Thursday, May 17


Adam Hartzell on Killer of Sheep

There are a lot of options for Frisco cinephiles this week. The Mission Creek Music/Film Festival wraps up Sunday with events at Artists' Television Access and the Lab. Film Night in the Park starts its summertime video series this Saturday with the Graduate in Washington Square Park. Nanook of the North plays the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum the same night. Naked Lunch plays as a midnight movie Friday and Saturday at the Clay. Both parts of Olympia screen at SFMOMA on Sunday (and again the following Sunday). You can follow along with some of the current Hollywood selections at the Cannes Film Festival by checking out Zodiac at the Red Vic Friday and Saturday, and Grindhouse all week at the theatre it was seemingly just about made for, the Parkway. And the Film on Film Foundation will present 16mm prints of Venom and Eternity and Christopher MacClaine's The End at the Roxie on Wednesday, May 23rd. That's just a sampling of the cinematic opportunities here; check my sidebar for more.

But no matter how many of the above events you attend, any self-respecting follower of non-mainstream cinema should have as the top priority of the week at least one screening of Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, playing May 18-24 at the Rafael, Shattuck and Castro Theatre in beautiful new 35mm prints. Before this year it had only been seen on 16mm prints, and reportedly they were often beat-up and scratchy ones at that. Still, the film made a strong impression on just about anybody who saw it. When Adam Hartzell, who occasionally contributes to Hell on Frisco Bay when he's not immersed in Korean cinema, heard the film was coming to town he immediately offered to write on it. Here's his piece:
Starting this weekend at the Castro Theatre, through the tireless efforts of many unsung individuals, San Franciscans will have the opportunity to see a film that has been kept from us for way too long. Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep will finally see the release it has deserved for many years, roughly 30 years after it was completed. Killer of Sheep was the culmination of Burnett's graduate work at UCLA. My understanding is that it has taken this long for it to receive its release because the film has been locked up in copyright wranglings regarding the jazz numbers used on the soundtrack. So those of us who have seen it have, perhaps, been involved in questionable practices. But we engage in such ambiguous practices not out of lawlessness, but out of strong interests in cultural documents that present to us moments of transcendence.

My only screening of this film was in April 2001 thanks to Joel Shepard bringing Charles Burnett to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (When Burnett was brought to the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley a few years later, they weren’t able to show Killer of Sheep due to the copyright issues. Why YBCA could screen it and PFA couldn’t, I don’t know. I’m guessing it has something to do with where the films legal matters were at the time of each screening.) Although I am always open to how my factual memory fails me, I feel quite confident in my emotional memory. I recall being completely captivated by this black and white homage to the everyday life of African-Americans in South Central Los Angeles.

Since Killer of Sheep was completed while Burnett was at university, Burnett used non-professional actors. In spite of this, or because of this, I found the film truly visionary. There is a deep sadness in the faces of many in this film, particularly the father who works in a slaughterhouse. But there is never pity. The sadness is clearly a part of the human condition, showing the working class without the buffer of buffoonery. Burnett says that he was reacting somewhat to the primary portrayals of blacks in cinema of the time, the caricatures of blaxploitation and the black characters that spoke more to a white community than to his own. Mind you, there is some humor and playfulness in the film, such as the refreshingly commonplace scene of a large appliance being moved around the house. And those who've seen David Gordon Green's debut film, George Washington, will experience the dissonance of allusion out of order caused by discovering that Green's masking of one of the children in his film was clearly a reference to Burnett's definitive work. But the film's main intent is human dignity for everyday people.

As demonstrated above, Killer of Sheep is often positioned against the dominant media portrayals of African-Americans at the time. But binaries and other oppositional frames are too easy. Christine Acham demonstrates the need to get beyond these oppositional frames in her book Revolution Televised: Prime Time and the Struggle for Black Power. She shows that even much maligned TV shows such as Julia (1968-71) and Good Times (1974-79) had their moments of resistant discourse if not through the shows but through what Robin D.G. Kelley calls "hidden transcripts", where the respective lead actresses of those shows, Diahann Carroll and Esther Rolle, sought agency within the counter-narratives permitted in mainstream magazines when they found they couldn't push the shows in the directions they desired. What Burnett accomplishes with this film is what many African-Americans maneuvering through the restrictive environments of movie and TV screens of the time hoped to negotiate with their crafts, to display their community with the deep respect denied them for so long. Not many were able to create the complete visions they aspired towards since much of the production and direction was outside their full control. Burnett accomplished what he did because he was outside the industry through the productive and supportive space of academia, where, at least during the era when Burnett attended, making money from ones academic projects wasn’t a concern. Then his art ran into the commodification of another art form and his work was suppressed for a few decades.

But it's finally here for us to enjoy free of ethical dilemmas. Persistence pays off. Just like many of us were anxious with anticipation to finally see Tears of a Black Tiger, a very different film than Killer of Sheep, earlier this year after its sentence to release-limbo, the long-term investments many have made in this work will pay off with experiential dividends. (Interestingly, both these films were released from release-limbo the very same year that the Catholic Church abolishes the whole theological concept of the "State of Limbo".) Yes, I have many more American films to see, but I'm confident Killer of Sheep will maintain its rightful place in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry as one of the greatest American films ever made.

Friday, May 11


Film Festival Democracy

I wasn't able to attend the State of the Cinema address given by Peter Sellars at the 50th SF International Film Festival, so I'm extremely glad that sf360 has posted a transcript. As usual, this year's address is a must-read, painful and witty and inspirational all at once. I'm not surprised hear that some of those who attended in person teared up. Sellars sees the artist as social force, a legacy he traces from Boethius to Mozart to Rithy Panh and the New Crowned Hope filmmakers. And he can both joke about Jamaican beer and speak eloquently on the importance of art for true democracy, especially in an age of such major globalization. Here's a favorite paragraph in the text:
One of the most maddening things about our information system is that it's the Western correspondent standing in Tiananmen Square telling you something. But you're still not a Chinese person. You're still not placed deeply and seeing the world through Chinese eyes. And the way our correspondent system works, is you're always seeing the world through Western eyes -- wherever that person is standing -- and so you're not actually getting a different view of the world. The power of new aboriginal cinema is that you're actually seeing the world through the eyes of a young aboriginal woman. For the first time in human history. And you know what? The world looks different.
Somehow Sellars' words bring me to the festival's annual audience awards, which were just announced. The collective audience's favorite documentary was a Walk to Beautiful, Mary Olive Smith's film on Ethiopian teenagers afflicted by obstetric fistula. For the first time in my memory, the festival announced four runner-up films also balloted strongly by audiences: Forever, the Rape of Europa, When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts and Wonders Are Many, which showed Sellars at work directing the opera Doctor Atomic.

The award for best narrative feature went to El Violin from Mexico (which also won the festival's first-time filmmaker prize,) with Sounds of Sand made in Djibouti by a Belgian filmmaker, Vanaja from South India, the Yacoubian Building from Egypt, and Zolykha's Secret from Afghanistan as runners-up. It's worth noting that all five of these films were made in parts of the world where the effects of globalization are relatively invisible to those of us in the West. Not all of them would fit under Sellars's rubric of a "new aboriginal cinema," but it's clear that SFIFF audiences appreciate world cinema beyond the usual suspects of France, Italy, Japan, etc.

I didn't see either of the winners, but I have seen two runners-up in each category. On the documentary side, my own preferences seem to line up well with the aggregated audience's: I too loved Forever, and Wonders Are Many was among the more precious of gems I found at my first-ever trip to Sundance this past January. On the other hand, I would not have voted highly for the two narrative runners-up I saw: Sounds of Sand, which I've said enough on for now here, and the Yacoubian Building, which I watched last night. But while Sounds of Sand feels like the opposite of "new aboriginal cinema" because its perspective on Africa is so clearly that of the European director, the Yacoubian Building is clearly an authentic expression of an Egyptian zeitgeist, and I'm thoroughly glad I watched it. Its stature as a grand multi-character epic does not conceal the fact that a good number of its characters slip in and out of being portrayed as appalling caricatures, but I'm absolutely fascinated by its reception by Egyptian and foreign audiences alike, as well as its reception by the Egyptian government, which the film seemingly critiques in multiple storylines. Most notably that of a newly-fanaticized Islamist student organizer, whose beliefs that his government is too secular are portrayed very sympathetically, especially in the way he is brutally crushed for them. I really would have loved to have been able to hear director Marwan Hamed speak after the screening. But I understood his preference, after having already appeared in person at two screenings, to attend the official closing night gala screening of La Vie En Rose instead. Especially after hearing Edith Piaf songs generously laced into the Yacoubian Building's soundtrack.

But just because these two runners-up don't mesh precisely with my own political and aesthetic preferences in cinema, doesn't make me wary of the winning film El Violin; on the contrary I'm excited to hear it's being released by Film Movement. In certain previous years the Audience Award has gone to films I liked very much, such as Sprited Away in 2002 and Me and You and Everyone We Know in 2005. Though I briefly imagined how cool it would be for Guy Maddin's incredible Brand Upon the Brain! to win after I realized that everyone I talked to post-screening seemed to love it as much as I did, I also recognized that my sample may have been a bit skewed and my friends are not likely to be the most reliable ballot-submitters in the crowd. My other favorite new film of the festival was Opera Jawa, one of the seven films commissioned by Sellars, Simon Field and Keith Griffith for New Crowned Hope, but I must admit I'd have been shocked had a film with such an unconventionally presented narrative won the audience award. The other New Crowned Hope commission in the festival, Daratt, is the festival film I most regret missing this year. I fervently hope it sees the dark of a local theatre again soon, but its distributor, Artmattan, is not one I recognize as consistently getting its films into Frisco Bay theatres.

Daratt's festival screening was a co-presentation with both the Black Film Festival and the Museum of the African Diaspora, which are presenting a program at the latter venue May 21-23. The Black Film Festival runs in earnest on the weekends of June 7-10 and 14-17, though its schedule is not up yet. Both organizations also co-presented the film Bamako, named for Mali's capital and largest city, and from May 18 through September 23rd MoAD will host a photography exhibition inspired by a biennial photography festival held there. Perfect timing for Bamako's June 1st theatrical release at the Rafael, Shattuck and Lumiere Theatres. These theatres, and others such as the Embarcadero, will be playing a number of 50th SFIFF films in the coming months. The Rape of Europa and Fay Grim open at the Embarcadero May 18th. Brand Upon the Brain! is scheduled for the Lumiere from June 15-21, Flanders is expected there June 22-28, and SFIFF members-only screening selection the Boss of it All June 29-July 5. And I suspect still more are on the horizon.

Wednesday, May 9


SFIFF Golden Gate Award Winners

I didn't attend the ceremony myself, but I've just been made aware of the winners of the winners of the Golden Gate Awards for the 50th SF International Film Festival. I've seen a few of them.

The Golden Gate Awards (GGAs) are a tradition that go back to the first edition of the SFIFF in 1957, when Shirley Temple Black presented the best picture award to Pather Panchali. Satjajit Ray won for his directing of the film, and Heinz Ruhmann (The Captain from Köpenick) and Dolores Dorn-Heft (Uncle Vanya) for acting. At some point along the way it became an award focusing on non-fiction, television and short-form works. Reading this fascinating interview with Brian Gordon, who organized the GGAs from the late 1980s through the 1990s, one gets the impression that it was once one of the most highly-regarded awards around in documentary filmmaking circles. These days it seems that Sundance and Oscar have brighter feathers available to adorn a lucky and talented documentary or short-form filmmaker's cap, but I suspect there will be a little more attention garnered on these GGA winners than in recent years, given the added cachet of the festival's 50-year milestone:

Documentary Feature: Souvenirs, Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat (Israel, 2006)
Bay Area Documentary Feature: the Key of G, Robert Arnold (USA, 2006)
Documentary Short: Sari’s Mother, James Longley (USA, 2006)
Bay Area Documentary Short: Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott, Betsy Bayha (USA, 2006)
Narrative Short: The Tube With a Hat, Radu Jude (Romania, 2006)
Bay Area Non-Documentary Short: Muse of Cinema, Kerry Laitala (USA, 2006)
Animated Short: Never Like the First Time!, Jonas Odell (Sweden, 2006)
New Visions: Dear Bill Gates, Sarah J. Christman (USA, 2006)
Work for Kids and Families: The Fan and the Flower, Bill Plympton (USA, 2006)
Youth Work: Focus, Edward Elliott (USA, 2006)

I regret that I didn't see any of the eligible documentary features this year. The one I heard the most positive buzz on was Audience of One, but I have a feeling I'll get another shot sometime, maybe at a place like the Roxie or the Red Vic (speaking of that theatre, its May calendar is up and includes the Frisco return of Inland Empire May 11-13). I did see nearly all the eligible documentary shorts though, and if I was rooting for the Days and the Hours for its simple poetry or the Fighting Cholitas for its irresistible subjects, I won't argue with awarding the fourth and probably most emotionally devastating piece made by James Longley as part of his Iraq in Fragments project. Though Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott apparently played at the last Mill Valley Film Festival as well, I didn't see it then either, and it was the only GGA-eligible short doc I missed this year.

The Tube With a Hat, made by Radu Jude, the assistant director of the Death of Mr. Lazarescu deservedly added the narrative short GGA to its list of festival prizes. It's hard to compare with Lazarescu, but the other films in its category were a pretty lackluster bunch. In the animated short category, I think the stylish and (when not rather disturbing) funny devirginization film Never Like the First Time! was a good choice, though I personally liked the menacing whimsy of Tyger even better. It uses an effective anthropomorphic metaphor (courtesy William Blake) to illustrate fear and powerlessness felt in São Paolo, Brazil, but unlike Manda Bala its brief running time prevents the metaphor from beating you over the head over and over. Since its technique relied more on puppetry than proper animation I can understand why it might not have won the award. The Fan and the Flower is the only film in the Works For Kids And Families category I've seen, but I liked it, even if it's a little odd to see Bill Plympton doing poignant.

I didn't see any of the Youth Works, but I might try to catch their final screening tomorrow at 1PM at the Kabuki. The shorts program I most regretted missing was Bliss and Ignorance, which contained most of the films in the GGA New Visions category, including Kerry Laitala's Muse of Cinema. However, the fact that the other prizewinner Dear Bill Gates had been on a program I did see, but that I wasn't particularly blown away by it, makes me wonder if my tastes in experimental film are out of whack with the jury, or perhaps the New Visions curating team? I found Dear Bill Gates to be an interesting but none-too-revolutionary personal essay augmented by images of web-surfing and clips found through the Prelinger Archive, and I liked the other two New Visions films I did get to see (Watercolor at Night Montage No. 7 and especially Harrachov) better.

The GGAs for television work had as usual been previously announced; only the winners (including the German thriller Rage by Züli Aladag) screened at the festival. The SKYY Prize for best first feature went to the Violin by Mexico's Francisco Vargas. The FIPRESCI Prize went to Pas Douce by France's Jeanne Waltz. The SFIFF's newest competitive award, the Chris Holter Award for Humor in Film, went to Pavel Giroud's Cuban coming-of-age tale the Silly Age. I didn't see any of these myself, unfortunately, and as far as I know only the Violin has been picked up for distribution, by Film Movement. The audience awards will presumably be announced by the festival tomorrow evening.

Sunday, May 6


50th International [Music and] Film Festival

Somehow, when I was putting together my recent piece on silent films at the currently-running 50th SF International Film Festival, I neglected to mention Jonathan Richman's performance of a brand-new original score to Victor Sjöström's the Phantom Carriage. Other reactions to the event can be found here and here among other places. My own reaction was rather mixed. I sympathize with shahn's dislike of the trend of having "any old musician" put together scores to silent films. However, I do think Richman put real effort into bending his compositional sensibilities to the needs of the film. He had an eight-piece orchestra of acoustic instruments, all of which would have been available for a silent film composer in 1921 to use had one wanted to. And he composed some lovely themes for various characters. But the score unfortunately was rarely able to sustain and propel changing moods, a function whose importance to a narrative film score cannot be stressed enough. I think the orchestration was hampered by too little oomph in the low end; there was a cello player and a mini bell choir which provided a nice touch in several key places, but no other percussion or bass in the group. You don't know how much you miss the pedal points of a good organist or piano player until they're absent. One thing I noticed was that whenever Richman put down his guitar and played a harmonium he'd brought on stage, the sound became much fuller and, to my ears, more effective.

Considering it was (from what I understand) Richman's first try scoring a silent film, I was pleased with the outcome and would like to see him continue developing in this direction. It didn't work quite as well for me as some of the other silent film - rock and roll pairings the SFIFF has wrangled in recent years, but I think part of that comes from the fact that I'd never seen the film before, having missed it twice when it played at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive a few years ago. I don't think I'd mark the Phantom Carriage among the Outlaw and His Wife and Fire on Board as one of my favorites of Sjöström's Swedish films anyway, though. The photography is superb as I expected, but the story itself, as well as the way it is told in elaborately nested flashbacks, is somehow too distancing. I'd like to have another viewing of this gorgeous Janus restoration with another score though; perhaps my mind would change.

Last night's live music/silent film event entitled Notes to a Toon Underground, also held at the Castro, was more satisfying; for the most part it was glorious. It didn't start out that way, though. I was immediately disappointed that the copy of Wladyslaw Starewicz's undead insect puppet show the Cameraman's Revenge screened was on DigiBeta instead of film, but considering that it was by far the oldest animation in the program (the only one truly from the "silent era") I tried to be forgiving. Presumably it's not an easy print to track down. Programmer Sean Uyehara noted that there were more than enough "fragile and worrisome moving parts" in the program as it was. Interestingly, an archivist friend I attended with mentioned that the Cameraman's Revenge is one of the earliest known films to make reference to the dangerous inflammability of nitrate film stock. The music was provided by Xiu Xiu, playing at approximately their most raucous and alienating extreme, filled with electronically augmented crescendos of screams, moans and crashes. Which would have worked very well as underscore for Starewicz's grotesquely explosive finale, but carried through the entire 13-minute running time with very little dynamic modulation I found it completely undercut the ironic qualities found in Starewicz's juxtaposition of quaint domestic farce and dead beetles. My friend was more charitable, calling it "music for insects" if I'm quoting correctly. Maybe I'm just growing stodgier when it comes to unconventional scores for classic films.

As soon as Jim Trainor's films starting rolling out on 16mm prints, though, my concerns about the evening completely evaporated. Whether it was because the films are more recent or far less narratively-inclined, or because they were shown on celluloid, or because they were accompanied by a different set of musicians (including Marc Capelle, Jason Lytle, Carla Fabrizio, William Winant, Bart Davenport, Virgil Shaw, Gary Simms, and more), but for the most part the image and music felt telepathically in tune with each other, and with my own aesthetic preferences as well. I was ecstatic just being able to see nine of Trainor's more rarely-shown works, including the willowy the Bat and the Virgin, the loopy Plants, and the queasy Minor Deities, which adds to the evidence that animation is one of the best artistic mediums available for dealing with microbes. It's also perfectly suited for depicting evolution, at least in a fun, more abstract than scientific manner like that used in the National Film Board of Canada shorts Evolution and the Bead Game. Trainor made at least two contributions to this genre early in his career, From Microbe to Man and Antrozous, but nearly all of his films feel like they are in dialogue with evolution-related concepts. Torn Up felt like pure abstraction, albeit a delightful brand of which I'd never seen before, but Leafy, Leafy Jungle uses a very similar technique in bright colors to show the evidence of invisible caterpillars and/or animators on their environment. And as for the most beautifully abstract bits of animation, Blood and a Net, I can hardly imagine seeing them without the pulse-pounding music provided by the musicians in the Castro's makeshift orchestra pit. Any chance the festival was recording this and we might be able to see and hear it on a DVD someday?

It wasn't just the Trainor films on the program that particularly benefited from the live musical accompaniment. I'd never seen Emily Hubley's the Tower or David Russo's Populi before, but the scores heard last night beat the pants off the ones seen in the brief clips found online. Not that Gustav Holst's Mars, the Bringer of War isn't a great piece, and Populi may have been edited to it, but the epic riffing a la Big Black Sabbath provided by Good For Cows was even more appropriately adrenalized. And though must admit I wasn't too kicked over her other two pieces in the program, I really loved Kelly Sears's Devil's Canyon, a digital collage of the absurdist culture of disposability in the modern-day Wild West that for some reason reminded me a bit of Martha Colburn's Destiny Manifesto from the At the Edge shorts program, only funnier, thanks in part to a wry voiceover. Alongside the music by Jet Black Crayon, this narration was spoken live by Pete Simonelli, whose voice sounded something like the way a Stim-U-Lax Massager (I think that's the one my barber uses) feels. I spoke with Sears briefly after the show and she assured me that the voice in the original film was very similar.

Thursday, May 3


Return of the Short Ends

I've taken a day or so off from the 50th SF International Film Festival. Here's a few relatively quick, (mostly) non-SFIFF-related film tidbits for any cinephiles on Frisco Bay who might want to think about non-festival films for a few minutes.

1. The Stanford Theatre has its new program schedule up. Tomorrow night it's hosting a double-bill of two Madame Butterfly adaptations: Anna May Wong in the silent Toll of the Sea, with Jim Riggs at the organ, alongside the rarely-seen 1932 version starring Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant. Saturday and Sunday it's a double-bill of Cat People and the Curse of the Cat People. Then the theatre hosts a 20-film Katherine Hepburn centennial tribute, starting with her debut in George Cukor's 1932 a Bill of Divorcement May 11-13 (on a double bill with Cukor's the Philadelphia Story) and concluding with Desk Set June 22-24, which plays with the Hepburn-free Bells Are Ringing. This Vincente Minnelli film stars Judy Holliday who, probably inspired by her pairing with Hepburn in Adam's Rib (playing May 18-20,) is getting a six-film tribute of her own alongside the Hepburn series.

2. The Another Hole in the Head Film Festival has its new calendar up, and from June 1-14, 2007 at the Roxie, the festival will run concurrently with something called the Indiefest: Gets Animated sidebar, which will feature animated features and shorts programs, some of which are even dubbed "kid friendly"- I bet Holehead fans weren't expecting that one. Though I must admit I found the film opening one "kid friendly" program (June 2 & 6) to be rather creepy- perfect for creepy kids, I guess. The film is called Loom and it's an intricate piece of stop motion made by Scott Kravitz in Noe Valley. Loom is also playing this year's SFIFF though with a completely different set of companion films, some of which are decidedly not "kid friendly". It's on a solid, eclectic, independent animation program called Frame By Frame, which has one more screening May 6th at SFMOMA.

Back to HoleHead. I'm sure there will still be plenty of completly depraved, absolutely repulsive, totally entertaining horror films on view as well. Blood Car and Hazard look like they may be prime examples. I can't figure out whether Richard Elfman's 1980 cult oddity Forbidden Zone was programmed for the main festival or the sidebar, as it contains horror film aspects (its setting in Hell and other dimensions, its random violence, and its eager-to-offend spirit) but also mixes live-action with animation (think Fleischer Brothers on the cheap, not Who Framed Roger Rabbit). At any rate, it's screening at 11:45 PM June 2nd, with the director (elder brother of Danny Elfman, who put together the soundtrack and plays Satan) in attendance.

3. The Roxie is also opening the Pervert's Guide to Cinema on May 11th. I just got back from a screening of it at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This is my first real exposure to Slavoj Zizek firsthand, and I guess shaking up current wisdom is a big part of his schtick, but I'm not sure I buy that many of his arguments on the meaning of sound and image in cinema. For example, his characterization of silent cinema as childlike seemed completely out of whack to me after recently reading Kevin Brownlow's Behind the Mask of Innocence, but perhaps I missed that Zizek was only meaning to comment on Charlie Chaplin's use of silence and sound, and not an entire medium's. Out of whack or not, though, he's got some fun and clever ways to make his points. Seeing big screen juxtapositions of certain clips, like those from the Conversation and Psycho, got me excited about the form of analysis he and director Sophie Fiennes are using. And it definitely makes me want to check out a few films I haven't seen yet, like Dead of Night and Pluto's Judgment Day.

4. I haven't spotted the new calendar for the Red Vic Movie House yet, but it will be playing the hip-hop documentary Rock the Bells from June 8-14.

5. Lincoln Specter notes that one of the last single-screen theatres in Marin County, the Lark, is in impending financial trouble, and its owners are trying to raise funds to purchase the theatre outright in order to avert closing. The theatre's accepting donations, but I bet a spike in attendance would be welcome as well. It's playing Hot Fuzz through May 10, and on the 11th starts showing the Wind That Shakes the Barley.

6. And finally, some good news from the Four Star theatre: Every Friday during June and July the Richmond district venue will host a double-bill of Asian films. A sample, on June 8th: Infernal Affairs plays with the old-school martial arts picture Knight Errant. Another example, on July 13th: Shintaro Katsu's last entry in his famous series, Zatoichi 26, paired with the incredible Helen Ma as the Deaf and Mute Heroine. The full list can be found here.

Wednesday, May 2


An Afternoon at the Opera

Good news regarding Opera Jawa for those who only got to see it at the SF International Film Festival screening at the Kabuki this past Monday. Apparently the screening was plagued with projection problems (rumor has it that somehow the film leader itself was causing the projector to shut down after each reel, which when compounded with the interlocked projection system in Houses 5 & 6, created a very chaotic situation, with the film stopping, sound cutting, etc.)

But the festival is doing the right thing and adding another screening at the Kabuki on May 10th, the final day of the festival, at 2:30 PM. Actually I don't know for sure that the added screening has anything to do with Monday's afflicted screening, but in any case it's a good decision. If you have the slightest interest in dance, gamelan, the Ramayana, Indonesia, or even just the kind of creativity in set and costume design that transcends the criteria seemingly used to hand out Oscars, you really must make Opera Jawa a priority. I caught it at the Castro on Sunday, but I may just decide to see it again next Thursday, since it's a time slot during which nothing else is particularly attracting me. I mean, I must admit I have a tinge of morbid curiosity to know if Eagle Vs. Shark is really the Kiwi Napoleon Dynamite knock-off it appears to be from its poster, trailer, etc. But I'd rather use the time to rewatch a beguiling film that may not be screened again in Frisco anytime soon.

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