Sunday, July 1, 2012

Confessions of a Francophile (Part 1 of 2)

I am half Japanese so I have a bias towards Japanese films.  I also enjoy Chinese films.  I recently wasted an hour during the weekend watching Zhang Yimou's Hero (2002) on television; a film which I have seen numerous times.  Despite the Asian population it the Bay Area, it seems clear to me that the cinematic foreign language of choice is French. 

I have to admit, I'm a big fan of many French films and directors.  Godard's Breathless (1960) and Contempt (1963) are among my favorites as is Jules Dassin's Rififi (1955).  More recently, I was supremely impressed with Claire Denis' Beau Travail (1999) and Daniel Auteuil's turn in The Closet (2001) still brings a smile to my face. 

I'm clearly taking advantage of the many French offerings being screened in Bay Area theaters.  I am greatly anticipating Mick LaSalle's upcoming series at the Roxie focusing on modern French actresses.

Over the past three months, I've seen 10 French films I've yet to document here.

The Kid With a Bike starring Thomas Doret & Cécile De France; directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne; French with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Children of Paradise starring Arletty; directed by Michael Carné; French with subtitles; (1945)
Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle starring Joëlle Miquel & Jessica Forde; directed by Eric Rohmer; French with subtitles; (1987)
La Rayon Vert starring Marie Rivière; directed by Eric Rohmer; French with subtitles; (1986)
Grand Illusion starring Jean Gabin & Pierre Fresnay; with Erich von Stroheim, directed by Jean Renoir; French, German & English with subtitles; (1937)
The Wages of Fear starring Yves Montand; directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot; most French with subtitles; (1953)
Hôtel du Nord starring Annabella, Louis Jouvet & Arletty; directed by Michael Carné; French with subtitles; (1938)
Romantics Anonymous starring Benoît Poelvoorde & Isabelle Carré; directed by Jean-Pierre Améris; French with subtitles; (2010)
A View of Love starring Jean Dujardin & Marie-Josée Croze; directed by Nicole Garcia; French with subtitles; (2010)
Empty Days starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi & Patrick Dell'Isola; directed by Marion Vernoux; French with subtitles; (1999)


The real confession I have to make is that I went to Sacramento see a few films...and I liked it.  I cannot recall the last time I went through the Caldecott Tunnel much less Sacramento for any reason except work.  With the exception of the PFA, I rarely venture to the East Bay proper much less the Central Valley.  I've pretty much confined myself to the City with occasional trips to the Stanford Theater and the two weeks of Cinequest in San Jose.

However, I've been eyeing a trio of Sacramento film festivals for a few years now.  The Sacramento International Film Festival (SIFF) is held in April, the Sacramento French Film Festival (SFFF) is held in June and the Sacramento Japanese Film Festival (SJFF) is held in July.  Unfortunately, the SIFF conflicts with the SFIFF.  This year, the SJFF conflicts with the SFSFF.  That's too bad because I would have probably gone to Sacramento to see the SJFF screenings of A Good Husband, A Boy and His Samurai and Yoji Yamada's Kabei: Our Mother.  Not wanting to delay my Sacramento trip for another year, I decided to spend a weekend in Sac for the SFFF.

I was also interested in seeing the Crest Theatre on K Street in Downtown Sacramento.  With a main auditorium that can seat nearly 1,000 people, the Crest is an old-time movie palace on par with the Castro.  The Crest has subdivided what was probably the balcony into two smaller screening rooms which can seat 180 each.  That indicates the original theater could hold somewhere around 1,400 people which is about the capacity of the Castro. 

Opened in 1949 and restored for $1 Million in 1995, the Crest is a little more upscale than the Castro but nowhere near as glitzy as the Paramount in Oakland.  The first 10 or so rows are slightly raked while the back section is 20 or more rows of steep, stadium-style seating.  You enter the theater from the left or right of the auditorium via the main aisle which separates the upper and lower sections.  I didn't get to see the smaller screening rooms.  The lobby is split level with the concession counter and restrooms on one level and a lounge with photos and artifacts on the lower level.  The men's restrooms has a large anteroom which I imagine was used as a smoking room.  What looks like the original urinals are still in use; remarkably maintained I might add. 

Street parking was difficult in the area as the streets were metered on Saturdays.  Not to worry, the Crest provided parking validation for City of Sacramento Parking Garages; the closest being the Capitol Garage which you enter from 10th Street between K and L Streets.  Ask for the validation at the concession counter.

I went to the SFFF during its first weekend (June 16-17) and saw Hôtel du Nord, Romantics Anonymous, A View of Love & Empty Days.  I could have watched two more films but the timing wasn't good.  It was brutally hot in Sacramento that weekend & I was anxious to get back home.  The traffic was unusually bad for an early Sunday afternoon.  It took me over two hours to get from downtown Sacramento to the Financial District and I didn't see any accidents.  Although I drove, I wished I had taken the train instead.  Slightly more expensive than driving, I would have been saved the stress of the traffic and stifling heat which my car's air conditioner could not keep up with. 

I saw a flyer for Trash Film Orgy (TFO) which is hosting a midnite movies series at the Crest every Saturday night from July 14 to August 18.  Battle Royale is screening July 21 but it's the Five Deadly Venoms (August 11) and to a lesser extent Flesh Gordon (August 4) which I'm targetting.  The Sacramento Amtrak station is about five blocks from the Crest so I may take the train if I go. 

It turns out I like quite a bit of the schlock that TFO screens.  I've seen about 30 of the films they've screened in the past decade.  They even screened Switchblade Sisters (Jack Hill, 1975) a few years ago.  That's an exploitation film I've long wished the Maniac or Another Hole in the Head would screen.  Jesse has screened the trailer but not the film. 

Three of the SFFF features were preceded by short films.

Rendez-Vous directed by Yohann Gloaguen; French with subtitles; (2011)
Révolution directed by Nadia Jandeau; French with subtitles; (2011)
Dripped directed by Leo Verrier; animinated; no dialogue; (2010) - Official Website

Dripped can be seen on YouTube.

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