Friday, January 13, 2012

Adam Hartzell Only Has Two Eyes

It's impossible for any pair of eyes to view all of Frisco Bay's worthwhile film screenings. I'm so pleased that a number of local filmgoers have let me post their repertory/revival screening highlights of 2011. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Adam Hartzell, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in sf360, koreanfilm.org, Kyoto Journal and elsewhere.


As much as I've been enjoying the curation provided for the San Francisco Film Society's new screening venue at New People, the only New People events that made my list were before New People became the home of the San Francisco Film Society screenings. Otherwise, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts comes in twice and the Pacific Film Archives once. I went to other rep houses this year, such as The Roxie and The Castro, I even took the train out to Sacramento to catch the Sacramento French Film Festival at The Crest Theatre but none of the films at those venues that fit the parameters Brian requested have surpassed the impact of the five repertory events I list below.
 
5) EVANGELION 2.0: YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE (Anno Hideaki, 2009, Japan) - VIZ Cinema (before it became New People Cinema officially)
 
This anime screening makes my list because it was a fun event, rather than an enjoyable movie. I had never experienced a packed VIZ Cinema before. Not being an anime otaku, I had no idea what to expect. As much as I was bewildered by the plot, I was entertained by the knowledgeable audience appropriating what was most valuable for them on screen. This is film-watching as public performance as opposed to passive reception. So much about watching films for me is about where, when, and with whom I see a film, and this was an example of those three W's being entirely responsible for the enjoyment.
 
4) INTANGIBLE ASSET #82 (Emma Franz, 2009, Australia) - PFA
 
I only ventured to the East Bay for cinema three times this year. Once to re-watch THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS (Leanne Pooley, 2009, New Zealand) with my cousin to support its theatre release and once to get a taste of the latest Canadian sensation, Nicolas Pereda during a retrospective on him at the Pacific Film Archive. As much as the latter provided a nice surprise run-in with Michael Guillén, my favorite PFA experience was with Emma Franz's travelogue of jazz drummer Simon Barker's musical discovery of Korean drummer Kim Seok-chul. It's not a perfect film, but it is a film on a topic I've been wanting to see for a while. I still don't fully comprehend the nuances needed to appreciated Korean traditional music forms, but INTANGIBLE ASSET #82 got me a little bit closer on a journey that I still have a long ways to travel.
 
3) CENTRE FORWARD (Pak Chong-song, 1978, North Korea) - YBCA
 
What a wonderfully rare opportunity to watch a North Korean film. YBCA never ceases to amaze me with the surprises they roll out on celluloid (and, yes, occasionally on pixels). But the best YBCA event was clearly . . .
 
2) THE JEONJU DIGITAL PROJECT (2000-2010).- YBCA
 
The highlight of my cinema events this year, YBCA brought all the shorts that were part of the Jeonju International Film Festival Digital Project since it began in 2000. (Unfortunately, two of the shorts were missing from what was sent to YBCA.) There were so many gems amongst the lot. James Benning's simple drama of a steel refinery loading up it's molten product into awaiting trains in PIG IRON (2010), Darezhan Omirbaev's reworking of Checkov in modern Uzbekistan in ABOUT LOVE (2006), Bahman Ghobadi's real life artisans in DAF (2003), and my favorite director Hong Sangsoo's first short ever, LOST IN THE MOUNTAINS (2009). This also provided the opportunity to see two shorts I've been anxious to see for some time, Eric Khoo's commentary on domestic laborers in his native Singapore in NO DAY OFF (2006) and Bong Joon-ho's incredibly entertaining appropriation of surveillance cameras in INFLUENZA (2004). Just like YBCA, neither disappointed.

1) THE FLAVOR OF GREEN TEA OVER RICE (Ozu Yasujiro, 1952, Japan) - VIZ Cinema (now New People Cinema)
 
Ozu fails to disappoint me and so often completely enthralls me. This one even won over my wife, who is not (yet) a fan of older Japanese cinema. Simply put, I left with a smile on my face after watching this film that lasted throughout the weekend. Here's hoping SFFS keeps this tradition of occasional screenings of the older Japanese masters at New People!

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