Monday, March 23, 2009

A Break in the Festivities

Now that the 2009 SFIAAFF is over, my film festival season goes into hiatus. I may catch a few San Francisco International Film Festival screenings but I may not either.

There are a number of non-festival films I want to see.


At the Red Vic,

Two-Lane Blacktop playing March 25 & 26. One of the finest films to never enjoy wide commercial distribution, Two-Lane Blacktop is an American cult classic. James Taylor stars as a laconic lovesick hero in a souped-up ’55 Chevy, which takes on a new GTO in a road race across the Southwest. Warren Oates gives a near-flawless performance as the pathological liar driving the GTO. Fine performances also by Dennis Wilson, Laurie Bird as the freewheeling road hippie and Harry Dean Stanton as the hitchhiker. This rarely screened film is not to be missed.

King Corn playing April 7. Almost everything Americans eat contains corn; high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet. King Corn is a hip and entertaining documentary about the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. Following in the Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), school of filmmaking, college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis decide to see for themselves the path that corn takes from a farm in the midwest into the mainstream American diet. They start by buying one acre of land in Iowa, and learn that the government will subsidize them to grow corn. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they manage to plant and grow a bumper crop. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises deeply troubling questions about the overabundance of subsidized corn.This incisive documentary will leave you distrustful of everything on your plate.

Waltz with Bashir playing April 15 & 16.


At the Castro,

Made in U.S.A. playing April 1 through 7. Jean-Luc Godard’s reference riddled farewell to his muse/ex-wife Anna Karina - never filmed more glamorously in dazzling Eastmancolor and Techniscope - was shot simultaneously with Two or Three Things I Know About Her and has been virtually unseen in this country due to rights issues.

Badlands playing April 15. [Terrence] Malick's remarkable debut stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as young lovers on a homicidal spree across the Dakota Badlands in the 1950s. A film full of strange and transfixing moments, it now stands as one of the key works of the 1970s. Warren Oates co-stars.

MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS "Fighting Back... in the 80's" Quadruple Feature on April 19. The lineup includes Vigilante, Raw Force, Escape from New York and Lady Terminator.

The Animation Madness of Max Fleischer on April 21 which includes Gulliver's Travels (1939), Betty Boop in Blunderland (1933), Superman's Mechanical Monsters (1941), and Popeye Meets Ali Baba & His Forty Thieves (1937).

A Woman Under the Influence playing on April 26 - part of the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival. This newly restored print of one of the most influential films by the patron saint of American indie filmmakers [John Cassavetes] features a career-defining performance by Gena Rowlands, in a penetrating portrait of a woman beset by mental illness.

Watchmen on April 30.


At the 4 Star,

The Beast Stalker - date TBA. One fateful traffic accident brings together the lives of a wanted criminal, a police sergeant, a public prosecutor and her daughter. Little girl Yee is killed by Fei (Nicholas Tse), a brave cop, when he was fighting with the bandits. Yee's twin sister, Ling, is taken hostage by the same group of criminals. Her mother (Zhang Jingchu) decides to save her daughter on her own in a dramatic action adventure about friendship, duty, love and hate.

Dogs of Chinatown on April 3. Utterly lonely Jack (Eric Jacobus) is about to end his life when he is interrupted by Mafia thugs kidnapping a beautiful Chinese girl (Huyen Thi). Jack saves the girl and finds out she is the mistress of a Triad boss. Impressed by Jack's actions, the Triad makes him one of their own and grooms him to be their top assassin. But as the hard-boiled killer rises to the top, he falls for Boss Wu's favorite mistress, Jin, putting both their lives at risk. As Jack battles his way through the Mafia and the Triad, he must decide if his loyalty is with the Boss who gave him a new life or the girl he loves.


At the PFA,

From Riches to Rags: Hollywood and the New Deal on April 1, 5, 15 and 19. Films include Our Daily Bread directed by King Vidor (1934), Wild Boys of the Road directed by William Wellman (1933), Gabriel over the White House (1933) and Wild River directed by Elia Kazan (1960).


At the Landmark Theaters,

Gomorrah - Director Matteo Garrone's epic, mesmerizing tour-de-force about Naples' infamous Camorra was a critical sensation at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prize. A sweeping drama with documentary-like realism, Gomorrah explores the mafia's vice-like hold on all aspects of life in the regions of Naples and Caserta (where the film was shot), as well as its creeping influence on international business and government. The film weaves together five stories of ordinary people forced to reckon with the heavy hand of the Camorra, where every decision, great or small, is a matter of life and death. Garrone's (The Embalmer) ambitious and powerful breakthrough film sheds light on a shadow organization that rules by fear and unsparing violence, tacitly fostered from above and abroad by greed, corruption and complicity. Based on Roberto Saviano's explosive international bestseller, which made him a target for mob threats.

Tokyo! - Three of the world's greatest filmmakers—Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Leos Carax (Lovers on the Bridge) and Bong Joon-Ho (The Host)—come together for an omnibus feature examining the nature of one unforgettable city as it is shaped by the disparate people who live, work (and even run amok!) inside an enormous, constantly evolving, densely populated Japanese megalopolis: the ravishing and inimitable Tokyo. Rhapsody, psycho-geography, urban valentine, freak show, mindwalk and many other things, Tokyo! is a fantasy in three movements that will make you see one of the world's greatest cities—if not any city—in unpredictable new ways. In the tradition of such films as New York Stories, Night on Earth and Paris Je T'Aime, Tokyo! addresses the timeless question of whether we shape cities or cities shape us—in the process revealing the rich humanity at the heart of modern urban life.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 - An extraordinary retelling of one of the most famous college football games in history, filmmaker Kevin Rafferty's (The Atomic CafĂ©) documentary combines rare footage of the wildly unpredictable 1968 game with unguarded, politically-charged recollections from the original players. The two squads, both of which entered the contest undefeated, included a Vietnam vet as well as members of both paramilitary and antiwar groups; at Harvard, the team also included actor Tommy Lee Jones (who reminisces about his roommate Al Gore), while Yale's star quarterback Brian Dowling became the inspiration for B.D., the jock character in Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip. As Jones puts it, "ideas were flying around like bullets"—as becomes clear by the end of the film, this was a social experience that resonated well beyond one Saturday afternoon on the playing field.

Tokyo Sonata - opening March 27 although it's not yet on the Landmark webstie. Set in contemporary Tokyo, Tokyo Sonata is a story of an ordinary Japanese family of four. The father, Ryuhei Sasaki, like any other Japanese businessman, is faithfully devoted to his work. His wife, Megumi, left on her own to manage the house, struggles to retain a bond with her oldest son in college, Takashi, and the youngest, Kenji, a sensitive boy in elementary school. From the exterior the family is seemingly normal, save for the tiny schisms that exist within.


Although I will most likely miss the film (not to mention the entire festival), the Sonoma International Film Festival is running from April 1 to 5.

The film that catches my eye is The Peach Girl (1931) which screens on Saturday, April 4. The film star Lingyu Ruan (or Ruan Lingyu depending on whether you Westernize her name or not) who was one of the biggest Chinese movie stars of her era. I saw her in The Goddess a few years ago at the 4 Star. Her life was quite tragic. She committed suicide at age 24.

This film is alternately titled Peach Blossom Weeps Tears of Blood

Lingyu Ruan


I finally made it down to the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto this weekend. Based on this Chronicle article, I went to see The Sin of Nora Moran (1933). Clocking in at 65 minutes, the film featured a time warping plot that would make Tarantino proud. There was this strange camera lens filter that would frequently scroll in from top right to bottom left. I was trying to match the use of the filter to the plot but couldn't make heads or tails. I'd like to see the film again but it ended its run tonight.

The Sin of Nora Moran which was pre-code, features one of the more well-known and striking posters of all-time. It must have been scandalous in 1933. I don't think the poster has anything to do with the film as Nora Moran was a brunette and the woman depicted in the poster is a strawberry blonde. Nor did Nora wear anything quite so revealing.

The Sin of Nora Moran


I noticed the Castro is advertising Milk Mondays. Staring April 13, the Castro is screening Milk for three consecutive Mondays. They are "milking" that film for everything it's worth. Good for them.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Check out Tokyo!

The Carax section was beyond satire. Surreal, but grounded. Just freakin amazing.

I can’t wait for the dvd.

I think it comes out June 30 (
I preordered it on Amazon, through the site. I can’t wait.
Better that NY Stories. Best tryptich since Amorres Perroes.