Thursday, April 5, 2018

SFFILM 61 Day 2: Barry

The 61st San Francisco International Film Festival began last night and runs through April 17th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about a festival selection I've seen or am anticipating.

Image from Barry supplied by SFFILM
Barry (USA: Bill Hader & Alex Berg, 2018)
playing: 6:00 tonight only at the Victoria

This is perhaps a perverse choice for the initial daily spotlight from a dedicated cinema blogger who has never seen an episode of Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, The Wire, Six Feet Under, or practically any of the marquee titles in the era of "prestige television" that has turned the attention of many potential attendees of thoughtful film presentation toward their home screens with the force of a rare-earth magnet. But this crime comedy series, the first three episodes of which are screening tonight with actors Sarah Goldberg and Henry Winkler (yes, "The Fonz" and the director of Memories of Me and Cop and a Half) expected to attend in lieu of co-creators Hader and Berg, happens to be the only thing playing the festival today that I've had a chance to sample so early in the festival. I spent last weekend in Los Angeles (missing a BAMPFA screening of Salaam Cinema that I later learned was a harbinger of a larger Mohsen Makhmalbaf retrospective there this Fall) and though I didn't go to any movies, my fiancée and I did relax on one of our hosts' comfy couches where she showed us the first (and thus far only available) episode of Barry via her HBO streaming set-up. I wouldn't say I was immediately hooked by the set-up of the eponymous affectless Afghanistan War vet (Hader) being manipulated by an oily opportunist (Stephen Root) to use his savant-like military skills to earn a living as a hit man, but I can't deny enjoying the "worlds collide" frictions that emerge when Barry stumbles into an acting class run by a pricey coach (Winkler) from the "tear-'em-down-to-build-'em-up" school, and befriends one of the more volatile students (Goldberg), and the backstage/showbiz humor hits a little closer to where I live. I'm not sure I'm likely to give up a rare chance to see a foreign film just to catch this on a much bigger screen (even with talent in tow) but if there was nothing else in its slot calling my name, I certainly would consider it, especially knowing how long it will likely take me to get around to watching it as a non-subscriber to HBO.

The paradox of the television vs. cinema debate is that, at least under current conventions in this country, television is prohibited from being legally presented in cinemas while movies screen everywhere from IMAX houses to, eventually (and dishearteningly), smartphones. So the kind of rare opportunity to see a new show that, if it isn't quite on the artistic level of Fassbinder, is certainly destined to be more popular than Eight Hours Don't Make A Day, will surely be of interest to viewers who find more appeal in serialized, character-driven narratives than the kinds of narrative-exploding cinematic attractions I tend to seek out. Who knows, perhaps some TV fans will stick around to check out more of the festival, which is certainly a home for a sort of binge watching they might not be so familiar with.

SFFILM61 Day 2
Other festival options: Speaking of film festival television, as of this writing there are still a few FREE tickets for tonight's 8:45PM screening of BBC/PBS co-production Civilizations: How Do We Look (episode 2) at SFMOMA. I doubt it's crucial to have seen episode 1 before diving into this. It's in fact the only one the SFFILM free events not currently at RUSH status. Today also marks the first festival screenings of titles like The Rider, The Workshop, and Angels Wear White, to name a few I've heard strong advance word about.

Non-SFFILM option: Tonight is Artist Television Access's monthly 8PM Open Screening event, where anyone can show their work to the assembled masses on Valencia Street's last outpost of underground, un-gentrified cinema. A wonderful article on ATA's Open Screenings was published earlier this year in Xpress Magazine.

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