Saturday, November 19, 2011

Haight Sex and Hate Sex

I am so far behind in detailing the films I've seen. I've seen at least 30 films that I have not mentioned.


I mentioned in the last post that Noir City is having a kick off event on December 14 at the Castro Theater. The Balboa Theater is hosting "a fundraising event on Tuesday, December 13... We will show photos of San Francisco theaters 'then and now,' expanding on Peter Hartlaub’s recent study. We’ll preview the holiday movies and their awards chances. And have a great auction of movie goodies and more."

"Peter Hartlaub's recent study" is an interesting series on SF Gate showing photos of old San Francisco movie theaters. I recall two installments on November 3 and November 10 in his SF Gate blog, The Big Event.

My favorite photo is this one. The caption reads "HAIGHT THEATRE (Aug. 8, 1964): The theater in the Haight/Ashbury District showed first-run movies for decades, then became a counter-culture haven. The protest in this photo was during a brief attempt as a gay cinema house. (John McBride / The Chronicle)"

I particularly like the dark haired boy holding a sign that reads "Down with the 'ladies' We want Walt Disney!!!!" Whereas as the other boys look vaguely amused, this boy looks despondent; not to mention androgynous. Nothing invokes old fashioned American values than children picketing while holding anti-gay signs and demanding movies from an reputed anti-Semite. Another interesting aspect of this photo is that I don't see any adults encouraging the boys. Nowadays you see children at protests but they seem to be there at the behest of their parents or for publicity reasons. This trio of boys seem self-motivated.


After seeing Rita Moreno's performance last weekend, I walked a few blocks to the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas to see The Skin I Live In.

The Skin I Live In starring Antonio Banderas & Elena Anaya; directed by Pedro Almodóvar; Spanish with subtitles; 2011 - Official Website

I came away from the Castro Theater's August retrospective of Pedro Almodóvar's films with a greater appreciation for his work. Nothing I've seen prepared me for The Skin I Live In. Nominally a horror film, Almodóvar brings his considerable directorial skills to the genre. It progresses at its own pace and is told in non-linear fashion. It has the pacing and feel of Almodóvar best films but he brings a mad scientist to the plot this time. Antonio Banderas as Dr. Robert Legard (a plastic surgeon) suffers several tragedies as the film progresses and puts his medical skills to use.

I don't want to give away the plot twist but you don't realize until two thirds into the film how deranged the good doctor has become. The film implies that cloning of human cells is the extent of Legard's misbehavior but it goes much further than that. I guess the shapely woman, in the bodysuit, locked in a bedroom and constantly watched via close circuit television is an indication of Legard's insanity. The film kept me guessing about which twist was coming next. The only hint, I'll give is that in the end, Almodóvar remains true to his cinematic (and personal) roots. Actually, the blog title alludes to surprise also.

Antonio Banderas is getting old - he is 51. I'm not sure if he is aging gracefully but he is developing this craggy face which is well suited for the role. Banderas looks like he has been to hell and back which his character has been. He still retains a certain rugged handsomeness that masks (but not completely) the ugliness of Legard. Banderas seems much more capable an actor in Spanish than he did in any of his American films although I am a huge fan of Robert Rodriguez' Desperado.

Elena Anaya plays the woman in bodysuit. The character's name is Vera Cruz which provides insight into the plot. It is noted that Vera bears a resemblance to Legard's late wife and Almodóvar has fun developing that plot thread. Anaya played the pregnant wife in Point Blank. Vera Cruz is a bigger role. It's not a flashy role (until the end) but Anaya handles it satisfactorily.

Jan Cornet as Vincente has the best part in my opinion. He shows a wide range of emotions. As the film progresses Vincente's character is shaped into many dimensions and Cornet plays them all well. His is the pivotal role in the film but I won't say more.

Marisa Paredes, who has appeared in many of Almodóvar's film, shows up as the housekeeper in a small role but quietly impressive performance.

The Skin I Live In is not deeply satisfying but it is highly entertaining which can be said for many of Almodóvar's films. It feels a bit lightweight for Almodóvar who imbues his melodramas with a little bit extra. Still, The Skin I Live In is a film I can recommend without reservation.

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