Dennis Harvey

Dark slice of life

A too-little-known filmmaker breaks through with Black Bread

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SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Despite the incredible current spread of festivals and formats by which art films can be exposed internationally, it's still possible for masterful directors with considerable resumes to remain largely ignored outside their own country. Certainly that's been the case with Agustí Villaronga, a fascinating Spanish director whose new film, Black Bread, is the latest in a career of superbly crafted films almost-commercial enough to gain U.S. release. Yet seldom quite enough.Read more »

Breaking point

Henry's Crime's emerging star: middle-aged Keanu Reeves

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FILM When erstwhile Hitchcock (1948's Rope, 1951's Strangers on a Train) protagonist Farley Granger died last month, obituaries kindly forgot that hitherto he'd been judged as a limited-range pretty boy luckily cast in a few iconic films.Read more »

Acid-washed terror

Blood Junkie reviews the source material of teen horror

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RETRO GORE With the upcoming release of Scream 4 — the overlong-awaited latest in a series riffing on 1980s slasher clichés — it feels like a good moment to review the source material, which is to say the deadly spawn of Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). Issued at the heyday of the direct-to-video market, those films' myriad cheap-and-cheaper knockoffs explored the full range of variably amateur charm.Read more »

Fernando Di Leo, glorious bastard

Europudding casts, past-prime Hollywood actors, and a verve that influenced Tarrantino in Fernando Di Leo: The Italian Crime Collection

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ITALIAN CRIME CINEMA Italian cinema has a long history of innovators, but — like every other country, albeit more so — it survived commercially for decades via genre imitators. Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, Pasolini, Bertolucci, and so on couldn't have existed without the fiscal cushion provided by genre-feeds to the international market: first via mythological muscle man fantasies that reduced Hollywood's Cecil B. Read more »

King of the spook house

Jose Mojica Marins' infamous Brazilian cult horror films gain new life

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BRAZILIAN CULT HORROR English-language horror cinema has had its share of actors identified with playing one particular role over and over, from Bela Lugosi's Dracula to Robert Englund's Freddy Krueger. But we've never had anything quite like José Mojica Marins and his infamous Zé do Caixão (José of the Grave). Known to cult movie fans worldwide as Coffin Joe, this top-hatted, cape-flaring, bearded undertaker with extra-long curved fingernails and a mile-wide sadistic streak has been a sort of folk hero in Brazil for nearly 50 years.Read more »

Choose or lose

When We Leave's abused wife is torn between family and self-preservation

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FILM With its plentitude of female political stars, the Tea Party finds U.S. feminism at an interesting if inevitable developmental stage — wherein people who never would have gotten this far without liberationists' path-clearing reject progressivism altogether. They no longer identify with a historically oppressed viewpoint, but rather from an angry, gender-neutral stance of entitlement allegedly stolen by cunning have-nots and slippery liberals.Read more »

Leather forever

Found Footage Festival screens rare gems -- and giants, like Heavy Metal Parking Lot

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Every year since 1989, 25 movies are added to the National Film Registry, deemed worthy of preservation for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Their current number encompasses Eraserhead (1976) and Enter the Dragon (1973), the Zapruder and Hindenburg footage, The Muppet Movie (1979), "Let's All Go to the Lobby," Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger films, and This is Spinal Tap (1984) — as well as, you know, Citizen Kane (1941) and stuff. Which is to say, it is one of those ways in which democracy just kinda works.Read more »

L.A. Confidential

Patrick Warburton on The Woman Chaser — and Dragonard

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FILM Patrick Warburton occupies his own special niche. He is a big (6 feet, 3 inches), hirsute, square-jawed kinda white guy — the kind who saved screaming ingénues from gorillas or Martians in 1950s B flicks — who's flourished parodying macho blowhards. Who doesn't love Warburton? People who don't know who he is, obviously.Read more »

Naughty girls (need love too)

1969's The Sins of Madame Bovary unleashed a wave of exploitation flicks -- and Algerian-born bombshell Edwige Fenech

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SCANDAL! Flaubert's Madame Bovary is one of those pillars of French culture whose dismissal might well get you deported. (Deservedly.) It has inspired innumerable adaptations and co-optations, including a Hindi musical, a VeggieTales episode, and a postmodernist novel posing as a nonfiction memoir-literary homage (Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot). Read more »