Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Film festivals run pretty much year 'round, but around here the season really starts with the San Francisco International Film Festival. As we did last year, we herewith offer a rundown of the movies that we're psyched to see:

Mysteries of Lisbon/World on a Wire - Yes, there's no better way to kick off a film festival than with a pair of over-three-hours films by master filmmakers on the same day. Raúl Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon promises to be a truly epic mindwarp, as dense as a Dickens novel and rife with identity-splintering/shattering games (and here's hoping it's NOT Ruiz' last film, as he's suggested it will be). It actually seems like an ideal pairing with Fassbinder's World on a Wire, which subverts its own science fiction story with elements of melodrama and pastiche. At a combined 486 minutes these movies look like they have a LOT to say to one another, and to us.

The Deep End - short film programs are usually an ideal way to take in a diversity of voices at a film festival, and this screening, focusing on experimental treatments of spaces and landscapes, offers ten films that, quite literally, will change the world before your very eyes.

The Stool Pigeon
- Great Hong Kong gangster cinema didn't end with the 1997 changeover - filmmaker Dante Lam's career began that fateful year, and he's been a reliable creator of melancholic but action-packed crime cinema ever since. We were quite knocked out when SFIFF showed his film The Beast Stalker two years ago, and are psyched for this film about a police inspector's fraught relationship with an undercover informant.

The Troll Hunter - the trailer for this insane film was something of a viral video in the States, so I'm pleased to be getting a look at this Norwegian documentary-style horror comedy for myself.

The Sleeping Beauty - We went absolutely nuts over Catherine Breillat's previous film Bluebeard, so we're eager to see this follow-up, and return to the charged fairy tale worlds of Charles Perrault.

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
- this is pretty much unmissable for any devotee of the weirder musics of the late 20th century. Genesis P-Orridge is responsible for some of the most out there and expansive musics of the last 40 years, and his creativity extended into his romantic relationships. This film offers an intimate look at P-Orridge's pandrogynous relationship with the late Lady Jaye, and P-Orridge's attempts to move on after Jaye's death in 2007.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 - Documentary footage of the Black Power movement combines with commentary from today's African-American scholars, served up with music by Questlove of the Roots. The footage from this looked powerful, indeed, and we're keen on seeing the film and discussing it after.

An Afternoon with Matthew Barney - Though I'm a bit at odds with Barney's total corpus, damned if I don't usually find his work fascinating, and sometimes absolutely breathtaking. Delighted to see the Festival honoring him with their Persistence of Vision award, and I'm intrigued to see the latest iteration of Drawing Restraint being screened as part of the presentation.

Retour de Flamme - Serge Bromberg is my fucking hero. In addition to working tirelessly to discover films that many would give up as lost, he's a consummate showman, often serving as accompanist to the programs of silent films he tracks down and restores. Additionally, he directed one of my two favorite films of last year. The Festival is rightly presenting Bromberg with the Mel Novikoff Award ("given annually to an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema.") The program will include rare 3-D films (two different sets of glasses will be required for the screening), as well as a selection of short films from across film history, accompanied by Bromberg on piano.

13 Assassins
- Takashi Miike is also my fucking hero. The iconoclastic filmmaker became known for a torrential floodtide of bizarre, transgressive films that were as noteworthy for their more meditative and political aspects as they were for their insane violence, copious bodily fluids, and peculiar sense of full-tilt surreality. Though his output has slowed somewhat in recent years, his cult cache remains undiminished even as some of Japan's finest actors appear in his films. 13 Assassins looks to offer a deceptively straight-up samurai film, but even if he's more subtle and nuanced these days, I'll keep my eyes on both the frenetic margins and the quiet heart of this film for that ol' Miike spirit.

Tindersticks: Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009 - Hot on the heels of a complete-and-then-some Denis retrospective wrapping just across the Bay comes this can't-miss program. Though I'm not as sold on Tindersticks as their passionate fans, there's no denying the alchemy between their music and Denis' visions, and I'm glad that this program (which has played previously in Europe) is touching down in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, let us know what festivals you attend and what films you see there over on our Forums!

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