Film Review

It's a mad, mad about Mads world

Hunky actor helps Adam's Apples
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Mads Mikkelsen has excessively high cheekbones on very long, flat facial planes, making him the kind of handsome actor suited for morally untrustworthy roles. Hence his casting as a charismatic antihero in the violent Pusher series (sort of Denmark's big-screen Sopranos) and as the villain who inflicts improbably impermanent damage to chairbound James Bond's weenus in 2006's Casino Royale. Read more »

Stalk tips

Andrea Arnold's stellar film "Red Road" scrutinizes grief and reconciliation
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Nothing is what it seems in Red Road, a wonderfully restrained thriller that marks the feature debut of British writer-director Andrea Arnold. Jackie (a fierce Kate Dickie) works as a surveillance camera operator, studying closed-circuit feeds streaming from Glasgow's streets. Her life is mysterious without being spectacular; for one thing, she lives alone but wears a wedding ring. Clearly, she's had a tragic past, and her present is haunted by the specter of unfinished business - but what, exactly? Read more »

Cerebral vortex

The Guy Maddin brand always guaranteed to be demented
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Guy Maddin, that demented dealer in antiquities responsible for such cinematic curiosities as The Saddest Music in the World and the much-loved short The Heart of the World, has a new film showing at the Castro Theatre as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. The semiautobiographical Brand upon the Brain! - a silent quasi-horror film about an orphanage that harvests life-giving brain juice from its wards - will be accompanied by a live orchestra, Foley artists, a castrato, and narration by local star Joan Chen. Read more »

Full of Zizek

"The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" -- an appreciation
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Despite Sigmund Freud's strong distrust of cinema ("I do not consider it possible to represent our abstractions graphically in any respectable manner," he firmly wrote in a letter to an inquiring film producer), Freudian psychoanalytic theory - primarily as reread by the French analyst Jacques Lacan - has come to form the bedrock of much academic film criticism and theory since the 1960s. Read more »

Ponder or ignore? Enjoy

Choice words about image culture as the SF International Film Festival hits 50
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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. That's half a century of bringing movies from all over the world to one area of America that doesn't assume America is the world.

At this moment a solo videomaker has to kill at least a few dozen people to storm the multinational media palace. Yeah, this thought crashes the SFIFF's party. But it adds context to the fest's contents. Read more »

Cinema brut

Better than sex, worse than violence: a critical survey of new French extremism at the 50th SF film fest
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Early on in A Parting Shot, Isild Le Besco's character curls up at a bar, crowded by two leering men ordering her the hard liquor with which she courts abnegation. Read more »

Otar, Otar, how does your "Garden" grow?

A rare cinematic treat
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The San Francisco International Film Festival is offering a rare treat this year with its presentation of Otar Iosseliani's latest film, Gardens in Autumn, and Julie Bertuccelli's documentary about Iosseliani, Otar Iosseliani, The Whistling Blackbird. Read more »

The four men in "The Iron Mask"

Stepping out of a classic
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When The Iron Mask screens at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, four disparate cinematic personalities will merge - three in spirit and one in the flesh.

Now 68, Kevin Brownlow made his first feature film, 1966's It Happened Here, while in his 20s and subsequently published two books, one (How It Happened Here) on the making of that movie and another (The Parade's Gone By) featuring interviews with silent-era filmmakers and stars. At that time, the silent era was almost like a technical glitch to be overcome and forgotten. Read more »

Do you remember your first time?

Debut fiction features at the fest
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Of the hundreds of thousands of feature movies made in the past century, how many were spectacular debuts? Maybe 30? Reason decrees that we can't expect the 11 first features that make up this year's SKYY Prize nominees to be brilliant; frankly, they're not. Read more »

On tone's tail

A brief history of star wars and star awards at the SFIFF
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With that inimitable San Franciscan condescension toward anything too popular, various eyes rolled skyward when the SF Film Society announced the tributees at the 50th SF International Film Festival would include the two most famous Hollywood-type people who live hereabouts, George Lucas and Robin Williams. Like a canyon-echoed foghorn, bass exhalations of "borrrrrr-ing" filled select pockets of local airspace. Read more »