Dennis Harvey

The war at home

A veteran filmmaker returns with the Oscar-nominated In Darkness

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FILM Agnieszka Holland is that kind of filmmaker who can become a well known, respectable veteran without anyone being quite sure what those decades have added up to. Her mentor was Andrzej Wadja, the last half-century's leading Polish director (among those who never left). He helped shape a penchant for heavy historical drama and a sometimes clunky style not far from his own.Read more »

Success in excess

Is Ken Russell's awesome "The Devils" Satan's favorite movie? Sure, why the hell not.

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FILM The demise of Ken Russell late last year at age 84 blew a few cobwebs off appreciation of his career, which had ever been beloved by cult-minded buffs but forgotten by most everyone else for some years. He hadn't had a theatrical feature for two decades, and in his last years had been reduced to glorified home movies with titles like Revenge of the Elephant Man (2004) and The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002). Read more »

On the township

After 50 years, Lionel Rogosin's groundbreaking film Come Back, Africa finally gets its due

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FILM Opposition to apartheid didn't really pick up steam as a popular cause in the U.S. until the early 1980s. Which makes it all the more remarkable that New York City-based documentarian Lionel Rogosin made Come Back, Africa about a quarter-century earlier — though less surprisingly, the film itself was barely seen here at the time. Now finally playing American theaters outside his home town in a restored print, it's a time capsule whose background is as intriguing as the history it captures onscreen.Read more »

Have you heard the good news?

Marjoe (and other praise-worthy oddities) at "The Second Coming of the Vortex Room"

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Today, seeing high-profile evangelical Christians reveal themselves to be charlatans or hypocrites is old news. Even the spectacle of homophobic mega church prig Ted Haggard, outed as a fan of male hustlers and crystal meth, resurfacing on Celebrity Wife Swap induced a few shudders but no real surprise. The plunge from public sanctimoniousness to scandal and newly angled self-promotion is by now too familiar to shock. Read more »

The best medicine

Valérie Donzelli draws on her real-life experiences as mother to a sick child in the whimsical, likable Declaration of War

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<P><B>FILM</B> French actor Val&eacute;rie Donzelli made her first feature as writer-director with 2009's <I>The Queen of Apples</I>, which trawled the film festival circuit for a couple of years &#151; eventually getting its title tweaked to <I>The Queen of Hearts</I> &#151; before making its unheralded U.S. debut at the 2010 Mill Valley Film Festival. It got a minor theatrical release in France and none at all here. Read more »

Conflict revolution

Well-crafted A Separation examines a modern Iranian marriage

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Like the Olympics, albeit on a less rigid schedule, the perceived hotspot for evolving cinematic art tends to migrate every few years. Recently we've seen the likes of Romania and South Korea thrust into that rarefied limelight, just as decades earlier it had been Italy, France, Japan, or Sweden. Their moment usually occurs when a new generation of filmmakers with shared stylistic and/or political concerns impact as a collective force, reinvigorating the national cinema while making a splash on the international festival and art house circuits.Read more »

Let him entertain you

"Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man" showcases the director's crowd-pleasing career

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FILM The most famous and honored Hollywood directors have always been easily identifiable by style, genre, emotional tenor, or all the above. There's Hitchcock with his wryly misanthropic suspense, and John Ford's outdoor archetypes of masculinity. Even Steven Spielberg, who's made just about every kind of narrative, has a telltale penchant for sweep and sentimentality running through everything from Jaws (1975) to The Adventures of Tintin (2011).Read more »

Sanitized insanity

Cleanflix doc tells a surprisingly twisty tale of Mormon "scrubbing"

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TRASH The term "Hollywood" has become a many-splendored pejorative, applicable to anything trite, vulgar, politically liberal, morally lax, and so on and so forth. Yet as much as they might like to think they're so-not That, what red-corpuscled Americans with an electrical socket in their dwelling — or simply senses to absorb stray bits of popular culture when they venture outside — aren't influenced by if not downright addicted to some facets of the entertainment industry?Read more »

8 Mile blues

It Came From Detroit follows the Motor City rock scene's early '00s moment in the sun

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There have been a number of documentaries lately reflecting a fascination with Detroit as a ruined giant, our very own (barely) living Pompeii. Local residents have made films lamenting the extreme poverty and the bungled public-corporate policies that largely created it. Non-locals, particularly those state-funded Europeans, have made others whimsically extolling the environ's pockets of reversion to agrarian culture — seeing utopian futurism there rather than a grimly comic last resort. Read more »

Lights, Jolie, action

In the Land of Blood and Honey is a respectable war movie — despite the superstar behind the camera

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM The grudging, occasionally outright hostile tone some critics, culture vultures, and fan types have taken toward In the Land of Blood and Honey points toward a fundamental problem most of them have, though few admit it: the belief that Angelina Jolie is just too damn famous, too much a figure of public speculation and private fantasy, to be taken seriously — let alone to make a movie about rape and genocide during the War in the Balkans.Read more »