Film Review

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 »

Spaghetti eastern

Johnnie To's Exiled (John) Woos Leone
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cheryl@sfbg.com

How many times am I gonna have to rave about Exiled before you go see it? It's been a year since I first caught it at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival; the 2007 TIFF starts Sept. 6 and features Mad Detective, Johnnie To's latest collaboration with Wai Ka Fai (Fulltime Killer). Needless to say, I'll be first in line at that flick — and perhaps, like Exiled, it'll play the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival before finally opening in theaters. Read more »

Bedsit cinema of '60s England

"The British New Wave" at Pacific Film Archives
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The early '60s French new wave gets imitations and retrospectives and books galore, but in terms of homage, the British new wave of roughly the same era hasn't been gifted with much more than a number of Smiths 7- and 12-inch singles covers and some Morrissey lyrics. Read more »

Domestic disturbance

Emotion trumps class in Live-In Maid
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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

When Argentine director Jorge Gaggero's first feature opened theatrically in New York about a month ago, East Coast film critics responded very enthusiastically. Read more »