May 15, 2002
Arts and Entertainment
Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Meryl Cohen, David Fear, Dina Gachman, Susan Gerhard, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Patrick Macias, and Chuck Stephens. Film intern is Summers Henderson. See Rep Clock, page 109, and Movie Clock, page 110, for theater information.
San Francisco Documentary Film Festival
The second annual S.F. DocFest takes place May 16-21. The venue is Studio Z, 314 11th St, SF. Tickets are $8 a show (series pass $40) and may be purchased by calling (415) 421-TIXS, visiting www.sfindie.com, or going to the festival box office at Jezebel's Joint, 510 Larkin, SF (hours Wed-Sat, 7pm-2am). All times are pm. For commentary see Script Doctor, page 58.
Spellbound 6. Starwoids 8. Fri/17
Divining Mom with "Treasure Hunters" 5. Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) 7.
Backyard Wrestling with "Gross-Deutschland" 2. Cyberman with "1984" 4:45. Owned with "Sean Connery Golf Project" and "neighborhoodfilms Aquarius Records: Episode 13" 7.
Sister Wife with "Southern Family" 1. Chain Camera 3. The Daddy of Rock 'N' Roll with "Another True Story of My Miserable Fucked Up Life" 5. "Sex, Inc" (shorts program) 7.
Missing Allen 5:45. Money for Nothing with "Frump: Moms Just Gotta Make Noise" and "neighborhoodfilms 1, 2, 13" 7:45. What Are You Going to Do for Toilet Paper? with "Friction" and "A Stoner's Life" 9:30.
Love Inventory 5:45. Kinky Friedman: Proud to Be an Asshole from El Paso with "Hook, Line, and Singer" 7:45. Breath Control: The History of the Human Beat Box 9:30.
About a Boy See Script Doctor, page 58. (1:45) Grand Lake, Orinda, Shattuck.
*Back Against the Wall See "Foto-graphy," page 56. (1:34) Artists' Television Access.
Elvira's Haunted Hills Mistress of the Dark Elvira appears at a special screening of her latest film; proceeds benefit Out and Equal Workplace Advocates and the Stop AIDS Project. (1:29) Four Star.
In July See Movie Clock, page 110. (1:40) Lumiere, Rafael.
See How They Run When Emily Morse started documenting the 1999 San Francisco mayor's race, there wasn't much at stake. No one liked incumbent Willie Brown much, but no one liked either of his challengers any better. Former mayor Frank Jordan was largely forgotten; political consultant Clint Reilly had little going for him but a small personal fortune and an ugly past. Tom Ammiano set that evil-of-three-lessers scenario on its ear. The plot of Morse's film, See How They Run, will be familiar to anyone who was paying even the least attention: progressive supervisor launches last-minute write-in campaign, mobilizes disaffected hipsters and lefties, wipes the floor with Reilly and Jordan, and grabs a spot in the runoff without even getting his name on the ballot. Massive soft-money spending takes on massive volunteer mobilization. Money wins handily. Morse could have told this story as the tale of a virtuous grassroots uprising that fought the good fight and got squashed, or she could have constructed a cynical satire of political venality and only-in-San-Francisco goofiness. (She could also have told it from a pro-Brown perspective, I guess, but there's not much drama in rooting for the overdog.) Morse's problem is that she doesn't commit to any of these approaches; she just hangs around with a camera, soaking it all up. (1:05) Red Vic. (Gabriel Roth)
*A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake See "Skin, Deep," page 59. (:50) Roxie.
*Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones See "Clone Rangers," page 58. (2:22) Century Plaza, Coronet, Grand Lake, Jack London, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
The Accountant (:38) Balboa.*Amadeus, the Director's Cut (3:08) Balboa.
Amélie (1:55) Clay, Shattuck.
*The Cat's Meow (1:47) Albany, Bridge, Piedmont.
Changing Lanes (1:35) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.
*The Cockettes David Weissman and Bill Weber's The Cockettes doesn't seem like a projection so much as a flaming, sparkled gateway into a fantastic world ruled by always-bejeweled and sometimes-bearded beautiful ladies in velvet and satin. More than one eccentric testifies in Weissman and Weber's documentary: with typical quick wit, John Waters outlines the Cockettes' links to his and Divine's mayhem. Society dame Denise Hale, in fur and pearls, attests that the troupe put on the show to see in early-'70s San Francisco. But the film's most colorful talking heads are the Cockettes themselves, including Sweet Pam, glowing with health as she claims that the Cockettes practically brushed their teeth with LSD; Scrumbly, an old-fashioned gentleman with comic Chaplinesque style; and Reggie, who issues an invitation: "Just give me a torn dress and a hit of acid and let's go to the beach." The Cockettes transcends packaged nostalgia partly because Weissman and Weber make still photos come to life through pans and dissolves, partly because, during four years of research, they've uncovered a bedazzled treasure chest of rare film footage. (1:39) Castro, Rafael, Shattuck. (Huston)
Deuces Wild (1:36) Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
*Dogtown and Z-Boys No question: the Z-Boys, a 1970s-era crew of skateboarders who adapted slashing, style-laden surfer techniques to the asphalt, were seminal. Dodging the Man, the team Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, and the rest stole into empty backyard swimming pools, pushing off from the shallow end and flowing along the concrete curves. Setting out only to kill time in Dogtown, their entropic seaside neighborhood, the teenage Z-Boys somehow managed to find transcendence, at least for a few moments. Really, they were accidental Buddhists. So what do you do when corporate culture/the Hollywood machine announces its intent to make a feature flick about your life as a proto-skate punk? If you're Peralta, now a 44-year-old documentary film director, you shoot back. Hitting up the Vans shoe company for the David-esque sum of $400,000, Peralta stitched together Dogtown and Z-Boys, a 90-minute preemptive strike now in theaters. Narrated by Sean Penn, the film is a generally dazzling excavation of a skate history unknown to the X-Games generation. It's a narrative Darwin would like: the Z-Boys (10 guys and one girl) started in the water, surfing the breaks off Venice Beach, moved to the land, skating when the waves were flat, and eventually became skate-obsessed, flying their skateboards into the sky and accelerating the art form's evolution exponentially. (1:41) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (A.C. Thompson)
Hollywood Ending (1:14) Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Metreon, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda.
Ice Age (1:24) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
*Italian for Beginners (1:39) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.
*Jason X (1:33) Colma, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Kabuki, Metreon, UA Berkeley.
Kissing Jessica Stein (1:47) Embarcadero, Shattuck.
Lantana (2:00) Balboa.
Life or Something Like It (1:39) Four Star, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Kabuki, UA Berkeley.*Maelström Denis Villeneuve's Maelström is one very odd journey from the vaguely unpleasant and baffling to the quite captivating (but still kinda baffling). Discontented heir to her mother's haute couture empire, model Bibiane Champagne (Marie-Josée Croze) is taking life mostly up the nose and in straight double shots before a drunken accident turns her slow self-destruction into a guilt-stricken plunge. When her path crosses with that of oceanographer Evian (Jean-Nicolas Verreault), love follows, bringing its own fresh load of killing bad conscience. Darkly humorous, brilliantly shot, unpredictable, and sometimes off-putting, the movie only starts to add up once it hits the conventional romantic curve a genuine sweetness begins to pervade both story and heroine, leading to a surprisingly touching conclusion. (1:23) Four Star. (Harvey)
*Monsoon Wedding (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero, Piedmont.
*Monster's Ball (1:48) Lumiere.
Murder by Numbers (2:01) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2:01) Jack London, Shattuck.
The New Guy Asinine teen movies are alive and well, as evidenced by The New Guy. Its plot sounds yawn-inspiringly familiar: nerd gets a makeover, makes friends with the cool kids, gets the girl, then realizes what a sellout he is and renounces the jocks and babes for his true, geeky friends. Spindly D.J. Qualls plays ultrageek Dizzy, a guy so low, so humiliated, he gets expelled on purpose just to get out of his high school. His mentor is a guy he meets in jail (Eddie Griffin), who teaches him how to walk, look, and think tough. The jail subplot is a failed attempt at narrative device, and it's not funny in the least. Director Ed Decter also thinks cameos by Henry Rollins, Tony Hawk, Tommy Lee, and others will add to the movie's cool quotient, which they don't. Eliza Dushku, whose hair-flipping talents rival Meryl Streep's flair for accents, plays the cheerleader babe. (1:30) Century Plaza, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck. (Gachman)
*Nine Queens (1:54) Embarcadero, Shattuck.
Panic Room (1:52) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.*The Piano Teacher The brittle-boned mother (Annie Girardot) of Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) obsessively monitors her daughter, who leaves their apartment to conduct abusive piano lessons and smell semen-stained tissues in peep-show booths. Erika falls in love with Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel), a vain, handsome, and aggressive young man from an arts-patron family who has campaigned to become her student, and the film's main event begins: a fight between romanticism (represented by Walter) and sadomasochism (represented by Erika). Though French in tone, director Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher is set in Vienna, home of its musical and psychoanalytical themes. Late in the movie, Erika seems to age years in a matter of seconds, suddenly resembling her mother. The process is so seamless that Huppert's method isn't apparent. What's missing, though, is any kind of hope or humanity; in place of uncovering a woman's soul, however distorted, Huppert's performance journeys deep into rotten recesses only to discover emptiness. That's the point a misanthrope's comedy, The Piano Teacher is the feel-bad European art film of the season, perhaps to a fault. (2:10) Balboa, Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Huston)
The Rookie (2:09) Century Plaza, 1000 Van Ness.
The Salton Sea (1:43) Metreon, Opera Plaza.
The Scorpion King (1:32) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
Shanda Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi is one of Zimbabwe's most popular musicians, and this reverential documentary by Steve Riber and Louise Riber tells his story and spotlights his concert performances. Shanda means "work" and the film concentrates on that aspect of Tuku's life, though at the expense of insights into his personality and the nation he comes from. The music itself is sweetly delightful African pop, with soft guitar melodies above rollicking, lively percussion and a mixture of rhythms. Tuku sings with spirit, and his lyrics respond to the political issues of the day, going back to his first song in 1976 under British rule. Contemporary songs speak of AIDS and changes in Zimbabwean society. At the end of the film Mtukudzi offers the insight "The future of Africa is very bright," but American viewers will sorely miss the explanation of more about African history and culture to put Tuku's optimism in context. (1:20) Rafael. (Henderson)
Space Station 3D (:47) Metreon Imax.
Spider-Man The fact that Spider-Man is one of the least openly brain-rotting blockbusters, as well as one of the most faithful comic book adaptations, in recent memory is something to be genuinely thankful for. Sure, Spidey could have used a few more wisecracks, fussed more neurotically over his superhero-caliber "super-problems," and looked less like an escapee from a PlayStation game, but the final product is solid enough to dodge serious disaster even if it also lacks true greatness. After a fantastically engaging first half, wherein Tobey Maguire discovers he can do "whatever a spider can," things take a downturn as Willem Dafoe's less interesting Green Goblin takes center stage. You can feel the studio pressure on director Sam Raimi, who (while hitting all the right notes) sadly holds back on the kind of mad visual invention that made his previous superhero outing, Darkman, such a blast. (1:51) Alexandria, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda, Presidio, UA Berkeley. (Macias)
The Sweetest Thing (1:27) 1000 Van Ness.
*Time Out What one does for a living is such a cornerstone of identity that once it's removed, it's easy for existential dread to creep in and lead to extremes. For the hero of the psychodrama Time Out, it's even easier to bask in denial. Vincent (Aurélien Recoing) was a consultant at a business firm before getting the axe. He doesn't have the heart to tell his family or friends the truth, so he spends his days cruising around and crashing real places of work. It's just a matter of time before the lie he's living catches up to him. French filmmaker Laurent Cantet (Human Resources) probes how people will go to absurd, deceitful ends to maintain a semblance of self once their sense of security is threatened, showing how it's impossible to escape the fact that, job or no, it's only a matter of time before a greater social disintegration starts ticking away. (2:12) Act I and II, Lumiere. (Fear)
*The Triumph of Love The past decade's revival of interest in hitherto obscure French playwright Pierre Marivaux was largely triggered, stateside at least, by Stephen Wadsworth's extraordinary staging of his 1732 work The Triumph of Love. This screen Triumph, adapted by Bernardo Bertolucci's spouse and frequent writing collaborator, Clare Peploe, is a much less delicate animal, if also probably a more broadly appealing one. An Italian princess (Mira Sorvino), aware that her throne was stolen from its rightful owners a generation ago, is determined to give it back. But the current true heir, glossy young buck Agis (Jay Rodan), has been poisoned against her by his guardian, Hemocrates (Ben Kingsley), a philosophical rationalist who rails against love in general and women in particular. Thus, the princess dons male drag and presents herself as a wandering aristocrat in search of intellectual mentorship. The beautifully costumed Triumph is very charming, despite some failures of nerve, including the hiccupy editing and Jason Osborn's incessantly underlining score. (1:47) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)
*Y tu mamá también (1:45) Act I and II, Embarcadero, Piedmont.
Ultimate X For someone who used to think the X Games were testosterone fests that showed monosyllabic dudes doing dumb stunts, saying that Imax's Ultimate X rocks is a big step. My brimming cynicism didn't last long. As soon as Black Sabbath started in and the moto-X riders started flying in the air, that was it. Directed by Bruce Hendricks and featuring interviews and, yes, kick-ass stunts by Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Brian Deegan, and Bucky Lasek, to name a few (plus a token female, who's barely shown), the movie shows luge racing, BMX biking, skating, and moto-X through such intense camera work (and the Imax screen doesn't hurt) that it makes the games as seen on TV look like a tea party. Hendricks throws in a good amount of interview footage with the athletes (most have broken at least 20 bones, and one guy "flat-lined twice"), the crowd, journalists, and promoters. The only problem is that, at 39 minutes, it's, like, way too short. (:39) Metreon Imax. (Gachman)
Unfaithful When a suburban housewife (Diane Lane) meets a sleazy Gallic seducer (Olivier Martinez), coy flirtations quickly reach the illicit-tryst boiling point. Throw in a cuckolded husband (Richard Gere) who begins to suspect something, and acts of discovery and violence are right around the corner. Another slab of populist pulp from Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction), Unfaithful's tale of domestic bliss-banality shattered by transgression serves up vintage overlighting and choreographed passion like the '90s never happened. Like most of Lyne's work, it's little more than arty eroticism disguised as cineplex social melodrama, acting as if it cares more about the cracks of a marriage than about how to film rain sloshing against a windshield with panache. Even when the movie's posttraumatic final third opts for chic funereal tones rather than the expected histrionics, you can't help feeling that an overextended Red Shoe Diaries episode by any other name still smells just as cheap. (1:21) Alexandria, Empire, Grand Lake, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Oaks. (Fear)
*'Born to Be Bad: Trash Cinema of the 60s and 70s' See Critic's Choice. New PFA Theater.
*'Films by Peter Sempel' For the past 20 years Peter Sempel has been the cinematic chronicler of Europe's premier punks, poets, and outlaw philosophers, all connected by an individuality and purity of artistic purpose the director shares with his subjects. Little of his work has been seen 'round these parts, but thankfully the German-born, Australian-bred "cosmopolitan idealist" will be commanding four nights at the Goethe-Institut to showcase some of his finest forays. The final program, Dandy (Thurs/16), is his performance-art musical loosely based on Voltaire's Candide. Sempel's works are funny, frightening, and unforgettable. Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes. (Fear)
*'Kung Fu Kult Classics and Saturday Midnites for Maniacs' This week's Kult Klassics double feature is Nam Nai Cho's Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (see Tiger on Beat; this film is also the "Midnites for Maniacs" feature) and Killer Rangers, starring the immortal Yasuaki Kurata (One by One). Four Star.
'Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation Best of the Fest' Grand Lake.
*'My Way Home: A Bill Douglas Trilogy' Scottish-born filmmaker Bill Douglas died 15 years ago at age 54, leaving behind a frustratingly small body of work. His magnum opus, which took eight years to complete, was this triptych of autobiographical dramas revisiting a preadolescence of truly Dickensian dimensions. In 1972's 48-minute My Childhood, Jamie and his bullying older brother Tommy are raised in a bleak mining town by their elderly grandmother; the family is so poor that they have to steal coal for warmth. In the slightly longer 1973 My Ain Folk, Tommy has been shipped off to a distant orphanage, while Jamie is accepted into the home of a neighboring man who might be his dad unfortunately, he also has to live with the man's mother, a puritanical and sadistic woman given to harrowing mood swings. The feature-length My Way Home (1977) shuffles the cards again with no better luck, as the father figure marries an indifferent woman with her own cruel son; Jamie again finds himself caught between rival unappetizing home options, but he begins to stake out control over his own future. These dialogue-sparse, imagistically rich black-and-white films locate a middle ground between the working-class bleakness of Ken Loach's early films and Terrence Davies's stylized near-magical realism. They're somber and depressing, but at the same time they support passages of transcendent, lyrical beauty. These local screenings offer a rare chance to experience what might have become one of Brit cinema's most important talents. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Harvey)