Film

Ennui and I

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's 'Thai Dreams' screen at YBCA

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FILM Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang's international breakthrough, Last Life in the Universe, came out 10 years ago, but its themes of isolation and loneliness still feel very much of the moment. Eternally cool Japanese star Tadanobu Asano plays librarian Kenji, whose Better Off Dead-style existential turmoil leads him to attempt suicide, or at least think long and hard about it, multiple times. Read more »

Are you experimental?

SF Cinematheque unleashes Crossroads 2013

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM At 52, the San Francisco Cinematheque is nearly the same age as the San Francisco International Film Festival, which kicks off its 56th incarnation later this month. And though there's bound to be some filmmaker overlap between SFIFF and SF Cinematheque's fourth annual Crossroads festival,

fans of avant-garde, experimental, and non-commercial films won't want to miss the latter, a weekend packed with works by 48 artists across eight esoterically-titled programs.Read more »

Spring into arts

Guardian writers select the season's most-anticipated performances, exhibits, film events, and more

It's true that San Francisco doesn't really have seasons, per se. We don't have a snow thaw, or a sudden riot of cherry blossoms, or even a perceptible change in the weather to mark calendar shifts. So grab that lightweight jacket you've been wearing since October, and use our selective guide to what music shows to see (dude ... Sparks is coming!), gallery and museum shows to hit up, films to catch, and can't-miss theater and dance performances — including, yep, a fresh take on The Rite of Spring.Read more »

Acclaimed director Sally Potter on redheads, the 1960s, and 'Ginger and Rosa'

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It's the 1960s, nuclear war is a real possibility, and nuclear-family war is an absolute certainty, at least in the London house occupied by Ginger (Elle Fanning), her emotionally wounded mother (Mad Men's Christina Hendricks), and her narcissistic-intellectual father (Alessandro Nivola).

In Ginger and Rosa, a downbeat coming-of-age tale from Sally Potter (1992's Orlando), Ginger's teenage rebellion quickly morphs into angst when her BFF Rosa (Beautiful Creatures' Alice Englert, daughter of Aussie director Jane Campion) wedges her sexed-up neediness between Ginger's parents. Hendricks (playing the accordion — just like Joan!) and Annette Bening (as an American activist who encourages Ginger's political-protest leanings) are strong, but Fanning's powerhouse performance is the main focus — though even she's occasionally overshadowed by her artificially scarlet hair.

Ahead of the film's release Fri/22, I spoke with Potter about teen drama, redheads, and more.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Many, many films tell coming-of-age stories and tales of female friendship. What sets Ginger and Rosa apart from the rest?

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Magic, madness, witches, and holdin' on to that feeeeeling: new movies!

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The newly-renamed CAAMfest (the film festival formerly known as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival) opens tonight with its own slice of March Madness: basketball-themed doc Linsanity. For more on that film and other CAAMfest documentaries, go here. You'll find a rundown of films focusing on troubled family ties here.

Also this week: Park Chan-wook's first English-language film, Stoker, opens tomorrow — it's a creepy delight, and I spoke with Park about Hitchcock and more in this interview.

For those so inclined, Hollywood rolls out Halle Berry thriller The Call (make your own "phoning in her performance" joke here) and Steves Carell and Buscemi, plus Jim Carrey, as battling magicians in comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Read on for short takes on a new horror omnibus, a stirring tale from Romania, the Oscar-nominated War Witch, two music docs (Journey + Snoop Lion), and more. Read more »

Cristian Mungiu on his stark, stunning 'Beyond the Hills'

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Cristian Mungiu — one of the main reasons everyone's all excited about the Romanian New Wave — follows up his Palme d'Or winner, 2007's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, with another stark look at a troubled friendship between two women. Beyond the Hills' Voichita and Alina (Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, who shared the Best Actress prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival; for his part, Mungiu won Best Screenplay) were BFFs and, we slowly realize, lovers while growing up at a Romanian orphanage.

When they aged out of the facility, the reserved Voichita moved to a rural monastery to become a nun, and the outburst-prone Alina pinballed around, doing a stint as a barmaid in Germany before turning up in Voichita's village, lugging emotional baggage of the jealous, needy, possibly mentally ill, and definitely misunderstood variety. It can't end well for anyone, as all involved — dismissive local doctors, Alina's no-longer-accommodating foster family, the priest (Valeriu Andriuta), and the other nuns — would rather not spend any time or energy caring for a troubled, destitute outsider. Even Voichita can only look on helplessly as an exorcism, a brutal and cruel procedure, is decided upon as Alina's last, best hope.

Based on a real 2005 incident in Moldavia, Mungiu's unsettling film is a masterpiece of exquisitely composed shots, harsh themes, and naturalistic performances. I conducted the following email interview with Mungiu ahead of Beyond the Hills' Fri/15 Bay Area release.

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Land of (nearly) 10,000 new movies

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Literally something for everyone this week: pregnant women, environmentalists, Mumia supporters, World War II buffs, Latin American history buffs, Abbas Kiarostami fan club members, German and French-film devotees, and anyone who's ever dreamed of going over the rainbow (in 3D). I hope you don't sleep much because this weekend is jammed up with new flicks.

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There's at least one reason to care about the 2013 MTV Movie Awards

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Oh, gawd. Another movie awards show? Ain't we done with the tired old titles of 2012? MTV's just announced its nominees for the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, an all-style-and-no-substance annual event that, HOLD UP, may actually be worth watching this year (airdate is April 14).

Reason being: host Rebel Wilson, an inspired choice who happens to be up for Best Female Performance as well as Best Breakthrough Performance for Pitch Perfect. Tumblr agrees ... Rebel is awesome.

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The Nonconformist

'And God Created Jean-Louis Trintignant' celebrates a legendary career

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Techulation

'The Singularity' explores the ever-shrinking differences between computers and humans

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Anytime you start taking about a robot uprising, people are going to listen — even if you mean it in a theoretical sense, not in a Cyberdyne Systems sense. Local filmmaker Doug Wolens (he made 2000's Butterfly, about activist Julia Hill) tackles artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, conscious machines, and, yes, science fiction in his new doc The Singularity. I spoke with him recently about all of the above.

San Francisco Bay Guardian What is the singularity?Read more »