As mentioned in the previous entry announcing that you can watch a few of its documentaries for free, the Mill Valley Film Festival opens today and runs through October 16. Introducing his overview of the festival (and his batch of capsule previews), Michael Hawley notes that this year's MVFF opens with Glenn Close's "gender-bending turn as a 19th century Irish butler in Albert Nobbs. Close will attend the screening with director Rodrigo García, and then reappear the following night for her own festival tribute and reception. Sharing opening night duties at a separate venue will be Jay and Mark Duplass' Jeff Who Lives at Home, starring Jason Segel and Susan Sarandon. The film is scheduled for a March 2012 release, making it an unusual choice for a MVFF opener. Both Duplass brothers are confirmed guests. Closing out the fest on Sunday, October 16 will be the film I'm most anticipating this autumn, Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist."
"Mill Valley also offers a huge schedule of films you haven't heard of yet," writes Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where she previews five features and the 5@5 short film series. At the Evening Class, Dominic Mercurio, presenting a guide to this series, notes that it "gets its name from the template the series works off of — a collection of short films at 5:00PM for $5 per program with a total runtime of about one hour — so that each weekday of the festival you can catch one of these concise bouquets of short form cinema. If you're an Elton John fan, you'll probably also notice each package is named after a song in his discography, because… why not? After previewing this year's selection, it's safe to say that some of these films are strong contenders against the feature length heavyweights and should not be overlooked." Michael Guillén adds short reviews of three of the shorts.
"Though he's miles away from the lavish palaces where his ancestors once performed as court musicians for maharajas, Alam Khan teaches at the Ali Akbar College of Music as a way to continue the musical tradition that's been passed down in his family for centuries," writes David Wagner. "'This is a music that goes back to the Vedic times in India,' says Joshua Mellars, whose documentary Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan will screen at this year's Mill Valley Film Festival. Mellars's film focuses on Alam's relationship with his father, the legendary sarode player Ali Akbar Khan, and explores the challenges he faces in trying to keep Indian classical music alive while staring down the barrel of the 21st century." The San Francisco Chronicle, where Pam Grady is looking forward to doing a little star-gazing, also picks out several other highlights from the lineup.