Film Review

Magic stoned

Video artist Kelly Sears's animated shorts crystallize pop-cult preoccupations
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Dream catchers and rainbows. Stately dragons that soar the starry skies as majestically as a space station and more Marshall stacks than you can shake a pewter warlock wand at. Lone wolves and lynx meeting under snowy boughs in untamed, magical communion. Daggers with serpentine handles morphing gently into stalactites and snowflakes. Wizards solemnly lifting crystal balls aloft in triumph, taking a Festival Viking cruise past jagged pink quartz reefs. Read more »

Bubblegum bandits

HK hottie Daniel Wu spoofs boy bands (and himself) in directorial debut The Heavenly Kings
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I'm only a little bit ashamed to admit that I loved Making the Band. No, not the acceptably addictive, Diddy-produced Danity Kane version. I'm talking about the one that birthed O-Town, baby - the quintet of preppy dudes united by boy-band Svengali Lou Pearlmen for three seasons of semi-emotive crooning, thrusting choreography, manufactured drama, and all the *NSYNC coattail riding instant fame could buy. Read more »

There's no place like home

Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth digs up life amid the ruins
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In his recent book Poor People, William T. Vollmann writes, "For me, poverty is not mere deprivation; for people may possess fewer things than I and be richer; poverty is wretchedness. It must then be an experience more than an economic state. It therefore remains somewhat immeasurable." Despite the enormity of such a disclaimer, Vollmann attempts to calibrate a calculus of misery. Portuguese director Pedro Costa seems motivated by a similarly conflicted impetus. Read more »

The departed

Heddy Honigmann goes looking for Forever in Paris's Pere-Lachaise
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The idea that death is the great equalizer only seems true in the narrowest sense. As with life, it takes all kinds: romantic deaths and pointless ones, iconic casualties and anonymous mortalities. One might fairly expect a documentary about Paris's Pere-Lachaise Cemetery to be a macabre portrait of death cults, given its status as a tourist trap. But Forever, the latest film by Heddy Honigmann, finds solace in more introspective rituals. Read more »

The silver screen turns gold

The Guardian Guide to the 50th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival
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The oldest film festival in the United States and Canada, the San Francisco International Film Festival reaches its golden anniversary this year. Read more »

Take 50

Our picks for the SF International Film Festival
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TAKE 50: SF INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

THURS/26

*Golden Door (Emanuele Crialese, Italy/France, 2006). Epic in scope, playful in its stylistic shifts and tonal splices, and sumptuous in its painterly framing and use of light, Golden Door looks on an age-old American saga - an immigrant family's crossing from the Old World to the new - with startlingly fresh, impassioned eyes. Read more »

Save the green planet

Tsai Ming-liang sounds off about his beautiful visions of a horribly polluted world
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With I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang has made something of a modern silent movie. I didn't count, but I am pretty sure there are only a handful of words (if not less) spoken by the movie's main characters. Taking the place of dialogue is ambient noise — snippets from a Cantonese opera, a Malaysian news report, a talk show in Mandarin — and most of all, unadulterated silence. With communication perpetually out of reach, it is no wonder alienation is such a major theme in Tsai's films. Read more »

Writing the book on cinematic sound

Be they epic, sexy, or downright freaky, Ennio Morricone's protean scores always seduce
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Where to start with the work of Ennio Morricone? The composer and musician has scored more than 400 films, so the task for the curious listener, let alone for the intrepid film curator, can be daunting. His most famous soundtracks have become a kind of enduring synecdoche, capable of summoning not just a particular title but an entire genre — think of the evocative power of the ocarina flourish in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Read more »

Smoke gets in your eyes

Director Tsai Ming-liang's green moves
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Long before Al Gore saw green in front of a blue screen and Hollywood used the Academy Awards to congratulate itself for suddenly becoming ecofriendly, Tsai Ming-liang braided more than a half dozen superb movies set in parts of a poisoned planet that Americans rarely contemplate. Resulting in at least a pair of classics — 1997's The River and 2003's Goodbye, Dragon Inn — Tsai's one of a kind linked works to date have been distinguished by their not just rare but entirely singular realism and prescience about everyday pollution. Read more »

Apichatpong Weerasethakul on disasters and black magic

The quietly evocative director speaks
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Whereas David Lynch at times uses all the excesses of a bad rock video to give form to the dream logic that structures his films, Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul creates quietly evocative reveries. Pierced by moments of sharp humor and unexpected beauty, Apichatpong's movies are imbued with a sense of openness, a responsive flexibility that allows their course to be redirected by serendipitous forces: a song, memories, folk tales. Read more »