Thursday, May 1, 2014

Abuse Of Weakness (2013)

A scene from Catherine Breillat's ABUSE OF WEAKNESS, playing at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 24 - May 8, 2014. Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.
WHO: Catherine Breillat wrote and directed this.

WHAT: I have not yet seen Abuse of Weakness but I'm excited for the chance to follow a filmmaker who I greatly associate with the SFIFF over the years. In 2002 the festival showed her underrated Brief Crossing, and two years later she attended in person for a showing of Sex Is Comedy, which was a semi-autobiographical account of the making of her notorious Fat Girl. Shortly after that visit to San Francisco Breillat suffered a series of strokes which she recovered from well enough to appear at the Castro for the 2008 festival opening night selection The Last Mistress. These were followed by festival selections Bluebeard and The Sleeping Beauty in 2009 and 2011 respectively, and now after three films set in the far-off past, she returns to the very recent past. Abuse of Weakness is said to be based on Breillat's own autobiography since Sex is Comedy, starring Isabelle Huppert as a stand-in for herself. For reviews I direct you once again to Critics Round Up.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at 9PM at the Kabuki, presented by the San Francisco International Film Festival.

WHY: I understand Abuse of Weakness screens in the Kabuki's House 1, by far the largest screen the festival uses other than the Castro's, and worth going out of one's way to see films in. It's where I saw Brief Crossing and Sex is Comedy, and can't help but wonder if that's part of why I preferred those to Bluebeard, which unfolded in a more intimate space. Breillat's films do not eschew spectacular dimensions, and it seems unlikely that, despite theatrical distribution from Strand Releasing expected for Abuse of Weakness, this will be the largest theatre Frisco Bay movie lovers will ever be able to see it in. Note that I've learned Manakanama will screen in House 1 for its final festival screening this Monday afternoon. Wish I could go to that!

I'm impressed that the SFIFF picked a Breillat film to run in its sole screening on the festival's "Awards Night" tonight, when deep-pocketed donors spring for a chance to hobnob with festival awardees like Richard Linklater, Stephen Gaghan, Jeremy Irons and John Lasseter. In past years the "middle Thursday" programming has often seemed a bit calmer than most nights, with lots of second screenings of films already premiered. Does having the only festival showing of a major auteur work on the same night as this party signal something about a disconnect between the financial engine of the festival and the desires of local rank-and-cinephiles?

HOW: DCP

OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Day 8 of SFIFF gives festgoers final chances at seeing the Viennese "Frederick Wiseman lite" documentary The Great Museum, Nobuhiro Yamashita's low-key twenty-something portrait Tamako In Moratorium, and the "director's cut" of Patrice Chereau's Queen Margot.

NON-SFIFF OPTION: The Castro Theatre just revealed its full May calendar, which starts off tonight with a bang: 35mm prints of the late Vera Chytilová's Daisies and of Allan Moyle's rare gem Times Square.

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