Film Features

Goldie winner -- Film: Samara Halperin

Plastic and fantastic schoolhouse sex toys go pop
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It's hard to be in a bad mood when you're watching the films of Samara Halperin. Take, for example, the minute-long Plastic Fantastic #1 (2006). Jaunty bleeps keep the beat as a pair of ketchup-and-mustard-bedecked hot dogs are shredded into meaty octopuses. Read more »

Romania dreamin'

Cinematically speaking, Bucharest is best
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Programmers in the film festival, cinematheque, and rep-house exhibition worlds are forever hunting for undiscovered cinematic flavors. They are like truffle-sniffing pigs. No offense intended — after all, truffles are valuable for their rarity. Read more »

Raising the barre

The American Indian Film Fest kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies
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Marking National American Indian Heritage Month, the American Indian Film Festival kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies. Of course, you know one of 'em is gonna be about eternally elegant George Balanchine muse Maria Tallchief — and indeed, Sandra Osawa's Maria Tallchief will have its world premiere at the fest. Praised as the first American prima ballerina and a standout in an art form that had, until her rise to prominence in the 1940s, been largely European, Tallchief brought audiences to their feet and critics to tears. Read more »

On the verge

Terror's Advocate adds to Barbet Schroeder's library of alluring evil
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The title of Barbet Schroeder's new documentary, Terror's Advocate, evokes Keanu Reeves's role as Kevin Lomax, a lawyer seduced by Satan (Al Pacino) in 1997's The Devil's Advocate. Reeves's character crosses the line into evil when he gets a child molester off on a technicality; next thing you know, he's living in Manhattan, making big bucks, and being seduced by the lesbian minions of Satan in an elevator while his wife (Charlize Theron) has her womb ripped out. Read more »

Fellini in Arkansas

Seeing "Red-State Cinema"
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"Ahm tired uh yer uppity, citified ways!" leering slob Odis (Gene Ross) tells houseguest Helen (Norma Moore) in S.F. Brownrigg's Poor White Trash II, a 1974 movie also known by the equally savory title Scum of the Earth. 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 »

Urinal kinds of trouble

William E. Jones proves that in America, the mirror looks at you
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William E. Jones's documentary triptych Massillon came out in 1991 — a landmark year for queer film — yet it didn't receive near the popular attention given to Poison, another narrative three-way that is the arguable flagship of the new queer cinema. Read more »

Silencers, please

Dean Martin is propped up for a Bond imitation
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The James Bond movies had a cultural impact like no other film series in the 1960s, spawning umpteen imitations, from cheap Europudding productions (the ones directed by Mario Bava and Jess Franco are quite delightful) to Hollywood spectaculars. There were rival series too. The most popular — and critically loathed — starred Dean Martin as Matt Helm. In Donald Hamilton's original books Helm is a tough customer involved in relatively realistic adventures. Read more »

Torn apart

Control charts the angst of Ian Curtis
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cheryl@sfbg.com

Let's start with the Ian Curtis dance. Part march in place, part ecstatic flail, it conveyed the singer's trancelike connection to Joy Division's music; it also eerily echoed the epileptic seizures he began suffering at age 21, just as his band was becoming famous. Read more »

Imitation of life

Grief, love, and plastic mingle in Lars and the Real Girl
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cheryl@sfbg.com

Lonely, socially awkward dude becomes obsessed with an eerily lifelike female doll. Uh, I've seen that movie before, when it was a horror flick called Love Object. But if you can imagine the same plot transferred into a bittersweet romance and with the kink factor dialed way down, you'll have a grip on Lars and the Real Girl, a movie so softhearted it implies the silicone-worshiping misfit in question (Ryan Gosling) doesn't even have sex with his sex doll. They do smooch on occasion, though.

From Craig Gillespie — the director of Mr. Read more »