Monday, January 16, 2012

Maureen Russell 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 Maureen Russell, San Francisco film festival volunteer and cinephile

2011 was an embarrassment of riches for me, film-wise. I finally saw several classic films I'd never seen before (that it seemed everyone else had), waiting for my big screen opportunity. Good thing I got to a lot of films last year, as the 35mm screenings will be harder to find in the future. And my favorite festivals were as strong as ever- I limited myself to one film from each of them.

1. World On A Wire
I hadn’t heard of this film for television before. I ended up seeing it twice: first at SFIFF, the digital screening at the Kabuki. There was so much to take in visually (plus subtitles) and story-wise, that I had to go again when the Roxie screened it a few months later, on 35mm. The 200 minute film sounded like a challenge to do in one screening (with intermission), but I got lost in the intrigue and loved the color, humor, drama, dashing lead, West German early 70’s fashion, sets, mind-bending story, and figuring out the characters.

2. Toby Dammit, Castro Theatre
SFIFF’s last minute acting award and screening was worth the wait. A fun onstage interview with the still charming Terence Stamp was followed by a seldom-screened masterpiece Fellini film. It was 40 minutes of bliss for me: Edgar Allen Poe, late 60’s Italy, surrealism, horror, Italian sports cars, and Terence Stamp as an alcoholic actor.

3. He Who Gets Slapped, Castro Theatre
The entire SF Silent Film Festival was top notch and it was hard to pick a favorite. While I’m usually wary of films about clowns, this one stars Lon Chaney along with John Gilbert and Norma Shearer. The Swedish Matti Bye Ensemble returned to SF to accompany this Swedish director Sjöström’s MGM film, and the music soared.

4. Angel Face, Castro Theatre
Noir City 9 was another great 10 days of noir. Hard for me to pick a favorite here too, but this one definitely delivered. Director: Otto Preminger.

5. Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, Castro Theatre
Los Angeles neo-noir double feature with two period pieces.
Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski: I’m one of the people who had never seen Chinatown before (only clips)! I was saving myself for a big screen, and it was worth the wait! Wow.
L.A Confidential, directed by Curtis Hanson: Fantastic character and action driven story from James Ellroy’s novel; Great cast includes Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. I’d seen this on TV before, but so much better on the big screen and in this double feature.

6. The Devil’s Cleavage
Good thing I chose to go a screening during the PFA's Cult of the Kuchars series. George Kuchar was there to introduce The Devil’s Cleavage, and the actor playing the plumber was in the audience. A beautiful and outrageous film. And George died just months later...

7. David Holzman's Diary, Victoria Theatre
Another film I'd never heard of before. I found out about it as a Fandor free screening with the director (Jim McBride) in person. The film was beautifully shot and so direct that it stays with you, a mockumentary as well as a personal film. And looking at my list, it ties in with #9.

8. The Hunger/Nadja, the Roxie.
I'm not one to pass up a double feature of arty vampire films before Halloween. I remember loving both of these films when they came out, but hadn't seen either in years. They were great together and I appreciated them as much as ever. I was especially pleased to see Nadja screened on 35mm: a beautiful Pixelvision 90’s flick I wish more people could see. And SFMoMA brought Ann Magnuson (who had a memorable minor role in The Hunger to the Roxie for a revealing onstage interview. I even answered one of her trivia questions and got a prize and a hug from Ms. Magnuson!

9. SFMoMA’s Exposed On Film series
The series accompanied SFMOMA’s fascinating Exposed photography exhibit.
Films I caught at the Castro Theatre included Medium Cool, Haskell Wexler, introduced by Haskell Wexler!
and Kids on the Boundaries day triple feature with the haunting Deep End, Jerzy Skomilowski, Streetwise, Martin Bell, (director's restored version) and Pretty Baby, Louis Malle.
AND my first time seeing Lost Highway, David Lynch! I was waiting for a big screen for that one. It did not disappoint.

10. In Search of Christopher Maclaine: Man, Artist, Legend:
Wilder Bentley II, actor, and Lawrence Jordan, filmmaker in person. Curated by Brecht Andersch, presented by Andersch with Brian Darr, SFMOMA’s Phyllis Wattis Theater:
The End, The Man Who Invented Gold, Beat & Scotch Hop by Christopher Maclaine. Trumpit by Lawrence Jordan. Moods in Motion by Ettilie Wallace.
I was not familiar with Christopher Maclaine before, so this was a great introduction. Seeing these films, especially The End, was a great bit of SF History. The onstage interview with men who were there and the cool slide show presented by Brecht Andersch and Brian Darr of their quest for SF locations in The End was topped off by drinks at Vesuvio’s, one of the film’s locations.

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