The San Francisco Bay Area is still home to a rich cinephilic culture nurtured in large part by a diverse array of cinemas, programmers and moviegoers. I'm honored to present a selection of favorite screenings experienced by local cinephiles in 2016. An index of participants can be found here.
Nine-time IOHTE contributor Carl Martin blogs and runs the Bay Area Film Calendar (and even a new L.A. offshoot) for the Film on Film Foundation.
|The Lodger screen capture from Fox DVD|
not the hitchcock version of marie belloc lowndes's jack the ripper story but john brahms's, starring laird cregar, whose talent dwarfed his girth. it was early in the year, but i remember still the meticulously, evocatively detailed sets, fully fleshed-out performances in the minor roles even, and a poetic sensibility that made a virtue of the unacceptability of showing explicitly a murder victim's terminal blood-gush. screened later in the evening: scarlet street, a movie i was sure i'd seen but hadn't, and what a movie!
march 9: black vengeance, aka poor pretty eddie @ the new mission
a new (old) venue, and stabs at genre and extrageneric rep programming. terror tuesdays took off, not as much weird wednesdays. there was some chaff, but damned if there wasn't hidden wheat! both the film's titles prime us for the lowbrow, but as we should know by now, exploitation films often harbor social commentary, and this one does in spades (and from a feminist perspective).
march 23: defending your life @ the roxie
albert brooks's films are rarely screened. previously i'd only seen the lackluster looking for comedy in the muslim world. i hope this is more typical of his work. poignant, personal, and funny.
|Under the Cherry Moon screen capture from Warner DVD|
we all know purple rain is great. but it took a death for anyone to dare bring back utcm (or track down the also-excellent sign "☮" the times) prince treats the twentieth century as he does his sexuality. there is no anachronism; he panchronistically cherry-picks the best each era has to offer.
september 15: meshes of the afternoon in 16mm @ oddball archives (another one bites the dust)
oh sure, i'd seen it before, but this time its revolutionary dream logic really swept over me. poetic perfection. it played with a wonderful program of paul clipson films.
october 5: an american werewolf in london @ the castro
john landis always seemed terribly overrated to me. kentucky fried movie is a winner but that's because it has that z-a-z magic. animal house is ok. the blues brothers gets too big for its britches (and dan aykroyd is one of the worst actors). starting with the travellers' well-drawn camaraderie, on through the stereotypical depiction of english village life, to the burgeoning relationship between patient and nurse, and beyond, aawil crams in humor, romance, and pathos, while walking that tightrope between the real and the psychological that is strung through all the best horror films, and it works splendidly. to top it off, landis has included the best film-within-a-film and one of the best dreams-within-a-dream (along with meshes?). i'm glad i finally caught up with this shockingly good movie.
|Lucifer Rising screen capture from Fantoma DVD|
i had a chance to re-watch this kenneth anger masterpiece and realized i had in fact never seen it and OH DAMN it's like a little satanic 16mm baraka.
november 11: if you can't see my mirrors, i can't see you in 16mm @ the lab (light field festival)
this film was made in 2016 so it breaks the rules but alee peoples's work reminds me of the playful spirit of some "artist-made" films of the '60's and '70's. this one plays with how objects enter the frame, and with our expectations.
november 21: a divided world (private screening)
part of what made this screening special was its serendipity, but i won't go into the details of that. arne sucksdorff shot animals as if they were humans and vice versa. as in many of his films, we don't see the humans here. but rarely has the intersection of nature and artifice been so breathtakingly photographed.
|49th Parallel screen capture from Criterion DVD|
i caught up with a number of powell-pressburgers i hadn't seen before (and re-watched the utterly fab i know where i'm going). here, laurence olivier has a lot of fun playing a fronch caneddian but then disappears as we move on to another wonderful canadian setting and set of characters. can it be that the nazis are the anti-protagonists of this film, as at each encounter they find their ideologies challenged and their numbers reduced? or is canada itself the hero? trust p&p to find still-exciting ways to reinvigorate narrative formulas. in a propaganda film no less.