Tuesday, April 23, 2019

SFFILM Day 14: Asako I & II

The 62st San Francisco International Film Festival holds its final screenings today. Each day during the festival I've posted about a festival selection I've seen or am anticipating.


A scene from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's film Asako I & II, playing at the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 10-23, 2019. Courtesy of SFFILM.
Asako I & II (JAPAN/FRANCE: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, 2018)
playing: 3:00PM today at the Theater at the Victoria Theatre

Since seeing this last Wednesday I've been telling everyone who cares to listen that it's my favorite feature film of this year's festival. A common response is to ask what I thought of director Hamaguchi's prior Happy Hour, a 5-hour drama that played SFFILM (then still SFIFF) three years ago, and I have to sheepishly admit that I missed it at the festival and only got through the first hour or so of that one while trying to watch on a tablet at home (via the SFFILM app); though I was enjoying it I felt I was cheating to watch on such a small screen. So I was thrilled that not only was I able to fit a big-screen viewing of Asako I&II into my schedule, it delivered on everything I hope for in a new narrative movie: the distinct style of an "auteur" voice, a plot that kept surprising me at almost every turn (and the glaring exception of an inevitable development was handled in a way I could never have predicted), and satisfying explorations of contemporary quandaries, both specific (in this case to Japan) and universal.

I know I'm being coy about the plot and even the formal details of Asako I&II. Forgive me; it's the last day of the festival and I'm running out of steam a bit. I do want to say that, though the SFFILM blurb compares it to a certain cinephile touchstone film that I won't name here, I never once thought of that film (one of my favorite, most frequently viewed films) while watching Hamaguchi's two hours fly by. Instead what came to mind were 1930s delights like The Prisoner of Zenda or Thirty Day Princess. That gives a better picture of the kind of energy I saw on screen.

In an ideal world, I'd be able to see today's final screening of Asako I&II. Sadly I've got other commitments during its showtime. The film does have a distributor, Grasshopper Film, but it's a small enough outfit that I wouldn't count on a Frisco Bay theatrical release. So go today if you can!

SFFILM62 Day 14
Other festival options: I can also recommend The Hidden City, a completely non-verbal immersive documentary about tunnels and other spaces beneath the streets of Madrid; it plays 6:00PM at the Roxie. Also at the Roxie at 8:30PM is the latest from Our Nixon and NUTS! director Penny Lane, It's called Hail Satan? and apparently a lot of people like the idea of ending their festival with it, because it's at RUSH status meaning you'll need to wait in line for a ticket. If you don't want to wait, it'll be opening at the Roxie for a commercial run in just over a week.I mean, I guess that's a wait too, but you won't have to do it standing up the whole time.

Non-SFFILM option: Tonight the Castro Theatre hosts a Jackie Chan double-bill: new DCPs of the original Cantonese versions of Police Story and Police Story 2.

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