Sunday, February 12, 2017

10HTE: Adam Hartzell

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.

Eight-time IOHTE contributor Adam Hartzell is a local writer and Roxie board member. He has a piece on Advantageous in the recently released Directory of World Cinema: American Independents 3

This is where I tell you how seriously bummed I was when I found out I missed an opportunity to see First Nations Canadian director Alanis Obomsawin's films at the Pacific Film Archives. (Sad face.)

5) REBECCA (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1940) - Balboa Theatre - February 20th, 2016

One of two films on this rep/revival list that I'm glad I held out on to see on screen. I always try to catch a couple films at each year's Mostly British Film Festival. Normally they screen at The Vogue, but this suspenseful classic of Hitchcock's played at The Balboa theatre, a theatre with a special place in my heart that I'm always game to patronize. And it doesn't hurt that such a trip gives me an excuse to eat at Shanghai Dumpling King.

Tokyo-Ga screen capture from Criterion DVD extra for Late Spring
4) TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1953) - September 3rd, 2016/TOKYO-GA (Wim Wenders, West Germany, 1986), the latter with an intro by composer/vocalist Ken Ueno - Pacific Film Archives - September 8th, 2016

My cousin, who lives in Berkeley, has a partner who is a cinephile like me. And ones appreciation of Ozu is one of those cinephilic connectors. So it was totally appropriate that my cousin, her man, and I would have Ozu's classic TOKYO STORY as our first viewing experience together as a triple. This was also my first visit to the new BAM/PFA building, so much more convenient from BART than the previous location. Although I've seen TOKYO STORY many times before, the PFA also offered the opportunity to finally see Wim Wenders' documentary about Ozu's Tokyo which includes interviews with regular Ozu collaborators actor Chishu Ryu and cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta. This time I saw it with just my cousin's partner who I'm sure will be a regular PFA companion for me.

3) TAMPOPO (Juzo Itami, Japan, 1985) - Opera Plaza - December 4th, 2016 I hadn't seen TAMPOPO for quite some time. My wife, who is Japanese, had never seen this film. The re-release offered each of us a different experience. My wife laughed at the sight of a young Koji Yakusho and even younger Ken Watanabe. In the end, she was surprised that she found such an 'older' film so delightful, since she tends to find older films boring. I was struck by the scenes I'd forgotten about, such as the French restaurant and the homeless foodies. TAMPOPO clearly transcends its time. Off we went afterward for ramen, but just as we were with our sushi after a screening of JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (David Gelb, USA, 2011), we were disappointed that the dishes just weren't up to par with what we'd had in Japan.

2) WITHIN OUR GATES (Oscar Micheaux, USA, 1920) - Castro Theatre - May 4th, 2016 Micheaux is the grandfather of Black Cinema in the US. So when the San Francisco Silent Film Festival brought one of his silents this year, I had to attend. In this time of Black Lives Matter, revisiting WITHIN OUR GATES has an even greater impact. The lynching scene is shocking and leads one to reflect on the context of now, what we've witnessed captured on video via smartphone technology. The harrowing intensity of all this was heightened by the accompaniment of the Oakland Symphony and Chorus under the direction of Michael Morgan.

Screen capture from Criterion DVD. 
1) Tanya Tagaq sings as NANOOK OF THE NORTH (Robert J. Flaherty, USA/France, 1926) plays in the background at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts - November 17th, 2016 I have had a couple opportunities to see this proto-documentary but failed to take advantage of them. I'm now glad I waited to see it until Polaris-winning Inuk Canadian throat singer Tanya Tagaq reinterpreted it. Placing the document in its time and place while still confronting its legacy, Tagaq brought new life and agency to the documentary's subjects. Seeing Tagaq has been a bucket-list item for me. Finally checking it off, the experience stays and resonates with me as you hope all bucket-list items will.

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