When Japanese documentary filmmaker Kazuo Hara was approached by Okuzaki Kenzo — the subject of his 1987 The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On — and asked to film him committing murder, Hara strongly considered it before turning him down, more than anything because he "had become really sick of Okuzaki." Or so he told an interviewer. This sounds like bullshit, and it may be, but the filming approaches and content of Hara's body of work make you think that maybe he could have done it. Read more »
Staunch characters — S-T-A-U-N-C-H. That description applies to Grey Gardens devotees, who've found their unwavering dedication and commitment rewarded with a new Albert Maysles movie about the Edith Bouvier Beales. Still, another look at the original 1975 Grey Gardens will probably always be the best way to honor and commune with Big Edie and Little Edie — if ever a classic rewarded repeat viewings, it's this one. All the Maysles brothers (Albert and the now-deceased David) had to do was bring the film. Read more »
It's rare when a filmmaker is able to match provocative themes with evocative imagery — and do it consistently. Addressing race and class issues in his arrestingly photographed works, James T. Hong is one such artist. His filmography includes Behold the Asian: How One Becomes What One Is (which won a Golden Gate Award at the 2000 San Francisco International Film Festival despite its labeling of dot-com-era San Francisco as "the white asshole paradise") and Taipei 101: A Travelogue of Symptoms (Sensitive Version), an excoriation of white guy–Asian girl couples. Read more »
Like the steadfast Salton Sea itself, Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer's Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea has displayed remarkable staying power. The first version of the film played at the 2004 San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, one of more than 100 festivals that have screened the doc since its initial release. Read more »
The Film Arts Foundation turns 30 this year, and to celebrate it's throwing a party at the Castro Theatre. One-minute movies are a major element of the FAF's birthday bash — 60-second efforts by some of the organization's filmmaking members will be shown as part of an evening program MCed by Peter Coyote and Nancy Kelly. Read more »
It only takes a few minutes of watching Iraq in Fragments to recognize that the film stands apart from the Iraqumentary pack: dazzling cinematography in place of the dull visuals of the evening news, slice-of-life narration instead of talking heads. Divided into three sections, director James Longley's reportage shows us the everyday chaos in Baghdad and beyond with dramatic vividness — a vividness that, if nothing else, makes us realize how degraded most of the imagery we receive from Iraq is at the moment. Read more »
These days finesse in the art of montage is too often used to compensate for ineptitude (or just laziness) in the art of storytelling. Of course, rhythmic, Eisensteinian montage can be beautiful in itself and can even bear the weight of actual substance. Read more »
1. Shriek of the Mutilated (1974) Not only the greatest title in cinema history but also its single greatest achievement. Never before (or since) have bad acting, cannibalism, alcoholism, and the Abominable Snowman scaled such heights. The greatest film ever made.
2. The Wizard of Gore (1970) Director Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast) does it again, becoming the first filmmaker in history to slaughter someone on camera with a live chain saw. A mad magician runs amok with ghastly results. If the crude and relentless gore effects don't turn your stomach, the "acting" certainly will.
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Four presidents have been killed in office: the two you hear about (Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy) and the two you kind of don't (James A. Garfield and William McKinley). But any time a political figure meets a violent death, post-traumatic stress can echo through generations — particularly because Hollywood is so fond of assassination cinema. Read more »
Inspired by Tad Friend's 2003 New Yorker article "Jumpers," filmmaker Eric Steel spent 2004 shooting the Golden Gate Bridge — intentionally capturing the plunges launched from the world's most popular suicide spot. The resulting doc, The Bridge, studies mental illness by filling in the life stories of the deceased through interviews with friends and family members. After playing to packed houses at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, The Bridge opens for a theatrical run in the city that's perhaps most sensitive to its controversial subject matter. Read more »