Dennis Harvey

Cinematic repression

The Reader translates an interior-voice tome into cinema
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REVIEW Falling ill from scarlet fever on a mid-1950s Berlin street, strapping 15-year-old schoolboy Michael Berg (David Kross) experiences kindness from passerby Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) that he seeks to repay when he recovers some months later. The brusque, moody woman more than twice his age brushes him off, initially. But then they commence an affair in which she proves a very astute erotic tutor, though she resists the emotional connection he feels. A decade later, as a law student, he discovers Hanna's secret while spectating a Nazi war crimes trial. Read more »

Nubostubalgubiuba!

Kiddie nostalgia with ZOOM: Back to the 70s
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FREE TO BE TV If you were a kid in the late 1960s and early '70s, you were an integral part of the counterculture's trickling-down influence. Hitherto square as a toddler's puzzle peg, children's TV programming radicalized not long after various sexual and social revolutions liberated their parents from larger strangulations.

Displacing innocuous slapstick pacifiers, shows were redesigned to educate and empower. Or simply be groovy, like the Sid and Marty Krofft Brit-popping Bugaloos or then-teen idol Rick Springfield's Mission: Magic! Kid Power stressed multiculturalism. Read more »

Czech it out

Beauty in Trouble is classically warm and ironic
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REVIEW An attractive 30-something woman with a face hardened by rough times — most recently the 2002 Prague flood pretty much ruining her Prague home — Marcela (Anna Geislerova) is raising two children under precarious circumstances. Marriage to Jarda (Roman Luknar) is discordant, despite their volcanic sex, in large part because she objects to his paying the bills by running a chop shop. Read more »

Sleaze, if you please

"Holiday Heat" celebrates pre-Turkey Day with porn
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Thanksgiving is a time for wholesome family togetherness. All the more reason, then, to get your sex on "Holiday Heat," a pre-Turkey Day celebration of retro sleaze. First up is freshly deceased Gerard Damiano's 1972 Devil in Miss Jones, which followed his prior year's Deep Throat as the second biggest porn movie ever. (Or at least before celebutantes like Paris Hilton and John Wayne Bobbitt crashed the market.) Throat is historic but amateur; Devil is actually kinda good. Read more »

Modern slavery

Nick Broomfield's Ghosts is a powerful and realistic look at illegal Chinese immigrants
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REVIEW Just when his once-great muckraking documentaries seem to be running on fumes (1998's Kurt and Courtney, 2002's Biggie and Tupac, etc.), Nick Broomfield has reinvented himself as a narrative director — a role he previously tried and bombed at in 1989's pretentious murder mystery Dark Obsession. Made before his terrific 2007 Iraq War docudrama, Battle for Haditha (which briefly played at the Roxie this year), but only released here now, Ghosts (2006) isn't quite that film's equal. But it's still powerful and realistic. Read more »

I can't get over you

Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback celebrates tonsure rock
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Few passions are more reckless than those of the '60s garage-rock completist, so that just about any band that had one good song on a Nuggets compilation automatically becomes somebody's idea of way better than those boring, overrated Beatles. Read more »

The trouble with hairy

The Werewolf of Washington: crude, sloppy, aesthetically ugly, deliberately ridiculous, and hilarious
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HALLOWEEN SCREENING What's most shocking about Oliver Stone's W. — beyond anything in the too-mild movie itself — is that it's simply dramatizing a still-seated US president. That still feels like a breach in our near-extinct public decorum, however much Shrub has degraded the office's dignity.

Yet there's precedent: one prior era brought a slew of movies about its Disaster-in-Chief. Once Watergate broke, filmmakers from late radical-left documentarian Emile de Antonio to future Roller Boogie (1979) director Mark L. Read more »

Deeper and deeper

Madonna's Filth and Wisdom another unlucky star
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Everybody has an unlucky-star arena in which they've serially flunked out. Madonna, long successful in so many media, has cinema. Can our hyper-ballsy Material Girl be intimidated by "real" acting, as opposed to music video personae she's done fine by? Maybe. But that doesn't explain why, after 30 years' experience behind cameras, she's made a directorial debut as poorly crafted as Filth and Wisdom, which looks cheap and ugly despite all gratuitous visual gimmicks.

That's not even the real problem. Read more »

New new wave

Dysfunctional families, Desplechin, and Deneuve: "French Cinema Now"
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Everything changes, civilizations collapse, end times approach and recede, but there are always good movies from France. How can this be so? Every film culture has its periods of pervasive suckingness. France perhaps had one: the 1950s, when the stagnation of vapid costume epics and such made bores of icons like Jean Gabin, provoking the nouvelle vague as creative protest. Read more »

Dirty deeds

With "The Superstars Next Door," San Francisco smut classics offer a look at homegrown sex cinema
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SIN-EMA Though he's lived in Denmark since 1993, time and distance have only drawn author-archivist Jack Stevenson closer to his erstwhile home's filmic arcana. Proof arrives via "The Superstars Next Door: A Celebration of San Francisco Amateur Sex Cinema." This Yerba Buena Center for the Arts–commissioned series flashes back to SF's smutty '60s, when the sexual revolution dragged "adults only" movies semi-overground. Read more »