Thursday, February 14, 2019

I Only Have Two Eyes 2018*

Screen capture from HBO DVD of The Holy Girl
The past two or so years have been full of life changes for the proprietor of this blog. After well over a decade scraping together a living by working in part-time positions, I secured a full-time position working in an academic library in late 2016. In mid-2017 I moved in with my incredible girlfriend (filmmaker, photographer and installation artist Kerry Laitala) and our two tuxedo cats, Sherlock and Watson. Kerry I got married in her Maine hometown in July, 2018. The elation from these wonderful highlights have been somewhat tempered, of course, by far darker events, including the deaths of friends and family members, and the day-to-day dispiriting melancholy of living in a rapidly-transforming city that nonetheless still feels like some kind of oasis in the hellscape that our nation has become under our federal political regime.

Which is all to say, though I still try to take advantage of the unique screening opportunities offered in the Bay Area (here's a rundown of my favorite newer moving image works of last year), making time to blog at Hell On Frisco Bay has become a comparatively low priority; I didn't even run my annual survey of the best repertory presentations this time last year, interrupting a ten year streak of collecting and posting cinephile reactions to a year of viewing films from the past in the cinematic spaces of the present.

But I'm back with another great set of lists from perceptive viewers of time-tested classics and unearthed gems during the year 2018. And I've even invited folks to name favorites from 2017 as well, to make up for my uncompiled year. That's why I'm calling this year's iteration "I Only Have Two Eyes 2018*"- the asterisk indicating that a few of the following links (marked with an *) will lead to lists (or in one case, a single title) of films seen in 2017 as well as 2018. This will be the "hub page" for this year's project, and the list of participants below will grow every day until I publish my own list.

02/06/19:   Monica Nolan, author and contributor to festival program guides
02/07/19*: John Slattery, a filmmaker based in Berkeley
02/07/19:   Lucy Laird, a writer, editor, and co-producer of Nerd Nite San Francisco
02/08/19:   David Robson, proprietor of the House of Sparrows blog
02/08/19:   Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, educator, writer and host of MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS
02/09/19:   Joel Shepard, independent film programmer; his blog archive is well-worth perusal
02/09/19:   Claire Bain, San Francisco-based artist
02/10/19:   Terri Saul, Berkeley-based artist and writer
02/10/19:   Carl Martin, who maintains the invaluable Bay Area Film Calendar
02/11/19:   Michael Fox, who writes for KQED Arts & hosts screenings at the Mechanics' Institute
02/11/19*: Ian Rice, part of the ATA@SFPL curatorial committee behind screenings like this
02/12/19:   Frako Loden, educator and writer for www.documentary.org and elsewhere
02/12/19:   Ben Armington, ticket-selling maestro for Box Cubed
02/13/19:   Lincoln Spector, who founded and continues to maintain the venerable Bayflicks site
02/14/19*: Jonathan Marlow [PARACME | CALIFORNIA FILM INSTITUTE | ARBELOS]
02/14/19:   Michael Hawley, cinephile and blogger at film-415

Michael Hawley's 2018 Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here

Eleven-time IOHTE contributor Michael Hawley is one of only three people (including myself) who have contributed to every single one of my (nearly) annual "I Only Have Two Eyes" repertory round-ups. Sadly, he moved out of state shortly after we attended the last screening on this list together, so this will likely be his last year contributing. But he still keeps his eye on the Frisco Bay screening scene and even wrote about it once since departing, at his film-415 blog.

2018 Favorite Bay Area Revival-Repertory (listed in order seen)

Quiet Please, Murder (1942, dir. John Francis Larkin, 35mm, Castro Theatre, Noir City)

Woodstock screen capture from Warner DVD
Woodstock (1970, dir. Michael Wadleigh, 35mm, Pacific FilmArchive, with in-person intro by Country Joe McDonald, preceded by 1967 KQED short, A Day in the Life of Country Joe & the Fish, digital, with director Robert Zagone in person)

Flesh and Fantasy (1943, dir. Julien Duvivier) and Destiny (1944, dir. Reginald Le Borg and Julien Duvivier), (both 35mm, Castro Theatre, Noir City)

Trouble Every Day (2001, dir. Claire Denis, 35mm, SFMOMA, in conjunction with SFFILM, series "Claire Denis: Seeing is Believing")

Wicked Woman (1953, dir. Russell Rouse, 35mm, Castro Theatre, Noir City)

Red Desert screen capture from Criterion DVD
Red Desert (1964, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, DCP, Instituto Italiano di Cultura series "Michelangelo Antonioni at the Castro Theatre")

Cold Water (1994, dir. Olivier Assayas, DCP, Roxie Cinema)

Eight Hours Don't Make a Day (1972-1973, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, DCP, Pacific Film

Battling Butler (1926, dir. Buster Keaton, DCP, Castro Theatre, San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

Car Wash (1976, dir. Michael Schultz, 35mm, SFMOMA, in conjunction with SFFILM, series "Black Powers: Reframing Hollywood," with Michael Schultz in person)

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon screen capture from Warner DVD
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, dir. John Ford and The Quiet Man (1952), both in 35mm at the Stanford Theatre)

Jonathan Marlow's 2018* Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here

First-time IOHTE contributer Jonathan Marlow [PARACME  |  CALIFORNIA FILM INSTITUTE  |  ARBELOS] didn't exactly color within the lines in compiling this list, but I'm pleased he's placing local showings into a wider context. He also includes a screening from 2017, which he hopes will reprise in 2019.

2001: A Space Odyssey screen capture from Music Box DVD of The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Rarely one to let guidelines apply, a handful of non-Bay Area-centric selections are represented below. I would be entirely remiss if I did not bend otherwise agreeable rules to include these absolute highlights, accordingly (with everything thereafter listed alphabetically).

In keeping the whole assortment to ten, I removed such mainstays as 2001 at the Castro Theatre and everything from Noir City (as I was out-of-town for the duration, unfortunately). I will briefly mention here one from December which I sadly missed, much as I adore it: Exit Smiling (at the Day of Silents).

Honourable mention: anything whatsoever screened by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks. Dishonourable mention: the continued absence of Joel Shepard from YBCA. 


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I

Elégia [Elegy] (1965) dir. Zoltán Huszárik
Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Oberhausen, Germany 
digital restoration

** Oberhausen has an extensive archive of its past award-winners and last year they opted to screen recent restorations. I knew little about the film (nor its filmmaker) in advance but I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Absolutely stunning in every way!
Uprising in Jazak screen capture from excerpt at zilnikzelimir.net
II

Ustanak u Jasku [aka Uprising in Jazak] (1973) dir. Želimir Žilnik
Flaherty Film Seminar, Hamilton, New York
16mm

** Although Žilnik's work is relatively well-known in some circles, this shorter film is not. It truly should be seen by everyone--and fortunately can be found online as well albeit in somewhat inferior quality--as a masterpiece of resistance and human ingenuity.
 
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III
 
The Parallax View (1974) dir. Alan Pakula
Local Sightings [NWFF], Seattle, WA
Paramount digital preservation copy

** Nothing spectacular in the particular visual presentation (except that a digital master needed to be created at my own expense). The draw was the musical pre-show (and thereafter) with Amanda Salazar, John Massoni, Dale Lloyd and myself, a "super group" of players from different cities playing together for the first (and perhaps last) time ever.

The Infernal Cauldron screen capture from Flicker Alley DVD Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913)

IV
 
Le chaudron infernal [aka The Infernal Caldron and the Phantasmal Vapors] (1903) dir. Georges Méliès
35mm duo-print projected as DCP

** What happens when you take two negatives shot by two cameras side-by-side (for sensible purposes difficult to explain with any brevity) and print them together?  Unintentional 3D (with master showperson Serge Bromberg)!

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V
 
The Last Movie (1971) dir. Dennis Hopper
Arbelos 4K digital restoration

** Hopper's unfairly maligned and too-little-seen follow-up to Easy Rider, lovingly restored by Craig Rogers at Arbelos! A great year for restorations, admittedly, with Barbara Loden's extraordinary Wanda returning to screens last year as well.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
VI
 
Sen noci svatojánské [aka A Midsummer Night’s Dream] (1959) dir. Jiří Trnka
35mm

** Irena Kovarova curated this exhaustive touring Trnka program and the PFA brought a fair portion of the series to our neighbourhood. [My only disappointment was that no other institution stepped-in to present the handful of films missing from the complete set (despite our repeated encouragements to participate).]

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VII
 
Sphinx on the Seine (2009) dir. Paul Clipson
16mm wild-sync

** Undoubtedly an emotional peak of the recent Camera Obscura arrived early with a screening of Paul Clipson's Sphinx... with Seth Mitter projecting and I wild-syncing Jefre Cantu Ledesma's score. Between this and a brief tribute to Robert Todd (with Lori Felker) the following day, it was a woeful weekend of quiet reminiscence and reflection.

That Woman image from Canyon Cinema website
VIII
 
That Woman (2018) dir. Sandra Davis
[digital]

** Although Sandra Davis only recently completed this hybrid non-fiction/dramatic re-enactment (and, therein, not a revival whatsoever), That Woman presents an ideal opportunity (among its other ample merits) to see the painfully missed George Kuchar (as Barbara Walters, no less)!

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IX
 
36.15 code Père Noël  [aka Game Over] (1989) dir. René Manzor
Alamo Drafthouse [“Terror Tuesday”]
c0-hosted by Kier-La Janisse

AGFA 2K digital restoration

** A proto-Home Alone in French? Indeed! Whatever you might imagine this to be, it is everything you'd suspect and ever-so-much more.


Invention for Destruction scree capture from digital restoration trailer
X
 
Vynález zkázy [aka Invention for Destruction] (1958)
Muzeum Karla Zemana 4K digital restoration
 
** I travelled to Prague to fetch the DCP of this (and another) outstanding Zeman film for a pair of screenings at the Smith Rafael Film Center. Well worth the expedition to see the audience reactions to his outstanding work!
 
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foreshadow ahead: 2019
Filibus (1915) dir. Mario Roncoroni
** I first had the opportunity to see this extraordinary film at the 2017 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The wonderful folks at Milestone Films have been working on a restoration which (ideally) should screen locally in the months ahead.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Lincoln Spector's 2018 Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here


Ten-time IOHTE contributor Lincoln Spector writes under Bayflicks, where a more extensive version of this list was originally published here.


Watermelon Man screen capture from How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (& Enjoy It) streaming on Kanopy
Watermelon ManModern Cinema/Black Powers: Reframing HollywoodSFMOMA, archival 35mm print
My stepfather worked on Melvin Van Peebles’ only studio movie, so the experience of seeing it again was especially entertaining. Watermelon Man is a very funny movie, and a very pointed one. A white, a middle-aged, middle-class bigot (Godfrey Cambridge in whiteface) wakes up to discover that he’s suddenly turned black. The print looked glorious.

Serge Bromberg Presents…San Francisco Silent Film FestivalCastro, DCP
Serge Bromberg is not only an important film preservationist; he’s also a great showman – even in English, which is not his native language. This very fun program consisted almost entirely of early 3D films, with a focus on George Méliès’s accidentally stereoscopic movies. Just delightful. And, of course, Bromberg set a piece of nitrate film on fire.

The Big Heat screen capture from Columbia DVD
The Big HeatNoir CityCastro, DCP
A cop commits suicide, and the first person the new widow calls is a mob boss. The mob runs the unnamed city and the police do what they’re told – except for the one honest detective assigned to the case (Glenn Ford). I waited years to see Fritz Lang’s morally ambivalent noir. The digital restoration looked damn near perfect.


A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) & The Red Shoes, Castro, DCP & 35mm
A Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger double bill. In Matter of Life and Death, a British bomber pilot (David Niven) who should have died survives, creating a serious problem for heaven’s bureaucrats. But the pilot is newly in love and refuses to enter the afterlife. The great cinematographer Jack Cardiff mixed color and black and white in ways that seem impossible with 1940s technologies. I’ve seen the other film, The Red Shoesmany times, and it just keeps getting better. Although both films were digitally restored, only Matter was on DCP; Shoes was in 35mm. Some four months later, I saw an original, Technicolor nitrate print of The Red Shoes at the Nitrate Picture Show.

All That Heaven Allows screen capture from Cohen Media DVD of What Is Cinema?
All That Heaven AllowsBAMPFA, vintage Technicolor IB print
I’m not one of those cinephiles who gets excited at every screening of a 35mm print. But when it’s a vintage Technicolor IB print…well, that’s exciting. And it was the print, more than the movie, that drew me to see this 1955 romantic drama starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. The movie was pretty good too, and historically fascinating with its story of people trying to break out of ’50s conformity. You can read my full article on the film and Technicolor’s technology.

Battling ButlerSan Francisco Silent Film FestivalCastro, DCP
Buster Keaton gives one of his most complex and subtle acting performances, while still being extremely funny. He plays a spoiled rich kid who pretends to be a professional boxer to impress his girl, and matures in the process. The spectacular stunts we expect from Keaton are smaller and more intimate here, but they’re still impressive and very funny. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra provided a wonderful musical accompaniment.

Exit SmilingSan Francisco Silent Film Festival’s Day of SilentsCastro, 35mm 

print
The screamingly funny, beautiful, and all-around loveable Beatrice Lillie should have become a major film star; the camera just loves her. Thanks to her abilities, this backstage comedy makes you laugh from beginning to end. With Franklin Panghorn at his gayest. Wayne Barker did a wonderful job on piano; he even kept us entertained when the screen went blank and the projectionist had to fix something.

To Be Or Not To Be screen capture from Warner DVD
Mel Novikoff Award: Annette Insdorf & To Be or Not To BeSFFILMSFMOMA, 35mm print
Columbia University film professor Annette Insdorf discussed cinema, her life, and her expertise on Holocaust films, answering questions from Anita Monga and then the audience. Then they screened an unfortunately poor 35mm print of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942, dark, brilliant, anti-Nazi comedy, To Be or Not to Be (you can read my Blu-ray review). Nevertheless, the audience enjoyed it immensely.

2001: A Space OdysseyCastro, 70mm; Metreon IMAX Theatre, 70mm; Castro, 4K DCP

Yes, three separate screenings of the same film, months apart, tie for my my best moviegoing experience of 2018.
Castro, 70mm: In May, I saw Christopher Nolan’s “unrestored” version projected on the very large (but not huge) screen at the Castro. I had lost my love of this film over the decades, but with this presentation, I fell in love with it all over again.
Metreon IMAX Theatre, 70mm:
2001 was designed to be shown on a giant, curved screen – something the Castro cannot provide. The huge, slightly-curved screen of the Metreon’s IMAX theater provided something closer to the original experience. Again, it was Nolan’s version, this time on an even bigger 70mm IMAX frame.
Castro, 4K DCP: This time, the Castro screened Leon Vitali’s new digital restoration. The colors were better, and there were no scratches or vibrations.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ben Armington's 2018 Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here

Eleven-time IOHTE contributor Ben Armington sells tickets to many bay area film festivals from his perch at Box Cubed, .

Screen capture from Criterion DVD of Eight Hours Don't Make A Day
1. Eight Hours Don’t Make A Day - Alamo Drafthouse

This was a day-long screening of all five episodes of R.W. Fassbinder’s 1972 tv series. I enjoyed it as an arch anti-soap opera, at times tender and cruel, and also as an early expression of Fassbinder’s digestion of Douglas Sirk’s hollywood melodramas into his own filmmaking practice (much as Alfonso Cuaron’s last three films show a deepening mindmeld with Andrei Tarkovsky’s work). I would have happily stayed in my seat for five more episodes.

2. Chameleon Street - SFMoMA, Modern Cinema: Black Powers Series

I’d been hearing about Wendell B. Harris’ 1989 indie film for years and never got around to watching it and am I glad I finally did because it is as great as it’s reputation promises. Packed with the delightful sense of invention, cine-craziness, and anarchic wit that characterized the french new wave films in the ‘60s.

Snake Eyes screen capture from Paramount DVD
3. Snake Eyes - Alamo Drafthouse

A locked room mystery wrapped in a neon-burnt noir laced with jittery veins of betrayal and corruption. I’d seen and enjoyed this 1998 Brian DePalma joint on video years ago, but seeing it on the big screen revealed an infinitely better film than I remembered. Won a plum place on my list for the exhilarating opening set piece sequence alone.

4. Duel - Castro

An early effort by Hollywood blockbuster maestro Steven Spielberg that plays like Sam Peckinpah directing a Hitchcock script. Spare and diabolically tense, the film keeps raising the stakes without sacrificing plausibility, simple and brilliant.

5. Light of Day - Roxie

Paul Schrader film from 1987 about growing up, growing apart, and rock & roll, with careful delineation of character and place. I found it very moving.

Screen capture from Criterion DVD of Identification of a Woman
6. Identification of A Woman - BAMPFA

Profoundly strange and wonderful late period Antonioni that incorporates the tropes and plot of the urban giallo into his own concerns of disconnection and ennui. One scene where an inexplicable fog overtakes a car with the lead characters, and the plot, was especially haunting.

7. No Fear, No Die - SFMoMA, Modern Cinema: Claire Denis series

I got to see a bunch of films in this series and loved them all, but this is the one that stuck with me the most, a 1992 film about immigration, family, humiliation,and frustration set in the shadowy and drab world of underground cockfighting, starring the incomparable duo of Issac de Bankole and Alex Descas.
Mala Noche screen capture from Wolfe Video DVD of Fabulous: The Story of Queer Cinema
Mala Noche - Roxie, Midnites for Maniacs Gus Van Sant Tribute

Like Chameleon Street, this is a film that i’d been hearing about forever and finally got to see and very much enjoyed. Often sublimely dream-like and very funny, it also contains perhaps the most honest portrayal of what it’s like to be young and in love and not loved back: obnoxiously horny, obsessive to the point of boring your loyal friends, prone to not-always-the-wisest decision-making.

Drag Me To Hell - Alamo Drafthouse

I’m a big fan of how Sam Raimi puts together an action sequence: gallopingly propulsive yet precisely detailed, Raimi manages to keep the viewer orientated within the frame while keeping the gas pedal pressed maniacally to the floor in terms of pacing. This film, his 2009 follow up to the Spiderman films, is some kind of pinnacle of his craft because it’s almost all action sequences, even most of the dialogue scenes.

Godfather Part III - Castro

The unloved final chapter of Francis Ford Coppola’s crime saga was magnificent on the big screen, a final twist of the knife for the themes of betrayal, corruption, family, and the limits of control worked through in the previous two films. And, despite what you may have heard, Sofia Coppola is great in it.

Frako Loden's 2018 Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here
Five-time IOHTE contributor Frako Loden is an educator and writer, at www.documentary.org, Eat Drink Films and elsewhere.
1. The year-long Ingmar Bergman centenary program at Pacific Film Archive. I barely attended it—concentrating mostly on the remarkable 1940s films—but it spurred me to watch all the Bergman DVDs I've collected and never watched. I was astonished by my virgin viewings of Winter Light and the long-form version of Fanny and Alexander.

Le Trou screen capture from Cohen Media DVD of My Journey Through French Cinema
2. The Jacques Becker retrospective, also at Pacific Film Archive. I did a completely inadequate writeup for it—I've still only touched the surface of this French master's genius and look forward to repeat screenings. I'm grateful for the 20-minute analysis of Becker's work in Bertrand Tavernier's My Journey Through French Cinema, a masterwork in its own right.

3. The "Documenting Vietnam" series at PFA. The brief Whitesburg Epic (Appalshop, 1971) questions the citizens of a small Appalachian town, suggesting that young people with nothing to do go to war, especially when the town thinks that it's a good idea. The grueling Interviewswith My Lai Veterans (Joseph Strick, 1970) lays bare the toll on five young soldiers forbidden to talk about their experience of this pivotal civilian massacre. Frederick Wiseman's 1971 Basic Training shows how individual personalities and independent thinking are erased during the prelude to sending these boys off to war. Other documentaries were even more brutal and timely: Peter Gessner's 1966 Time of the Locust and the Winterfilm Collective's 1972 Winter Soldier. The latter documents a speak-in organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Detroit, as one bearded and longhaired veteran after another, GIs and officers alike, testify to the cruelty and dehumanization of their fellow soldiers.

Saga of Gösta Berling image from San Francisco Silent Film Festival
4. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which for over 20 years has stayed at the pinnacle of the local film-festival pantheon with its attention to the best prints and brilliant live musical accompaniment. After its five-day run this summer, scenes from the French Lighthouse Keepers (Jean Grémillon, 1929) and the Swedish Saga of Gösta Berling (Mauritz Stiller, 1924) still play in my head. Even more recently, the December Day of Silents continued to astonish with Jean Epstein's 1923 Coeur Fidèle and my introduction to the young Beatrice Lillie in Sam Taylor's 1926 farce Exit Smiling.

5. Wendell B. Harris, Jr.'s 1989 Chameleon Street at SFMOMA's "Modern Cinema: Black Powers" series. What an amazing film! It really hasn't dated in its themes, techniques or cultural references. There are mentions of "black Barbie," obsession with Marvel Comics ("my Thor voice"), Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast and Edith Piaf. It ends with a re-telling of the fable of the scorpion and the frog, which is no different from the lyrics of the song "The Snake" that Donald Trump likes to repeat in speeches to his base. The film is based on the true story of Detroiter William Douglas Street, Jr. (played by Harris himself), a con man and impersonator who over the years pretended to be a Time magazine reporter, surgeon and civil rights attorney. At the beginning of the film, a psychiatrist notes Street's "complementarity": the ability to inhabit whatever persona someone else wants him to be. He knows all the tricks of being something that he isn't. It's a way of getting back at, or simply surviving in, the white world that won't let him do things legitimately. He has to be a trickster, a con artist. It's a major form of code switching. He doesn't just use his "white voice" (like in Sorry to Bother You)—he uses a kind of "white self," or at least a black self that doesn't threaten the white powers that be and that gives him entrée into their circles of privilege.

Personal Problems screen capture from Kino DVD
6. Bill Gunn's 1980 Personal Problems at the Alamo Drafthouse, adapted from an idea by writer Ishmael Reed (who at the Q&A established himself as the most righteously curmudgeonly guy in the world, even managing to slag James Baldwin). This film, by the director of Ganja and Hess, was considered lost because it was never aired on public TV as planned. Now restored and starring culinary anthropologist and writer Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, who in a later career celebrated Gullah food and culture, we can see Gunn's influence on Spike Lee's films in its inspired improvisations and confrontations between aggrieved and angry people. Perhaps more than that, it's a rare, deeply humane look at the private lives of black people.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Ian Rice's 2018* Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here

First-time IOHTE contributor Ian Rice is part of the curatorial committee putting on ATA@SFPL events at the Noe Valley library, including an upcoming 16mm screening of Lee Grant's The Willmar 8 March 5th. He decided to provide a list of favorites from 2017 as well as one from 2018.

Soft Fiction
Jan 13: Soft Fiction (Palace of Fine Arts, 16mm) A 2018 continuation of last year’s Chick Strand revelations, this too is a unique masterpiece in her catalogue, from its haunting (and subsequently symbolic) structuralist introduction to its harrowing storytelling and its brilliant musical interludes; it only grew more powerful on a second viewing a few months later. 

Feb 10: I Can't Sleep (SFMOMA, 35mm) Denis structures her narratives more elliptically and ultimately elegantly than most contemporary filmmakers, making them a sort of puzzle whose demands of engagement (similar to Altman’s theory of layered sound) encourage a heightened awareness of details and technique. The Intruder kept me reinterpreting its design for days and weeks afterward, but the force of the drama of this film - and its intimate, sensual compositions of skin of many colors - give it more of an edge. 

The Night of June 13
Feb 20: The Night of June 13th (Stanford, 35mm) An incredible rarity in the Stanford’s Paramount series, there are no especially great stars or auteurist signposts to recommend it - unless, with some justification, one is a Charlie Ruggles completist. It wanders across a small town with great sensitivity toward distinct characters and slowly develops its conflict only to resolve it in a remarkably radical pre-Code conclusion, not so far off from Renoir's M. Lange.

Feb 22: Elements (New Nothing, 16mm) Several more of her films would show later in the year at a Lamfanti screening the night of the Space-X launch, the same program at which “Antonella’s Ultrasound” received its world premiere, but this Julie Murray short at a Baba Hillman Canyon salon stood apart from those also-excellent works of dread and sex and mutilated found footage as a more lyrical, gorgeous journey through natural landscapes with hypnotic rhythm. 

Zodiac screen capture from Paramount DVD
May 27: Zodiac (YBCA, 35mm) My last time at the YBCA - at least until management sees the error of their ways, reinstitutes their cinema program and rehires its excellent programming/curatorial and projection staff - this was a brilliant send-off as part of a seamy San Francisco series, one of whose shooting locations I realized afterward was a few blocks’ walking distance away. Its accumulation of small details and slowly-becoming-psychotic performances are hypnotizing. 

Jul 22: Wieners and Buns Musical (Minnesota Street Project, 16mm) Thanks to an eleventh-hour update on the Bay Area Film Calendar I was able to find out about this year’s Canyon Cinema cavalcade in time to squeeze in several rare masterworks from their catalogue, including pieces by Friederich, Gatten, Brakhage, Benning, Mack, Glabicki and many others seen last year as well at the Exploratorium. This McDowell short was the most fun and perhaps the most radical musical ever filmed, with some of the best low-budget opening titles. It screened again later that year but the sound was much better the first time. 

Commingled Containers screen capture from Criterion DVD "By Brakhage"
Aug 21: Comingled Containers (Little Roxie, 16mm) Because Canyon Cinema only has a handful of his films in their catalog, the year’s many well-deserved tributes to Paul Clipson's work ran the risk of overplaying things, especially by the point in the year at which a Little Roxie tribute screening appeared. But the brilliance of this particular night was that it - overseen by a good friend - was curated by Clipson himself, fitting his works into a wide array of others in an incredible dialogue and refreshment of films that had come to feel very familiar. This Brakhage short was one of many masterpieces (including works by Marie Menken and Konrad Steiner among others) I saw for the first time, utterly and unutterably magical in its light and shapes. 

Aug 22: One from the Heart (Castro, 35mm) The second half of one of the year’s greatest two-venue double features after Todd Haynes’s spellbinding Velvet Goldmine, I began this viewing feeling like the cinematography (maybe the finest hour both of Vittorio Storaro and of Hollywood studio technique) was far better than the flimsy and insipid narrative but soon had the epiphany that this was (or at least might have been) Coppola’s intention all along - the plot is there merely as the simplest of archetypes to push the mind and eye back toward the power of the image, a different sort of “pure cinema.” 

Sep 15: The Caretaker's Daughter (Niles Essanay, 16mm) Despite discovering a slew of incredible new Laurel & Hardy and Keaton films this year there was something to me more special about getting to know the work of Charley Chase - namely the intricacy and machinations of his plots, which slowly accumulate small details that eventually coalesce into extraordinary gags, as with the pinnacle of this one, a setpiece that anticipates and even outdoes a similar one in Leo McCarey’s later Duck Soup

The Day I Became A Woman screen capture from Olive Films DVD
Sep 29: The Day I Became a Woman (PFA, 35mm) An early-in-the-year screening of Salaam Cinema became a prelude to a wonderful series that encompassed the whole Makhmalbaf family of filmmakers, none of whose work I’d ever seen before and almost all of which was quietly poetic in its storytelling while enchanting in its imagery. This tripartite work by the cinematriarch of the family gets special recognition from me because (among many other things) its middle section features the best depiction of any film I’ve seen of the experience of riding a bicycle, both how it feels to be humming along the road and how it feels to be avoiding other encroaching issues! With Lupino’s Hard, Fast and Beautiful, further proof that more women should direct sports films.

Here's top 2017, in order of screening date only, culled from a larger list

Jan 14: Showgirls (Roxie, 35mm) 
Feb 4: Come and See (YBCA, 35mm) 
Jun 18: Les enfants terribles (PFA, 35mm) 
Jul 28: Footlight Parade (Stanford, 35mm) 
Aug 4: Election 2 (SFMOMA, 35mm)
Oct 14: Loose Ends (ATA/Other Cinema, 16mm) 
Oct 15: Crystal Voyager (YBCA, 35mm) 
Oct 18: Chromatic Phantoms (PFA, 3 x Super 8) 
Oct 24: Take Off (California College of the Arts, 16mm) 
Dec 10: Light Music (The Lab, 2 x 16mm)

Michael Fox's 2018 Eyes

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 2018. An index of participants can be found here

First-time IOHTE contributor Michael Fox is a film journalist and critic for KQED Arts and the curator and host of the Mechanics' Institute's CinemaLit screening program.

Here is my 2018 list. I promise to get out more in 2019.

Persona screen capture from Criterion DVD
1. Persona (1966) with Liv Ullmann on hand at BAMPFA: I spent a little time with the classics in 2018.

2. The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936) at BAMPFA: Our affections for various directors naturally wax and wane as we get older, but I can't imagine ever falling out of love with Jean Renoir (especially 1930s Renoir).

3. La Dolce Vita (1960) at the Castro: Every time I see a Mastroianni film, I'm persuaded all over again that he's the greatest screen actor of all time.

4. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) at Alamo Drafthouse: Melvin Van Peebles was a bad mutha.

5. The Cameraman (1928) at the Mechanics' Institute: Forgive me for including one of my screenings, but few things are as fun as a room full of adults falling for a Buster Keaton film they'd never seen.

Aparajto screen capture from Criterion DVD
6. The Apu Trilogy at SFMOMA: Satyajit Ray made it look so easy—and he was just getting started.