What to watch - Page 4

The Guardian staff's short takes on the San Francisco International Film Fest's must-sees

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Kelly Reichardt's new frontier story Meek's Cutoff tilts decisively toward socially-minded existentialism

Mind the Gap Experimental film fans: come for the big names, but don't miss out on the newcomers. Locals Jay Rosenblatt (melancholy found-footage bio The D Train), Kerry Laitala (psychedelic 3-D brain-dazzler Chromatastic), and Skye Thorstenson (mannequin-horror music video freak out Tourist Trap, featuring the acting and singing stylings of the Guardian's Johnny Ray Huston) offer strong entries in an overall excellent program. International bigwigs Peter Tscherkassky (the 25-minute Coming Attractions, a layered study of airplanes, Hollywood, and Hollywood airplanes — not for the crash-phobic) and Jonathan Caouette ("Lynchian" has been used to describe the Chloë Sevigny-starring All Flowers In Time, though it contains a scary-faces contest that'd spook even Frank Booth) are also notable. New names for me were Zachary Drucker, whose Lost Lake introduces a transsexual, pervert-huntin' vigilante for the ages, and my top pick: Kelly Sears' Once it started it could not end otherwise, a deliciously sinister hidden-history lesson imagined via 1970s high-school yearbooks. Sat/23, 4:45 p.m., and May 1, 9:45 p.m., Kabuki. (Eddy)

The Troll Hunter (André Ovredal, Norway, 2010) Yes, The Troll Hunter riffs off The Blair Witch Project (1999) with both whimsy and, um, rabidity. Yes, you may gawk at its humongoid, anatomically correct, three-headed trolls, never to be mistaken for grotesquely cute rubber dolls, Orcs, or garden gnomes again. Yes, you may not believe, but you will find this lampoon of reality TV-style journalism, and an affectionate jab at Norway's favorite mythical creature, very entertaining. Told that a series of strange attacks could be chalked up to marauding bears, three college students (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Tomas Alf Larsen, and Johanna Morck) strap on their gumshoes and choose instead to pursue a mysterious poacher Hans (Otto Jespersen) who repeatedly rebuffs their interview attempts. Little did the young folk realize that their late-night excursions following the hunter into the woods would lead at least one of them to rue his or her christening day. Ornamenting his yarn with beauty shots of majestic mountains, fjords, and waterfalls, Norwegian director-writer André Ovredal takes the viewer beyond horror-fantasy — handheld camera at the ready — and into a semi-goofy wilderness of dark comedy, populated by rock-eating, fart-blowing trolls and overshadowed by a Scandinavian government cover-up sorta-worthy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). Sat/23, 11:30 p.m., Kabuki; Mon/25, 6:15 p.m., New People. (Chun)

World on a Wire (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Germany, 1973) The words "Rainer Werner Fassbinder" and "science fiction film" are enough to get certain film buffs salivating, but the Euro-trashy interior décor is almost reason enough to see this restored print of the New German Cinema master's cyber thriller. Originally a two-part TV miniseries, World on a Wire is set in an alternate present (then 1973) in which everything seems to be made of concrete, mirror, Lucite, or orange plastic. When the inventor of a supercomputer responsible for generating an artificial world mysteriously disappears, his handsome predecessor must fight against his corporate bosses to find out what really happened, and in the process, stumbles upon a far more shattering secret about the nature of reality itself. Riffing off the understated cool of Godard's Alphaville (1965) while beating 1999's The Matrix to the punch by some 25 years, World on a Wire is a stylistically singular entry in Fassbinder's prolific filmography. Sat/23, 8:45 p.m., Kabuki, and April 30, 2 p.m., PFA. (Sussman) SUN/24

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