Max Goldberg

Domestic disturbance

Reflecting on Marco Ferreri's minimalist satire, Dillinger is Dead
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Equal parts Antonio Gramsci and Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Dillinger is Dead (1969) is cultural critique masquerading as a one-man show. Michel Piccoli plays Glauco, with his forehead mostly: the fleeting pleasures of food and gadgetry are registered in satisfied wrinkles, though the slack glaze of boredom is never far off. The film opens with Glauco touring a factory using a gas mask of his design. Read more »

The Lemonheads

The melodies that snag your adolescence are destined to boggle any attempt at objectivity
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REVIEW For a brief time in the early 1990s, Evan Dando was an It boy. He wore great jeans and hid behind his hair — the shaggy pop songs didn't hurt either. His band, the Lemonheads, coasted to success with an easy cover of "Mrs. Robinson," and then Atlantic took a bath on Come On Feel the Lemonheads (Atlantic, 1993), an album that's likely still haunting remainder bins. Read more »

Shadowboxing

Throwing light on underrated action master Phil Karlson at Pacific Film Archive
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"Explosive action" may be the stuff of soppy pullquotes, but the term takes on fresh life watching the 1950s noirs of Phil Karlson. All action movies give us men and violence, but Karlson's pictures, to a rare degree, are about men living with violence. Punches aren't redemptive, they just hurt — the one throwing them too. Take the clenched former prizefighter in 99 River Street (1953), Ernie Driscoll (played by Karlson's preferred actor, the aggressively nondescript John Payne). Read more »

It takes two

Windy & Carl's ambient, celestial-waxing pairing isn't as blissful as it seems
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Whether one thinks of them as a dreamy drone duo who happen to be married or a married couple who happens to make dreamy drone music, Windy & Carl endure. Their first release, the Instrumentals EP (Burnt Hair), dates back to 1994; while most American guitars were tuned down for grunge's payday, Windy & Carl waxed celestial.

Spacey drones are now in fashion, but Windy & Carl's influence remains relatively unsung, in spite of their being one of the Kranky label's flagship acts. Read more »

Natural light

Oliver Assayas puts on an antique roadshow with "Summer Hours"
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REVIEW The abundant drama of natural light is reason enough to see Summer Hours, a family drama by Olivier Assayas aspiring to Proustian profundity and Chekhovian chambering. I prefer Les Destinées Sentimentales (2000) for Assayas' novelistic mode, but the new film still has plenty to like. This will be especially true for Antiques Roadshow fans, who will have a field day with all the Musée D'Orsay-approved furnishings, even if the characters themselves don't seem quite so sturdy. Read more »

SFIFF: In the realms of the real

Sacred Places and Z32 -- SFIFF's unconventional docs
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Michael Moore may have paved the way for documentary gold, but the most structurally adventurous, ethically demanding nonfictions still reside on the festival block, where they frequently outshine their fictional counterparts for formal rigor and breadth of imagination. Read more »

The passion of Agnes

Agnes Varda's autobiographical doc spryly dissolves all boundaries
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Director commentaries are de rigueur in the DVD age, but few filmmakers possess the élan to warrant a feature length auto-exegesis. Agnès Varda is one, and her most recent memory piece — she claims it's her last — cheerfully dissolves the boundaries between memoir, retrospective, and installation. The film caps the Pacific Film Archive's month-long series, "Agnès Varda: Cinécriture," and faithful attendees will be rewarded by its recollections of earlier works from La Pointe Courte (1954) to The Gleaners and I (2000). Read more »

Made in U.S.A.

The fullest demonstration of Godard's aim to create a cinema that could take part in the jagged incongruities of modern life
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REVIEW Rialto Pictures founder Bruce Goldstein will scoop up the Mel Novikoff award at this year's San Francisco Film Festival, but local audiences have a chance to sample his good work before then during the Castro Theatre's run of Rialto's freshly struck 35–mm print of Jean-Luc Godard's widescreen, red-white-and-blue firecracker Made in U.S.A. (1967). Read more »

Cat's cradle

Ben Rivers' short films at Other Cinema and SF Cinematheque seek out overgrown paths
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Independent, slyly defiant, and given to zigzags, the cat is the spirit animal for a certain breed of cinematic gleaners. The films of Warren Sonbert and Chris Marker are packed with the feline kind. A kitty or two shows through the lucid abstractions of Nathaniel Dorsky's recent work, and Agnès Varda's La Pointe-Courte (1954) uses the animal as a structural device. Accordingly, Ben Rivers' This is My Land (2006) opens with a lithe creature snapping its head to face the camera. Read more »

Talk about the passion

Slumberland Records turns 20
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There's an argument to be made that record love really begins when you start noticing the labels. Slumberland was one of my earliest such epiphanies. I was bit by one of the label's groups, Velocity Girl, because, as much as anything, I felt I had come to them on my own. This secret knowledge kept me satisfied until an older friend made me a cassette mix heavy on the Slumberland set: pastel guitar music by Rocketship, the Softies, Lilys, Black Tambourine, the Ropers, and Amy Linton's much-missed Bay Area groups, Henry's Dress and the Aislers Set. Read more »