Maria Kommodore

Hurting herders

Tuya's Marriage comments on capitalism
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REVIEW Set in Inner Mongolia's dry and inhospitable plains, Tuya's Marriage comments on capitalism's suffocating ability to suppress other ways of living. Tuya (Yu Nan — last seen in Speed Racer, of all places) is a Mongolian sheep herder struggling to make ends meet. China's growing economy has made it almost impossible for herders to survive — not only has it forced them to leave their lands, it has created industries that exploit the natural resources herders traditionally have taken advantage of. Read more »

Frameline 32: Sex changes

Two views of Be Like Others
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TAKE ONE In Iranian director Tanaz Eshagian's Be Like Others, fear hovers over a whole nation, leading to schizophrenic behavior. By concentrating on three different individuals before and after they went through sexual reassignment operations in Iran, Eshagian reveals an incredibly sad and asphyxiating society — one where homosexuality is banned and punishable by death but changing one's sex is legal.Read more »

Frameline 32: Anti-pity party

A Horse is not a Metaphor is not a disease film
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Films about people dealing with serious diseases are often hard to watch and frequently difficult to criticize. They make for rough viewing because of the empathy a viewer has for the suffering subject. Perhaps due to this same sense of compassion, admitting that such movies are cheesy — as they sometimes are — is sort of taboo.

Feminist and experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer bypasses such niceties and constraints with A Horse Is Not a Metaphor. Read more »

"Reprise"

The agony of youth, adequately related by a Norwegian
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REVIEW Norwegian helmer Joachim Trier may or may not be Lars von Trier's distant relative. Let me back up a bit: according to several sources, the two directors are kin — but the former's feature debut, Reprise, pleasantly reassures us that even if Joachim had the misfortune of sharing the same genes with Lars, at least he doesn't share his bad sense of filmmaking. Read more »

Cross-cultural cosmology

Dark Matter: a film about Asian immigrants like no other
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REVIEW There are many films about Asian immigrants and their cross-cultural experiences after they come to America in hope of a better future. But none of them are like Dark Matter, the feature debut of China-born and New York–based Chen Shi-zheng. Chen is an established opera actor and opera and theater director who left China for the United States in 1987 in search of artistic freedom. Read more »

SFIFF: Fierce perm

Robert Towne still knows how to give an award-winning Shampoo
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SFIFF Robert Towne has accomplished something rare: in an industry that paradoxically singles out the director of a movie as if he or she were the sole creator of what is actually a collaborative effort, he has tasted fame, received recognition, and secured his place in the history of cinema for writing scripts.

Having started his career penning B-movies like Last Woman on Earth (1960) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), and working as a script doctor for impressive projects such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Drive, He Said (1971), and The Godfather (19 Read more »

Wong takes wrong turn

Norah Jones helps derail mystifyingly titled My Blueberry Nights
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Whether his focus is on a gangster who falls for his cousin (As Tears Go By, 1989), or a lovesick cop getting over a breakup (Chungking Express, 1994), or two men who move to Argentina seeking a fresh start (Happy Together, 1997), the world of Wong Kar Wai is always populated by heartbroken people whose unresolved emotions render them romantically challenged. Read more »

Shelter

Surfers in love
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REVIEW To a certain extent, almost all surfing flicks carry undercurrents of homoeroticism — but rarely do those vibes take center stage. With Shelter, that's not the case. Starring Trevor Wright (a TV vet making his big-screen debut) and Brad Rowe (Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss), the movie is about two young surfer dudes whose practice of spending endless hours together either half-naked in the water or bonding over neverending six-packs of beer leads to a passionate love affair. So don't expect to see any radical wave-riding here. Read more »

Positive space

Heinz Emigholz constructs and explores an architecture of cinema
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In 2003, filmmaker and CalArts professor Thom Andersen completed Los Angeles Plays Itself, an ambitious and inventive undertaking that combines clips from a library's worth of different movies set in Los Angeles into a long, discursive, highly opinionated film. Divided into three parts, this treatise presents an intriguing account of the numerous ways Los Angeles has been cinematically conceived, represented, and perceived. Read more »

Deja vu, times two

Last Year at Marienbad continues to bewitch and bewilder
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TAKE ONE With his short film Night and Fog (1955), Alain Resnais introduced the world to his idiosyncratic and esoteric filmmaking, while offering an initial glance at his obsessions with memory, time, and space. He would further elaborate on this trio of fixations in his extraordinary debut feature, Hiroshima mon Amour (1959). But his second feature, Last Year in Marienbad (1961), is where Resnais truly allowed himself to grapple with these issues, as well as with cinematic form.Read more »