Dennis Harvey

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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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 »

The unbearable triteness of being

Obnoxious I Melt With You is not destined for any top 10 lists

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FILM A lamentation frequently heard is that men don't know how to express their feelings. At least not the theoretically less "manly" ones of vulnerability, self-doubt, weepiness, affection, "do these board shorts make me look fat?," etc. Every once in a while, however, there comes an entertainment that makes you think: better to keep those feelings unexpressed, bud. Read more »

Clark shadows

Totally awesome video games! 1970s and 80s schlock director Greydon Clark gets a tribute, Joy Sticks and all

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TRASH If you were around in the waning days of drive-ins and urban grindhouses, the heydays of video stores and 1980s late-night cable, or were a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fan, the name Greydon Clark might ring a faint bell — maybe even a warning bell.Read more »

Rare and juicy

"Loads of Curt McDowell" pays tribute to an underground legend

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FILM Longtime San Francisco resident George Kuchar's death this September was a reminder of how many had been influenced by his loveably eccentric movies, from famous early fans like Andy Warhol and John Waters to the hundreds of students who passed through his San Francisco Art Institute courses over the decades. Read more »

No bombshell

Williams works hard, but My Week With Marilyn is a hollow tribute

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