Film Review

You rescued my "Battleship"!

Eisenstein's step-laden Potemkin gets new life at the Mill Valley Film Festival
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Sergey Eisenstein's legendary 1925 film Battleship Potemkin was declared a masterpiece from the moment it premiered, and it has placed near the top of greatest-film polls for as long as such polls have existed. According to legend, Douglas Fairbanks imported his own copy and showed it to the Hollywood elite in private screening rooms; no one was converted by its politics, but everyone was euphoric over its pure technical prowess. Read more »

Last Tango in Shanghai

There's sex in your violence, Lust, Caution posits
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kimberly@sfbg.com

There's a moment in Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) in which you can clearly make out the writing, and this most awkward title's embedded warning, on the wall. The scene: a humid, tryst-friendly boudoir in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Read more »

Scary Larry

The Last Winter certifies Larry Fessenden as a horror auteur
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Nature enjoyed rebelling against arrogant, polluting humankind in the paranoid ecosploitation cinema of the 1970s: Prophecy, Phase IV, Frogs, Sssssss, The Food of the Gods, and even the Oscar-winning fake documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle all suggested Mother Nature was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Back then, though, nature was just bitching within safe fantasy confines. Read more »

The sound of success

Who put the rock in the rock doc, doc, doc?
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What does every rock doc tell us? Read more »

The works

Ghosts and Numbers and Luchando add new twists to an old story at SF DocFest
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Some films glean artful pleasure from the pains of labor. One flourishing subgenre or strain of documentary tackles working conditions in countries across the world, highlighting the plight of the marginalized to make ends meet and maintain dignity in the face of unjust or extreme conditions. In a sense, Ghosts and Numbers and Luchando, two features at this year's San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, belong to this group, but they are most interesting for the ways that they differ from it, in content and style. Read more »

Ficks's top six

Picks from the Toronto International Film Festival
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1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, Romania, 2007). This Romanian debut feature possesses a nonjudgmental flow reminiscent of a Dardenne brothers film as it follows two women who negotiate for an illegal abortion during the final days of Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist regime. You'll be holding your breath as the characters dash from one nightmare to the next. There's a reason this movie won the Palme d'Or at the 60th Cannes Film Festival.

2. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, France, 2007). Read more »

Witch, please

A thrill-sniffing guide to the Toronto International Film Festival
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cheryl@sfbg.com

If you can end your Toronto International Film Festival experience with a movie that climaxes in a 10-minute fistfight (roofs collapse, cinder blocks are smashed, tables become splinters, ankle bones snap like twigs, and vengeance is won ... but at what price?), that qualifies as a joyous note in my book. Read more »

Written on the skin

Body horror– meister David Cronenberg forges Eastern Promises
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kimberly@sfbg.com

Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni, Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune — legendary screen team-ups betwixt a vision-questing director and his or her alter ego star filter are the stuff of cinematic legend. Read more »

You go, I go, we all go for Viggo

Viggo Mortenson is complicated
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A painter, poet, jazz musician, and political activist, Viggo Mortensen is a mass of complicated, sometimes conflicting energies and interests. He's as macho and swarthy as they come, but with a contemplative thirst for truth. He's shy, but a bit of a motormouth (and can run on in at least six different languages). Read more »

It goes to 11 (and beyond)

MadCat celebrates the vitality of female artists
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The MadCat Women's International Film Festival is back for its 11th consecutive year, with 11 fascinating film programs (two features and nine shorts series). It's hard to describe the broad variety of themes and filmmaking styles explored in this year's lineup. Identity issues, life at the fringes of society, the desire to break free from safe but unchallenging environments, and struggles for independence through unconventional means are only some of MadCat's topics. Read more »