San Francisco International Film Festival

SFIFF report: French glam ... and grit

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At the outset of Friday evening’s SFIFF screening of the ’50s-set French film Populaire, director Régis Roinsard offered two hints as to what lay ahead — noting that his SF sightseeing agenda had included a visit to Jimmy Stewart’s Lombard Street Vertigo residence, and encouraging the audience to stick around for a Q&A sampling of his Borat-level English proficiency. As it turned out, Roinsard handled the post-screening questions with slightly awkward but un-Borat-like charm (and occasional interpreter assistance). And the film itself — while featuring a man gripped by a daffy obsession involving a beautiful blond, who, come to think of it, is often seen sporting an updo — has a considerably lighter mood than the Hitchcock thriller, finding its tense plot turns and clacking rhythms within the fast-paced world of competitive typing.

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SFIFF 2012: gone but not forgotten

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It’s been a week since the San Francisco International Film Festival ended, but after 15 days largely spent sitting in the dark at the Kabuki, submerged in a flood of cinematic storytelling, the afterimages are still taking up considerable space in my brain.

And questions remain, like: Why didn’t anyone from Lauren Greenfield’s crew on the documentary The Queen of Versailles report time-share mogul David Siegel or his wife, Jackie, to the Orlando-area SPCA for casually sitting down to brunch and letting their family’s pet python roam unchaperoned through a house filled with fluffy white purse dogs?

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Bucky lives! More from SFIFF 2012

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Read Sam Stander's earlier San Francisco International Film Festival report here.

Sam Green’s The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, which he performed twice on Tuesday, May 1, with live accompaniment from Yo La Tengo, is technically a documentary. But it’s a sort of gonzo documentary, a piece of performance art that emphasizes Green’s enthusiasm for his subject, the bespectacled architect-prophet Bucky Fuller.

On Tue/1, Green stood at the bottom left of the screen with a microphone; the three-piece band was opposite him. This format, which Green developed for his previous “live documentary” Utopia in Four Movements, allows for him to interact in the moment with his audience as well as his footage. In one particularly fun moment, while introducing a filmed interview segment, Green timed his commentary so that the onscreen figure’s face seemed to respond to his words, drawing big laughs.

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Killers, brothers, and the just plain weird: SFIFF recap!

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The 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival wrapped up last week, but we're still basking in the glow of cinema overload. Festival correspondent Jesse Hawthorne Ficks chimes in with part one of his fest impressions. (And if you're feeling post-SFIFF withdrawal, fear not: Frameline is just around the corner!)

Alps (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece, 2011) This follow-up to 2010's beyond-disturbing Dogtooth falls right in line with director Yorgos Lanthimos' motifs: young teens following the demands of off-kilter adults, resulting in utterly confusing and deeply disturbing scenarios. Some audience members left feeling mystified ("That's it?! That movie was a complete waste of time. I hate this festival!") but oddly enough, I was hypnotized by every left-of-center shot, each non-sequitur cut, and all of the character's desperate decisions. This world is a dark and troubling place, and I can't wait for Lanthimos' next film.

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For your (even further) consideration: expanded short takes on SFIFF, week two

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Ahoy! Yes, there's still time to gorge on the 55th annual SFIFF; even if you're just getting into movie-watching mode today, there's a full week (plus a day) of festival madness left. Right here on Pixel Vision we'll be posting reports from the fest as it happens (check out Sam Stander's post here!); read on if you want to plan ahead to catch some of the best of what's to come. (Most shows are $13 and venues are the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk.; SF Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post, SF; and Sundance Kabuki Cinema, 1881 Post, SF.)

WED/25
Polisse (Maïwenn, France, 2011) Comparisons to The Wire are not to be tossed around lightly, but when the Hollywood Reporter likened Polisse to an entire season of the masterpiece cop show packed into a single film, it was onto something. Director, co-writer, and star Maïwenn (the object of desire in 2003's High Tension) hung out with real officers serving in Paris' Child Protection Unit, drawing inspiration from their dealings with pedophiles, young rape victims, negligent mothers, pint-sized pickpockets, and the like (another TV show worth mentioning in comparison: Law & Order: SVU). But Polisse (the title is deliberately misspelled, as if by a child) is no simple procedural; it plunges the viewer directly into the day-to-day lives of its boisterous characters, who are juggling not just stressful careers but also plenty of after-hours troubles, particularly relationship issues. Between heartwrenching moments on the job (and off), the unit indulges in massive cut-loose episodes of what amounts to group therapy: charades, dance parties, and room-clearing arguments, most of which involve huge quantities of booze. Watching Polisse is a messy, emotional, rewarding experience; no wonder it picked up the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Wed/25, 6pm; Thu/26, 3pm, FSC. (Cheryl Eddy)

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On the scene: SFIFF, week one!

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Guardian film critic Sam Stander was among the crowds this past weekend as the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival kicked off its programming. The festival continues through May 3 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk.; SF Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post, SF; and Sundance Kabuki Cinema, 1881 Post, SF. Check out additional Guardian coverage here, here, here, and here. Remaining festival playdates (and additional screening info) are noted after each review below.

The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2011) Perhaps the seed was planted by the festival programmer who introduced the screening with a mention of Woody Allen, but this latest black & white film from the South Korean auteur feels akin to Stardust Memories (1980) and 8 1/2 (1963), a cleverly convoluted exploration of an artist’s anxieties. When lapsed filmmaker Sungjoon returns to Seoul to visit a friend, his encounters with compatriots and lovers old and new spiral into repetition and absurdity; the truth of any given situation is essentially inaccessible, leading to often uproarious contradictions, especially with a sympathetic audience like that at the Kabuki Fri/20. This is what one might call a movie-movie, a trip through deception of self and others through the medium of cinematic expression. Mon/23, 9:30pm, Kabuki; April 25, 9pm, PFA. Also plays SF Film Society Cinema May 4-10.

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Dark slice of life

A too-little-known filmmaker breaks through with Black Bread

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arts@sfbg.com

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Despite the incredible current spread of festivals and formats by which art films can be exposed internationally, it's still possible for masterful directors with considerable resumes to remain largely ignored outside their own country. Certainly that's been the case with Agustí Villaronga, a fascinating Spanish director whose new film, Black Bread, is the latest in a career of superbly crafted films almost-commercial enough to gain U.S. release. Yet seldom quite enough.Read more »

What to watch, part two

Short takes on week two of SF Internation Film Festival

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WEDS/27

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A bang and a whimper

A weird future awaits in End of Animal and other Kafka-inspired films

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arts@sfbg.com

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Science fiction's open secret is that it has never really been about the future. As William Gibson explained to an interviewer in 2007, echoing earlier genre criticism by writers such as Samuel R. Delany and Joanna Russ, science fiction is, at its heart, "speculative fiction, but you don't really have the future to work with, so you are always working with history and with the present."Read more »