Dennis Harvey

Lunch-drunk love

Lydia Lunch's Kiss Napoleon Goodbye now available on DVD
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AVANT TO BE PUNK If any artist ever self-classified as trash, it was (is?) Lydia Lunch, original '70s New York City No Wave princess (Teenage Jesus and the Jerks), '80s underground film star (for Richard Kern, Scott and Beth B., Nick Zedd, etc.), and subsequent spoken-word performer and print autobiographer. In each medium her voice bottled the societally incriminating sarcasm of self-defined detritus, costume-partied as yesteryear's bullet-bra'd sex object. By 1990, who beyond first-generation punk nostalgists gave a fuck? Read more »

Beautiful nightmare

A filmmaker and her subject chronicle an epic immigrant experience
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If the U.S. really is entering a new period of transparency and team-playing, that might take a while to swallow for some nations that have known us best as an unreliable fair-weather ally. One of the Vietnam War's lesser-heralded tragedies was what happened to neighboring Laos. Early in Ellen Kuras' The Betrayal, we see JFK in 1961 saying of Laos, "All we want is peace, not war. Read more »

Splitting heirs

The SF Silent Film Festival's winter event brings the spinal chills
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SILENT FILMS Horror movies have never been more plentiful or popular than they are now — which says more about the times we live in than there's room to discuss here — yet in film's first decades they barely made an appearance. The early 20th-century rush to modernity, particularly in the U.S., made anything that smacked of superstition seem childish, silly, even distasteful; the simple life of yore, with all its greater hardships, was still too fresh to invite nostalgia. Read more »

Hot pink

IndieFest takes a peek inside Japanese sex cinema
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Filmmakers like Jonathan Demme who worked for Roger Corman in the early 1970s were delighted by their freedom to include just about anything — radical political issues, wild tonal shifts, etc. — as long as the basic drive-in requirements of gratuitous T&A and violence were shoehorned in. That moment was brief. Read more »

'Dance party

Smile 'Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story and other Sundance flicks
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PARK CITY REPORT A degree of relative tranquility settled on Sundance this year, as budget cutbacks among media outlets and distributors meant the customary frenzy was dialed down a notch or three. Of course most screenings were packed, but fewer people than usual got turned away; lodgings remained available during the festival, whereas normally they'd be booked months in advance. Still, what was onscreen remained as usual — a more or less even mix of good, bad, and indifferent. Read more »

The Pope's Toilet

Melo prepares for the anticipated 1988 visit of Pope John Paul II
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REVIEW In the Uruguayan hamlet Melo, poor residents like Beto (César Troncoso) squeak by smuggling consumer goods over the border from nearby Brazil — despite being frequently stopped, harassed, and robbed by corrupt, mean-spirited customs guard Meleyo (Nelson Lence). When Pope John Paul II's 1988 visit encompasses a stop in Melo, the villagers enthusiastically prepare for an anticipated huge tourist influx, hoping their makeshift food stands and other services can reap life-changing profits from the visiting faithful. Read more »

"Three on a Match"

64 hurtling minutes, packed with pre-Code incident
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REVIEW This 1932 pre-Code gem is a fine example of the era's snappy Warner Bros. style and economical storytelling. Three women are reunited by chance years after being Manhattan grade-school classmates: goodhearted "bad girl" Mary (Joan Blondell) became a Broadway baby via reform school. Smart but poor valedictorian Ruth (Bette Davis, whose screen prospects were considered pretty wan at this point) became a humble stenographer. Product of privilege Vivian (Ann Dvorak) married childhood sweetheart Robert (Warren William) and is now the consummate socialite wife and mother. Read more »

Scary kids scaring kids

A feast of little bejeebers creeps across the Castro screen
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PG TERROR The real magic kingdom is Disney Inc., which has managed to completely dominate family entertainment for at least 70 years, from Snow White (1938) to High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2007). Yet there was a period in the 1980s when the post-Walt studio appeared to have lost its way. Read more »

Senioritis

What's Vanessa Redgrave doing in the geezer ghetto?
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It seems inevitable that no matter how admired and lauded the actor, a time comes sooner or later when there ain't much left but the Crotchety Comedy Coot roles. Some, like Peter O'Toole, Helen Hayes, Walter Matthau, or Maggie Smith, build entire second-act careers out of them; others are dragged kicking and screaming into those twinkle-eyed support slots. (You've got to respect Glenda Jackson, who quit acting for politics at age 55, snorting "I don't fancy hanging around to play Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Read more »

Horrible! Overlooked! Best!

The Year in Film 2008: A Guardian critic counts down his hours in the dark
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DENNIS HARVEY'S 16 HORRIBLE EXPERIENCES AT THE MOVIES:

1. Over Her Dead Body (Jeff Lowell, USA) Paul Rudd can redeem anything. Or so I thought.

2. Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry, USA) When the cause of whimsy and movie-love requires making every character onscreen a grating comedy 'tard, you gotta wonder: what made this Gondry joint better than Rob Schneider?

3. Read more »