April 23, 2008

SFIFF, Week 1.

SFIFF 51 "In the words of José-Luis Guerín, director of In the City of Sylvia, 'we should see cinema as a separate continent' - and we should be cheered by what we see." Johnny Ray Huston introduces the San Francisco Bay Guardian's preview of the San Francisco International Film Festival, opening tomorrow with Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress and closing with Alex Gibney's Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S Thompson on May 8.

Besides capsule reviews of films screening through Tuesday:

Updated through 4/29.

  • Profit motive and the whispering wind is "an hour-long pilgrimage to the graves, minor monuments, and commemorative plaques erected to honor America's freethinkers and radicals," writes Matt Sussman. "If [John] Gianvito's film is part eulogy and part rallying cry for America's radical left, then Hartmut Bitomsky's more conventionally structured documentary Dust (Staub) is a vanitas for late capitalism."

  • J Hoberman is the recipient of this year's Mel Novikoff Award and Max Goldberg offers a fine appreciation and notes that "Hoberman's film selection for his special night is likely the most unabashedly sensuous movie not starring Asia Argento to play this year's festival." That would be In the City of Sylvia.

  • "There are three Mexican films this year, all first features," notes Jason Shamai. "Though one manages to be an infield home run, the overall representation of the country is underwhelming and, we hope, less than representative."

  • "[I]t's a pleasant and unexpected surprise that the San Francisco Film Society has chosen to showcase Shampoo while presenting [Robert] Towne with this year's Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting," writes Maria Komodore.

  • And Johnny Ray Huston: "It's a mug's game determining the correct genre of John M Stahl's 1945 Leave Her to Heaven - especially since a true shorthand pitch should dodge the question entirely to note instead that it contains not one, but two, of the most unsettling murder scenes in movie history."

"You can think of it as The Sound of Music meets Quest for Fire, or Jesus Christ Superstar rocks Land of the Lost. However you slice it, Evolution: the Musical! amounts to some pungent cross-breeding." For SF360, Robert Avila talks with filmmakers Andrew Bancroft and Kenny Taylor and actors Tonya Glanz and Jon Wolanske.

Earlier: Michael Hawley's preview for the Evening Class; and Brian Darr.

Update: Michael Hawley has another round of previews at the Evening Class.

Update, 4/24: Brian Darr reminds me that there are, in fact, other weeklies in the Bay Area besides the Guardian and of course does a fine job of parsing their coverage. He also points to Rob Davis's new entry: "It's a large festival - the first on this continent, actually - and although it suffered a bout of acute melancholia at the turn of the century, it seems to have been set aright by festival director Graham Leggat. It's the standard bearer for the city's culture of cinema. San Franciscans who care about movies guard it jealously." Rob then picks "Six Personal Favorites" and offers a list of "Decent Films" in the lineup.

Brian also notes that Lincoln Spector (specifically, here and here) and Tony An have previews.

Update, 4/26: The latest round in the Chronicle:

Brian Darr saw more than a handful of films in the SFIFF lineup at Sundance - and tells you about them in his latest entry at Hell on Frisco Bay.

For SF360, Jenn Preissel talks with Eddie Muller about The Grand Inquisitor, which "pays homage to the Dashiel Hammett-style detective story, but with a twist - the investigator is a dame."

Updates, 4/27: For SF360, Michael Fox talks with Barry Jenkins about Medicine for Melancholy.

Jeffrey M Anderson at Pixel Vision on Karl Boese and Paul Wegener's The Golem: "The screening boasted a live score by none other than Black Francis (once again going by his Pixies-era moniker, rather than Frank Black or Charles Thompson). The good news is that it was a great Black Francis show, but the bad news is that I'm not sure the songs actually synced up with or enhanced the movie in any way."

Woodward's Gardens

Updates, 4/29: At SF360, Jennifer Preissel talks with Katherin McInnis about Woodward's Gardens, screening in the experimental shorts program In A Lonely Place: New Experimental Cinema.

On Sunday, as noted above, J Hoberman received the Mel Novikoff Award; Kent Jones interviewed him onstage before a screening of In the City of Sylvia and, afterwards, an email conversation was struck up. To be read in order: Ryland Walker Knight, Jennifer Stewart and Kevin Lee.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian's Johnny Ray Huston had a busy weekend, taking in Glas: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, Ermanno Olmi's One Hundred Nails, Carlos Saura's "magical" Fados, John Stahl's Leave Her to Heaven and Eric Rohmer's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon.

"The Last Mistress is the most enjoyable of the three Breillat films I've seen," writes Jeffrey M Anderson at Cinematical. "It works on a gut level of sexual turmoil that her other films never approach, although I suspect that most of the film's success lies more with star Asia Argento than with Breillat." Also, The Golem.

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Posted by dwhudson at April 23, 2008 8:55 AM