Short takes on IndieFest standouts
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp (Jorge Hinojosa, US, 2012) Ice-T presents this study of a man (real name: Robert Beck) whose early years dabbling in "the second oldest profession" led him first to prison, and then — rather improbably — to the top of best-seller lists, as books like Pimp: The Story of My Life and Trick Baby (which became a 1972 blaxsploitation film) achieved cult status. Though the film's first 30 minutes lay on the hero worship a bit thick (yeah, pimps are cool cats as far as movies and hip-hop's concerned, but the real Beck is described as someone who "got a thrill out of degrading women"), the author's talkative first wife and three daughters soon appear to offer some perspective. Archival interviews with Beck, and a detailed examination of his publisher, Holloway House (which employed only whites but specialized in African American literature), only add to this vivid biography. Sat/9, 5pm; Mon/11, 7:15pm, Roxie.
The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (Alexandre Philippe, US, 2012) Eight correct predictions, eight tentacled arms, millions of enraptured cephalopod admirers: who could forget Paul, whose apparent ESP earned him nearly as much vuvuzela-blaring fanfare as the 2010 World Cup itself? This "fairytale" from the director of 2010's The People vs. George Lucas begins with Paul's death — he was young for an oracle, but old for an octopus, explains an employee at Sea Life Oberhausen, Paul's German home. The doc then doubles back to examine how a publicity stunt involving acrylic boxes with taped-on flags and food tucked inside, plus one hungry octopus, could incite a global frenzy: epic lines at the aquarium, scrambling bookmakers, a full-scale media blitz, death threats, a rich Russian offering to buy Paul for a cool million Euros, an "Ask the Octopus" app, YouTube tributes, and more. At 90 minutes the doc stretches a little thin (fellow psychic animal Punxsutawney Phil even puts in an appearance), but this is fun stuff nonetheless. Sat/9, 2:45pm; Sun/10, 5pm, Roxie.
Sightseers (Ben Wheatley, UK, 2012) Ooh, yes, it's the US premiere of the latest from rising star Ben Wheatley, who exceeds even 2011's very fine hitman-goes-bananas Kill List with the sick and hilarious Sightseers. Awkward, nerdy couple Tina and Chris (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, comedians who wrote the script with Amy Jump) pile into an RV and burn rubber toward some of Britain's lesser-known attractions: Crich Tramway Village, the Cumberland Pencil Museum, etc. But it's clear from the start that all's not well in this relationship, and it doesn't take long before their "erotic odyssey" also includes screaming fights, dognapping, and multiple homicides. So wrong, and yet so right — the evocative Sightseers manages to invent, and perfect, its own genre: the serial-killer road-tip rom-com. Sat/9 and Mon/11, 9:30pm, Roxie. (Cheryl Eddy) *
SAN FRANCISCO INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
Feb 7-21, most shows $12
3117 16th St, SF