Northern promises - Page 3

MILL VALLEY FILM FEST: Our picks of the litter

'Flicker,' 'Holy Motors,' and 'fat Kid Rules the World' are featured at this year's fest

Flicker (Patrik Eklund, Sweden) The provincial HQ of behind-the-times, inept telecommunications company Unicom is locus to a whole bunch of weirdness during the eventful work week chronicled by Swedish writer-director Patrik Eklund's first feature. To wit: sterility by electrocution, tarantula therapy, grade-school performances of Frankenstein, Ted Danson fixations, workplace application of dunce caps, blind dates, domestic terrorism cults, and scented candle making. If you only see one Scandinavian comedy this year, make it Klown. If you only see two, however, this is definitely the other one. It's a goofy, lightly surreal delight. Sat/6, 9pm, Smith Rafael; Mon/8, 3:15pm, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

Jayne Mansfield's Car (Billy Bob Thornton, US) Billy Bob Thornton's first directing gig in over a decade is an ensemble piece set in small-town 1969 Alabama — like every U.S. town at the time, a hotbed of generational conflict over the Vietnam War and the generally changin' times. Particularly defining that gap is the squabbling relationship between hawkish patriarch Jim Caldwell (Robert Duvall) and youngest son Carroll (Kevin Bacon), who — though a World War II veteran, like brother Skip (Thornton) — has appointed himself a sort of elder to the local hippie population. That alone is enough to set Jim's teeth on edge; he's put in an even crustier mood upon hearing that his ex-wife has died, and her corpse is being brought back from England by the new family (John Hurt, Ray Stevenson, Frances O'Connor) she'd acquired after leaving him. The awkward meeting between two very different clans quickly thaws in various ways, however, some sexual, some comradely. Dismissed as a garrulous mess in its other festival showings to date, this Car is indeed one rusty, leaky, wayward vehicle at times, with some forced situations and way too much speechifying in the director's script (co-written with Tom Epperson). But the thematically over ambitious, structurally clumsy movie is watchable nonetheless, with some real strengths: most notably strong performances (especially Thornton's own) and a real feel for a particular high-Southern Brahmin milieu that hasn't changed much more in the last 40 years than it did in the prior 40. Thornton will receive the MVFF Award and be interviewed onstage at the film's screening. Sun/7, 6:30pm, Smith Rafael; Oct. 14, 5pm, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

Ricky on Leacock (Jane Weiner, France/US) Shot over the last 40 years, since she was her subject's student, Jane Weiner's film about globe trotting director-cinematographer Richard Leacock is a fond tribute that pays due respect to the latter's innovations in the documentary form. Dismayed by the lack of spontaneity that cumbersome equipment forced on the genre, he began devising a series of lightweight, synch-sound cameras that could unobtrusively travel with and capture events as they occurred. While his own mostly TV-targeted fruits of that labor are relatively little-known today, their impact on nonfiction cinema was enormous — and Leacock, who died last year at 89, was clearly charming company. Sun/7, 7pm, Smith Rafael; Mon/8, 9:15pm, 142 Throckmorton. (Harvey)

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