Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 San Francisco International Film Festival

It's been over three weeks since the festival ended so I'm a little late in posting.  Three events have postponed by post.  First, I saw over 20 films at Elliot Lavine's I Wake Up Dreaming at the Roxie earlier this month.  Second, Google changed their Blogspot  user interface.  I find it much harder to compose this post.  Finally, I've been taking a chess class.  Yes, once upon a time I was an avid chess player.  The class has reawakened my interest in chess.


The San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) ran from April 19 to May 3.  I saw 25 films but I did something deeply offensive - I wasted money by buying tickets to 28 screening but only saw 25.

I skipped out on the screening to Where Do We Go Now? on April 27 as I needed to go to exercise and was fatigued at the halfway point of the festival.  Too tired to watch films but not too tired to workout.  I was also confident in the knowledge that Where Do We Go Now? was opening at the Landmark Theaters in May.

I also had a ticket to see Wuthering Heights on May 2 but abandoned the screening at the last minute to see Louise Brooks in A Girl In Every Port at the Stanford.

Finally, I made a mistake in reading the schedule and bought tickets to Rebellion and Hysteria on May 3.  The screening of the two films overlapped so I had to make a choice.  I was leaning towards Hysteria but noticed it is also opening at the Landmark Theaters in May so I attended Rebellion.  I was able to donate that ticket to a festival volunteer.

I saw all feature length films and none of them had short films preceding them.  I saw one films at the Castro and PFA each, four at the Viz which is now officially called the Film Society Cinema and 19 at the Sundance Kabuki.  This year, I saw more screenings in Auditoriums 2, 7 and 8 than any previous year.  In past years,  Auditoriums 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were the mainstays.  Auditoriums 2, 7 and 8 are smaller than the others so I wonder if attendance was down or if the Film Society decided to rent smaller auditoriums this year.

Also, the April 22 screening of Ethel was delayed by nearly an hour due to a fire alarm in the Kabuki.

The 25 films I saw were:

Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella and the voice of Peter Saarsgard; with Susan Sarandon, James Marsden & Liv Tyler; directed by Jake Schreier; (2011)
The Giants starring Zacharie Chasseriaud, Martin Nissen & Paul Bartel; directed by Bouli Lanners; French with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Wu Xia starring Donnie Yen & Takeshi Kaneshiro; directed by Peter Chan; Mandarin with subtitles; (2011)
Dreileben - Beats Being Dead starring Jacob Matschenz & Luna Mijovic; directed by Christian Petzold; German with subtitles; (2011)
Dreileben - Don't Follow Me Around starring Jeanette Hain, Susanne Wolff & Misel Maticevic; directed by Dominik Graf; German with subtitles; (2011)
People Mountain People Sea starring Chen Jianbin; directed by Shangjun Cai; Mandarin with subtitles; (2011)
Ethel; directed by Rory Kennedy; documentary (2012)
I Wish starring Koki & Oshiro Maeda; directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda; Japanese with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Headhunters starring Aksel Hennie & Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; directed by Morten Tyldum; Norwegian with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Polisse starring Joey Starr; directed by Maïwenn; French with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Last Screening starring Pascal Cervo; directed by Laurent Achard; French with subtitles (2011) - Official Website
Unfair World; directed by Filippos Tsitos; Greek with subtitles; Greek with subtitles; (2011)  
Mosquita y Mari starring Fenessa Pineda & Venecia Troncoso; directed by Aurora Guerrero; English and Spanish with subtitles; (2012)
Cherry starring Ashley Hinshaw; with James Franco, Heather Graham & Dev Patel; directed by Stephen Elliott; (2012) - Official Website  
Somebody Up There Like Me starring Keith Poulson; with Nick Offerman; directed by Bob Byington; (2012) - Official Website
Quadrophenia starring Phil Daniels; with Sting & Ray Winstone;  directed by Franc Roddam; (1979)
Compliance starring Dreama Walker, Ann Dowd & Pat Healy; directed by Craig Zobel; (2012) - Official Website
Dreileben - One Minute of Darkness; directed by Christoph Hochhäusler; German with subtitles; (2011)
Life Without Principle starring Ching Wan Lau and Denise Ho; Cantonese with subtitles; directed by Johnnie To; (2011)
Luv starring Common & Michael Rainey Jr.; with Dennis Haysbert & Danny Glover; directed by Sheldon Candis; (2012)
The Waiting Room; directed by Peter Nicks; documentary; (2012) - Official Website
Choked; directed by Joong-Hyun Kim; Korean with subtitles; (2011)
Policeman; directed by Nadav Lapid; Hebrew with subtitles; (2011)
Rebellion starring Mathieu Kassovitz & Iabe Lapacas; directed by Mathieu Kassovitz; French with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Twixt starring Val Kilmer & Elle Fanning; with Bruce Dern; directed by Francis Ford Coppola; (2011) - Official Website


Given my SF Indiefest experience, I think I was too ambitious in scheduling 27 (or 28 depending on how you count) films for the festival.

Headhunters and Polisse (along with Where Do We Go Now? and Hysteria) are currently playing at Landmark Theaters.  I always struggle when selecting film screenings at festivals like SFIFF.  I don't want to miss a good film but I also don't want to see a film which will be released later.

Film which I enjoyed were Mosquita y Mari, a story about two teenage Latinas with an intense friendship which also screens at Frameline in June, Somebody Up There Like Me from mumblecore stalwart Bob Byington which feature a tremendous performance from Nick Offerman in a supporting role, the high-octane thriller Headhunters (which has come and gone from local Landmark Theaters), Rebellion, a taut political thriller about an armed insurrection in New Caledonia in the 1980s and I Wish, a sweet-natured film from Kore-eda about two brothers who are separated by the divorce of their parents.

A step below are films which I enjoyed but had some serious plot deficiencies or I just didn't click with - Cherry explores the world of porn (and tacks on a semi-happy ending that seemed out of left field), Johnnie To's Life Without Principle creates an intersection between gangsters, hedge funds and the credit crisis, Ethel was made by Rory Kennedy (RFK's youngest child) spent too much time on RFK and not enough on his widow, Polisse was a slightly too melodramatic depiction of a dysfunctional police unit investigating child sex crime, Luv featured tremendous performances all around as an ex-con tries to go legit while his nephew tags along, Choked was a South Korean import about the sins of the mother being passed onto her son, Policeman, about an Israeli anti-terrorist unit and the radicals they eventually confront, had some uneven performances but was my favorite of the "second-rounders" and finally Dreileben - Beats Being Dead was my favorite of the three Dreileben films screened at the festival because it focused on a complex and ultimately exploitive relationship between a German med student and a Serbian immigrant in Germany.

Robot and Frank was the first film I saw at the festival and I was impressed at the time but after seeing the other films and upon further reflection, the film was a bit predictable and mawkish but did feature a nice performance by Frank Langella and outstanding voice performance by Peter Saarsgard.

Quadrophenia was also interesting but felt too dated to be anything more than a period piece.  It was nice to see Ray Winstone skinny and Sting preening around like a peacock.

The Giants, Compliance and The Waiting Room were difficult films for me to watch; not so much entertaining as interesting in a morbid way.  The Giants was like Stand By Me on crack, Compliance was the factually accurate retelling of a shocking incident demonstrating the pitfalls of blind obedience and The Waiting Room put human faces on the current health care crisis.

Twixt was kind of interesting but not my genre.  ACT Core Acting Company performer Anthony Fusco has a supporting role in the film.

I fell asleep during Wu Xia, People Mountain People Sea and Unfair World.

That leaves the other two Dreileben films.  They weren't bad but compared unfavorably to Beats Being Dead.  My order of preference of the three films (from favorite to least favorite) were Beats Being Dead,  Don't Follow Me Around and One Minute of Darkness.  It's all a matter of taste though.  Chatting with Jason Wiener on the bus ride to BART one evening, he mentioned he preferred the films in the exact opposite order.