Dennis Harvey

Offbeat direction

The Visitor charms but overstays its welcome
|
()

> a&eletters@sfbg.com

When successful actors turn to directing, you can often gauge how long they've been immersed in fiction by the degrees of condescension and cliché in their movies. Ethan Hawke is an unfortunate recent example. I'd say John Cassavetes is the classic one ... but then people would hunt me down and kill me.

Of course, some actors can think outside themselves behind the camera: George Clooney, Sarah Polley, and Ben Affleck (who knew?) provide recent testimony. Even Mel Gibson might qualify. Read more »

Fun but no Dice Man

Chaos Theory gets giddy, then retreats
|
()

Though early paperback editions brandished a "Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture" tag, there's never been a movie of the 1971 cult novel The Dice Man. That's a pity, because this tale of a psychiatrist who ditches his too-orderly life — by beginning to roll dice to make decisions — is a screen natural. I bet screenwriter Daniel Taplitz has read the Luke Rhinehart (a.k.a. George Cockcroft) book. His and director Marcos Siega's Chaos Theory is a Dice Man update, softened and family values–sweetened for our counter-counterculture age. Read more »

Tom's jones

A short cruise through the history of United Artists
|
()

Last year, after he was "fired" by Paramount for becoming the new Wacko Jacko, Tom Cruise bought United Artists. As the company prepares to Cruise into an uncertain future, the Castro Theatre is presenting a retrospective of its oft-glorious middle period. It kicks off with some Woody Allen (1977's inevitable Annie Hall and 1975's rare Love and Death). Read more »

Youth gone wild

Tir na nóg translates Edna O'Brien's debut novel to the stage
|
()

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

It's hard for a contemporary reader to fathom why — indeed, it was probably hard for many non-Eire readers to fathom even then — but when Edna O'Brien's debut novel, The Country Girls, came out in 1960, she was considered a disgrace to all of Ireland. Priests burned it in churchyards and denounced it from the pulpit. Read more »

There won't be blood

Michael Haneke gives the United States the Funny Games it deserves
|
()

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Michael Haneke would likely be offended if you said you enjoyed his movies — though no doubt he would enjoy hearing you were offended by them. The chill surface neutrality of a Haneke feature such as Caché (2005) is designed to intrigue and then frustrate — by depriving extreme situations of their usual sensationalism and neat narrative resolution so that we end up implicated by our own thwarted expectations. Even as a scold, Haneke is too disciplined to let us join him on his soapbox. Read more »

Saint Peter

Bogdanovich gets his due in a Castro Theatre tribute
|
()

› a&e@sfbg.com

Arguably no modern film director made a better sustained entrance than Peter Bogdanovich, whose first four features were all triumphs. Targets (1968) was a chilling conceit that brought Hollywood pretend terror (Boris Karloff basically playing himself) against a modern real-world horror, the randomly mass-murdering sniper. That critical success led to a major studio deal to adapt (with then wife and collaborator Polly Platt) Larry McMurtry's novel The Last Picture Show (1971), a melancholy black-and-white flashback to 1950s rural Texas. Read more »

Gruesome twosomes

A blood harvest of cult DVDs
|
()

Grindhouse Psychos!

(Shriek Show)

CULT DVDS Nepotism is hardly absent from mainstream Hollywood. But off-grid exploitation and sexploitation flicks have oft been a family affair by low-budget necessity. Read more »

Love and war

Theatre Rhino tackles David Mamet's Boston Marriage
|
()

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Planet Mamet is normally a very manly-man's world, where alpha males growl, snap, and try to steal one another's bones. Women either similarly play rough or become obstacles to the overweening guy-versus-guy competition. Ergo, Boston Marriage is an anomaly: seldom staged since its 1999 premiere, this is a most atypical David Mamet play in that the characters are all female, the language florid, and the tone giddy — even, well, campy.

It probably seems more so than hitherto in John Fisher's Theatre Rhinoceros staging. Read more »

"Cinema Piemonte"

History is sampled in this weekend of features set in Piemonte, Italy
|
()

PREVIEW The northwestern Italian region of Piemonte is noted for production of wine, wheat, and Fiats. Its principal city, Turin, a.k.a. Torino, was briefly the nation's capital after unification — and soon afterward became the focus of its early film industry as well. While both crowns were eventually stolen by Rome, the area maintained a role in Italian cinema through the decades. Read more »

Beaufort

A military operation under extreme circumstances
|
()

Avoiding taking a political stance in favor of depicting a military operation under extreme circumstances with stark, vivid immediacy, Joseph Cedar's Beaufort reenacts the Israeli Army's evacuation of the titular fortress during its 2000 pullout from Lebanon. Constructed next to an ancient castle built by 12th-century crusaders, the enormous bunker — in which characters often seem to be running around like rats in a maze — was taken from the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1982 and fortified to an even more imposing degree. Read more »