SCREEN GRABS It’s a starry as well as busy week in Bay Area filmgoing, with major openings including the new Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga A Star is Born remake—which yrs truly didn’t like much, but many will—and David Lowery’s The Old Man & The Gun, a fact-inspired tale with Robert Redford (in purportedly his final screen role) as an escaped con who goes on a new bank-robbing spree at age 70.
But starrier still will be the next eleven days at the Mill Valley Film Festival, whose guests representing new films are expected to include Rosamund Pike (A Private War), Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Alfonso Cueron (Roma), Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Carey Mulligan (Wildlife), Timothy Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Joel Edgerton (Boy Erased), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Kindergarten Teacher), and many more. Tributes will include one to Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, whose Ida was a well-deserved surprise arthouse smash two years ago, and whose upcoming Cold Warshould end up on many a top ten list.
World premieres encompass a number of new features from Bay Area filmmakers, such as Richard Levien’s SF-set, ICE-themed drama Collisions, Spencer Wilkinson’s documentary One Voice about the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and more.
As usual, there will be a wide range of panels, workshops, concerts, family activities and other events—beyond the 200+ films from nearly fifty nations being screened at various Marin County locations, Thurs/4-Sun/14. Read the full program here.
Elsewhere (all opening on Friday Oct. 5 unless otherwise noted):
DANCING AND DRINKING: THE RELEVANT FILM FESTIVALS
But enough with all this respectable world cinema spectating. Sometimes you want a movie you can dance along with—or fall off a barstool while watching. If so, this is really your lucky week, as two much smaller, more specialized local film festivals arrive to meet those pressing needs.
The SF Dance Film Festival presents its ninth annual program this Thursday through Oct. 14 at Brava Theater Center and other SF venues. The films themselves, culled from around the world, include portraits of dancemakers Alexander Ekman, Paul Taylor, Trey McIntyre, Kaori Ito and Maurice Bejart, as well as studies of stigmatization of “ballet boys,” the history of American tap dance, and dance as therapy for traumatized and differently-abled youth. There will also be straight performance films, and live performances by local talents including Dimensions Dance Theater. www.sfdancefilmfest.org
Plies and tour jetes are not recommended in the environ of the Drunken Film Fest, a showcase for independent documentaries, narratives, music videos and more that will also comprise a six-night pub crawl through some of Oakland’s finest watering holes. With emphasis on short works from around the globe, there will be plenty of variety each evening to hold your increasingly inebriated attention, as well as juried prizes given in categories such as Animation and Avant-Garde. What’s more, it’s all free—the movies, that is. The drinks are on you. Sun/7-Fri/12. www.drunkenfilmfest.
SATJAJIT RAY: INTIMATE UNIVERSES
Indian cinema was scarcely a blip on the radar of even the most devoted world cinema buff before the arrival of Ray’s 1955 debut feature Panther Panchali. It and the two subsequent entries in the “Apu Trilogy” made him one of the most famous filmmakers working outside the English language, and opened Western eyes to the intricacies of Indian life, unmediated by a colonialist or other outsider’s sensibility.
The very first SF International Film Fest in 1957 included Panther Panchali, the beginning of a long association between festival and director. So it’s natural that SFFilm’s 7th “Modern Cinema” season at SFMOMA should be a tribute to this great screen humanist. The program will include fifteen recently restored Ray features (not excluding an “Apu” marathon), plus a smattering of films by directors who inspired him, and were inspired by him—a roster that ranges from Renoir and De Sica to Kiarostami, Scorcese, Kiewlowski, James Ivory, Mira Nair and Wes Anderson. Thurs/4-Sun/21, SFMOMA. More info here.
ANTONIO LOPEZ, QUEERCORE, M.I.A.
Three new documentaries opening this Friday look at distinctive artists and artistic scenes that shook up the creative landscape. James Crump’s Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco charts the high-flying, too-brief career of a star fashion illustrator as influential as many of the designers he enshrined, and models (including Jane Forth, Patti D’Urbanville, Jessica Lange, Grace Jones and Jerry Hall) he discovered. A magnetic personality and sexual omnivore, Lopez personified the joyous freedoms of the 60s and 70s—and like many of them, he expired during the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Opera Plaza, Shattuck Cinemas. More info here.
Yony Leyser’s Queercore: How to Punk A Revolution trains focus on LGBTQ artists in every genre who used punk aesthetics and strategies to rebel—not just against mainstream society, but against perceived conformism in gay culture. While there’s much attention given to the Toronto scene spearheaded by filmmaker Bruce La Bruce and artist G.B. Jones, there are numerous other voices heard from here, including such San Francisco-bred acts as Lynn Breedlove of Tribe 8, Pansy Division’s Jon Ginoli, and Justin Vivian Bond. Roxie. More info here.
Also at the Roxie is Steve Loveridge’s Sundance award winner Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., which profiles the hugely successful international rapper-singer with a Sri Lankan Tamil heritage—something her art has often addressed, as her family are refugees from that country’s civil war. Asked why she’s a “problematic pop star” who can’t just “shut up and get a hit,” branded in some quarters (notably the New York Times) as a dilettante and tool for combining confrontative political messaging with that stardom, she says it’s just her nature—given a podium, she can’t ignore genocide simply because it might discomfort a mass audience. This may not be a particularly even-handed portrait, but it’s still a complex one that will be welcomed by fans, and has substance enough to intrigue even those oblivious to or indifferent towards M.I.A.’s musical career. Roxie. More info here.
FU: FILMMAKERS UNITE
Local luminaries Jay Rosenblatt and Ellen Bruno “put out a call to over 200 of their fellow artists,” asking for short films responding to any aspect of life and politics in the Trump era. This resulting program of 13 works, totaling about 80 minutes, runs a gamut both stylistically (it encompasses documentary, narrative, animation, collage and more) and in themes. Nonfiction pieces include a sketch of editorial cartoonist Mr. Fish, a tour of ruins once intended to be the gracious HQ of American Nazis in Los Angeles, and a portrait of two adult brothers whose broken relationship has come to define the “divisiveness” of our political climate.
Repurposing old footage is Rosenblatt’s Scared Very Scared, which deploys vintage instructional clips and more to comment on anxiety under human weather-cock Trump, and Little Donnie: The Ten-Inch Terror, a fresh spin on Karen Black’s standoff with the deadly “Zuni fetish doll” in Trilogy of Terror. Other shorts use diverse means to meditate on immigration issues, Islamophobia, and what to do when your kid wants a Trump pinata for his birthday. Roxie. More info here.
JACK PARSONS + EARTHLINGS
We live in cultish times, so it’s apt to scrutinize the life and influences of this Other Cinema double-documentary evening’s principal subjects. Jack Whiteside Parsons was a rocket engineer on the ground floor of what would eventually become NASA. But by the time it did, he’d developed serious side interests in occultist Aleister Crowley, crossing paths with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (who took his wife and life savings). He dabbled in Communism, yet became a notable shaper of libertarian philosophy.
Religion scholar Erik Davis’ Babalon Rising: Jack Parsons Blasts Off scrutinizes this bizarre and fascinating life, as well as its many representations in popular media (including Ridley Scott’s Strange Angel and OC founder Craig Baldwin’s own Mock Up on Mu). The bill will also feature Jonathan Berman introducing his Calling All Earthlings, about another So Cal. aeronautics weirdo—George Van Tassel, a flight inspector turned (never-finished) time machine inventor who claimed he’d ridden on a space ship with Venusians. Sat/6, Artists Television Access. More info here.
MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS
This arresting “Indonesian feminist outlaw western” has the titular widow (Marsha Timothy) confronted by bandits in her isolated country house—they mean to steal all her livestock and rape her, simply because they’ve realized she’s alone. She is not, however, defenseless. After doing what she can to protect herself, an effort that leaves most of her attackers dead, she takes the severed head of one of them on the road in order to tell police what happened. But the police’s response turns out to be one more representation of the male boorishness she (and a heavily pregnant neighbor) encounters at every juncture. This handsomely shot feature starts out as a minimalist thriller, turns into a laconic black comedy, then gains dramatic heft again. 4-Star Theater. More info here.