Dennis Harvey

Truth or consequences

Solid-gold lifestyles and agents provocateurs: SFIFF's documentary highlights

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arts@sfbg.com

SFIFF It's possible to have an almost perfect Sundance Film Festival viewing experience if you hew to one simple rule: only go to the documentaries. Sure, see some of the dramatic entries too, after the 40th person has told you such-and-such title is great. But you can rarely go far wrong with the documentaries. Sundance has its pick of the annual crème de la crème in that genre (among U.S. if not necessarily international films).Read more »

Diva in the headlights

Danish superstar Paprika Steen comes on strong in Applause
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Outer outer space

From Turkish Star Wars to Phantom Planet -- "Starship Vortex" sci-fi flick series dwells in forgotten netherworlds of cosmic fantasy

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FILM Nothing dates faster than yesterday's futurism. Yet particularly at a moment when half the country seems bent on ordering us back to the past — a past that might variably be identified as the Victorian era, the Inquisition, and the Dark Ages — there is something comforting in revisiting old visions of the future. For the next seven Thursdays the Vortex Room boldly goes a few places you've probably been before, several that earn brownie points for foreknowledge, and others that separate the sci-fi nerd from the sci-fi mega scholar.Read more »

Solo mio

Gianni Di Gregorio returns with a gentle sequel to Mid-August Lunch

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FILM The phenomenon of grown children remaining under (or returning to) mom and dad's roof well after the customary sell-by date has been a regular topic of late in American entertainment and pop sociology.Read more »

Mister Vengeance

Iranian filmmaker Rafi Pitts' tense, taut Hunter

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FILM Iran is the kind of nation where political protest in public art has to be muted or disguised. It was well buried in recent hit A Separation, and is just slightly more apparent in Rafi Pitts' The Hunter. Shot and set during the contentious 2009 Presidential campaign — Pitts is a rare expat filmmaker allowed to shoot in the country his family left decades ago — it starts as a Kafka-esque portrait of quiet desperation in a cold, empty Tehran, then turns into a sort of existential thriller. Read more »

Barbed wire love

'Pretty Poison' slays with Tuesday Wells, Anthony Perkins at Castro Theatre

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TRASH In 1968, Pretty Poison, which plays the Castro Theatre this Thursday in a new 35mm print, arrived a bit early. The next year Easy Rider would suddenly make young American directors seem like "the future" of an industry then hobbling on the same now-arthritic legs that had supported its Golden Age decades earlier. By 1970 and for several years afterward small, idiosyncratic, independent (both within and outside studio funding) films would flourish, in number and frequent quality if not commercially.Read more »

You have the right to remain weird

Programmers from LA, Austin, and (duh) SF bring cult madness to the Roxie

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM It's not easy being a repertory cinema these days, even when you're the coolest (or only, or both) one in town. Hoping that this town is big enough for more than just one, at least for a few days, the Roxie this weekend is hosting a kind of cult cinema smackdown between itself and two more of the nation's finest such emporiums. Under the blanket title "Cinemadness!," the three-day marathon of rarities, oddities, and unbilled surprises challenges you to look away, or stay away — either way, your sanity will surely be shakier come Monday.Read more »

TV gone wild

A Vortex Room tribute examines William Shatner's dark side

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TRASH History does not record whether the evening of January 23, 1974 struck anyone immediately as a momentous occasion. Probably not: perhaps distracted by Watergate, porn chic, rising gas prices, the Exorcist phenomenon, and passage (one day earlier) of Roe vs. Wade, any television viewers straying over from CBS's Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour to ABC at 8:30 p.m. could hardly have fully understood the significance of what they were about to experience.Read more »

Dame good fun

Seedy delights from the 1930s sleaze up the Roxie in "Hollywood Before the Code: Nasty-Ass Films for a Nasty-Ass World" 

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM What with the internet, the paparazzi, Rupert Murdoch's CIA-level spy techniques, and the general displacement of actual news by "celebrity news," it's pretty hard these days for a star of any sort to keep their debauchery private. Not like the good old days, when Hollywood carefully stage-managed publicity and only those who'd become a real liability risked having their peccadilloes exposed.Read more »

The war at home

A veteran filmmaker returns with the Oscar-nominated In Darkness

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FILM Agnieszka Holland is that kind of filmmaker who can become a well known, respectable veteran without anyone being quite sure what those decades have added up to. Her mentor was Andrzej Wadja, the last half-century's leading Polish director (among those who never left). He helped shape a penchant for heavy historical drama and a sometimes clunky style not far from his own.Read more »