Reel Talk

"State of Cinema Address by Mary Ellen Mark"

At last year's San Francisco International Film Festival, in his State of Cinema address, Wired cofounder Kevin Kelly spoke of a media landscape inundated with screens, in which you're as likely to watch a movie on your PDA, or even a grocery checkout screen, as you are in a theater. The message was clear: the way in which we create and consume films is changing. To some extent, we have been living in this brave new world for some time, so SFIFF's choice of photographer Mary Ellen Mark to deliver this year's State of Cinema address carries with it an implicit nostalgia for cinema's old world. Mark, who has frequently turned her camera on marginal subjects — Indian prostitutes, homeless American teens, circus performers — has also periodically worked as an on-set photographer over her four decade career, capturing moments of behind the scene candor on the sets of directors such as François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Milos Forman, Tim Burton, and Francis Ford Coppola. The images, collected last year in Seen Behind the Scene: Forty Years of Photographing on Set (Phaidon), present Mark as an anti-Annie Liebovitz. She manages to catch her subjects unaware — as with the hilarious image of Dustin Hoffman making faces behind a quite serious Sir Laurence Olivier between takes on 1976's Marathon Man. Others — among them Marlon Brando caught with a bug resting on his bald pate on the set of 1979's Apocalypse Now — seem to square off with the camera. Incidentally, two of this year's major SFIFF honors are going to Coppola and fellow child of the '60s Robert Redford, so there's a bit of a love fest for the era going on at this year's fest. Undoubtedly Mark has as many fascinating stories as she does compelling images, but hopefully her talk won't just be a stroll down memory lane.


Sun/3, 1 p.m., $12.50

Sundance Kabuki, 1881 Post, SF

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