What to watch, part two - Page 3

Short takes on week two of SF Internation Film Festival

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The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 plays Sat/30 and Tues/3

The Salesman (Sébastien Pilote, Canada) Indefatigably optimistic on the outside, small-town Quebec car salesman Marcel (Gilbert Sicotte) refuses to slow down, let alone retire — perhaps from fear that grief over his wife's death would fill any hours left empty, though he's far too composed to let that show. He has his daughter (Nathalie Cavezzali) and grandson (Jeremy Tessier) to dote on, and his customers to endlessly fuss over and reassure. But there are few customers these days because the local factory workers are on strike, their plant in danger of being shuttered. Sébastien Pilote's quiet drama carefully accumulates everyday details toward a full understanding of Marcel and his milieu, the stability of both eventually threatened by factors that not even his formidable powers of denial can overcome. It's the kind of movie so small and unassuming you're caught completely unaware when it delivers a gut-punch. Sun/1, 6:15 p.m., Kabuki; Tues/3, 8:50 p.m., PFA; and May 5, 2 p.m., Kabuki. (Dennis Harvey)

13 Assassins Before you accuse Japan's bad boy director Takashi Miike of going all prestige-y by making a Kurasawa-esque samurai pic, consider that his 13 Assassins is actually a remake of what was originally dismissed by many as a Seven Samurai knockoff, the late Eiichi Kudo's 1963 film of the same name. Koji Yakusho stars as Shinzaemon Shimada, an aging ronin convinced to come out of the proverbial retirement to assassinate a psychotically brutal lord (Goro Inagaki) with a penchant for raping, killing, and wreaking general havoc. Shinzaemon assembles a ragtag team of warriors with varying levels of experience, and the requisite carnage ensues. Featuring solid performances and an impressively choreographed climax, this well-told tale nevertheless feels disappointing stale. The idea of the iconoclastic Miike reinventing the samurai genre is an intriguing one. But while the film at times gnashes the provocative pulp that most Miike devotees have come to crave, it admittedly elicits a measure of old-fashioned respectability that the genre, by default, seems to command like a master ordering his knightly charge. It certainly beheads all its targets, but with something of a shrug of its shoulders. Sun/1, 8:30 p.m., Castro. (Devereaux)

 

MON/2

Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, Canada/France, 2010) When tightly wound émigré Nawal (Luba Azabal) dies, she leaves behind adult twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) — and leaves them documents that only compound their feelings of grief and anger, suggesting that what little they thought they knew about their background might have been a lie. While resentful Simon at first stays home in Montreal, Jeanne travels to fictive "Fuad" (a stand-in for source-material playwright Wajdi Mouawad's native Lebanon), playing detective to piece together decades later the truth of why their mother fled her homeland at the height of its long, brutal civil war. Alternating between present-day and flashback sequences, this latest by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (2000's Maelstrom) achieves an urgent sweep punctuated by moments of shocking violence. Resembling The Kite Runner in some respects as a portrait of the civilian victimization excused by war, it also resembles that work in arguably piling on more traumatic incidences and revelations than one story can bear — though so much here has great impact that a sense of over-contrivance toward the very end only slightly mars the whole. Mon/2, 6:30 p.m., and May 5, 8 p.m., Kabuki. (Harvey)