Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Women on the Verge

The Castro Theater recently announced a week long film series that I find full of potential. It's called Women on the Verge - 12 tales of madness, lust, terror, and vengeance showcasing some of cinema’s most indelible performances from the female cannon.

I've only seen two of the films on the program (Carrie and Johnny Guitar). The line-up includes Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Catherine Deneuve, Faye Dunaway, Isebelle Adjani and Joan Crawford. Directors include Brian DePalma, John Waters, Joseph Mankiewicz, Roman Polanski, Pedro Almodovar, Nicholas Ray and Abel Ferrara. The Ferrara film, Ms. 45, is an exploitation classic.

The only downside is that it coincides with the first week of I Wake Up Dreaming: The Haunted World of the B Film Noir at the Roxie. I'll have to make some hard choices that week.

In addition, the Castro is screening a new 40th anniversary print of Costa-Gavras’s Z from May 8 to 14. I've seen this political thriller before but it's been a few years. I'll probably swing by to catch it.


Women on the Verge - May 16 to 21 at the Castro Theater

Saturday, May 16
High school is a snake pit as Sissy Spacek ignites her telekinetic powers to thwart that special brand of cruelty unique to teenage girls. This melding of minds between Stephen King and director Brian DePalma created one of the horror genre’s true classics. Piper Laurie, Betty Buckley, and Amy Irving co-star. (1976, 98 min, 35mm)

Female Trouble
This sick bad-taste epic from John Waters stars Divine as obese criminal Dawn Davenport, and charts her depraved life trajectory from waitress to go-go dancer to cat burglar to media freak to her big day in court. Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary and Edith Massey co-star. (1974, 97 min, 35mm)

Sunday, May 17
Suddenly, Last Summer
In this lush, lurid adaptation of Tennessee Williams one-act, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn play a seemingly insane, young New Orleans debutante and the wealthy aunt who wants surgeon Montgomery Clift to lobotomize her. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, screenplay by Gore Vidal. (1959, 114 min, 35mm)

Black Narcissus
Widely hailed as one of the most visually stunning films ever made, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s sensual, evocative drama of repressed nuns in the Himalayas took Technicolor to new heights. Deborah Kerr’s awesome performance illuminates this haunting, powerful study of the effects of loneliness and isolation. With Flora Robson, David Farrar, Jean Simmons and Sabu. (1947, 99 min, 35mm)

Monday, May 18
Puzzle of a Downfall Child
The stunning beauty of Faye Dunaway is showcased in her tour-de-force performance as a fashion model looking back over her career after a nervous breakdown. Directed in a fragmented Euro-style by former fashion photographer Jerry Schatzberg. With Barry Primus, Viveca Lindfors and Roy Scheider (1970, 105 min, 35mm) Rare; Never on VHS or DVD.

Play It As It Lays
Tuesday Weld takes an extraordinary turn as an actress rapidly unraveling in the meaningless void of Hollywood existence. Frank Perry (Mommie Dearest) directed this terse adaptation of Joan Didion’s disturbing novel. Anthony Perkins and Adam Roarke co-star. (1972, 99 min, 35mm) Rare; Never on VHS or DVD.

Tuesday, May 19
Left alone by her sister for the weekend, repressed Catherine Deneuve is haunted by surreal erotic hallucinations and is slowly driven to madness. Roman Polanski’s chilling horror tale is a masterpiece of psycho-sexual delirium! (1965, 104 min, 35mm)

West Berlin, it is day. In Andrzej Zulawski’s film you will not see the night - for in the forces of night, horror such as this could not exist without damaging humanity beyond rehabilitation. As the most unhappily married couple ever, Isebelle Adjani’s completely ajar performance easily puts convention to shame, with equally deranged Sam Neill not far behind. (1981, 81 min, 35mm) Rare U.S. Version – Not on DVD.

Wednesday, May 20
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Pedro Almodovar’s quintessential doorslamming farce about a gaggle of women and their various problems with men, be they married lovers, cheating husbands, fiancés, or terrorists. Carmen Maura is positively unhinged as the actress/spurned lover desperately seeking confrontation. With Maria Barranco, Julieta Serrano and Antonio Banderas. (1988, 88 min, 35mm, in Spanish with English subtitles)

Johnny Guitar
Nicholas Ray’s flamboyant western pits tough-as-nails gambling den proprietor Joan Crawford against shrill firebrand Mercedes McCambridge in a two-fisted cat fight for control of a frontier boomtown. With Sterling Hayden and Scott Brady (1954, 110 min, 35mm) Never on DVD.

Thursday, May 21
Remember My Name
Just out of jail for murder, psychotic Geraldine Chaplin stalks ex-husband Anthony Perkins and his new wife Berry Berenson in happy suburbia. Robert Altman produced Alan Rudolph’s moody, disquieting drama which features Alfre Woodard and Jeff Goldblum in early roles, and the smoky songs of Alberta Hunter. (1978, 94 min, 35mm) Rare; Never on VHS or DVD.

Ms. 45
After two brutal attacks, mute Zoe Tamerlis not only reeks vengeance on her violators but goes full-blown vigilante, seeking out men then pumping ‘em full of lead in glorious whacked-out style. Abel Ferrara’s imaginative, razor-sharp shocker is lean and mean exploitation at its finest! (1981, 80 min, ultra-rare 35mm print)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Godzilla,The Monsters of Mass Destruction, The Missing Beast Stalker and Cannibal Holocaust

At the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemapocalpse/Midnites for Maniacs event on April 19, they screened a trailer for an upcoming Shock It To Me event.

From August 21 to 23, Shock It To Me presents Godzilla and The Monsters of Mass Destruction, a Japanese Monster Movie Festival.

I was never a big fan of the Japanese monster movies of the 50's and 60's although I think the miniature models of city, ships, bridges, etc. that the monsters destroy was cool.


Shock It To Me also announced that their annual horror film festival is October 16 to 18. I saw the delightfully ridiculous Sugar Hill (1974) at their 2007 festival.


I also notice that the 4-Star has removed Beast Stalker from its Coming Attractions page. I hope it is still playing. If I had known this earlier, I would have purchased tickets to last night's screening at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). I won't be able to catch the next two screenings at the festival.


Tyson and East Virtue, two films screening at the 2009 SFIFF open at the Sundance Kabuki on May 8 and 29, respectively. Departures, a Japanese film which one the Best Foreign Film Award at this year's Oscars is also opening May 29.

Ferlinghetti, also at this year's SFIFF, looks to get a one week run at the Roxie starting May 1.


The Landmark Clay is screening Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox at midnight on May 8 and 9, respectively. These two cult classics tell the story of unfortunate encounters between Westerners and cannibals in the jungles of South America. A faux documentary, a la The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocaust has been a staple among the Faces of Death crowd for the past 20 years. It was banned in the US for a few years and actual animal killings are shown.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lady Terminator Sings the Blues

I saw five of the six films that the Alamo Drafthouse screened last weekend as part of their Cinemapocalypse Tour. I skipped Escape From New York because I’ve seen it many times before. Jesse Hawthorne Ficks mentioned it was a new 35 mm print but that was not enough to entice me to stay.

Of the five films I watched, four were new for me. I had previously seen Chained Heat although I forgot most of it. Without a doubt the gem of the weekend was Lady Terminator. This Indonesian/Filipino production was a blatant knock-off of Terminator. Some scenes were laughable because of the lack of imagination shown in plagiarizing the original film. Among the scenes taken from the Schwarzenegger classic include the shootout in the dance club with the line “Come with me if you want to live,” the shootout in the police station and the eyeball in the sink. I’m surprised Lady Terminator didn’t say “I’ll be back.”

However, Lady Terminator had a misandrist and anti-Asian theme that was reflective of the period (mid 1980’s). The movie opens with the South Sea Queen having sex with an Asian man. The South Sea Queen looks like a Filipino drag queen to me. I don’t think she would be hired at AsiaSF. Appearances aside, the South Sea Queen has a snake or eel living in her vagina. If sufficiently satisfied by the sex, the snake harmlessly slithers out of her vagina. However, if her partner cannot meet her orgasmic standards, the snake bites off his penis.

South Sea Queen from Lady Terminator

In the first scene there is a money shot but instead of ejaculate in the woman’s face, it is blood (from his severed penis) in the man’s face! This squirting is repeated 3 more times in the movie. Here’s the kicker. Only one man can satisfy the South Sea Queen. It is her husband who just happens to be a white guy. Laying content after a satisfying coupling, the snake emerges from its cave where the man quickly grabs it. All this has eyebrow raising homoerotic imagery but before that can be explored the South Sea Queen demands her snake back (which has magically transformed into a dagger in a scabbard). The man refuses; he is her husband after all. The Queen casts a curse on his great-great-granddaughter and disappears into the sea.

That might sound like an appropriate setup for a film of this caliber but consider that there were six sex scenes in the film. Four resulted in castrations and all four were Asian men. The only scenes where the man kept his penis was when the white man satisfied the Asian woman. If not viewed symbolically as a metaphor for European and American colonization of Asia or latent white supremacy, it can be interpreted literally for the white guy/Asian girl phenomenon that inspires fetishists and standup comics to this day.

100 years later, the descendant of the snake charmer (a lithe brunette) is an anthropologist guessed it – the legend of the South Sea Queen. She goes scuba diving (in a skimpy bikini) for relics and has the snake of death implanted in her vagina. She walks ashore butt naked and starts her penis dismembering rampage.

Barbara Anne Constable in Lady Terminator

That would be a fine story in its own right but for some reason that is lost on me, Lady Terminator is after a jade pendant that a pop singer wears. It’s implied that the singer is the last descendant of the South Sea Queen but that doesn’t really make sense. Lady Terminator goes gunning for the girl and her pendant. The girl falls for a police officer (the only white guy in the police department) and he serves as her protector. Of course, Lady Terminator is impervious to bullets, flames, blows to the head, car crashes, bazookas, tanks and pretty much everything except the ancient magic an old Chinese guy can summon before he is dispatched by Lady Terminator (although not by her typically serpentine method). Did I mention Lady Terminator can shoot laser beams out of her eyes? She doesn’t display that talent until the last 10 minutes which made me wonder why she needed to have so many automatic rifles throughout the movie.

It’s only been a few days since I saw the film but I cannot remember how Lady Terminator is defeated. I think Pop Singer does something with the jade pendant and Lady Terminator implodes into a ball of energy and rockets to the sky.

Let’s count up the more offensive elements of the film. There is a lot of nudity. Barbara Ann Constable played Lady Terminator (her first and last credit on IMDB). Apparently, she wasn’t comfortable with full frontal nudity. I guess she had her artistic boundaries. It makes me wonder why they chose her for the role. You would think that the willingness to appear fully nude would be high on the list of skills casting agents would want for the actress that played Lady Terminator. Maybe there were censorship issues. It was filmed in Indonesia after all.

Nudity, four castrations, countless deaths by gunshot, Exacto knife to the eyeball, Lady Terminator gets her skin burned off her, mystical snake penetration and two white guy/Asian girl couplings. The only romantic interludes that did not end with death and emasculation were the two white guy/Asian girl scenes. The director used the nom de plume of Jalil Jackson but his real name was H. Tjut Djalil. You would think that an Asian director would be mindful of the stereotypes he is perpetuating but I guess he was too busy ripping off James Cameron or positioning this film for a US distribution that he didn’t notice. Even more cynical would be that he purposely inserted those storylines to appeal to American audiences in the 80’s.

Lest you think I didn’t enjoy the film, I lustily recommend it. I don’t know if it is on DVD. It gives credence to the saying “It’s so bad it’s good.” This would have been a Joe Bob Briggs Drive-In Hall of Fame film. It's surprising Ms. Constable didn't appear in any more films. I thought she had all the makings of a poor man's Sylvia Kristel.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Film on Film and YBCA Events in May & June

I see that the Film on Film Foundation is holding an event at the Roxie on May 10. It's titled First Stabs: Formative Works by Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman.

Stanley Kubrick was born to make films. As a youth, he was a rapacious movie-goer, turning his critical eye to the myriad cinematic offerings of his native New York City. A talented shutterbug, he parlayed this hobby into a job as staff photographer at Look magazine while still in his teens. Kubrick's yearning to extend his photographic work into the domain of cinema led to his first short film, Day of the Fight, a portrait of boxer Walter Cartier, whom he previously profiled in the pages of Look.

From the start of his career, Kubrick had high-art aspirations, and these are evident even in his first feature-length work. Fear and Desire, perhaps the first independently-made American art film, is an allegorical war picture that explicitly locates its conflict, and its primal motivators, in the province of the mind. Kubrick acted as producer, director, and editor, and though his mise-en-scène was limited by available locations and props and a mostly static camera, he nonetheless evinced a flair for evoking moods with eye-catching compositions and subtle nuances of light, and an analytical, poetic approach to montage.

Ultimately, the film's miniscule budget was insufficient to fully realize its maker's intent, particularly when it came to performances, including that of a young and spastic Paul Mazursky. Kubrick, who would become notorious for requiring multitudinous takes in pursuit of his ineffable vision, was unable to indulge this maniacal perfectionism in Fear and Desire, and would suppress the film as his career advanced. But close examination reveals the seeds of themes that pervade his later work: the imperviousness to reason of man's subconscious, often destructive impulses; his isolation (Kubrick eschews "normal" displays of emotion, and he frequently refuses to provide us a charismatic protagonist to identify with); and a fascination with the grotesque.

Robert Altman is best remembered for his masterpieces of the 1970's (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, etc.), less so for his 1950's efforts, separated from his mature work by a long journeyman period in TV. His early industrial/educational shorts (eg. How to Run a Filling Station, Better Football), made for-hire in early '50's Kansas City, show a quaint but timely concern for keeping the nation's youth off the streets and out of trouble.

Juvenile delinquency, by various names a long-time staple of exploitation films, became the subject of Altman's first feature, 1957's The Delinquents. Tom Laughlin (to become famous for his Billy Jack movies) channels the late James Dean (much admired by Altman) in his first starring role as a teen driven from the arms of his girl and into the clutches of a vicious gang which includes Richard Bakalyan in his debut.

Altman has always used certain conventions of what we now call vérité style, applying his own poetics to the multifarious scrappiness of real life. If the party scene in The Delinquents seems to have the dynamics of an actual party, it's because it is one. Though Kubrickian perfectionism was never one of Altman's hallmarks, he nevertheless came later to dismiss this early work as "meaningless". But he could never deny that it's fabulously entertaining.

The schedule is

7 PM
Day of the Fight; directed by Kubrick; B+W 16mm 16 minutes; (1951)
Flying Padre; directed by Kubrick; B+W 16mm 9 minutes; (1951)
Fear and Desire; directed by Kubrick; B+W 35mm 61 minutes; (1953)

8:45 PM
The Delinquents; directed by Altman; B+W 35mm 72 minutes; (1957)

Admission is $7.


I perused the film schedule on the Yerba Buena Center for the Art website.

On May 7, they are screening the first half of Coming Apart: Two Views of 1972 - 1972 was one of the most tumultuous years in American history—and one of the richest in cinema history. Watergate, The Godfather, the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam, Pink Flamingos, Apollo 17 lands on the moon, Deep Throat, Nixon defeats McGovern with the lowest voter turnout since 1948, Deliverance, the Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes during the Summer Olympics, Harold and Maude… This two-program series revisits two films of 1972—through completely different lenses. One a free and loose document of a rollicking anti-war road show, the other a brutal mirror held up to the relentless violence of the era.

The May 7 show is FTA which stands for Free the Army or Fuck the Army. Available for the first time since it mysteriously disappeared in 1972 after only one week in theaters, this raucous time capsule is a riveting slice of the Vietnam anti-war movement. Reviving the biting theater of Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland's F.T.A. Tour, it captures the entertaining magic and mayhem of the anti-war and pro-labor show as it rallies and rouses dissident GIs stationed along the Pacific Rim.

The second part of the series screens on May 9 with the original Last House on the Left directed by Wes Craven. The pointless recent remake of this film only served to reinforce the original’s terrifying occult-like power, which played in theaters and drive-ins for over a decade. Loosely inspired by Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, LHOTL is a harrowing journey into the heart of darkness, telling the story of a family’s revenge on a gang of nihilistic thugs. Just keep repeating, it’s only a’s only a’s only a movie...

On May 28, YBCA presents Classic Laurel and Hardy Shorts.

For some reason no one ever shows Laurel and Hardy films anymore, and so we’re presenting this selection of shorts. “All the world knows Laurel and Hardy. All the world empathizes with them and their common humanity. For those who don't know them, this is the chance to see them at their very best.” – Dennis Nyback

Nyback programmed Bad Bugs Bunny at the 2007 Hole in the Head festival.

On May 29 and 31, YBCA screens Inglorious Bastards (1978).

Inglorious Bastards is more than just the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's new movie (starring Brad Pitt); it remains perhaps the biggest and toughest war movie in European cult film history! Action legends Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson and Bo Svenson star as the leaders of a gang of condemned criminals who escape from an Allied prison camp, only to find themselves 'volunteering' for a suicide mission deep inside Nazi occupied France.

From June 11 to 20, YBCA kicks off Food, Sex and Liberation (Go POP)

In this series, a comparison between Jeanne Dielman and Dillinger Is Dead seems inevitable. Though one film is French and the other Italian, both films are innovative stylistic experiments communicating their stories almost entirely through the intimate gestures of cooking, the home and the body. The documentary We Want Roses Too—made also in the language of the personal and the private experience—about the feminist movement of the sixties and seventies is screened in between to help contextualize the private politics and ambiguous feminism of these formalistic masterpieces. Series guest curated and notes by Miriam Bale.

Dillinger Is Dead (1969) screens once daily from June 11 to 14. In this should–be cult classic in a new 35mm print, Michel Piccoli has got a bad case of sixties ennui. One night, a lukewarm meal left by his pill–popping wife (Anita Pallenberg) is the last straw, setting off an exquisite train of triggers that leads to his liberation by the morning. Carefully shot to look very loose, this single night is shown only through the details of his nocturnal domestic rituals—cooking, painting, walking in and out of images from TV and home movies, listening to records, and dripping honey on the maid.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) plays on June 20 & 21.

Jeanne Dielman is an uptight housewife who makes dish washing, veal breading, bathtub scrubbing and coffee making into an art. She keeps to a rigorous schedule, including regular afternoon prostituting to help fund this art, her domestic sanctuary for herself and her teenage son. When an orgasm interrupts her perfect order, she comes unraveled. This year marks the first time that the film has been screened in the U.S. in the 35mm print in which it was intended to be seen, revealing a breathtaking muted pastel palette designed with total precision.

Sandwiched between those two films is 2007's We Want Roses Too on June 18. This documentary that tells the history of feminism in Italy in the 60's and 70's through diaries, illustrated romance novels, pop songs, home movies and other found footage. The style is the content; the filmmaker's rejection of objectivity and insistence on shaping history through a private and emotional point–of–view was in part what differentiated Italian feminism from the women's movement in Britain and America. For Italian feminists, communication had to take new feminine forms and the political was highly personal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Phil Karlson Enters the Fray in June

I was so excited by the Nagisa Oshima film series at the PFA that I overlooked another program there in June. PFA is screening 8 films (4 double features) during Tight Spot: Phil Karlson in the Fifties. The series runs every Friday in June.

I've seen some of the films in the series at Noir City (99 River Street and Scandal Sheet) or previously at PFA (Gunman's Walk). Scandal Sheet and Gunman's Walk have screened within the past six months but I can't blame PFA for screening them again as they were immensely enjoyable.

The lineup is:

Friday, June 5, 2009
Kansas City Confidential (1952)
99 River Street (1953)

Friday, June 12, 2009
Scandal Sheet (1952)
Tight Spot (1955)

Friday, June 19, 2009
5 Against the House (1955)
The Phenix City Story (1955)

Friday, June 26, 2009
The Brothers Rico (1957)
Gunman’s Walk (1958)

Welcome to Phil Karlson’s fifties America, where corruption and cruelty lurk not just in urban back alleys but in sunny resorts and leafy villages, and injustice is not an abstraction but a visceral blow to the body politic. Karlson is known for a particularly stark and punishing brand of noir, but his visual assaults are based in a brutal morality. Although he objected to screen violence for its own sake, Karlson said, “when it belongs, you should show it and you shouldn’t pussyfoot around it. You should put it on there the way it happened.” This fidelity to the physical was part of a pulp naturalism that combined authentic locations and downscale details with weird set pieces and startling twists, uncovering the uncanny in the real.

Born Philip Karlstein, Karlson (1908–86) came of age in 1920s Chicago and was seasoned in that city’s underworld as well as its high culture: he was a bootlegger’s lookout and witnessed a mob killing before attending the Art Institute. Later, to pay his way through law school at Loyola, he took a job at Universal, “washing toilets and dishes and whatever the hell they gave me.” He eventually landed a barely more glamorous position as a director at Monogram on Poverty Row, where he compared himself to “a mechanic that worked on a line”—but “I was experimenting with everything I was making, trying to get my little pieces of truth here and there.” The experiments paid off in the fifties, when Karlson put out the remarkable run of movies we feature here (all but one of which are unavailable on DVD). Join us for four nights of low-budget ingenuity and exhilarating eccentricity, laced with gritty little pieces of truth.


Between the Oshima and Karlson programs at the PFA, I guess I'll be spending a lot of time in Berkeley this June. Actually, with Hole in the Head running June 5 to 18, June is shaping up to be quite a busy month for me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upcoming Nagisa Oshima Film Retrospective at PFA

Last fall, PFA had a fantastic series called Cinema Japan: A Wreath for Madame Kawakita.

It was one of the best film retrospectives I've attended. Two films that stood out were The Ceremony and Boy. Both were directed by Nagisa Oshima.

PFA has recently announced their schedule for an upcoming series called In the Realm of Oshima which screens 25 films by the director from May 29 to July 18. I am truly excited by the scope of the program. Oshima has 54 director credits on IMDB so the retrospective cover nearly half of filmography.

“I do not like to be called a samurai, but I admit that I have an image of myself as a fighter,” wrote one of cinema’s most essential filmmakers, Nagisa Oshima. “I would like to fight against all authorities and powers.” Debuting in 1959 with A Town of Love and Hope, Oshima helped create the Japanese New Wave, infusing traditional film genres with a politicized energy and social fury. Early on, Oshima could still “pass” at the Shochiku studio, making films in the so-called “sun tribe” genre that glorified delinquent youth culture. But his bent was clearly subversive, his focus not on the romanticism of disillusionment but on the politics of despair in postwar Japan, in the context—at first unstated—of the failed protests against the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States. In the 1960s and seventies Oshima’s name was on par with Godard’s as cinema’s most inspired visionary, setting a bar for invigoratingly challenging filmmaking that, even now, has yet to be raised. A restless innovator, Oshima constantly reinvented his aesthetic approach; his Violence at Noon has over 2,000 edits, Night and Fog in Japan fewer than fifty. In the past three decades his work has only grown more surprising, whether connecting sexual and political liberation in In the Realm of the Senses or placing a gay romance within samurai culture in Gohatto. His focus, though, has remained on certain essentials: sex and death, power and control, conformity and transgression, and above all on Japan, its nationalism, politics, conformity, and flaws, especially its treatment of Koreans. No two of Oshima’s films are the same, but all are undeniably Oshima.

With few of his films available on DVD or video, much of Oshima’s work has existed more as legend than presence; this series, organized by James Quandt of Cinematheque Ontario, is the first North American retrospective in over twenty years. More than a series, In the Realm of Oshima is a landmark, once-in-a-generation event.

In this December post, I mention an Oshima series at PFA in March 2009. Maybe I misheard her if she said May. Regardless, I'm looking forward to The Summer of Oshima.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Taking Inventory as of April 20

Dogs of Chinatown (2008) - Official Website
Made in USA starring Anna Karina; directed by Jean-Luc Godard; French with subtitles; (1966)
Wild Boys of the Road; directed by William Wellman; (1933)
We Work Again short film; (1930)
Tokyo! directed by Joon-ho Bong (Shaking Tokyo), Leos Carax (Merde) and Michel Gondry (Interior Design); Japanese and French with subtitles; (2008) - Official Website
Tokyo Sonata directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa; Japanese and French with subtitles; (2008) - Official Website
Gabriel Over the White House starring Walter Huston and Franchot Tone; directed by Gregory La Cava; (1933)
The Road Is Open Again short film; (1933)
Hell-Bent for Election animated short film; directed by Chuck Jones; (1944)
I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale documentary; directed by Richard Shepard; (2009)
Dog Day Afternoon starring Al Pacino, Charles Durning and John Cazale; directed by Sidney Lumet; (1975)
Mister Scarface starring Jack Palance; dubbed; (1976)
Chained Heat starring Linda Blair, John Vernon, Sybil Danning and Stella Stevens; (1983)
Vigilante starring Robert Forster, Fred Williamson and Woody Strode; (1983)
Raw Force starring Cameron Mitchell; (1982)
Lady Terminator (1988)


I saw films all over town the past few weeks. I visited the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts screening room for the first time last Saturday when I watched Mister Scarface and Chained Heat.

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale and Dog Day Afternoon screened at the Vogue. Director Richard Shepard answered questions about his documentary on John Cazale. He was interviewed by SF Chronicle movie critic Ruthe Stein.

I Knew It Was You was followed by Dog Day Afternoon. Sadly, it was projected from a DVD.

I watched Tokyo! at the Landmark Opera Plaza and Tokyo Sonata at the Landmark Bridge.

Dogs of Chinatown screened at the 4-Star.

Made in USA, Vigilante, Raw Force and Lady Terminator played at the Castro.

Wild Boys of the Road and Gabriel Over the White House were part of PFA's program titled From Riches to Rags: Hollywood and the New Deal. The four film program explored how Hollywood filmmakers responded to FDR’s New Deal.

We Work Again, The Road Is Open Again and Hell-Bent for Election were short films that preceded the feature films in From Riches to Rags: Hollywood and the New Deal.

Mister Scarface, Chained Heat, Vigilante, Raw Force and Lady Terminator (along with Escape from New York which I did not watch this weekend) were part of the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow Tour. Austin's famed movie house periodically takes some of its film prints on tour. On this trip, they stopped in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

Vigilante, Raw Force, Lady Terminator and Escape from New York were co-presented by Midnites for Maniacs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Movie Puke

I was at the Landmark Bridge Theater this past weekend to see Tokyo Sonata (great film by the way).

As I was milling about the lobby, I noticed some tri-folded pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper. I picked one up at there was a picture of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman on the cover with the subtitle "Corey vs. Corey The Ultimate Battle." The rest of the "tiny zine" was an introduction of the Two Coreys phenomenon in the late 80's. Does anyone remember the commercials for the Two Coreys chat room? After setting up the Coreys Craze, the unsigned author proceeded to give thumbnail descriptions of her favorite bad movies starring one or both of the Coreys. I thought it was entertaining and can relate to a fellow "bad movie connoisseur" as well as her adherence to grammar and spelling.

The title of the 'zine was Movie Puke - A Tiny Zine for Cinemasochists - clever word play.

Going back to the table with the handouts, I found two more Movie Pukes - Issue #2 titled "Revenge of the Beach Comedy" and Issue #3 titled "The Girly Issue." Both 'zines brought back memories from my teenage years or introduced me to films so obscure/bad that I wouldn't watch them as a hormonally overactive teenager.

Anyway, Movie Puke has a Myspace page. There is even a photo of Issue #4 called "Dance Dance Dance."


I notice that before screenings at Landmark Theaters, an employee will come out and thank the audience. S/he doesn't always comment on the film but they do thank the audience for coming. It's a nice touch in tough economic times. The Sunday 3:10 showing of Tokyo Sonata had a good crowd - there was probably over 50 people in the audience on Easter Sunday.


I notice several films at the upcoming 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival are being shown in previews trailers at Landmark Theaters. Tulpan, Tyson and Rudo y Cursi are three that I'm aware of.

I am violating my previous pledge to skip the 2009 SFIFF completely. I bought a ticket to see Rembrandt's J'Accuse at the PFA on April 26. One of the first "independent" films that I saw in a theater was Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover during the summer of 1989 when I was living in Los Angeles. I cannot remember the name of the theater but it was extremely wide. It might have been an IMAX screen although I don't think the film was IMAX. I'll never forget two scenes from that film. I'll never forget Helen Mirren and Alan Howard being spirited out of the restaurant (coitus interruptus) and having to make their escape in a meat van with dead pigs hanging off of hooks. Of course, the final scene where The Lover is literally roasted and served to The Thief. Roasted penis anyone?

“Just because you have eyes does not mean you can see,” challenges the great director-contrarian Peter Greenaway in his new cine-essay, which reveals the mysteries hidden in plain sight in one of the most famous paintings of all time, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Where most see only a great work of art, Greenaway dissects the Dutch masterpiece to uncover an indictment, a conspiracy and a murder mystery sweeping across the ruling elites of Amsterdam’s Golden Age. Hosting the proceedings like a well-mannered 21st-century judge, Greenaway “investigates” each of the painting’s 34 characters, their poses and costumes, as well as the picture’s setting and lighting, to discover clues to Rembrandt’s fascinating take on, and indictment of, the power struggles of 17th-century Amsterdam. In the process, Greenaway moves far beyond narrative and documentary filmmaking (further beyond his already out-there early works like Drowning by Numbers or The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) to level his own j’accuse on contemporary visual illiteracy. With actors (including Martin Freeman of British TV’s The Office) restaging certain scenes and Greenaway’s clever intellectual side-notes and diversions (the development of candle-making in relationship to painting aesthetics, for instance), Rembrandt’s J’Accuse will change how you view art, and the world.

Actually, this film reminds me of an annual tableaux vivant event in Orange County called Pageant of the Masters in which paintings are recreated by real people in costumes, sets and make-up to match the paintings. I've never been able to attend but would like to see it one day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rita Hayworth Burns Up the Screen

A co-worker mentioned this story to me today. The Stanford Theater was evacuated Friday night due to a fire. The cause of the fire was an old nitrate film getting jammed in the projector. Nitrate film stock is very flammable; it is even more dangerous as the film gets older and less stable. There have been several incidents of film vaults catching fire due to nitrate films. A few years ago, as a demonstration, a guy from France lit a small piece of nitrate film at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the combustion was impressive.

It was very fortunate that no one was injured or that the Stanford Theater wasn't seriously damaged. Nitrate fires can be difficult to put out and they produce toxic smoke. I assume the theater is open for business. The website still lists the upcoming film program.

The film that was screening when the fire broke out was Cover Girl (1944) with Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth. I know that Rita Hayworth was hot but this is ridiculous.


Speaking of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), I read in the Chronicle that Steven Salmons is stepping down as its Artistic Director after 17 years. Salmons and his wife Melissa Chittick were the co-founders of the festival. It's a little surprising that Salmons would step down. I don't know the circumstances but Salmons is the public face of the festival. He introduces each film and seems to enjoy the limelight (or at least the Castro Theater spotlight). In my mind, Salmons (along with Eddie Muller of Noir City) are indelibly linked to their respective festivals. Executive Director Stacey Wisnia (pronounced Visnia) is staying on at SFSFF and Anita Monga is coming on board as Acting Artistic Director.

Monga is a living legend in the San Francisco film community. She was for many years the programmer at the Castro Theater. After having been unceremoniously fired a few years back, has made her presence known on the festival circuit. Wisnia was the manager of the Castro who resigned after Monga's firing.

Monga co-programs Noir City and IndieFest. She helps selects the annual Mel Novikoff Award winner at the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). She and Balboa Theater owner/Telluride International Film Festival Director Gary Meyer are close friends and both were acolytes of Novikoff.


On April 16, the Vogue Theater is presenting I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale, a 40 minute documentary about the actor. Cazale, best known as Fredo Corleone from the The Godfather and The Godfather II, had a short but blindingly brilliant screen career before dying in 1978 at the age of 42. He made five films and all of them were nominated for Oscars. In addition to the two Godfather movies, Cazale appeared in Dog Day Afternoon, The Conversation and The Deer Hunter. What a filmography - directed by Francis Ford Coppola (3 films), Sidney Lumet and Michael Cimino, co-stars include Al Pacino (3 times), Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep.

After the screening of I Knew It Was You and a Q&A with director Richard Shepard, they will screen Dog Day Afternoon.


Last month, I attended a few screenings of the Mostly British Film Series at the Vogue Theater. All the films screened February 26 through March 5 except Easy Virtue which screens May 14. I thought it was odd that one film screened so long after the others. After seeing the program guide for the 2009 SFIFF, it makes sense. Easy Virtue is screening May 6 and 7 at the SFIFF (both screenings at the Sundance Kabuki). They scheduled the screening because the print will be in the Bay Area the week before. I wouldn't be surprised to see it screened elsewhere in the between May 7 and 14. Easy Virtue stars Kristen Scott Thomas, Colin Firth and Jessica Biel.


The 4-Star Theater has been advertising The Beast Stalker for several months. I predict The Beast Stalker will open at the 4-Star sometime after April 29 because that is the last time it screens at SFIFF. The Beast Stalker, a Hong Kong thriller starring Nicholas Tse, is getting three screenings at SFIFF - April 24, 26 and 29. All screenings are at the Kabuki.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Red Vic - May Calendar

I picked up the April/May calendar for the Red Vic Movie House. I noticed they are having a Tuesday special. You can see movies on Tuesday night at the matinee price ($7). That's a $2 saving over the regular evening price. That means you can see movies for $5 on Monday nights at the Roxie, $5 on Tuesday nights at the Castro or $7 on Tuesday nights at the Red Vic.


I've already previewed the April schedule at the Red Vic but a few films on the May and early June calendar look promising.

The only director out of the Philippines I am familiar with is Brillante Mendoza (Slingshot at the 2008 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival). On May 22 & 23, the Red Vic is screening Mendoza's Serbis (2008).

From the film's official website - The Pineda family operates a run-down movie house in a city in the province, which shows dated sexy double-feature films. The family has taken up actual residence in the old building as well. The matriarch Nanay Flor, her daughter Nayda, son-in-law Lando and adopted daughter Jewel take turns manning the ticket booth and the canteen. Her nephews Alan and Ronald are the billboard painter and projectionist respectively.

Nanay Flor had filed a bigamy case against her estranged husband and is attending the court hearing today when, after a number of years, the decision will be finally handed down. It is within this context that the story unfolds. As the rest of the members go about their daily activities, we get a glimpse of how they suffer and deal with each other's sins and vices -- relational, economic or sexual.

Alan, who is financially unprepared for marital responsibility, feels oppressed by his pregnant girlfriend's demand of marriage. Nayda, who entered marriage out of tradition, is torn between marital fidelity and her ambiguous attraction towards her cousin Ronald. Nanay Flor, who loses the case, feels betrayed not only by the court judge but also by her son who testified in favor of his favor.

Preoccupied with their personal demons, the family in unmindful that inside the movie theater, another kind of business is going on between the "serbis" boys (male prostitutes) and the gay patrons.

From May 29 to June 2, they are screening A Wink and a Smile (2008).

An intoxicating mix of private thoughts and public behavior, the feature length documentary A Wink and a Smile exposes more than the human body by putting gender, power, sexuality and social identity under the glittery spotlight, as it follows the lives of ten "ordinary" women who do something extraordinary - learn the art burlesque dancing and striptease.

Students of Seattle's Academy of Burlesque have just six weeks to peel and reveal their hidden talents with little more than a tassel and a twirl. Seasoned burlesque divas strut on stage in their own entertaining, satirical and beautiful performances to illustrate the candid and often hilarious lectures by the Academy's headmistress, Miss Indigo Blue.

As director Deirdre Timmons draws back the velvet curtain providing a rare glimpse into the intimate experience, audiences watch with glee as Miss Indigo's budding divas learn to shimmy, shake, bump and grind their way into our hearts. Through their adventures, we see how a homemaker, a reporter, a doctor, an opera singer, a taxidermist and a college student, join the American cultural revival of burlesque, as it moves from fringe fascination to mainstream obsession, engaging a world where performance art and showgirl spectacle, music, theater and sensuality crash into over-the-top glamour - a world where many want to go, but very few dare.

The will be live performances and Q&A following the 7 PM performances from May 29 to 31. I guess my interest in burlesque has been piqued since watching the short film No Strings Attached at this year's Indiefest - A Wink and a Smile Official Website

On June 5-6, Psych-Out (1968) is screening. Filmed in the Haight Ashbury, the movie stars Susan Strasberg, Dean Stockwell, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern.

Jennie (Strasberg) travels to San Francisco to locate her hippie brother Steve (Dern). She meets Stoney (Nicholson) in a coffeehouse and he helps her look for Steve, who Stoney has seen in his various attempts to start a rock & roll band. Stoney and his pals transform the square girl into a swinging hippie chick, complete with a mod miniskirt. Along with their buddy Dave (Stockwell), they search for Steve amidst the psychedelic splendor of the Haight-Ashbury hippie haunts. Dave is killed by a car when he wanders around in an STP-induced stupor. LSD, marijuana, and the good and the bad sides of hippie life are illustrated with non-judgmental accuracy.


While pedaling the stationary bike at the gym this evening, I was watching TV. The TVs are built into the bike. As I was flipping channels, I came across The Brothers Warner on KQED.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2009 Hole in the Head - Early Press Release

Yesterday, SF Indiefest issued a press release announcing the 2009 Hole in the Festival.

The festival runs June 5 to 18 at the Roxie.

Among the films mentioned in the press release are -

The best description of the bunch (as well as best title) is Joseph Guzman’s Run! Bitch Run! Catherine and Rebecca are two Catholic School girls going door-to-door selling Religious paraphernalia in order to pay for their books and education. Things go horribly wrong when they knock on the wrong door in the wrong neighborhood. After she is brutally raped and left for dead, Catherine awakes with one thing on her mind: revenge.

In addition, they are presenting a Takashi Miike film - Crows Zero. Miike cuts through the subject matter [high school gang violence] at high-octane speed for a stylized, action-packed, and entertaining schoolyard brawl of a movie. The story centers around the character Genji Takaya (Shun Oguri), a newcomer to Suzuran High School who aims to conquer Suzuran. Genji makes a deal with his father, Hideo Takitani (Goro Kishitani) — if he can conquer the school, he will be allowed to succeed his father as the head of his yakuza syndicate.

Also, Indiefest is presenting Kurando Mitsutake’s Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf which screened at this year's Cinequest. While camping in the desert a family gets attacked by a notorious psychopath. The wife and daughter are slaughtered, and the man is forced to remove his own eyes. Eight years after the massacre, the man has returned to the desert town, now a highly trained samurai swordsman ready to seek justice. But he doesn't know there awaits seven assassins hired by his sworn enemy who want the bounty on his head. Set in nowhere, no time, this bloody modern day fable is a new age hybrid action film with a classic samurai essence and a spaghetti western spirit.

Morgue Story - Sangue, Baiacu, & Quadrinhos directed by Brazilian Paulo Biscaia. Ana Argento, an accomplished cartoon artist frustrated with her relationships meets two other lonely characters with peculiar lives. Tom is a chronic cataleptic who makes his living selling life insurance. Daniel Torres is a sociopath and rapist coroner. Their lives could only intersect in one place: the morgue.

Black Devil Doll directed by Jonathan Lewis. A young, moist, buxom teen vixen finds herself hurled into an odyssey of forbidden sex and unspeakable violence after an innocent evening dabbling in the occult. What started as a simple child's game has now become a fight for her life. What is this evil that she has summoned from beyond? And why does it have a ‘fro? What kind of horrific acts will she be subjected to? And what price will her super-hot, half-nude friends have to pay? But more importantly, how much Caucasian blood will have to be shed to stop the Black Devil Doll?!!"

The Pig People starring rapper and former Oakland resident Master P. After multiple unsolved murders took place in a rural community, myths began to spread about pig people who lived in an abandoned cabin hidden deep in the forest. A group of precocious college students decide to research and investigate the legend and head into the forest armed only with a camera and delusions of exposing the Pig People to the world.

Blood River - A nuanced fable that combines horror, drama and western influences. Clark and his pregnant wife Summer are driving through the Nevada desert on the way to deliver the news to her parents when their car breaks down. Taking refuge in a ghost town, the two meet a lone drifter who believes he is God’s avenger and sets his sites on the two to answer for their supposed crimes.

It looks like a good line-up. The festival pass is $100 and individual tickets are $10 (not including handling fee) so I will have to see 10 films to break even.