Take 50

Our picks for the SF International Film Festival
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TAKE 50: SF INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

THURS/26

*Golden Door (Emanuele Crialese, Italy/France, 2006). Epic in scope, playful in its stylistic shifts and tonal splices, and sumptuous in its painterly framing and use of light, Golden Door looks on an age-old American saga - an immigrant family's crossing from the Old World to the new - with startlingly fresh, impassioned eyes. Director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro) turns his sometimes wry, sometimes tender focus on a band of illiterate Sicilian peasants drawn from their dirt-poor village by pre-Photoshop pictures of giant chickens and trees laden with enormous gold coins. Led by an intrepid yet ignorant patriarch (Respiro's Vincenzo Amato) and a comical spiritual fixer of a grandmother (Aurora Quattrocchi), the group is joined in steerage by a cryptic gentlewoman (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Ellis Island and its proto-eugenic experiments await - along with dream sequences that fluidly transmit the otherworldly magic of the villagers' forthcoming American mystery tour. (Kimberly Chun)

7 p.m., Castro. Opening night film and party at City Hall, $85-$125

FRI/27

Black Sheep (Jonathan King, New Zealand, 2006). Something is going baaaaaad in Lord of the Rings country. The usual science experiment-gone-wrong results in the usual creature rampage, as sheep go George Romero on humans at a rural New Zealand ranch. This jolly, diverting, ultimately too-silly horror comedy from neophyte writer-director Jonathan King is duly funny. Still, it overstays its one-joke welcome by a bleat or three. (Dennis Harvey)

10:45 p.m., Kabuki

*A Few Days Later ... (Niki Karimi, Iran, 2006). Already a star from her appearances in Tahmineh Milani's overwrought - but much beloved - melodramas, Iranian actress Niki Karimi looked to the grand master, Abbas Kiarostami, for directing inspiration. In this, her second feature, she beautifully captures a specific brand of avoidance and understatement. She plays Shahrzad, a mousy graphic designer who becomes distracted at work. At home her answering machine constantly squawks about her family's health and well-being, and her annoying neighbor (Behzad Dorani, from Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us) keeps parking his giant SUV in her space. To her credit, Karimi never shows the expected hospital scenes, tearful good-byes, or tense confrontations that seem to be looming. Instead, she retreats inside the character's head and brings the film to a stunningly private conclusion. (Jeffrey M. Anderson)

7:15 p.m., PFA. Also Sun/29, 12:15 p.m., Kabuki; Mon/30, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki

Murch (David and Edie Ichioka, England/US, 2006). Codirector Edie Ichioka is a disciple of legendary film and sound editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient), so you know this doc will be nothing less than a glowing portrait. But instead of a simple glorification, it is more an embellished interview (complete with jump cuts during the talking head portions), with Murch using an astounding array of metaphors - besides the obvious "editing is like putting together a puzzle," he also works in painters, sock puppets, kidney transplants, and dream therapy, among others - to explain his approach to his craft. As Murch proves, a talented editor can make a good film great and a great film a masterpiece; it all comes down to an intangible combination of technical skill, sense of rhythm, and artistic instinct. (Cheryl Eddy)

9 p.m., SFMOMA. Also Sun/29, 4:15 p.m., Castro; Tues/1, 1 p.m., Kabuki; May 5, 3:30 p.m., PFA

*Slumming (Michael Glawogger, Austria/Switzerland, 2006). Two arrogant yuppie pranksters (August Diehl and Michael Ostrowski) cruise around verbally pigeonholing others, making playthings of them.

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