Sunday, April 24, 2016

No Home Movie (2015)

A scene from Chantal Akerman's NO HOME MOVIE, playing at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 21 - May 5 2016. Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society.
WHO: The late, great Chantal Akerman directed, wrote, shot, and co-produced this, her final film completed and released before her October 5, 2015 suicide. She also is credited with doing the sound, and appears on camera as well.

WHAT: I'm only allowed 100 words for this capsule review (perhaps perversely, given all the virtual ink that has been spilled over it). Here goes:

More than a match as bookend for Je, Tu, Il, Elle (Akerman's 1974 rumination on youth & possibility) this methodical "slow cinema" portrait explores memory, domesticity, and the aching paradoxes of our interconnecting technologies. Chantal's sub-prosumer camera films her real & virtual visits with her Auchwitz-survivor mother, demonstrating the familial routines (in multiple senses of the word) that informed her own life and films. The fact that their conversations (about family history, unpeeled potatoes, etc.) are so often funny only sets up the heartbreaking finale, foreshadowed by long stretches of wordless views of empty rooms and the Israeli desert.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens at the Roxie today at 4:00 and the Pacific Film Archive at 12:30 on Saturday, April 30, both screenings part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. It also screens at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 7:30 PM each night May 19-21, and 2:30 PM May 22.

WHY: When I wrote about the three (to my knowledge) brand-new screening venues at SFIFF the other day, I left out the Roxie because it had been used as a festival venue for a handful of 2015 screenings, including an underattended but captivating director-in-person screening of Stanton Kaye's 1969 Brandy in the Wilderness. (Also because it isn't screening The Apostate). But I'm pleased that the festival's geographical hop to the Mission has been able to give Frisco's longest-running dedicated cinema a chance to shine under the spotlight of North America's longest-running international film festival. If you haven't been to the Roxie in a while, they've upgraded their digital projection system but still operate 35mm projection in the main theatre (it'll be used to screen Alexandre Larose's brouillard #14 on Wednesday). Though the venue has had issues with noisy neighbors disturbing contemplative cinema screenings in years past, my most recent trips to the venue in the past several months have been thankfully free of such distractions. Hopefully they'll remain so for today's showing of No Home Movie.

To update my previous comments on the Alamo Drafthouse-run New Mission, when I saw Akerman's film there on Friday afternoon I learned that SFIFF screenings in the venue will not include full table service throughout the film, as normal Alamo Drafthouse screenings always do. The full menu is available, but orders are taken before the film begins, and food, drink and bill are all promised to arrive by the twenty-minute mark of a given program, so as to minimize distractions. I barely noticed anyone ordering or delivering during No Home Movie.

This twenty-minute mark coincides with the traditional festival cut-off time for allowing late-arriving (in the case of a non-sold-out show) festgoers into the theatre. There were a couple of late arrivals to No Home Movie, although they came in only a minute or two after the festival trailers ended and the feature began. I noticed this because I was in House 5- all upstairs screenings of festival films show simultaneously in House 3 and House 5. The disadvantage of House 3 is that it's a smaller room with a slightly smaller screen; the disadvantage of House 5 is that the theatre entrance (and corresponding green EXIT sign) is on the same wall as the screen.

HOW: All screenings of this digital work are digital projections. The YBCA screenings are packaged with discounted showings of Marianne Lambert's 2015 documentary on the filmmaker I Don't Belong Anywhere: the Cinema of Chantal Akerman.

OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Today's many festival options include a 35mm screening of Monsoon Wedding with director Mira Nair in person at the Castro, the final screening of the (digital) revival of 1955 British crime drama Cast a Dark Shadow at BAMPFA at noon, and the first showing of the 35mm, 16mm and digital program Between Us: Experimental Shorts at 4:15, also at BAMPFA.

NON-SFIFF OPTION: Today at 5PM, legendary cinema scholar Gene Youngblood will be at the San Francisco Art Institute, where underground film legend George Kuchar taught for over half his life (he passed away in 2011). Youngblood will be presenting his latest research project Tarnished Angel (named for a film by one of Kuchar's favorite directors, Douglas Sirk), regarding Kuchar's diary films. I'm not sure if the presentation is a screening, a lecture, or a combination, but it's sure to be a unique look at a crucial figure of Frisco Bay filmmaking history.

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