SFIFF: Highway 51 - Page 2

A road map to the 51st SF International Film Festival
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Much of the film's story is seen through the eyes of a newcomer who has escaped from a bizarre religious cult; in accordance, Scherfig records the earnest bumbling of town folk through a unique lens, sometimes smeared with streaks of overexposed or double-exposed shapes and colors. The result is only as deep as a standard-issue Hollywood romantic comedy, but it's deftly handled and slyly endearing. (Jeffrey M. Anderson)

6:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also Sat/26, 1 p.m., Kabuki; Sun/27, 4 p.m., Kabuki; Tues/29, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki

Lady Jane (Robert Guédiguian, France, 2007) Lean and mean as a killer B-movie, Lady Jane shows that the French noir still possesses a powerful measure of chilly fire. Its namesake, played by the 50-ish, formidable, and fierce Ariane Ascaride, perfectly embodies the genre. Roused from bourgeois slumber when her son is suddenly snatched, Lady Jane reconnects with two old partners in crime to raise a ransom. Director Guédiguian is overly fond of his flashbacks but redeems himself with the care he puts into imagery that avoids Bogart-by-way-of-Belmondo clichés. (Chun)

9:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also Sun/ 27, 9:45 p.m., Kabuki; Tues/29, 4:30 p.m., Kabuki

You, the Living (Roy Andersson, Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark/Norway, 2007) There is one thing wrong with Swede Roy Andersson's movies: there aren't enough of them. His fourth feature in 30 years is another almost indescribable gizmo that strings together absurdist tableaux to increasingly hilarious and elaborate effect. From an incongruous Louisiana brass band to unhappy barflies forever facing last call, the characters here are comic Scandinavian-miserabilist pawns in a cosmic joke told largely through music — and painted a fugly shade of lime green. Bizarre and delightful. (Harvey)

6:15 p.m., Castro. Also Sun/27, 8:30 p.m., PFA; Tues/29, 7 p.m., Kabuki

SAT/26

Fados (Carlos Saura, Portugal/Spain, 2007) Attempting to do for the Portuguese torch song what he once did for Spain's gypsy blues with Flamenco (1995), Saura soars and stumbles with Fados, presenting wonderful performances and a few unfortunately dated modern-dance treatments. Chico Buarque, Mariza, Lila Downs, and Césaria Évora lend their varied styles and impassioned voices to the form. But one wishes Saura would have stepped aside further for the effervescent, soulful lilt of Caetano Veloso; the plush, liquid tones of Lura; the arch, curled-lip warble of Ana Sofia Varela; and old world narrative grace of Carlos do Carmo. (Chun)

2:45 p.m., Castro. Also Mon/28, 1:30 p.m., Kabuki; Tues/29, 8:45 p.m., Kabuki

Ice People (Anne Aghion, USA/France, 2007) The movies have long made the Antarctic the terrain of terrifying monsters and cute creatures, but the beings discovered by Anne Aghion in this documentary bare fatigue, not fangs, and they are far more prickly than cuddly. Aghion's portrait of the inhabitants of the McMurdow Research Station spends most of its time with a satellite group of four geologists looking for 20-million-year-old leaf fossils. There's more depth in the fantastic landscapes, which Aghion lenses far more flatteringly than she does her human subjects. (Sussman)

6:45 p.m., Kabuki. Mon/28, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; April 30, 1:15 p.m., Kabuki

Mataharis (Icíar Bollaín, Spain, 2007) Charlie's Angels this ain't: these investigators and would-be Mata Haris of an all-female Madrid detective agency have the unwashed hair, sensible shoes, and bad marriages of everyday wage slaves. Actress-director Bollaín's skillful, empathetic knack for capturing the grubby, low-light details of working women's lives glimmers through the pale haze of this promising film.

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