Max Goldberg in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Looking at a map of Paris, the city's rings resemble those of the giant Sequoia cross-section in Vertigo (1958), the one Kim Novak points to saying, 'Somewhere in here I was born ... and here I died.' It's a touchstone scene for Chris Marker, one he recasts in both La Jetée (1962) and Sans Soleil (1983), though the Paris metaphor is prompted by his lesser known essay film, Le joli mai ('May the beautiful,' filmed with the venerable cinematographer Pierre Lhomme)." Poetry Meets Politics: The Essay — Chris Marker's Le joli mai: Tomorrow evening at 7 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Related: Acquarello's review from 2006.
Meantime, the San Francisco International Film Festival unveiled its lineup of films and events yesterday. The 53rd edition runs from April 22 through May 6. For overviews turn to Susan Gerhard (SF360) and Peter Knegt (indieWIRE).
"Bill Gunn died, aged 59, in April of 1989, the day before his play The Forbidden City premiered at the Public Theater, and months before the flashpoint of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Would lone-wolf Gunn have fit in with the new renaissance of black American filmmaking any more than he did with the last?" asks Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. Surveying The Groundbreaking Bill Gun, a series at BAM running tomorrow through Sunday, he argues that Gunn is "an American artist who seriously deserves his due."
Along with The Man Next Door (see yesterday's entry), New Directors / New Films screens three more tomorrow for the first time, including Xavier Dolan's directorial debut, I Killed My Mother, winner of a slew of awards since it premiered at Cannes nearly a year ago.
"The 20-year-old Canadian filmmaker appears in his own film as Hubert Minel, a 16-year-old cutie whose endless spats with his mother are like volleying razorblades," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "[T]heir volcanic fights are so richly and sensitively attuned to how insecurity informs his character's rage that you don't doubt the material was based on personal experience. Dolan has Jenny Lumet's rare talent for cannily transplanting to paper how people use language as ammunition — how words ricochet during squabbles in unpredictable ways and reveal the best and worst in us all. But I Killed My Mother is a film best heard than seen, as the earnest, nimble scrubbiness of Dolan's screenplay is ill-served by his conceited visuals, an aesthetic mode that feels insecurely borrowed from perfume commercials and the work of Jean-Luc Godard and Wong Kar-Wai." More from Howard Feinstein at indieWIRE.
Melissa Anderson in the Voice on Last Train Home: "The mind-boggling scope of first-time director Lixin Fan's extraordinary documentary — which captures the world's largest migration, as 130 million migrant workers in China's cities return to their rural homes for New Year's — owes as much to macro-spectacle as to micro-observation about the economic forces rending a nation."
"Focusing on a single family, the Zhangs, the film traces their plight through several years and several thousand miles as they move back and forth between the industrial cities where they work and their rural birthplace," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "Alternating fixed, self-consciously framed shots with ragged handheld camerawork, Lixin captures both the beauty of the film's rural and industrial settings and the fevered chaos of the family's public and domestic crises."
"Don't miss it," advises Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. More from Howard Feinstein (indieWIRE), Megan Ratner (Bright Lights After Dark) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail). IndieWIRE interviews Lixin Fan.
"Playing like a companion piece to Larry Cohen's It's Alive, [Sander Burger's] Hunting & Sons depicts how news of an impending pregnancy is apt to drive a couple not only apart, but insane," writes Nick Schager in Slant. "The film's third-act descent into domestic horror isn't a wholly successful one, given that it's predicated on character actions and reactions that, despite preceding material that's ably established them, seem a tad too gonzo-hostile for a story rooted in everyday reality. Still, in its most extreme moments, Hunting & Sons locates parent-to-be conception anxieties, and the madness they can bring forth, with from-the-gut potency."
Meantime, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir has selected ten favorites from this year's ND/NF lineup to highlight briefly.
Neil Genzlinger: "The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom, a documentary by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, is so awkwardly executed that at first it may come across as just another chorus of a familiar song: that Tibetans think they have been done terrible injustices by China. But pay close enough attention, and eventually another, entirely different theme emerges: the Dalai Lama may be losing his ability to keep the more radical elements of the free-Tibet movement in check." More from Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Benjamin Mercer (L), Michelle Orange (Voice), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY) and James van Maanen. At Film Forum through April 13.
Also in the New York Times, AO Scott: "The Last Song: if only it were." Stars Miley Cyrus; based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. In the Voice, Eric Hynes lays out the "Eight Tired Themes of Nicholas Sparks's Love-Stories."
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS).