Arts and Entertainment
Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are David Fear, Dina Gachman, Susan Gerhard, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Patrick Macias, Anhoni Patel, and Chuck Stephens. Film intern is Meryl Cohen. See Rep Clock, page 84, and Movie Clock, page 85, for theater information.
San Francisco Independent Film Festival
The fourth annual San Francisco IndieFest takes place Jan 31-Feb 10. Venues are the Castro Theatre, 492 Castro, S.F.; Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St, S.F.; New College of California Theatre, 741 Valencia, S.F.; StudioZ, 314 11th St, S.F.; Parkway Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl; and Expression Center for New Media, 6601 Shellmound, Emeryville. For tickets ($6-8) call (415) 820-3907 or visit www.sfindie.com. For commentary, see "Independents Days," page 36. All times are p.m.
Castro "Short Film Sampler Platter" (shorts program) 5. Ever Since the World Ended 7:15. Party 7 9:30.
New College You Don't Know What I Got 5. The Journeyman 7:15. Bad Trip 9:30.
Roxie Alcatraz Avenue 5. South West 9 7:15. Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth 9:30. Cookers 11:45.
New College "At the Molehills of Madness" (shorts program) noon. Love on the Run 2:15. 97 Brooks 4:30. Living in Missouri 7. It's All about You 9:15.
Roxie Margarita Happy Hour noon. "Animation Extravaganza" (shorts program) 2:15. "Love Sex Desire" (shorts program) 4:30. We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n' Roll 7. The New Woman 9:15. Bio-Cops 11:30.
New College Chock Full of Notes noon. Two Days till Tomorrow 2:15. "Strange Tales" (shorts program) 4:30. FinalCut.com 7. Unspeakable 9:15.
Roxie To Protect and Serve noon. The Global Village (shorts program)2:15. Kanadiana 4:30. Mary/Mary 7. Mutant Aliens 9:15.
Roxie Kanadiana 5. Margarita Happy Hour 7:15. Listen with Pain 9:30.
StudioZ Two Days till Tomorrow 2:45. Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth 5. "Chock Full of Notes" (shorts program) 7:15. 97 Brooks 9:30.
Roxie South West 9 5. Alcatraz Avenue 7:15. "Animation Extravaganza" (shorts program) 9:30.
StudioZ Listen With Pain 2:45. Living in Missouri 5. "At the Molehills of Madness" (shorts program) 7:15. FinalCut.com 9:30.
American Adobo The title (adobo is a Filipino dish) of Laurice Guillen's film is meant to be a metaphor for its five main characters, all of whom hail from Manila but have lived in the Big Apple long enough to consider themselves New Yorkers. Like the films that inspired its creators The Joy Luck Club, Eat Drink Man Woman the story deals with issues of assimilation and cross-cultural conflicts, especially with regard to love and sex, but it does so with far less insight or creativity. The group of perpetually troubled friends is made up of one-sided caricatures, possessing little depth and even less charm, and the dialogue between them is consistently silly and contrived. The only thing propelling the story is an endless string of tragedies, disasters, and disappointments, which carry the film from drama to melodrama long after it should reach a conclusion. (Cohen)
*Beijing Bicycle Simply dressed in natural-light cinematography, Wang Xioshuai's new film adds contemporary color to the neorealism of Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief. The screenplay cleverly complicates De Sica's notion of thievery an unseen act of theft forces stubborn country boy Guei (Cui Lin) and insolent city boy Jian (Zhou Xun) to share ownership of a bicycle yet it also falls victim to a sentimentality that weakens the sting of its initial class commentary. Wang Feng's score supplies an effectively light, ringing percussive note when Jian first encounters his romantic pedal partner, Qin (Zhou Xun), but elsewhere, the music is intrusive and much too sweet. By the time Qin's temper causes trouble for both boys and their bike, Beijing Bicycle has become a generic art-film vehicle, and its alley misadventures have reached a dramatic dead end. (1:43) Lumiere. (Huston)
Betty One day on the set, after eating a particularly delicious piece of chicken, blockbuster actor Betty Monday (Cheryl Pollak) decides she's had it with showbiz. In search of "real life," she lurks in a rented Palm Springs house, dodging calls from her manager-therapist (Holland Taylor) and trying to learn different trades from a begrudgingly friendly pool cleaner, a door-to-door salesman, and a grocery-delivery boy. Writer-director Richard Murphy manages some clever moments, poking fun at Hollywood clichés through the use of music and dialogue the "noir" scene, where the pool man gravely assesses Betty's skills as his assistant ("You're good ... you'll just never be great"), is a highlight. But while Pollak is clearly aiming to play Betty as parody of a movie star, the resulting interpretation (a little annoying shrillness goes a long way) doesn't make this movie's star the most sympathetic of characters. (1:28) Four Star. (Eddy)
Birthday Girl Nicole Kidman stars as a Russian mail-order bride who surprise! is not what she seems. (1:33) Century Plaza, Empire.
Italian for Beginners This latest Dogma entry is set in Copenhagen and centers on a group of singles who meet in an Italian class. (1:39) Embarcadero.
Slackers See Movie Clock, page 85. (1:27) Colma, Jack London, Shattuck.
*Werckmeister Harmonies If Antonioni had directed Eraserhead, it might have looked a little something like Hungarian filmmaker-cum-demented-genius Béla Tarr's latest opus of paranoia and demagoguery gone awry. Set sometime in the late 20th century, the stream-of-consciousness "narrative" revolves around a man (Lars Rudolph), a town, a malcontent mob, and a mysterious circus that acts as the catalyst for an inevitable boiling point. The filmmaker's emphasis on long takes and ethereal gliding cameras contribute to the nightmarish atmosphere of postindustrial malaise, a world in which an apocalypse is only a 12-minute tracking shot away. Shot in ultrasaturated black-and-white stock, every ray of light, shadow, and shape within the film's images seems steeped in a hallucinogenic beauty that beckons even as it decomposes into murky darkness. Four years in the making, Harmonies may be the first masterpiece of the new millennium; profoundly disturbing and unforgettable, it's an art film experience that, once seen, sears itself permanently onto the mind's eye. (2:25) Castro. (Fear)
What Time is it There? See "Clock Wise," page 34. (1:56) Lumiere, Rafael.
Amélie (1:55) Albany, Clay, Orinda, Piedmont.
A Beautiful Mind (2:09) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Grand Lake, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda, UA Berkeley, Vogue.
Beauty and the Beast: The Large Format Cinema Special Edition (1:30) Metreon Imax.
Black Hawk Down Detailing the true story of a routine Special Forces mission that resulted in two helicopters being felled, 18 soldiers dying, and a FUBAR (military speak for, ahem, a less than ideal situation) of monumental proportions, Black Hawk Down hits the ground like a somber but standard-issue action flick, less concerned with narrative coherence than with reaching its peak moments of flight as soon as possible. After a quick rundown of the why, what, and where, we get only a brief, semaphore introduction to the main players-cum-composites: the outfit's soulful magnet for disillusionment (Josh Hartnett), the desk clerk who'll prove himself in battle (Ewan McGregor), and the badass (Eric Bana). The viewer is thrust into two hours of gritty, grueling battle scenes designed to re-create the historical horrors of one day. The problem is, by downplaying the who and why, the film strands its audience in a shrapnel-filled vacuum that values mayhem and stimulation over reason and emotion; all this Dolby-ready carnage feels stylistically sound but strangely empty. The temptation is to point at director Ridley Scott, who has always valued imagery over storytelling. But it's the agenda of the real auteur behind Black Hawk Down legendary über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer that infects every frame like an adrenal-seeking virus. (2:23) Century Plaza, Coronet, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)
*Boom: the Sound of Eviction Created by the video activist collective Whispered Media, Boom: The Sound of Eviction examines the problem of dot-com gentrification in San Francisco and the resulting wave of evictions that recently rocked the Mission. The members of Whispered Media have no formal education in film or video, but they clearly have a knack for it. An impressively edited montage of colorful and poignant shots, this film captures the powerful individual stories of families, senior citizens, artists, and nonprofit organizations, all displaced after many years in their beloved neighborhood. Featuring interviews with local organizers, journalists, and the loathed Mayor Willie Brown, the piece is informative as well as moving, especially where it seeks to explain that the gentrification phenomenon won't disappear as the dot-com boom goes bust. (1:36) Red Vic. (Cohen)
*Brotherhood of the Wolf One of the strangest fictions ever to be "based on a true story," Brotherhood of the Wolf finds a way to capitalize on martial arts chic even as it sets its story in 18th-century France. A beast roams the countryside killing women and children, and a naturalist and his Native American cohort attempt to find and kill the monster. Their real enemies, however, do not have four legs, and by the end of this strangely sparkling drama, the choreography of Phillip Kwok (Hard-Boiled), the editing of David Wu (The Bride with White Hair), the killer kicks of Mark Dacascos ("The Crow" TV series), and the plot convolutions of France's biggest H.K. film fan and Sam Raimi booster, director Christophe Gans (Crying Freeman), will have your head spinning. (2:20) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Gerhard)
Charlotte Gray (2:00) Opera Plaza.
*The Count of Monte Cristo A strapping and illiterate naïf (Jim Caviezel) is set up for charges of treason by his aristocratic "friend" Fernand (Guy Pearce) and sent to a prison where time is signified by the warden's anniversary beatings. A fellow inmate (Richard Harris) teaches him reading and swordplay, and the young man escapes and starts issuing some serious payback. This latest take on the old warhorse (this is the 17th big-screen adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's classic novel) certainly boasts the best hyperbolic tag line of the bunch ("Count on ... revenge!"), but its real strength is in wisely playing the already thrilling story straight. The usual modern audience concessions flavor-of-the-month teen stars, martial arts "reimaginings" are jettisoned in favor of old-fashioned yarn spinning. Director Kevin Reynolds keeps up the pace nicely, while Caviezel's swashbuckling and Pearce's camp Basil Rathbone homage of sneers and vowel-slithering suggest that this generation may get some new matinee idols thrown into the bargain as well. (1:58) Colma, Galaxy, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck. (Fear)
Dinner Rush (1:40) Four Star.*The Endurance (1:33) Four Star, Rafael.
*Gosford Park Robert Altman's best movie in ages negotiates a middle path between his usual catch-all meandering and the scrubbed orderliness of Merchant Ivory terrain, arriving at something greater than either. An English country estate presided over by Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his much younger wife, Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), is the destination on a 1932 autumn weekend for a large roster of relatives, in-laws, and hangers-on, most of whom have a considerable, parasitic stake in staying on the wealthy host's good side. An even larger army of servants attends them, their hierarchies and hidden agendas just as complex as those of the "masters." Midway through these 48 hours of tortured politeness, a murder occurs, and indeed, this time the butler might really have done it, though there's hardly a shortage of suspects. Tethered to an exceptionally good screenplay by Julian Fellowes, and hugely benefiting from the expertise of a remarkable cast, the film gets deeper into its archaic milieu than any Altman project since (at least) The Player with less condescension or performance showboating to boot. (2:17) Albany, Metreon, Metro, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda, Piedmont. (Harvey)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2:32) Century Plaza.
I Am Sam Jessie Nelson's I Am Sam follows the mentally challenged Sam Dawson (Sean Penn) as he creates a loving alternative family for his daughter, Lucy Diamond. It's only on the eve of her eighth birthday, when Lucy begins to surpass her father in intellectual abilities, that their precarious arrangement is threatened. What follows is a heart-tugging examination of what it means to be a good parent and a unique glimpse into the world of those for whom everyday life is a constant challenge. Though at times the story teeters on the brink of overwhelming sentimentality, a number of sensational performances and a clever tribute to everything Beatles serve as saving graces. (2:13) Century Plaza, Jack London, Metreon, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness. (Cohen)
In the Bedroom Fusing TV movie with art film, Todd Field's debut feature seems to be made with Academy Awards in mind; an ensemble of actors navigate the icy, stormy psychology of its Maine-set screenplay (adapted from a novel by Andre Dubus), which traces the effects of a murder on a select few of the characters. Married couple Matt (Tom Wilkinson) and Ruth (Sissy Spacek) Fowler are troubled their college-age son Frank (Nick Stahl of Bully, cementing his position as 2001's top cinematic sitting duck) is in a relationship with Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei): she's older, she has kids, she hasn't gotten a divorce from abusive brewery-brat Richard Strout (William Mapother), and she's clouding Frank's vision of a wealthy future. Actually, Frank's dad takes a certain vicarious pleasure from his son's new romance; his mom, however, is unhappy that he might choose lobstering over architecture and her concern is soon eradicated in the worst possible way. Spacek and Wilkinson are excellent, especially when the script calls on them to deliver Bergman Americana, but In the Bedroom's narrative matches ellipses with heavy-handed symbolism, and the results are too often numbing. (2:26) Act I and II, Embarcadero, Jack London. (Huston)
Kate and Leopold (1:48) Balboa.
*Kandahar It seems somehow appropriate that the film speaking most eloquently to the needs of the hour comes from Iran and not Hollywood. For two decades now, that country has been producing an increasing variety of excellent films by socially committed filmmakers with a pronounced humanist aesthetic. Inspired by the true story of the film's lead actor, Nelofer Pazira, director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Kandahar tells the story of Nafas, an Afghan journalist living in Canada, who returns to Afghanistan to save her sister from suicide. Kandahar displays many traits a blurring of documentary and fiction, an emphasis on visual beauty, and a moral focus that have helped make Iran's cinema one of the world's most vital; it also forces one to ask whether, despite the current mass-media spotlight, Afghanistan might not remain a country without an image if in it we cannot recognize ourselves. (1:25) Opera Plaza, Rafael, Shattuck. (Avila)
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (1:45) Alexandria, Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
Lantana Starting with a view of a body facedown in some dense shrubbery, this Australian drama looks set to become a murder mystery, but Andrew Bovell's sharp screenplay is more interested in the impulses toward infidelity and doubt that trouble several interconnected relationships. Police detective Leon (Anthony LaPaglia) guiltily cheats on a wife (Kerry Armstrong) who senses that the commitment's gone out of their marriage; she sees a psychiatrist (Barbara Hershey) whose own husband (Geoffrey Rush) seems to be drifting away. Several other well-defined characters figure notably in Ray Lawrence's tightly wound film, which builds considerable tension despite some implausible plot connections and a final sequence that strains a bit to deliver its closing flourish. (2:00) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Harvey)
*Little Otik Jan Svankmajer's Little Otik is a film that takes us back to the helplessness of childhood, seizing the viewer with panic, terror, and paranoia that gives way to convulsive laughter. A married couple can't seem to come by a baby on their own, so they dream one into existence, shaping him from a piece of wood. No one is quite sure where this little wooden stump is headed, but once Momma outfits him in pristine white baby linens, the nightmare in the form of the babe's insatiable appetite is off and running. The comedy is created in the cutting room: working a variety of tricks, from 3-D stop-action animation to excessive close-ups to the magic of editing, Svankmajer wreaks his usual havoc on reality. Unlike Rosemary's Baby, a seminal moment in the demon-spawn genre, Little Otik builds black comedy from the horrors of childbirth, and it has plenty of room in which to do it, fully reflecting the effect that decades of birth control, child-bearing manipulations, and genetic engineering have had on the collective psyche. (2:07) Shattuck. (Gerhard)
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Alexandria, Colma, Emery Bay, Empire, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
*The Man Who Wasn't There (1:56) Balboa.
*Metropolis The best thing about Metropolis, aside from its considerable pedigree it's based on a 1949 comic by Osamu "God of Manga" Tezuka, with a script by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) and direction by the ingenious Rintaro (X) is its startling anachronism and defiance of trend. A technically brilliant, wide-eyed-innocent, jazz-age vision of what makes cities and the love for technology tick, the film makes it seem as if Blade Runner had never happened, let alone Fritz Lang's Metropolis or even Otomo's own Akira. Someone is conducting strange experiments in the megacity of Metropolis, and a detective and his son are sent in to unravel the crime. Saddled with a robot detective, the pair gets mixed up in the machinations of the rich and powerful as well as some Che Guevara-worshiping revolutionaries and a strange, amnesiac robot girl who is wanted by all. While the story stays all-ages simple, the visuals come with fantastic ambition, and in the end Metropolis offers a vital retro-future perfect for equal amounts of contemplation and escape. (1:44) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Macias)
*Monster's Ball Marc Forster's Monster's Ball is a small-town melodrama sobered by a pervasive pall of meaning; it communicates so much thorny pain around such genuinely discomfiting issues that the hard-won modest uplift at the end feels utterly genuine. In a contemporary Southern state where racial power divisions haven't changed much at all, death row guard Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) crosses paths with the Leticia (Halle Berry, the widow of a former prisoner. Both Hank and Leticia are in desperate straits, each bottomlessly needy without the faintest idea of how or where to start getting help. The impulse toward mutual kindness is so unexpected and foreign, particularly as it stretches over near-impassable racial-economic lines, that neither one really knows what to do with the other for some time. The movie's eventual narrative gist is rife with tabloid TV-movie contrivance (Racist Prison Guard Gets Nice by Going Steady with Dead Inmate's Old Lady). But it works because the script and direction are so painfully attuned to the hurdles that inarticulate people driven (or frozen) by clenched rage must overcome before a happy ending is even remotely possible. (1:48) Act I and II, Bridge. (Harvey)
*Monsters, Inc. (1:24) Shattuck.
The Mothman Prophecies One of America's best urban legends/unexplained phenomena Point Pleasant, W.Va.'s doom-forecasting "Mothman," said to have visited locals prior to a deadly accident in 1967 gets the big-screen treatment, with mixed results. This contemporary-set version of the tale concerns a big-city journalist (Richard Gere) who, after his wife's tragic, unsettling death, finds himself inexplicably drawn to a certain small town on the W.Va.-Ohio border. Turns out strange things are afoot in Point Pleasant, with eerie visions and voices plaguing the townsfolk. Director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road) manages to build enough intrigue and atmosphere to make for spookiness early on, but the increasingly repetitious Mothman (how many sinister phone calls can one phantom make?) eventually settles into early Duchovny-era X Files territory, topping things off with an unnecessarily hokey Twilight Zone-ish final twist. (1:35) Alexandria, Colma, Galaxy, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck. (Eddy)
*Mulholland Drive (2:36) Balboa, Rafael.
*No Man's Land This absurdist anti-war "comedy" from Bosnia starts slashing with a serrated edge from the get-go and never lets up. Two soldiers, one Serbian (Rene Bitorajac) and one Croatian (Branko Djuric), are stranded together in a trench between their respective armies' strongholds with nothing but hatred, a common homeland, and a booby-trapped comrade to keep them company. What starts out as an accident of combat escalates into a full-blown incident once the military brass, a UN observation patrol, and an English TV reporter (Katrin Cartlidge) began wading into the fray. Director Denis Tanovic's tenure filming war atrocities on the Sarajevo front lends an air of elegiac realism to the film's Beckett-like flak-black humor, painting a portrait of life during wartime that's equal parts horror and ridiculousness. (1:37) Opera Plaza. (Fear)
Ocean's Eleven (1:46) Galaxy, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck.
Orange County (1:23) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon.
Piñero A great biographical subject is pretty well squandered in director-scenarist Leon Ichaso's dramatized portrait of Miguel Piñero, the Nuyorican poet, Off-Broadway playwright, and stage and screen actor who rode to fame via the incendiary prison-set play Short Eyes. The real-life experience Piñero brought to that and other works he'd served jail stints and been a pretty thief and drug addict made him a figurehead in the 1970s Latino cultural explosion. Still, his demons didn't go away with that newfound celebrity; frittering away most of his opportunities, he died, homeless and still mired in substance abuse, in 1988. Benjamin Bratt gives a dynamic performance as Piñero, but the video-shot feature does poorly, trying to cover a high-profile life story with evident low-budgetary means. Worse, Ichaso's fragmentary script and short-attention-span editing reduce that life to a hectic series of quick sound bite-driven microscenes that come off glibly unevocative. Giancarlo Esposito, Talisa Soto, and Rita Moreno are among the large scroll of supporting players who never get a chance to establish more than a blunt first impression. (1:35) Lumiere. (Harvey)
*The Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson turns New York City into a diorama, multiplying Rushmore's Max by three and shoving the trio of variants into adulthood. A preteen, pre-Tina New Yorker brownstone is the Tenenbaum family's fort within a haunted metropolitan playground, where the sins of their awfully lovable father (Gene Hackman) define the Tenenbaum children financial ace Chas (Ben Stiller), ex-tennis champ Richie (Luke Wilson), and playwright Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who've just moved back in with their urban archaeologist mother (Anjelica Huston). Anderson deploys tracking shots and musical montage with the highly irregular constancy of that letter Anderson, P.T. each comic-strip storyboarded frame, whether exterior or interior, is like the bedroom of a wealthy wunderkind, or, when truly inspired, a self-conscious intellect's imagination. The Royal Tenenbaums has six times the nervous energy of its subjects, who've been losing so long that they're paralyzed in the past. (2:25) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Piedmont, Presidio, Shattuck. (Huston)
The Shipping News (2:00) Grand Lake, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness.
Snow Dogs (1:39) Century Plaza, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
Vanilla Sky (2:30) 1000 Van Ness.
*Waking Life (1:37) Four Star.
A Walk to Remember Pop starlet Mandy Moore can breathe easy: the film featuring her first turn as a leading lady far betters Mariah Carey's pitiful Glitter. But this treacly high school "spiritual romance" from director Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner) is no masterpiece, either it's got plenty of choice moments that could make even die-hard TRL fans squirm. Still, Moore and her costar, Shane West (recently seen playing cards with Brad Pitt in the Ocean's Eleven scene that pokes fun at young Hollywood), gamely navigate the She's All That/Here on Earth/Touched by an Angel terrain with likeable earnestness, casting cynical self-awareness to the wind like it's 1970 (the year of Love Story, clearly another inspiration) again. (1:42) Century Plaza, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Stonestown. (Eddy)
*The American Astronaut The only thing you can truly be sure of by the end of Cory McAbee's retro-chic futuristic space western-film noir-rock opera is that knowledge is worthless. The American astronaut's mission is simple, in a needlessly complicated sort of way: trade a cat for a cloned girl, whom he's to bring to a planet of men, in trade for the Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman's Breast, whom he's to bring to the planet of women, where he's to pick up the remains of Venus's love toy to bring back to Earth. The only problems are that the astronaut's being stalked by a crazy professor straight out of 1950s industrials, a sometime narrator with a bow-tie and birthday obsession, and he ends up picking up a space stray, a boy whose skittish behavior and rotten teeth are attributed to life in no gravity and a diet of tobacco, caffeine, and chocolate. While Astronaut, as sentimental and perverse as the band the Billy Nayer Show that built it, touches down on the deeper wounds within the male psyche, it's best to remember you're only along for the ride. A bucking-bronco robot, it's probably the wildest ride of the year. (1:33) Red Vic. (Gerhard)
*The Wide Blue Road Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a fisherman is just a fisherman. Unless, of course, the fisherman in question is the protagonist in former Italian resistance fighter-communist party member Gillo Pontecorvo's extraordinary debut film, 1957's The Wide Blue Road, and he's portrayed by Yves Montand, the filet mignon of '50s Euro-hunkiness. This swarthy monger of sea poultry is both a peasant hero fighting tooth and nail for his family (and using dangerous, illegal explosives to gather his bounty) and a cipher used to contrast the power of the collective union in battling injustice. The story of a postwar Italian fishing community struggling to survive, Pontecervo's first feature already shows the filmmaker blending his leftist political leanings with Italian cinema's humanist neorealism roots (the director claims seeing a Roberto Rossellini film inspired him to pick up a camera), refining techniques he would later bring to such incendiary socialist treatises as 1965's The Battle of Algiers and 1969's Quemada! (1:39) Roxie. (Fear)