Thursday, April 21, 2011


The 54th edition of the San Francisco International Film Festival opens tonight at the Castro and ends there (and at other venues) May 5th. MUBI's David Hudson has collected a good deal of the advance preview pieces published by local film writers on the festival. Let me just add Kelly Vance's epic East Bay Express preview, which covers a ton of titles, as well as getting into some of the organizational difficulties the festival has had to overcome to secure exciting award recipients. In addition to Oliver Stone, Frank Pierson, Matthew Barney and Serge Bromberg, the festival today finally announced its final major award recipient, actor Terence Stamp. Unknown at this time is the name of the film that will screen at Stamp's April 29th Castro tribute. I've been speculating on twitter. In case you hadn't heard, the film accompanying Oliver Stone's April 27th evening will be Salvador, to be screened in a 35mm print.

My own SFIFF coverage begins in earnest tomorrow. In the meantime, let me run down the Frisco Bay film events now known to be happening after the festival. Most local film organizations rely to some degree on the SFIFF hubbub to get cinemagoers excited about continuing their frequent filmgoing after the festival has gotten them into the habit, and make sure to distribute to festival venues their new calendars advertising their own "products" for the months ahead.

The Yerba Buena Center For the Arts makes perhaps the smoothest segue from the SFIFF, presenting a new film of the sort that might well have been selected for the festival itself had it not already screened at the Roxie earlier this year: Manoel de Oliveira's the Strange Case of Angelica. However, apparently the Roxie run was a digital presentation, and the YBCA will be showing it in 35mm. It was among my favorites seen at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, and I may well take advantage of this second chance when it happens May 5, 7 & 8. The YBCA is also presenting 35mm prints of a 1987 Spanish art-horror film and of three vintage sex films in May.

The Roxie is re-establishing its commitment to film projection during May as well. After a May 7-9 run of a restored print of Taxi Driver in time for both the 35th anniversary of Martin Scorsese's film, and the Roxie's own conversion from a porno house to a repertory venue, it will spotlight 35mm and 16mm prints of film noir titles in its I Wake Up Dreaming 2011 series. Fritz Lang's Ministry of Fear, Anthony Mann's the Great Flamarion, and Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly are only a few of the more high-profile titles in this series of important and forgotten films from the golden age of the fedora and the femme fatale.

A May 12 double bill of the great kung fu film Deaf-Mute Heroine and Chow-Yun Fat in the extremely rare Pembunahan Pursuit kicks of a new series at the 4-Star in the Richmond District, justifying the theatre's presence on my sidebar after years of programming mostly just the usual Hollywood and Indiewood titles. Entitled "Asian Movie Madness", this series brings double bills of Hong Kong, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese action films, and Nikkatsu Roman Porno to Clement Street every Thursday, mostly in 35mm prints. I know I'll be attending this series as often as I can, as some of these films (Chocolate comes immediately to mind, and I bet there are others) are making their debuts in Frisco Bay cinemas.

The Castro Theatre has, for the past few years, turned its screen over to Hollywood would-be blockbuster releases for much of May. The theatre has made no announcements that it's going to be repeating this maneuver in 2011, and its calendar is already filling up with alternative goodies. One of the great underseen films of the 1970s, Puzzle of a Downfall Child plays (with the Eyes of Laura Mars) May 11, a date which seems timed with the opening of the Cannes Film Festival, which will also be reviving the 1970 film with star Faye Dunawaye and director Jerry Schatzberg in attendance. We won't get that glamour but at least we'll be able to see the film without having to wear tuxedoes to the theatre. No tuxedoes required either for the May 13 Castro screening of the perfect-on-its-terms Rock 'N' Roll High School (which is also part of a San Jose midnight movie series) with co-screenwriter (and film historian) Joseph McBride in attendance, part of a MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS triple-bill also including the Blues Brothers and Dennis Hopper's rarely-shown Out Of The Blue. May also brings an Elizabeth Taylor remembrance series that includes the Mike Nichols and Joseph Losey films a recent similar series at the Stanford lacked. In early June the theatre holds its first 70mm film series since 2008.

When you click a picture of the late, great, San Francisco filmmaker Will Hindle in one the SF Cinematheque website, you get directed to a page for the 2011 Crossroads Film Festival of "new avant-garde works from emerging and established filmmakers along with special presentations, performances and events." happening at the Victoria and SFMOMA. Is this some kind of clue to the as-yet-unannounced Crossroads program? Might a Hindle film (or more than one) be part of this year's festival, perhaps as part of the "culminating screening of Cinematheque's Radical Light series" happening at SFMOMA May 12? I honestly have no idea; though I wrote a program note for last year's festival, I'm completely in the dark as to what Cinematheque is cooking up this time around, and these are no more than guesses. If Hindle's work is involved, however, I'll probably squeal with delight, however. I hope my guessing pays off. SFMOMA also holds a Gertrude Stein-related film series in June, including prints of films by Henry King, Alan Rudoph and Monika Treut.

Finally, the Pacific Film Archive closes for a semester break shortly after its usage as a SFIFF venue. It comes back with a vengeance in June. Nine films by recently-deceased director Arthur Penn and a far-from-comprehensive (though extremely generous, both with films and in-person appearances) focus on twin filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar would be exciting enough, but an investigation of the careers of classic Japanese actresses hits right into my section of the field, and is clearly meant to be the showstopper of the summer, as it lasts into August. An adapted version of the Film Forum series wrapping up right now, this PFA series includes 15 of the 23 titles that have played in New York City over the past few weeks, as well as eight additional titles including four titles (Kon Ichakawa's Odd Obsession with Machiko Kyo, Keisuke Kinoshita's Immortal Love with Hideo Takemine, and Yasuzo Masumura's A Wife Confesses and Seisaku's Wife with Ayako Wakao) from the PFA's own collection. These four and four Yasujiro Ozu films (Woman of Tokyo, A Hen In the Wind and Equinox Flower starring Kinuyo Tanaka, and Late Autumn starring Setsuko Hara) are showing here in lieu of eight of the Film Forum titles, and given the relative rarity of the affected titles, I'd say Berkeley comes off better in the bargain, although I'm still yearning for more chances to see Mikio Naruse films on the big screen, which makes the four titles from that director missing from this leg of the tour sting a little personally. At least I'll have another shot at seeing the one Naruse/Takemine film in the series, When A Woman Ascends the Stairs in its widescreen glory; this film was one of those that sold out the PFA when the 2006 Naruse retrospective stopped through, and I was among those shut out.

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