"My favorite living French actor, André Dussollier, appears prominently in two high-profile films at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival," writes Dennis Harvey in a profile for SF360. The two films: Alain Resnais's Wild Grass and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs, which opens the the longest-running film festival in the Americas tonight. Update, 4/28: Yama Rahimi interviews Jeunet for ioncinema.
"If you know San Francisco's cult movie culture, you know Midnight Mass, the Bridge Theatre's long-running celebration of late-night movies," writes Cheryl Eddy in the Bay Guardian. "And if you know Midnight Mass, then you most certainly know Peaches Christ, the event's fabulously dressed and tressed hostess." Her "civilian alter ego," Joshua Grannell, has "just completed his first feature film, All About Evil, about a mousy librarian named Deb (a killer Natasha Lyonne) who blossoms, rather terrifyingly, into a horror filmmaker named 'De-bor-ah' after she inherits the Victoria Theatre. Deborah's frighteningly, er, realistic short films begin drawing crowds to the struggling, single-screen movie house, with teenage horror geek Steven (Thomas Dekker of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) looking on first in admiration, then suspicion. Also along for the ride are some familiar faces from Midnight Mass, including John Waters superstar Mink Stole and Cassandra 'Elvira' Peterson." Click those names and they'll take you to interviews conducted by Michael Guillén, who wrapped a series of All About Evil chats a couple of weeks ago.
Michael's Evening Class is also hosting 24 SFIFF capsule reviews by Frako Loden; for many more, see Michael Hawley (who points to earlier previews as well), Ryland Walker Knight at Vinyl Is Heavy, Gregg Rickman and Michael Fox in the SF Weekly, Michael Fox's solo overview for KQED, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Bay Guardian.
There you'll also find Max Goldberg ruminating on a motif he finds running through the festival, returns. 14-18: The Noise and the Fury, for example, "an epic reexamination of World War I narrated by a fictional French soldier, and Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, Serge Bromberg's dogged excavation of the eponymous French director's famously unrealized film. Then there's Claire Denis's return to Africa (White Material), a Chinese documentary portrait of a family's fraught journey home (Last Train Home), and American filmmaker Tanya Hamilton's Night Catches Us, a double return (the story of a Black Panther's homecoming to his troubled neighborhood and a reconstruction of 1970s Philadelphia)." The films he chooses to focus on, though, are Kamal Aljafari's Port of Memory, "a melancholic study of the Palestinian community of Jaffa where Aljafari is from," Pedro González-Rubio's "gorgeous" Alamar and Vimukthi Jayasundara's "surreal fable of destruction," Between Two Worlds.
"A true auteur who hasn't fallen prey to the excessive worship that has hindered influences such as Tsai Ming-liang, [João Pedro] Rodrigues is cultivating his craft," writes Johnny Ray Huston. "He's aware that he's still developing, yet comfortable enough about his formidable command that he can casually deploy the motifs of great filmmakers as pivot points. If Odete's peculiar double-vision was constructed from the eyes of Hitchcock and Warhol, To Die Like a Man is his In a Year of 13 Moons (1978), or 1999's All About My Mother changed to All About My Father."
Also: "At the San Francisco Film Festival, live music by bands for silent works has become a reliable main attraction. But Sam Green's and Dave Cerf's new meta-documentary Utopia in Four Movements adds a new facet to the phenomenon: instead of utilizing an over-familiar voice-over, it unites live narration by Green with a musical performance overseen by Cerf, allowing for degrees of spontaneity and change."
Dennis Harvey talks with Sean Byrne about The Loved Ones: "Pegged by some as 'Misery meets Pretty in Pink,' this instant horror mini-classic is by turns poignant, funny, grotesque, alarming, and finally very, very satisfying."
Kimberly Chun talks with Derek Waters, whose series of shorts, Drunk History, features "the sight of soused comedians relating their favorite great moments in history (while occasionally losing their lunch or lying down to get more comfy) while actors like Michael Cera, Jack Black and Will Ferrell reenact out all the blurry details, down to Ben Franklin's improbable 'Holy shit... there's a fucking lightning storm happening right now outside!'" Waters is "a primo candidate for a drunken evening at the theater with Wholphin DVD magazine editor Brent Hoff. He'll be showing relevant shorts such as Bob Odenkirk's gut-busting The Pity Card — part of Waters' and The Big Bang Theory's Simon Helberg's online short series Derek and Simon — and talking about that film, as well as, no doubt, the work he'll contribute to Wholphin's next edition."
Roger Ebert will receive the Mel Novikoff Award this year on "An Evening With Roger Ebert and Friends." Louis Peitzman talks with some of those friends — Terry Zwigoff, Errol Morris and Philip Kaufman — and emails the legendary critic himself.
Robert Duvall is the recipient of this year's Peter J Owens Award. Gregg Rickman in the SF Weekly: "In his new film, Get Low, screening at the tribute evening, Duvall plays an elderly recluse who decides to stage his own funeral while still alive. Receiving a lifetime achievement award while still alive is the rough real-life equivalent, but no foxy old codger is more deserving than Robert Duvall. After all, he is your dad. Obey him."
Walter Murch will deliver the State of Cinema address on Sunday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "Murch's address, 'Three Fathers of Cinema: Beethoven, Flaubert, Edison,' will look at what would have happened if movies had been invented in 1789." And the Chronicle's Ruthe Stein profiles Rachel Rosen, director of programming. G Allen Johnson talks with her, too.
SFIFF runs through May 6.
Updates, 4/26: Carl Martin's "SFIFF 2010 Roundup, Part 1."
"If there's a sure-fire crowd-pleaser in this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, it's Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith's Presumed Guilty," writes Michael Fox, introducing an interview with Hernandez at SF360. "A riveting exposé of Mexico's grievously broken criminal justice system, the documentary tracks the efforts of Hernandez and his wife, co-producer Layda Negrete, to intercede in the murder conviction of José Antonio Zuniga."
Update, 4/27: On Sunday, Walter Murch delivered his State of Cinema address (see above) and you can now view it at Unidentified Sound Object.
Updates, 4/30: "Rejoice and Shout, the latest music documentary from director Don McGlynn (The Howlin' Wolf Story, Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Harold Arlen, and many more) is the most thoroughly researched and exhaustive film about African-American gospel music ever committed to film," writes Jason Leroy. "In telling the story of gospel in America, it simultaneously mirrors the entire narrative of the African-American experience, beginning with slavery and ending with the election of the nation's first black president. It is an ambitious undertaking, and for the most part, it is successful."
Also at Spinning Platters, Marie Carney on Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.
At SF360, Dennis Harvey surveys this year's revivals.
A roundup from Craig Phillips at GreenCine Daily: "coming-of-age tales set from young protagonists' perspectives."
Updates, 5/1: "As usual, some of the best things I've seen so far at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival have been in the shorts programs," writes Brian Darr. "I've watched three of the curated sets thus far: The High Line, Solitude Standing, and Pirate Utopias. Each of the three programs was well worth my time and attention. The cliché line about festival shorts programs is that if you don't like a particular film, don't worry, it'll soon be over and the next one is likely to be better. While this is a perfectly valid way of approaching these kinds of collections, I've been struck this year that two of the three groupings I've viewed so far have been so consistently strong even when presenting a highly diverse array of filmmaking approaches, subject matters, and international viewpoints, that it doesn't really apply."
"San Francisco itself took a leading role Thursday at Film Society Awards Night," reports Susan Gerhard. "A benefit for the Film Society's year-round Youth Education initiative, which brings film and media literacy to students from 8-18, the gala presenters honored Brazilian director Walter Salles with the Founder's Directing Award, gave actor Robert Duvall the Peter J Owens Award and offered James Schamus the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting."
Also at SF360: "Women are typically associated with 'intimate' genres (e.g. documentary, experimental) on the festival circuit," writes Max Goldberg, "but Kathryn Bigelow isn't the only one going against the grain. Of the many SFIFF films from women filmmakers on my wishlist, I've thus far seen four: Laura Poitras's The Oath, Claire Denis's White Material, Mia Hansen-Løve's The Father of My Children and Nina Hedenius's Way of Nature. All are made of durable stuff."
Update, 5/2: Meredith Brody has been covering SFIFF for Thompson on Hollywood.
Update, 5/3: Walter Murch's talk sparks a piece by Alejandro Adams at Hammer to Nail: "A technology sometimes arrives before the culture in question can support it. Maybe the personal cinema camera, like the Aztecs' aborted wheel, will fall into desuetude because we had no idea what to do with it the first time around. We have not used it to make films, after all. We have used it to make panels. We have used it to make superfluous words instead of indelible images."
Update, 5/5: The House Next Door posts a first roundup up from Joseph Jon Lanthier. It's huge and, of course, terrific.
Updates, 5/6: "The San Francisco Film Society announced juried awards and cash prizes totaling nearly $300,000 for filmmakers during the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Golden Gate Awards," reports Susan Gerhard. "'It’s a whopping amount of money,' said Graham Leggat, SFFS Executive Director, introducing the ceremony, 'and we don’t intend to stop at this amount.'"
Also at SF360, Michael Fox talks with Amy Glazer about Seducing Charlie Barker.
Craig Phillips at GreenCine Daily on the Q&A with James Schamus: "Like any good screenwriter, he answered with wit and steered himself back on point whenever he got off on a tangent, except when he knew said tangents were the real prize."