Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adam Hartzell Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Adam Hartzell, who contributes to sf360, this site, and elsewhere:

Can Brian get a Rep, a Rep Rep?
Well, yes he can. He’s going to get a Top Five. And in the obligatory free pass request, a plus one as well.
First, the plus one. In this case, it‘s a disappointing Repertory experience. After reading about Hitchcock’s REBECCA for years, I figured I’d be riveted by finally seeing it on the big screen at the Castro, where it screened on December 17th as part of a series of films by (the ever reliable) Hitchcock... Sadly, Mr. Reliable left me unimpressed. I’m sure I’ll get around to re-reading those essays from years ago that led me to think this would be a powerful film, but at least the Castro Theatre audience saved the film for me by their reactions to various characters. Plus, that same Castro audience had me leaving the theatre wondering why they applauded for that policeman near the end of the film. Of course, just as the 33 Stanyan was making that hairpin turn that allows us to see the neon-glow of the Castro Theatre behind us, I realized what I’d missed but the crowd hadn’t. That was Hitchcock!
#5 THE CROWD (King Vidor, 1928) - A repeat performance for me, but I still used it as an excuse to finally head down to the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto on March 27th. I’ll be spending more time at The Stanford Theatre for a piece I have planned for this year, so I’m sure something on this year’s Stanford theatre docket will show up in Brian’s list next year too.
#4 THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK (Rob Epstein, 1984) I always mistakenly refer to this film as “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk” for some reason. But for the serendipitous reason of the release of the film MILK, the Roxie Cinema brought us an opportunity to watch THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK the first week of this year, a film I hadn’t seen since college. The film still retains its power, particularly the candlelight vigil footage which I found lacking when dramatized in MILK As further evidence for Harvey Milk’s influence, can a proud husband mention that his wife wrote a song in tribute to him for her band back in Japan years ago which is why I surprised her and took her to this film? And I believe THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK will endure along with Milk’s, and MILK’s, legacies.
#3 WILD ROSE (Sun Yu, 1932) The Silent Film Festival always brings a gem or two, and this one brought on July 11th will be one of my favorites for a long time. The introductory remarks from the widow of the lead actor added just the right amount of preparation to lead us into this lovely city/country mouse romance. The spunky-ness of Wang Renmei’s character and her interaction with the other children of her village was a joy to watch. My wife and I still jokingly salute ourselves like the little play soldiers in the film, underscoring the lasting impression this film had on us.

#2 The Oshima Nagisa Retrospective - After THE CEREMONY and BOY were treats on last year’s Rep Top Five, this year brought those and the rest of the Oshima ouevre that have been kept from us for so long. THREE RESURRECTED DRUNKARDS was definitely my favorite of those I finally caught up with, although THE TOWN OF LOVE AND HOPE was excellent too. I wish this would have come along when I was more immersed in Oshima scholarship ten or so years ago, but I won’t complain. I don’t get myself out to the Pacific Film Archives as much any more, but I anxiously took BART under the bay and risked tired eyes at work the next day to catch as many of these Oshima screenings as I could. Thank you PFA!

#1 FOOTBALL AS NEVER BEFORE (Hellmuth Costard, 1971) There was no film I anticipated more than this one on August 30th, so much so, I forewent an offer for a screener so my first experience with it would be in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts theatre. The inspiration of later films on Algerian-French football phenom Zenadine Zidane and LA Laker Kobe Bryant, multiple-cameras followed football great George Best during an entire match. I had read much about the talents of George Best and had seen him for years on the cover of the debut album of my favorite band, The Wedding Present. I couldn’t wait to see what all the hype was about. And I wasn’t disappointed. A friend of mine commented on how he lost respect for Zidane after watching his documentary (#1 with a bullet on last year’s list) because Zidane seemed to spend so much time ’loafing around’, whereas Best is quite involved throughout the entire match. But another friend of mine who has seen both films with me at the YBCA said this underscores the changes in football strategy over the ages where players are now more specialized in their roles. Best would be encouraged to be more involved in much of the match, whereas Zidane is now expected to play his role, a role he plays as well as Best played his. Such is a tiny example of the benefits of this approach to the sports film.

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