Dennis Harvey

"Cinema Piemonte"

History is sampled in this weekend of features set in Piemonte, Italy
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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
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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 »

Talking points

Scripts make all the difference in Brainpeople and Curvy Widow
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The two women invited to a mysterious dinner party in the American Conservatory Theater–commissioned Brainpeople have no idea why they're there. For some time we're not sure why we are either. After detouring into the uncharacteristically straightforward screenplays of The Motorcycle Diaries and Trade, playwright José Rivera is back in quirky magic-realist overdrive. Too much of this 80-minute one-act feels propelled by a willful eccentricity less delightful than pointless. Read more »

"Tre"

The kind of cunning, sardonic psychological study that pays off in grim affirmation
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REVIEW A semisequel to writer-director Eric Byler's 2002 debut feature, Charlotte Sometimes, this low-key but quietly devastating relationship meltdown in the mode of Harold Pinter and Neil LaBute is his best work to date. Tre (Daniel Cariaga) is a burly, shaved-headed, aggro personality who burns rubber driving drunk and reckless one night to the Santa Monica Mountains house of longtime bud Gabe (Erik McDowell) and his girlfriend, Kakela (Kimberly-Rose Wolter). Read more »

Tiger Beat bard

Love is eternally young and doomed – and sometimes naked — in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet
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If 1967 was the Summer of Love, then late 1968 through mid-1969 brought the seasons of mass deflowering. This wasn't due to LSD, flower power, or even the trickling down of the sexual revolution. Rather, it was the perfidious influence of a nearly 400-year-old play that teenagers had previously read and watched with glazed eyes. Franco Zeffirelli's big-screen version of Romeo and Juliet made underage sex look extremely hot, virtuous, and stick-it-to-the-man rebellious. Read more »

From Juliet to Mother Teresa and Mrs. Bates

Olivia Hussey on her wild career
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Born in Argentina and raised in England, Olivia Hussey was just 15 when she was chosen to play li'l miss Capulet in the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. Since then she's had a bewilderingly diverse career that encompasses work with Burt Lancaster ("a lovely gentleman"), Vanessa Redgrave ("such a giving lady"), and Michael Jackson (Hussey acted in an unreleased Jackson music video that also featured Lou Ferrigno), as well as legendary softcore directors Radley Metzger and Zalman King. Hussey has played the Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa, and Norman Bates's mom. Read more »

Should you be 'dancing?

Baseball, Gonzo pie, and autohumiliation at this year's Sundance
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The Sundance Film Festival is like Los Angeles (in fact, for 10 days Park City, Utah, really is LA, plus snow). Each year you think it can't possibly get any more congested and shallow, yet it does. This is largely the fault of umpteen opportunists (people who set up celebrity gifting lounges! Paris Hilton!) who show up to exploit the enormous and indiscriminate media spotlight.

But the festival must also share blame, its original "purity" having given way to a marketplace and red-carpet zone often barely distinguishable from the entertainment mainstream. Read more »

Caine is able

Michael Caine -- minus Austin Powers, sharks, and killer bees
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The opening scene in a tragically forgotten 1968 swinging-London artifact called The Touchables — released stateside to universal catcalls — had four model-gorgeous "birds" breaking into an off-hours Madame Tussaud's. Goal: stealing the object of their desire, a wax dummy of Michael Caine. This proves too fleet a diversion — the glamorous gang are soon off to their next plot-dominating caper, hijacking a handsome pop star to a countryside inflatable plastic pleasure dome for extended go-go dancing and S-M games. Read more »

Material world

David Mamet's Hollywood soul search
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The year 1988 marked the apex of David Mamet's celebrity. He'd won a Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross, and American Buffalo was being produced by every little theater on the planet. He'd scripted several mostly admired films and had just directed his first, the coldly ingenious House of Games.

It must have been a heady time. One doesn't get the impression that Mamet is the type to enjoy simply being celebrated. Read more »

Year in Film: Things we lost in the theater

Score one for escapism, zero for political reality
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The economy: Apocalypse Now — or at least soon. Iraq: No End in Sight. Israel: "Putting Out Fire with Gasoline (Theme from Cat People)." China, in its role as the principal backer of our colossal national debt: I Spit on Your Grave. Read more »