The 13th San Francisco Independent Film Festival, known to most as SF IndieFest, opens tonight with Gregg Araki's Kaboom and runs through February 17. "Although 2011's line-up contains more 'high profile' films than is customary — fear not — for most of this year's roster still hails from the outer limits of international indie-dom," writes Michael Hawley, introducing his overview. Bay Guardian critics briefly preview eleven selections as well. Here, for example, is Johnny Ray Huston on Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film:
"There's a paradox at the core of Pip Chodorov's feature, in that it employs perhaps the most commonplace and programmatic form of contemporary commercial moviemaking — documentary — to explore perhaps the most unique and expressive manifestation of film: experimental cinema. Free Radicals takes its title from a film by Len Lye [1958, above], and one of the best aspects of Chodorov's approach is that it doesn't mercilessly chop up avant-garde works in the service of generic contemporary montage. He's willing to show a work such as Lye's film in its entirety, without intrusive voice-over. Chodorov is the son of filmmaker Stephan Chodorov, and his familiar and familial 'home movie' approach to presentation is both an asset and a liability. It's helpful in terms of firsthand and sometimes casual access to his subjects — he largely draws from and focuses on a formidable, if orthodox male, canon: Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Peter Kubelka. But it also opens the door for a folksy first-person approach to narration that can err on the side of too-cute. It's subtitle — A History of Experimental Cinema — to the contrary, Free Radicals functions best as a celebration or appreciation of some notable and vanguard filmmakers and their efforts, rather than as an overview of experimental film."
The UCLA Film and Television Archive's annual Celebration of Iranian Cinema opens tomorrow and runs through February 27. Susan King naturally opens her overview in the Los Angeles Times with a reminder of the conviction and sentencing of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. Then: "Aside from a plethora of thought-provoking, complex political dramas and documentaries from directors including Tahmineh Milani, Rakhshan Bani-E'temad and Vahid Vakilifar, the festival also is highlighting vintage Iranian movies. (Rasoulof's 2010 film, The White Meadows is screening Feb 9.)"
This year's The Japan Foundation Touring Program, Back to the Future: Japanese Cinema Since the Mid-90s, opens at the Institute of Contemporary Arts tomorrow before heading on to Belfast, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Bristol and Sheffield. Electric Sheep, whose new issue "was inspired by the brilliant, devilishly twisted revenge tale Confessions," directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, recommends not missing Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure.
Isn't Life Wonderful screens this afternoon at MoMA. The New Yorker's Richard Brody: "Filming on location in 1924, DW Griffith presciently dramatized, in the heat of the moment, the social upheavals in Germany arising from the collapse of the mark, widespread poverty, and unhealed postwar traumas. The long setup — of a three-generation family of Polish refugees who settle in a ramshackle Berlin suburb — outlines the core of the story, in which the family's grown foster daughter, Inga (Carol Dempster), and war-wounded eldest son, Paul (Neil Hamilton), seek to overcome dire straits and marry. Meanwhile, with a sure artistic hand, Griffith evokes his moral and visual themes, of the fetid ferment of city life and the spiritual balm of the open country, as tamed by the high purpose of pioneer spirit."
"On Friday, February 4 at 7:30 pm, in support of Anthology Film Archives's 40th anniversary, filmmaker (and Ann-Margret aficionado) John Waters presents Kitten With a Whip at the theater he says he says he owes his career to," writes Miriam Bale, introducing her interview for the L. "In this film, Ann-Margret, with her copper-colored nimbus that looks occasionally as if she's been shocked, is possessed, demented and so pretty as a dangerous juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold. Over the phone, Waters chatted delightfully about Ann-Margret, his past as an art film teenage runaway, and countless other objects of enthusiasm." For Interview, Durga Chew-Bose talks with Waters, too.
"Kitten with a Whip is one of the creamiest B-movie teensploitation tricks, but, like practically all others of its ilk, deep down in its calculated, studio-affiliated heart, it hates teenagers' guts," writes Eric Henderson at the House Next Door.
Back to the L: "Forseeing a generation of digitally enabled filmmakers who turn journal entries (or chemical experiments) into movies, Caveh Zahedi, in the years since 1991, has attempted a radical, spiritual, schematized openness, blending self-exposure with a reflexivity that is itself almost confessional," writes Mark Asch. "Zahedi, who recently moved to Carroll Gardens and now teaches at the New School, is the subject of a complete, week-long retrospective at the reRun starting Friday, when he’ll appear for a Q&A along with a shorts program (including an in-progress work made on commission in the UAE)."
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