Film Review

Two great cult movies

Out of the past and into the Dead Channels film fest
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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (John Newland, US, 1973). As Grindhouse viewers or true grindhouse aficionados know, starting a title with Don't was once a popular way to strike fear in sleazoids. The fact that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was made for TV would suggest it's tame — that is, if the Don't era didn't coincide with the glory, rather than gory, days of frightening TV movies. In fact, this little number is at least as great as Dan Curtis's 1975 Trilogy of Terror, with which it shares some knee-high shocks while being much less campy. Read more »

Iron curtain in outer space

To the moon (or not quite) and back with "Russian Fantastik Cinema"
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Throughout its history, the Soviet Union felt like the final frontier to many Americans. What was happening on the other side of that iron curtain? The Russians wondered too. Since travel between the countries was so limited, their inhabitants often had to turn for information to the cultural products that made it — both ways — past Russia's gatekeepers. How better to hide meaning than in fairy tales and outer space? Read more »

Holiest of holies

David Wain preaches the virtues of The Ten
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If you've seen the late, great MTV sketch comedy show The State (look for the long-awaited DVD in October) or 2001's summer-camp-movie parody Wet Hot American Summer, you can imagine what the Bible's gonna look like in the hands of director David Wain. Or maybe not — in The Ten, Wain and cowriter Ken Marino interpret the 10 Commandments with typically off-the-wall (and thus completely unpredictable) humor. I recently spoke with Wain, who doesn't fancy himself the next Cecil B. Read more »

The closer you get

The deeper mysteries of Abbas Kiarostami's films become apparent
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How does one begin to write about Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up (1990), a film as layered as an onion? I remember that when I first watched it, I felt touched by what I then perceived to be its affectionate ending. Read more »

Church of Santino

The man who stole Project Runway discusses fabulous fashion in film
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johnny@sfbg.com

It's no surprise that Santino Rice knows how to serve up a good quote. Read more »

Let there be light

Sunshine ruminates on solar power
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cheryl@sfbg.com

Remember that old Twilight Zone episode in which the earth and the sun got way too close for comfort? The twist was that the feverish protagonist had actually dreamed the hellish heat wave — and our shivering planet was drifting away from the sun instead. Another deep freeze awaits the human race in Sunshine, which imagines that the sun has begun to die billions of years before its expiration date. Read more »

Festival Guide

Funny ladies and ultra-orthodox cinemaniacs at the Jewish Film Festival
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The opening-night selection at the Jewish Film Festival is Israeli writer-director Dror Shaul's worldwide prizewinner, Sweet Mud. It views 1974 kibbutz life from a 12-year-old's perspective, but don't expect rosy childhood nostalgia. Read more »

Silent voice

His People opens the movie screen to Jewish American dreams
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When US moviemaking started out, it was an enterprise disreputable enough to attract the wrong sort of people: get-rich-quick speculators, third-tier theater folk, organized crime, and even — god forbid — Jews. The last rose to pilot most major studios as Hollywood became a gigantic industry. Yet this alleged Jewish mafia (a term still not fully retired in some circles) seldom used wealth and imagistic power to integrate fellow Jews into the cultural mainstream. Read more »

Welcome (back) to the jungle

Werner Herzog revisits Dieter Dengler's great escape
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cheryl@sfbg.com

Early in Rescue Dawn, Werner Herzog's narrative retooling of his 1997 doc Little Dieter Needs to Fly, a group of pilots aboard an aircraft carrier watches an instructional reel on jungle survival. They're young and cocky, and since this is 1966, the Vietnam War still seems entirely impossible. Read more »

Ephemera, etc.

Sifting through the Silent Film Fest's treasures
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Technology induces unrealistic leaps of optimism, and so it was that usually reliable New York Times film critic A.O. Read more »