s appreciation of ancient myth, folklore, and poetry. Late in God’s Wedding, de Deus finally gives in to his cravings for food while erotically eating a pomegranate, ripping it open with his bony fingers, while engaging in a frenetic display, pomegranate juices dripping down his wiry beard.

Like other pictures on this list, disappointment and absurd hilarity drive our unconventional heroes or heroines to candidly explore long pauses, beautiful interruptions, shifting loyalties, unexpected gains and losses, and everyday breaks, with the cool gaze of an uncut and uncensored clip of film. A number of these movies are memorials to idiosyncrasy, uncommon hardships. Though sometimes tragic, they are never taken for granted by their solitary chroniclers.

Monteiro, and other directors here, remind us of the impermanence of wealth, governing bodies, flesh (Monteiro’s own wrinkled nudity contrasted with the youthful skin of his angelic lover is a prime example), sustenance, allegiances, and escape routes. I can’t help but scoff at the too many elderly male filmmakers who love to cast themselves opposite nubile young women.

During one episode of homelessness de Deus pretends to be a general in order to gain entry again to halls of power, reminding me of a film that comes later on my list, Jacques Tati’s Playtime, God’s Wedding being darker, containing more of the earthier bits, a film as outrageous as a fairy tale.

Moteiro prefers shooting in natural light. That being so, his photography has the natural glow of a Dogme shoot. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a great influence on the work of Pedro Costa.


2) RECOLLECTIONS OF THE YELLOW HOUSE (Portugal, 1989)
Directed by João César Monteiro
Seen at the Pacific Film Archive on September 18th, 2010 at 6:30pm
Part of the series Elegant Perversions: The Cinema of João César Monteiro

Monteiro, the director himself, plays João de Deus, a voyeuristic, dirty-old-man living in a boarding house in Lisbon, Portugal. de Deus battles canker sores, a testicle-attacking menace (bed bugs), and his own uncontrollable urges to spy on and assault his bon-bon addicted landlady’s daughter. His lechery and circumstances worsen as the film progresses, as do the greed and games played by those around him. Monteiro shows us the ridiculous, sublime, perverse, self-deprecating moments that are usually hidden.

Collecting cast offs, de Deus (along with the camera) looks closely, meticulously at some piece of evidence the audience might find disgusting, using a magnifying glass, tweezers, a jam jar, or a monocle, to examine something as base as a discarded pubic hair. Our lowly hero lands in and out of mental institutions while remaining cool and fatalistic, emotionally detached. He seems always on the verge of escape from his ill-health, his insect-infested room, his poverty, his solitude, or the asylum populated with a false maniac and friend. Everyone in the yellow house is trying to avoid their own lives, the cash in their pockets, as well as the judgment of authority, the state, a deity, or the crowded community. Recollections of The Yellow House is well composed and poetically furnished, full of lyrical, dissonant magic and deserves to be his best-known film, although I responded with more enthusiasm to God’s Wedding. I wish I could go back in time and see the rest of the series.

3) MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (USSR, 1929)
Directed by Dziga Vertov
Seen at the Castro Theatre on July 16th, 2010 at 8:15pm
Part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, live accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra

This frenetically paced rhythmic early example of expressive montage, and postmodern self reflexivity (predating most examples of postmodernism), by the inventor of the kino-eye concept, and a day in the life of a city from sunrise to sunset, was flawlessly partnered with the crash bang sounds of Alloy Orchestra. Vertov’s fast cutting, bold juxtapositions, imploding of the Bolshoi, and dizzying games with scale and layering, all broke the boundaries of his “Kino-Eye” philosophy. The Castro was the perfect setting for experiencing Man With a Movie Camera beyond an academic setting.

From Senses of Cinema:
“Vertov proclaimed the primacy of the camera itself (the ‘Kino-Eye’) over the human eye. He clearly saw it as some kind of innocent machine that could record without bias or superfluous aesthetic considerations (as would, say, its human operator) the world as it really was.”
“Vertov’s concept of a self-reflective cinema, of the viewer identifying himself with the filmmaking process, would really only reappear at the end of the 1950s in the work of filmmakers like Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, or in America, Stan Brakhage.”

4) THE WOMAN DISPUTED (USA, 1928)
Directed by Henry King and Sam Taylor
Seen at the Castro Theatre on July 18th at 4:30pm
Part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival with live accompaniment by Stephen Horne on piano

A beautiful example of silent film clichés and Norma Talmadge’s eyebrows in all of their arching glory.

From Distant Voices and Flickering Shadows:
“The subjects of prostitution, sexual favors and suicide would be prohibited (in American films) after 1934, with the enforcement of the Hays Code by Joseph Breen, but the idea of requiring a young woman to sacrifice herself as Mary Ann is can be found throughout literature… However, while literature asks a woman to sacrifice herself on behalf of the beloved or a loved one, the film requires Mary Ann to make her sacrifice (in part) for people who have made no secret of their contempt for her.”

Live music always makes the night complete. Attending the very loud silent film festival made me wish I could hear a contemporary sound-filled film played live, every sound-effect replayed by foley artists on stage with tools in hand.

5) YOJIMBO (Japan, 1961)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Seen at the Pacific Film Archive on July 24th, 2010 at 6:30pm
Part of the Akira Kurosawa Centennial

I managed to miss most of the Kurosawa retrospective at the PFA because I joined too many book clubs, while I didn’t finish much of my book club reading last year because I watched too many movies, not enough of them in theatres.

A Japanese cowboy, Kurusawa’s antihero Sanjuro rejects the idea sacred to a samurai story—allegiance to a master and a band of fighters. Instead the tricky individualist rebel pits one rag-tag band of outsiders against another in order to save himself. The backstage-bin costumes, theatrical bloody make-up, Toshiro Mifune’s pout, and close-up swordplay are guilty pleasures.
Like Monteiro, Kurusawa is another filmmaker who is as influenced by art, literature, folklore, and poetry as he is by other filmmakers.

6) HOUSE (Japan, 1977)
Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi
Seen at the Red Vic on May 7th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Words cannot describe how awesome and twisted this horror-fantasy cult classic is, with its terrible special effects, a story partially written by an eleven year old, a demon cat, a child-devouring cannibalistic aunt, and an insatiable piano who eats a girl named “Melody.” House is as weird as it gets. I nearly passed out from laughing while covering my eyes in horror.

7) YOU, THE LIVING (Sweden, 2007)
Directed by Roy Andersson
Seen at the Red Vic on January 3rd, 2010 at 7:25pm

Because of shipping problems the 35mm print didn’t arrive on time, so for those willing to stick it out, we had to watch it on video with a watermark; all the Vic could offer was a screener. The RV offered us discounts and were good sports, explaining to ticket holders the pros and cons of either missing the film entirely; coming back the next night; or enduring its superficial imperfections. Nevertheless, the poor quality of the digital projection didn’t keep me from enjoying this absurdist Swedish film, with life-clogging traffic jams, one-take vignettes of undiluted dark, northern humor, and brilliant performances by amateur actors. You, the Living includes my favorite fantasy wedding dream sequence, about which I unearthed this piece of trivia from IMDB:

“As a child, Roy Andersson witnessed the moving of about 100 houses from the bay of Skarvik to Gothenberg to facilitate the building of a new harbor. This involved putting the houses on logs and then rolling them to their new location. This is the inspiration behind the vignette of the rock star and his new bride whose cozy domestic scene appears to be on train tracks.”

Someday I hope to see this film as it was meant to be seen, on film.

8) PLAYTIME (France 1967)
Directed by Jacques Tati
Seen at the Pacific Film Archive on January 15th, 2010 at 7pm

Another anti-hero, another actor-writer-director (and another character oft compared to Chaplain’s tramp) Monsieur Hulot, played by Tati himself lives in a city of glass and employs architecture and urbanity as partners in comedic crime. This inventive film, set within a scale model built by Tati and great expense (and from which he never recovered) gives us a very different view of the mechanized nature of modern city life than Man With a Movie Camera does. Although I find them both to be extraordinarily playful.

During a visit to Paris (where Cinémathèque Française was hosting a Tati retrospective) my local friend told me the story of an uproar caused by the design of a promotional poster in which Tati was depicted sans pipe because of new tobacco laws. To adhere to the rules the graphic designer was asked to delete Tati’s pipe at once, placing a yellow children's windmill in its stead. Cinémathèque never heard the end of it.

9) HOME MOVIE DAY (Historic home movie footage, various places and time periods)
Seen at the Pacific Film Archive on October 16th, 2010 at 1pm

Where among other treasures, I first saw my recently deceased grandmother’s home movie of my mother in Taxco, Mexico at age 15, the day before she sneaked off for her first kiss, secretly floating on a strange boy’s surfboard at sunset, later getting in trouble for her vacation mischief. Most of what I’m telling you was taking place off-camera, revealed during my mom’s narration of silvery and sparkling boating and fishing scenes. The film was chosen to be a part of the curated set. It’s always a pleasure to sit near the curly-headed star of the film, and to meet other home moviemakers in person.

The audience was also treated to early shots of redwood forests near Eureka where a conservationist took a tour (sporting high heels, furs, and all) of the stands she wished to rescue. During a simple silent film in warm color of a suburban mother doing her laundry and hanging it out to dry in the bright Stockton sun, we heard live narration from the now grown daughter of the laundress about how happy she was to have captured her mother during a peaceful time in her life. Another piece of archival footage showed a Seattle family visiting the Olympic peninsula, shooting snow scenes with a very professional looking lens.

Home movie day is also a day where the audience and participants learn something about the archival process, how to preserve one’s personal celluloid.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ben Armington's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from cinephile and four-time IOHTE contributor Ben Armington, Box Office Emeritus:


This was a strange year in that I spent more movie going time watching general release movies than bathing in the tremulous glow of fine bay area rep programming. This means that I saw Gaspar Noe's punishing Enter The Void twice and a White Material / Burlesque double feature but somehow missed the boat on nigh complete retros on masters like Rosi and Monteiro at the PFA, early Chaplin at the Castro, the landmark Radical Light series, and pretty much everything at the YBCA. I am happy to note that the Roxie theater, where I sometimes work, has been stepping up with some great, inventive programming, including a couple of tantalizing noirish series spearheaded by Eliot Levine.

1. Bad Lieutanent / Blue Collar (Roxie, Not Neccesarily Noir Series)

Twin trips to a singularly personal hell that capture a versimillitude rarely seen on the big screen. I still think of the end of Blue Collar everytime someone complains to me about their towheaded boss' lame antics. Awesome soundtracks as well, by Schooly D and Jack Nitschze respectively. The best double feature of the year.

2. To Have and Have Not (Paramount Theater)

Getting a chance to see a Hawks' picture at the gorgeous Paramount theater would be a high point of any year. I think this was Bogie and Bacall's first movie together, and, regardless, you're pretty much watching them fall in love on screen. Before the movie, Paramount employees carted a large 'wheel of fortune' wheel on stage and gave out raffle prizes, mostly gift certificates to local businesses. The ticket price was $5.

3. Pandora and The Flying Dutchmen (PFA)

A wonderful, unique romantic fantasia etched in bold technicolor that revels in it's Lost Generation literateness and plays like a hollywood version of The Saragossa Manuscript, You completely believe that poets would commit suicide over Ava Gardner.

4. Metropolis (Viz Cinema, Another Hole in the Head Fest)

Reliable rep warhorse Metropolis got a new lease on life with the release of a magnifent new cut with restored scenes, but the real find for me was Giorgio Morodor's 'remix' from the 1980s, which shortens, tints and tarts the film up with glorious wall to wall synth rock. It plays like a passionate, incoherent fever dream of Fritz Lang's classic, and was something to behold.

5. Jennifer's Body (Castro, Midnite for Maniacs)

An imperfect but hugely enjoyable movie that kind of does for vampires what Ginger Snaps did for werewolves. The gore was memorably gruesome and inventively deployed, and Megan Fox, who knew? The pre-screening interview with pregnant producer/screenwriter Diablo Cody was utterly charming, informative and free of pretension.

6. The Thing / Videodrome (Castro)

Carpenter and Cronenberg at the height of their powers, awe-inspiring on the Castro screen. Long live the new flesh!

7. Day of Wrath / Vivre Sa Vie (PFA)

The first section of Day of Wrath, detailing the trial and torture of an elderly woman suspected of being a witch is haunting and profound in an almost supernatural way. Not to be repetitive, but... Dreyer and Godard at the height of their powers, awe-inspiring at the no-popcorn-crunching PFA. Also: Anna Karina!

8. Nightmare / Mark of the Whistler (Roxie, I Still Wake Up Dreaming series)

These two films were actually pretty mediocre, but they stuck with me as superb distillations of author Cornell Woolrich's talent for twists of fate that are staggering in their cruel logic and pitiless view of human nature, not to mention frequent forehead-slapping implausability. Of course, the movies soften Woolrich's harsher edges, but this stuff can still really take you out at the knees.

9. The Witches (Castro, Matinee for Maniacs)

Truly frightening as only a children's movie can be, this Roald Dahl adaptation by the man who brought you Bad Timing succeds on many levels. For me, Anjelica Huston's balls-out diva turn as the witch queen and the flesh-rending transformation scenes were amazing but the ending, where the boy seems to have found contentment as a mouse only then to be returned to human form, was a real heartbreaker and genuinely moving. Produced by the great Jim Henson.

10. Wake in Fright (Clay Theatre, SFIFF)

I went to this expecting an ultraviolent thriller in the Road Warrior mold, and was instead treated to a bleak outback Lost Weekend complete with controversial kangaroo wrestling and drunken Donald Pleasance. A mean little movie that was nonetheless fascinating.

Ryland Walker Knight's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from writer/filmmaker Ryland Walker Knight, who blogs at Vinyl Is Heavy:


I've noted elsewhere in the sphere of things cinema-related that I held back on my movie-going this last year, for a variety of reasons. To be brief, I might say that life got a little too overstuffed to make the time for films. Or, I made other priorities. In any case, I don't need to bore you with that; the point is that I only made a few pilgrimages that mattered. I made a note of my love for Yang's A Brighter Summer Day over in The Notebook and at VINYL, so I'll table that one for this post.

Here, I'd like to turn to my favorite rep discovery upon my return to the Bay: The Stanford. Granted, I haven't been since last summer, but Brian and I made some trips that paid dividends. We even made one of them a big film nerd event (sup Brecht, SMV, AA, JJL) that involved some amazing guacamole prepared by Sr. Adams, and some odd Hitch hate I've no time for, and a few DVD loans that I've been remiss in attending to and returning to their rightful owner.


In any case, that night we saw Make Way For Tomorrow and Dodsworth, both of which were well worth the trek. Both relics about relics, yet both better than any new movies about giving up love and/or old people. However, my favorite film seen down south was a different Leo McCarey, Ruggles of Red Gap, whose many particulars have regrettably receded in my brain, but whose (excuse me) joie de vivre is everything I love about movies and about life. Put otherwise, its entirety is designed to exemplify the maxim that charity is a synonym for love and it's hilarious. There is an entire scene of Charles Laughton falling on the ground laughing. And, after all, its invocation of Lincoln just makes my little chest want to soar.

Carl Martin's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from projectionist & Film On Film Foundation co-founder Carl Martin, who blogs and maintains the invaluable calendar at that site:


january 23, castro: fly-by-night
a perfect cheapo b-noir: brisk, ludicrous perfection. belying the apparent one-take budget, several rather complex action shots come off brilliantly.


february 12, pfa: rain or shine the pictures can talk now! let's film some carnies and let them have at it with their delightful repartee. the camera operator's no slouch either. also released in a silent version, for some reason.

march 2, ybca: bondi
the best of a very strong program of aussie shorts. rolling waves meet beach bums in a simple split-screen effect that folds space onto itself, escher-style.

may 19, roxie: the red house
delmer daves continues to blow my mind--jubal might have made the list but for its digital workover, and rome adventure but for its silliness--here trading in archetypes and allegory. a certain close-up of allene roberts, held for a duration far surpassing normal narrative requirements, creates a perfect transcendent moment. the 16mm print kept weaving in and out of alignment with the projector's sound optics, rendering some plot points a bit obscure.

june 10, moma: play misty for me
one of the most fantastic prints of the year. clint eastwood's recent movies vary from decent (gran torino) to unwatchable (changeling, hereafter), and he loves to digitally wring the color out of them. not so misty: it's beautiful, colorful, poetic, and fully invested in every scene.

august 23, roxie: something wild
this print was utterly gorgeous when it wasn't buckling in the gate, going wildly, tantalizingly out of focus. and what a sordid, delicious film. rape, attempted suicide, victim exploitation--thrown across the screen with no sentimentality. and then, a final redemptive knife-turn to the heart, flying in the face of today's mores as much as those of 1961.

september 20, roxie: o.c. and stiggs
the titular teens live in a strange, solipsistic version of arizona, in the same universe where all altman's films are set. their hi-jinx are classic. why does ferris bueller get all the respect?


october 30, roxie: the brood
the film medium favors the visible, the corporeal. this occult-psychological horror movie is full of strange, disturbing, corporeal ideas. kind of a perfect fit for cronenberg--his masterpiece? oliver reed's performance is towering. amazing print.

november 18, moma: filmpiece for sunshine
into what starts as a rigorously formal exploration of an institutional-looking building steps a human element, and a sort of oblique narrative of a tryst develops. ernie gehr meets robert bresson? i loved every phase of this film by unknown (to me) local john luther schofill, including the of-the-moment needle-drop soundtrack.

december 17, ybca: night train to terror
all the "good bits" from three earlier '80's horror throwaways, ranging from the obscure to the never-completed, culled with little regard for continuity and mashed into one mondo monstrosity of surprisingly consistent tone. stitched together with voiceovers that introduce more plot incongruities than they resolve, and a too-ludicrous-for-words linking story that has compartment-mates god and satan jawing at each for possession of the characters' souls, not one of which looks worth having. meanwhile, a howlingly bad hair-glam band is stuck in a perpetual-loop music video in the next car. wall-to-wall wtf of the highest caliber.