Friday, January 31, 2014

Two Eyes: Maureen Russell

In the San Francisco Bay Area, moviegoing is not just for the newest releases. In 2013 there were more theatrical opportunities to see films spanning the history of cinema than any one person could take advantage of. Therefore, I've asked a sampling of local moviegoers to select a few favorites seen in cinemas last year. An index of participants is found here.  


The following list comes from Maureen Russell, film festival volunteer, member and aficionado.

1) Noir City 11 – annual San Francisco Film Noir Fest Jan. 25 – Feb. 3, 2013 – Castro Theatre Highlights of Noir City included opening night’s Gun Crazy (1950) with actress Peggy Cummins in an onstage interview; San Francisco double feature The Sniper (1952) with great location shots and Experiment in Terror (1962) – 4k digital restoration, directed by Blake Edwards (very different subject for him) – the cast, music, story and pace made this a tense thriller. (1/30/13) And a highly fun night 2/1/13 for the 1953 3-D noir double feature with Man in the Dark and Inferno. It felt like it was the 50s with a full house wearing 3-D glasses, and the films were great, not just made for the gimmick.

2) The Clock – dir. Christian Marclay, SFMoMA I was quite impressed by this carefully compiled installation piece using film and television shows with clocks in each scene, shown in actual time. Having to wait to enter the screening room and then stay as long as you wanted became part of the experience. Repeat visits and longer viewings brought more out of the piece, as it revisited certain films, scenes, and actors. I attended some of the 24-hour screenings and got to know people in the long line with me on closing weekend. It was fun to recognize scenes from films you knew. After seeing it, I became very aware of clock shots in other films. I did get to experience the midnight segment.

3) San Francisco Silent Film Festival – July, the Castro Theatre
I’m choosing the entire festival. Highlights include The First Born, dir. Miles Mander, UK, 1928, accompanied by Stephen Horne and recently restored by BFI. The story of love and betrayal amount the upper class felt completely modern, great acting and of course accompaniment, starring Miles Mander who cowrote it with Alma Reville. Another highlight was Denmark’s The Golden Clown, 1926, accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble, providing the perfect music for a tragic clown story.

4) Eight Deadly Shots, 1972, Finland, director Mikko Niskanen, B&W, SF International Film Festival, the Kabuki, 5/7/13 I took the day off to see this 316 minute classic of Finnish film, written, directed and starring Mikko Niskanen. Originally a tv miniseries, based on a true incident (but only a news clipping), you are drawn into the hard daily life of a Finnish farmer and the mindset that could have fired the shots at the beginning of the film. You also learn how to make bootleg hooch!

5) The Hitchcock 9 – Silent Hitchcock, SF Silent Film Festival, July 14 – 16, Castro Theatre Again, I’m picking the whole festival, and I did see all nine beautifully recently restored by the BFI, early silent films made in England by one of my favorite directors, most of which I’d never heard of before. Highlights include two starring Ivor Novello: Downhill (1927) accompanied by Stephen Horne on piano (the story of a promising young man whose life slides increasingly downhill after a series of women take advantage of him) and The Lodger (1926), accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, in which part of the suspense hinges on whether you believe suspicious Novello is the Jack the Ripper character or just a loner.

6) Hollywood Before the Code! Deeper, Darker, Nastier!, March 1 – 7, the Roxie The Roxie’s popular pre-code festival included many studio archive 35mm prints and great double bills A highlight was closing night’s Lyle Talbot double feature, with Lyle’s son in attendance, telling stories to a full house. Fog Over Frisco (1934) and Heat Lightning (1934)

7) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1964, 4K digital restoration, the Castro Theatre, 8/28/13 A great way to re-appreciate the Kubrick classic, with a story that still feels current, restored and on the big screen, almost 50 years from its release. Outstanding cast (Peter Sellers, Sterling Hayden, et al), script, everything.

8) Repulsion, 1965, B&W, newly restored 35mm archive print Polanski at the Roxie series; Roman Polanski live via Skype I’ve seen this film a number of times over the years, yet it still shocks and I see something new. Hard to beat this performance by Catherine Deneuve and the imaginitive story in this psychological horror film. Polanski discussed making it during his Skype chat.

9) The Shining, 1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick, The Roxie, 4/18/13 Another Kubrick film on my list. I have never seen all of The Shining, and wanted to properly see it on the big screen for the first full viewing, but kept missing it. I finally got my chance at a late night screening at the Roxie, with a number of younger viewers in the audience. The film did not disappoint!

10) Fassbinder at the Roxie – Seven by R. W. Fassbinder, all 35 mm prints The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) with The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), both starring Hanna Schygulla, 10/4/13 Always love the over the top character, costumes and colors in Bitter Tears, shot entirely in one apartment - quite a feat.

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