Area 51

The 51st San Francisco International Film Festival takes flight
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I agree with my cohort Dennis Harvey — it is always cheering to see 1962's The Brain That Wouldn't Die. There's something so special about the bodiless head trapped under a glass jar in that movie. As Jan Compton, a.k.a. "Jan in the Pan," actress Virginia Leith seethes and cackles, bringing across pure existential pain more forcefully than any French philosopher with a perma-creased brow. The fact that The Brain That Wouldn't Die figures in local mad magician Craig Baldwin's new antic investigation Mock Up on Mu is just one of at least 51 reasons why I'm excited to see it premiere at the 51st SF International Film Festival.

The Guardian's deluxe coverage of SFIFF 51 kicks off with a portrait of Baldwin. Elsewhere, Cheryl Eddy discusses blood ties with the sickest father-daughter team around, Dario and Asia Argento. Our stories this week also scope out a pair of life-and-death documentaries; a mod, mod, mod war movie; some new Mexican filmic journeys; the merits of festival awardees; and, last but not least, the eternally fatal allure of the late Gene Tierney. So, before you drown in the dark, before hours of unmapped SFIFF excursions have you feeling like the son or daughter of the brain that wouldn't die, read all about it here. In the words of José-Luis Guerín, director of In the City of Sylvia, "we should see cinema as a separate continent" — and we should be cheered by what we see. (Johnny Ray Huston)

The 51st San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 24-May 8. Venues are the Castro, 429 Castro, SF; Clay, 2261 Fillmore, SF; Kabuki, 1881 Post, SF; and Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk. For tickets (most shows $12.50) and information call (925) 866-9559 or visit www.sffs.org.

>>For more reviews, previews, news, and daily coverage of SFIFF 51, check out SFBG's Pixel Vision blog.

>>Highway 51
A road map to SFIFF 51 -- films to ride with (and some speed bumps)

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>>Explosive stuff!
Craig Baldwin turns space junk into magickal treasure with Mock Up on Mu
By Dennis Harvey

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>>Blood ties
Asia and Dario Argento go go for a SFIFF trifecta
By Cheryl Eddy

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>>Ashes to ashes
A dance between Dust and Profit motive and the whispering wind
By Matt Sussman

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>>On tour
Mod auteur Serge Bozon makes the war go pop in La France
By Kimberly Chun

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>>Critic's choice
In praise of J. Hoberman and In the City of Sylvia
By Max Goldberg