Maria Kommodore

Ode to Jean-Pierre Léaud

Another look at the eternal boy of the French new wave
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The critic Philippa Hawker once offered an amazingly accurate and concise definition of the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud's unique performing style: "He is himself, he is his character Antoine Doinel, he is New Wave incarnate, he is the past-in-the-present, the past remembered and re-evaluated."

As Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows (1959), perhaps the best movie François Truffaut ever made, Léaud brought to life a character so engaging and so complex that it's hard to believe a person so young — he was 15 at the time  Read more »

Thinking big with Vig

The Monastery
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THE MONASTERY: THINKING BIG WITH VIG

All of my prior attempts to write about The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun came to a screeching halt on describing the physical presence of the man at the documentary's center, Jørgen Lauersen Vig. The sullenness of Vig's features (accentuated by long white hair that, together with an outrageously wild-looking beard, forms a halo of sorts around his face) and his tall, slender, and raggedy-clothed figure cause him to resemble a hero from a novel by Nikolay Gogol. Read more »

Who wrote the book of love?

For the Bible Tells Me So
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At first glance, For the Bible Tells Me So comes across as a fairly conservative film. Technically and aesthetically speaking, there are no surprises: interviews, found footage, a cute short cartoon, and familiar traditional documentary techniques are mixed with a certain amount of predictability and sentimental cheesiness. But is cinematic form all that defines whether a movie is conventional or groundbreaking? In terms of content, Daniel G. Read more »

It goes to 11 (and beyond)

MadCat celebrates the vitality of female artists
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The MadCat Women's International Film Festival is back for its 11th consecutive year, with 11 fascinating film programs (two features and nine shorts series). It's hard to describe the broad variety of themes and filmmaking styles explored in this year's lineup. Identity issues, life at the fringes of society, the desire to break free from safe but unchallenging environments, and struggles for independence through unconventional means are only some of MadCat's topics. Read more »

Domestic disturbance

Emotion trumps class in Live-In Maid
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When Argentine director Jorge Gaggero's first feature opened theatrically in New York about a month ago, East Coast film critics responded very enthusiastically. Read more »

Faithfully unfaithful

Love and friendship in Melville's Le Doulos
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The world of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos (a.k.a. The Stoolie, 1963) is an incredibly complicated one. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that its inhabitants are ex-cons, petty thieves, snitches, and ambiguous lovers, all of whom are as loyal as they're unfaithful. Or maybe the complexity emerges from the strong sense of honor and morality that these underground characters share.

Maurice (Serge Reggiani), a robber, is sent to prison because somebody snitches on him. He's willing to believe that it was his best friend, Silien (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who betrayed him. Read more »

The closer you get

The deeper mysteries of Abbas Kiarostami's films become apparent
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How does one begin to write about Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up (1990), a film as layered as an onion? I remember that when I first watched it, I felt touched by what I then perceived to be its affectionate ending. Read more »

Give a hoot (or else)

Berkeley's Pacific Film Archives' film series gives environmental concerns the depth Gore's film avoided
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WILD WILDLIFE Had director Davis Guggenheim attempted to explore all the creative possibilities that lie behind such a name as Al Gore (get it?), An Inconvenient Truth would have been a much more interesting and way scarier film. Not that turning a pressingly threatening environmental issue into unforgettably blatant propaganda isn't frightening. Read more »

Night of 1,000 sexploits

A Q&A with lezsploitation maven Michelle Johnson
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Sexually repressed nuns, naughty prisoners, lustful wardens, and love-thirsty vampires are the celebrated heroines of Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation, Michelle Johnson's effort to reappropriate 1960s and 1970s sexploitation flicks. Intrigued by these films' soundtracks, the Los Angeles DJ, musician, and cult-film enthusiast hunted for the genre's most precious gems and compiled them into a 47-minute metafilm. Read more »

Oh Mickey, you're so lame

"F@ck Mickey Mouse" shows precursors that beat Disney to the punch, imitators that ripped him off, and parodies that made fun of him
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In 1938, 13 years before a cinematic Alice visited Wonderland, Porky Pig flew to Wackyland, a Salvador Dalí painting come to life. Determined to find the last dodo bird on earth, he wandered through this surrealist landscape to the rhythm of the marijuana ditty "Feeling High and Happy." In 1931's One More Time, Mickey Mouse's ears grew bigger and his tail bushier as he transformed into Foxy, a police officer who then chased the Prohibition-era villains who had kidnapped his girlfriend. Read more »