Film Features

Political probe

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days — and one great film
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Cristian Mungiu's Cannes Palme d'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is the final anxiety-ridden whimper to register from the year of the "shmashmortion," and it's particularly preoccupied with pregnancy and the decisions that come with it. Read more »

Quixotically yours

Chivalry lives on in Honor of the Knights
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johnny@sfbg.com

In a multiplex in San Francisco (whose name I do not care to recall) there is at least one movie intent on bludgeoning viewers with a bombastic soundtrack, a mechanical approach to emotion, and a conclusion that is obvious before the story has begun.

In contrast, in a smaller theater, Albert Serra's Honor of the Knights offers one of the best windows onto a current phenomenon that might be tagged somnambulant cinema.

Amid contemporary sensory overload, it's unsurprising that somnambulant cinema - meditative and ambient, often set outdoors and yet Read more »

Video Mutants: Prince of theme parkness

Damon Packard strikes back
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>>Click here to view some Damon Packard vids

cheryl@sfbg.com

Try explaining a Damon Packard film to someone who hasn't seen one and you will fail. The best you can achieve is a description: "It's a sequel to Logan's Run, kind of, but with a lot of 1984, clips from Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator, and roller skaters jamming to 'Never Knew Love like This Before.'<0x2009>"

Seriously, can you even imagine what that's like? Read more »

Video Mutants: Eight for 2008

A guide to video activity to watch for, from SF to beyond
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johnny@sfbg.com

1. CORY ARCANGEL

Arcangel's Super Mario Clouds (2002) uncovers the beauty of Nintendo clouds. Go to our Pixel Vision blog this week (www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision) for an interview with Jacob Ciocci of Arcangel's sometime collaborators Paper Rad and an interview with Arcangel that discusses his recent video and performance projects, such as The Bruce Springsteen Born to Run Glockenspiel Addendum.

2.

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Bye bye beautiful

Let's Get Lost, again — Bruce Weber's melancholic ode to Chet Baker is restored
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There's a wonderful moment during the performance of "Bye Bye Blackbird" that opens the 1964 Chet Baker set preserved on a recent Jazz Icons DVD (Chet Baker Live in '64 and '79 [Reelin in the Years]). In the midst of the squarish piano player's solo, the star trumpeter shuffles into the medium close-up frame, shucking a cigarette from his accompanist's pack. Chiseled even when sporting a stuffy sweater, Baker takes a long drag and glides back to his place on the stage. Read more »

Ode to Jean-Pierre L&eacute;aud

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 »

Lucky 13

Berlin and Beyond comes of age
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Since 1996 the Goethe-Institut's annual Berlin and Beyond Film Festival has been bringing German-language cinema from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to the Europhiles of San Francisco. As 2008 marks the festival's 13th year — which signals a transition toward maturity in many cultures — it's perhaps appropriate that several offerings come from directors who have already brought their first or second films here. Read more »

Angels with dirty faces

Folksy lyricism makes Francisco Vargas's The Violin a quiet beauty
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The Bay Area boasts some of the most forward-thinking film programmers in the country, but even here there's often no getting around the circuitous, arbitrary workings of foreign film distribution. No matter how big a hit in its festival travels, the foreign film must dutifully wait untold months until it is dressed up by Sony Pictures Classics or released to no fanfare by a small distributor like Film Movement. Read more »

Metal is forever

Heavy Metal in the Country
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Andreas Geiger turns his camera on his hometown of Donzdorf, Germany, a tidy little village containing half-timber houses, oompah band–loving old-timers, and the hugely successful metal label Nuclear Blast. Clocking in at just under an hour, Heavy Metal in the Country does peek into the Nuclear Blast HQ — where middle-aged moms carefully tape-gun mail-order packages stuffed with Eddie statues, Cannibal Corpse LPs, and T-shirts glorifying corpsepainted Norwegians Dimmu Borgir — but this isn't a doc about the label. Read more »

There will be cocktails

Robert Redford on the Sundance Kabuki and SF film fests
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It's a premiere night at the new Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, and publicists, requisite reporters, and lobby loiterers are looking for Robert Redford. After driving into the city from a stay in Carmel, he's here — at least until he disappears down a hall or around a corner. Read more »