Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adam Hartzell: IOHTE

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 2015. An index of participants can be found here.

IOHTE contributor Adam Hartzell writes for as well as other outlets.

Image courtesy Midcentury Productions
Black Hair (Lee Man-hee, 1964) A Rare Noir Is Good To Find
March 22nd Roxie Theatre
I have seen a few Lee Man-hee films in theaters. I saw The Evil Stairs (1964) in Udine, Italy at the Far East Film Festival and I saw The Starting Point (1965) at the Pusan International Film Festival, when Busan, South Korea was still spelled with a 'P'. I also have seen The Marines Who Never Returned (1963) on DVD. But I never thought I would get to see a Lee Man-hee in a San Francisco theater. And I would have missed seeing Black Hair (1964) at A Rare Noir Is Good To Find series in March at the Roxie Theatre if one of the clerks at Le Video hadn't given me the heads up. I will miss Le Video for reasons such as this. (Suggestion for SF Noir City presenters of future Korean noir films. 'jopok' is a more appropriate term for Korean gangsters than the Japanese term 'yakuza'.)

Kevin Jerome Everson: Frames Connecting Necessity & Coincidence
Wed May 20th YBCA/SF Cinematheque
And I would have missed Kevin Jerome Everson's shorts at the YBCA, curated by the folks at SF Cinematheque if it weren't for Hell On Frisco Bay proprietor Brian Darr letting me know some of Everson's shorts featured my hometown of Cleveland. Turns out that Everson grew up in Mansfield, Ohio and the short Tygers (2014) had kids from his former high school running plays from his time on the gridiron. The short Release (2013) also involved football drills, but this time performed by dancers. One of the shorts made in Cleveland, Sound That (2014), follows Cleveland Water Department employees listening for pipes underground. They listen with devices Everson sculpted to replicate the devices used in the real work. Plus, Everson placed these workers in significant locations of local horror, such as the house where the three kidnapped girls were held for years. Everson was not on my radar until Brian, YBCA, and SF Cinematheque put him on my radar. And that is why I support my local rep houses and my local Brian Darr.

Image courtesy SF Japanese Film Festival
Unoforgiven (Sang-il Lee, 2013) Sacramento Japan Film Festival
Sat 7/18/15 Crest Theatre
My wife and I make biannual trips up to Sacramento for either the French Film Festival or the Japan Film Festival. This year it was the latter. Since I have co-workers at my San Francisco office commute from Sacramento and Roseville, I consider Sacramento part of the Bay Area. It's a nice Amtrak trip away. We stay at the lovely Citizen Hotel so we can easily walk from the train station and are close by Insight and Temple Coffeehouses and the lovely Crest Theatre. This year's Sacramento Japan Film Festival was their most successful ever. (Did our choice to donate to the festival this year, getting to see our names on screen, have anything to do with it?) The highlight was Unforgiven (2013), an Ainu Western (Northern?) directed by a Zainichi (Japanese of Korean descent) that was inspired by Clint Eastwood's film of the same name. The older gentlemen who the film began an extensive narration of the whole plot but was stopped by the audience in time before he spoiled everything. His response was a sincere befuddlement saying something like 'Oh, I'm sorry. I just thought Japanese movies were hard to understand so I thought I'd explain things. Rather than be annoyed by this, I saw this as an unintentional Andy Kaufman-esque performance that added to the delightful weekend we had.

Let's Get the Rhythm: the Life and Times of Mary Mack (Irene Chagall & Steve Zeitlin, 2014) Dance Film Festival
Sun 10/11/15 Brava Theatre in the Mission
If a US film does not get to me until over a year late, I consider it ripe for discussion based on Brian's parameters, an older film at a Rep theater. Let's Get The Rhythm: The Life and Times of Mary Mack was released (on TV I think) in 2014 so it barely makes it in. I want to make it fit because it was one of my favorite films I caught last year. Girl culture is regularly ridiculed or minimized in wider culture so it was so nice to see an aspect of girl culture, hand-clapping games, respected and explored in this locally produced documentary. And Irene Chagall & Steve Zeitlin touch on so much in this short documentary, even including a discussion of how, well, dirty and off-color many of the lyrics are. They even brought in a mathematician to demonstrate how freaking complex the rhythms are of these games. You go, girls!

Image courtesy San Francisco Silent Film Festival
The Grim Game (Irvin Willat, 1919) A Day of Silents
Castro 12/5/15
This year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival's A Day of Silents feature I caught was The Grim Game (Irvin Willat, 1919), a vehicle for Harry Houdini to demonstrate is escape exploits. One thing the Silent Film Festival shows us is how long some tropes/genres have been going on. This is basically an action film like the Fast and Furious genre or the yet to truly blossom parkour genre (such as the Luc Bresson produced trilogy of parkour films featuring traceur David Belle). Except instead of car chases or people flipping through urban obstacles, we witnessed regularly paced lock-picking and restraint-removing by the greatest escape artist of them all, Houdini.

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