"Fifty years ago this July," begins Michael Fox in the SF Weekly, "Bruce Baillie and Chick Strand set up a sheet in their backyard in the California town of Canyon to project avant-garde films. This low-key, lo-fi setup, fortified with red wine, became a weekly bastion for filmmakers as well as their associates, friends, and lovers. Baillie and Strand went on (separately) to make landmark experimental films while shepherding their small artistic and social scene into incarnations that continue to thrive today: San Francisco Cinematheque (exhibition) and Canyon Cinema (distribution). The second annual Crossroads Festival launches tonight with Radical Light: Cinematheque at 50, part of a program honoring the Bay Area’s broad, important, and entertaining history of avant-garde filmmaking."
"Opening night includes at least one city symphony (Timoleon Wilkins' Chinatown Sketch), a form expanded upon in several subsequent Crossroads shows," notes Max Goldberg in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "Jeanne Liotta's aptly titled Crosswalk transcribes an Easter street processional in Loisaida, a Latino enclave of New York City. Liotta, an ambitious filmmaker who ranges over the history of science and the nature of belief, will be at the Victoria Friday, May 13 for the film's West Coast premiere. Also showing is her beautiful condensation of stargazing, Observando el Cielo (2007) (image above)… Other highlights across the weekend include an evening dedicated to Bay Area maverick Robert Nelson, Ben Russell's latest consciousness-raising Trypp, a hand-cranked projection performance by Alex MacKenzie, and short films by master collagist Lewis Klahr and some guy named Apichatpong Weerasethakul. I could go on, but you should get going."
The festival will be followed on May 19 with "a special benefit and 50th anniversary celebration featuring an eclectic mash-up of cinematic art, psychedelic projections, vintage grooves and avant-pop performances."
"Elliot Lavine's latest retrospective of noir and noir-ish oldies at the Roxie Theater, I Wake Up Dreaming 2011, is subtitled The Legendary and the Lost, terms that both apply to the film that kicks off the two-week series," writes Dennis Harvey in the SFBG. Dementia (1955) is "an unclassifiable, commercially doomed proposition: an hour-long B&W nightmare in which an unstable young woman wanders empty urban streets, bounces from pimp to john to jazz club, commits acts of violence (or maybe just hallucinates them), and at the end simply disappears into the cosmos…. Oh, and there is no dialogue, just a score by noted American composer George Antheil that uses wordless vocals by Marni Nixon (who later secretly provided the vocals for the famous leading ladies of 1956's The King and I, 1961's West Side Story, and 1964's My Fair Lady) as a sort of human theremin. This very curious amalgam of noir, avant-garde, lurid potboiler and silent expressionism at various times brings to mind everyone from Roger Corman to Roman Polanski and Maya Deren. It was the first and last film for John Parker, about whom very little is known — save that he must have been gravely disappointed by the long road Dementia took to nowhere."
"Lavine has dug up two weeks of dark jewels: hard-to-find Hollywood noirs mostly from the 1940s and '50s and offering a parade of last century's finest amnesiacs, paranoids, private dicks, femmes fatales, and non-Anglo second bananas who tend to get beaten, tortured, or killed to prove a point to the square-jawed hero," writes Alan Scherstuhl in SF Weekly.
For more Bay Area goings on, see Keith Bowers and Hiya Swanhuyser (SF Weekly) and the SFBG.
EAST OF SAN FRANCISCO
Happening tonight, presented by Not Coming to a Theater Near You:
"The UCLA Film & Television Archive and Los Angeles Filmforum are partnering to present a weekend of events feting 'orphan' films, which are merely movies without traceable copyright ownership or a substantial role to play in the marketplace," writes Michael Atkinson in the LA Weekly. "The archive industry strives, via DVDs and minifestivals like this one, to invent such a role, leaving it up to us, this weekend, to decide whether the movement to preserve cinema abandoned by capitalist whim should succeed or not." Celebrating Orphan Films happens all day tomorrow and Saturday. And Phil Coldiron adds a few more events to Angelenos' to-do list.
The Berlin School Now runs from tomorrow through Sunday at the Harvard Film Archive and features Isabelle Stever's Gisela (2005) and Blessed Events (2010) and Christoph Hochhäusler's I Am Guilty (2005) and The City Below (2010).
"Taking place at numerous venues in London from 13th May-28th May, the London International Documentary Film Festival 2011 (LIDF) will show over 130 films from 44 countries, and host several workshops and debates," writes Sean Gittins in the New Statesman. "Covering a number of themes including recent changes to the Arab Middle East, explorations of the city and the nature of privacy, the LIDF not only features the work of new filmmakers but also premieres of documentaries crafted by Academy Award winners Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese and Brigitte Berman."
Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival opens today and runs through the weekend.
Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972) screens this evening at International House Philadelphia.
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