Arts + Culture

Even more Ficks’ Picks from the Toronto International Film Festival

Bucolic witches, splendid cemeteries, awkward Chinese futures, little sisters, swell lobsters, and more from TIFF 40. Read part 1 here and part 2 here

48 Hills TIFF 40
Pagan pageant punctuated by terror: ‘The Witch’

By Jesse Hawthorne Ficks

SCREEN GRABS Everything you’ve perhaps overheard about Robert Eggers’ feature debut The Witch is true. Presented in pre-widescreen (square) format 1.66 and set in 1630s New England, this pagan pageant (based on real writings from this pre-Salem witch-burning era) knows how to make the most out of very little. Quiet, thoughtful pacing enhances the meticulous costume and set design, punctuated by truly terrifying moments of shrieking horror.

Nicely wedged between Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1943) and M. Night Shyamalan’s savagely misunderstood The Village (2004), Eggers has created the perfect calling card to Hollywood’s streamlined reboot factory. He is slated to direct the remake of Nosferatu, and whether it will be continuation of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic and/or Werner Herzog’s revisionist take in 1979 with Klaus Kinski, know that The Witch is the subdued horror flick that has a lot of people rooting for him, including me.

48 Hills TIFF 40
From ‘Cemetery of Splendour’

Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul has delivered yet another exquisite odyssey with his contemplative sixth feature, Cemetery of Splendour. Like his films before, it’s fruitless to talk too much about it. As Cemetery floats between characters in and around a hospital, the daily functions of human beings quietly collide with the surrounding natural and spirit world.

BIG WEEK: What to do Sept 23-29, 2015

Folsom Street Fair, Oktoberfest, Superhero Street Fair, OMF, West Wave, Vibez Fest, Blues Fest, Royal Road, Tiara Sensation Pageant, more essential events this week.

From this year’s hilariously scandalous fetish showtune video promo for Folsom Street Fair, by Dirty Glitter aka Aron Cantor (see Sunday listing below to watch).

By Marke B

BIG WEEK I just returned from Berlin, where I finally attended Folsom Europe, the spin-off Continental version of our own Folsom Street Fair (happening this Sunday).  It ran a few blocks down the traditionally gay Schoeneberg district, brimmed with of tents you could buy actual alcohol at (hurray!), and overflowed with friendly if Germanically reserved faces.

It was also, to be honest, kind of boring. And there’s a surprising reason why.

While we here in the Bay Area have eliminated almost all of our sex clubs, backrooms, and bathhouses, they still thrive in Berlin. And I mean thrive. From the world’s most notorious gay sex club — Lab.Oratory, a Boschian labyrinth of writhing limbs that takes up the entire basement of an abandoned power plant, and where the bars sell personal-sized cans of Crisco — to the swankiest all-night bathhouse I’d even been to at 4am on a Tuesday, Der Boiler (not to mention the dozens of backrooms in bars all over the city, some of them available for straight couples), there was a whole lotta somethin’ somethin’ going on. After a while, it all felt kind of civically dutiful.

48 Hills Big Week Folsom Street FairWhy then bother with having sex in public — or even getting a little kinky? In fact, the city government specifically decreed that because there was so much sex allowed in bars and clubs, that there could definitely be none outdoors. That put a damper on everything: no kissing, only one whipping, hardly any women (extra boring!), even the fisting aficionado tents advertising upcoming events like Fistival 2016 and casual meetup Fist and Chips hardly had any edge when it came to presentation. Nudity was gasped at, affection deflected. Instead, Folsom Europe was like a large costume party, with manly men strutting about in their favorite outfits — Prussian generals, SWAT teams, and Motocross racers were favorite themes — often in matching packs of three or four.

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More Ficks’ Picks from the Toronto International Film Festival

48 Hills: TIFF 40 Dheepan
Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and was rapturously received in Toronto.

Tamil rebels, explicit ‘Love,’ 3D horrors from the past, a Moroccan masterpiece, and gobbledygook skin flicks in part 2 of our coverage. Read part one here.

48 Hills: TIFF 40 Dheepan
Jacques Audiard’s ‘Dheepan’ won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and was rapturously received in Toronto.

By Jesse Hawthorne Ficks

SCREEN GRABS Perhaps the most exciting screening at this year’s festival was the 2K digital restoration of the first Canadian 3D Horror film, Julian Roffman’s The Mask aka Eyes of Hell (1961). Made just after William Castle’s LSD allegory The Tingler (1959), shot in gimmicky “Percepto” which gave audience members minor shock therapy from hidden wires on their arm rests, The Mask used the already obsolete Anaglyph 3D (red and blue glasses) to enhance (montage-master) Slavko Vorkapich’s tripped-out sequences.

48 Hills: TiFF 40
‘The Mask’ aka ‘The Eyes of Hell’ comes back to haunt theaters — and this time the 3D works.

Fast forward 50 years and with the help of digital restorationists Robert Furmanek and Greg Kintz, not only does the 3D work, so does Roffman’s addiction parable. There is absolutely nothing silly about this tale of a doctor who battles losing himself and all of his surrounding loved ones whenever he puts on an ancient tribal mask. My mouth fell open, especially during the hallucinatory, batshit crazy 3D sequences. The film is being released on 3D Bluray by Kino/Lorber later this year, so go out of your way to either see this projected in a 3D theatre or in your home entertainment cave. Much like the recent, also jaw-dropping restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder (1954), it’s an unforgettable experience.

From Gaspar Noe's 'Love'
From Gaspar Noe’s ‘Love’

One of the most talked about films at the festival was another kind of 3D flick: Gaspar Noe’s Love, a surprisingly sentimental, very explicit 135-minute exploration of modern relationships. Newcomer Karl Glusman is an (actual) fucking revelation as an American in Paris, studying to be filmmaker. Shot in polarized 3D, this excruciatingly honest portrayal of the prevalent pitfalls between misguided young lovers should strike a chord in many folks that use sex as a way to find soulmates. Graphic yes, exploitative, for once… Noe. The badboy of cinema (I Stand Alone, Irreversible, Enter the Void) has delivered an extremely personal, touching and downright romantic masterpiece.

Ficks’ Picks from the Toronto International Film Festival, part 1

48 Hills: TIFF 40

Hitchcock revisited, Laurie Anderson’s dog, Neo-Nazi horror, Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animation… and a nightmarish new E.T.? (Read part 2 here.)

48 Hills: TIFF 40
Punk rockers vs. Neo-Nazis in Jeremy Saulnier gratifyingly gory “Green Room”

By Jesse Hawthorne Ficks

SCREEN GRABS This year’s Toronto International Film Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary with a lineup that should have made even the youngest movie fan quiver. Opening night started for me with Kent Jones’ enjoyable documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut that chronicles the reasoning behind a young Frenchman’s interest in proving to the world how important an overlooked Hollywood genre filmmaker was to the history of cinema. The film’s star-studded interviews include eloquent observations by Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, James Gray and Olivier Assayas. Spending more than half of its 80 minutes deconstructing Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960), the whole affair is the perfect entry point for a new generation interested in dipping their toes into what are now considered the greatest films ever made. Some may be left longing for a sequel that could pave new ground on Hitch’s more under appreciated films like Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1968), Frenzy (1972) and Family Plot (1975), but that’s another story.

48 Hills: TIFF 40
From Chantal Ackerman’s ‘No Home Movie’

Much like those of John Cassavetes, cinephiles seem to love the idea of Chantal Akerman’s rigorously methodical films — but to actually endure each singular pilgrimage is a genuinely difficult task. More than 50 audience members walked out of Akerman’s most personal film to date No Home Movie, a 115-minute intimate account of her affectionate relationship with her aging mother. This 100-percent observational documentary is so true to Akerman’s visionary style, dating back to her 1975 magnus opus Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and this time utilizing hand held video, a larger issue needs to be addressed to those unwilling to sit still and pay attention to one of the greatest living filmmakers: If you’re unable to unearth Akerman’s profoundly quiet moments in a movie, you are probably overlooking them in your own damned life.

BIG WEEK: What to do Sept. 16-22, 2015

Get a dose of old school with this year's SF Punk Renaissance. Photo of The Avengers by Bobby Castro.

By Caitlin Donohue

SF Punk Renaissance looks back, Lex Club documentary screening, Teengirl Fantasy, DJ Uniiqu3, Amy Winehouse art and more

"Joann and Jim" (1979) by Sue Brisk -- more old school punk photos for your viewing pleasure at the SF Punk Renaissance's opening night at Public Works Sept. 23.
“Joann and Jim” (1979) by Sue Brisk — more old school punk photos for your viewing pleasure at the SF Punk Renaissance’s opening night at Public Works Sept. 23.

The Punk Rock Sewing Circle doesn’t gossip while crocheting dog collars for its grandkids. Rather, the group of OG London and San Francisco punk scene people catch up while spending their time and funds producing events that reanimate the DIY connection of the 1976-’81 era. “It wouldn’t have seemed so punk at the time,” said Kathaleen Lopez, one of the PRSC’s core members, in an email interview with 48 Hills. “But now there’s nothing more important to us than seeing old friends hug for the first time in 30 or more years all dressed in black leather jackets again — and with a new outlook that most of us have added to our original punk lifestyles.”

All are invited to revel in one such joyful reunion at the PRSC’s SF Punk Renaissance Sun/20-Sept. 27. For the third year, the crew has pulled together a series of events that explore not just the music — there’s walking tours that uncover long-gone punk venues in SF neighborhoods, a talk at the SF Library on the pioneering punk journalists in the fanzine era, a photo-film bonanza at Public Works on Sept. 23, tons of stuff in addition to concerts showcasing old school talent.

"The Mutants" by Bobby Castro -- check more of his work at the SF Punk Renaissance event at the Verdi Club Sept. 26.
“The Mutants” by Bobby Castro — check more of his work at the SF Punk Renaissance event at the Verdi Club Sept. 26.

Lopez told us that the events aren’t just for old heads — on the contrary, her collective’s hoping that anyone who needs that inspiration to go beyond the system will attend. After listening to her reasoning, you’ll probably be down to check out a few events too. “More than ever, this is a time to take a look at the way things are being done and to challenge the current order,” she said. “During the first wave we created our own music, our own art, and ways of reaching each other; from zines and flyers to bands, film, and art. We did it ourselves, we challenged the prescribed boundaries.” You might also take the time at one of their events to get a PRSC organizer to tell you about the group’s good deeds. The crew also uses their collective punk energy to raise money for women’s causes and homelessness advocacy. Time to catch that original punk spirit guys.

SF Punk Renaissance Sept. 20-27, various Bay Area locations. More info here. 

Four decades of SF radical sex on display

48 Hills: Mark I. Chester
'Sandra and Linc, 2003' -- Photo by Mark I. Chester

New book, gallery show, and talk look back at photographer Mark I. Chester’s vital, historic work in the leather-BDSM community.

48 Hills: Mark I. Chester
‘Sandra and Linc, 2013’ — Photo by Mark I. Chester

By Marke B.

ART LOOKS He’s been called “Leather’s Proust” by famous sexologist Gayle S. Rubin, and his familiar presence in the leather-BDSM scene is a big part of underground San Francisco history. Now, with a gorgeous retrospective book, City of Wounded Boys & Sexual Warriors, and accompanying gallery show at the Center for Sex and Culture, photographer Mark I. Chester brings together his work from 1977 to the present for the first time.

(The book launch, official gallery show opening, and a slideshow talk by Chester will take place at CSC on Fri/18, 6:30pm-10pm, free. The gallery show is running through September. You can preview the self-published book here and purchase it here.)

Rubin contributes an essay to the book, and remarks on the leather scene’s “stubborn persistence” in SoMa — despite catastrophes like AIDS and the devastating Folsom Street Fire of 1981, persecution and scapegoating by politicians and police, and skyrocketing rents, gentrification, and lack of working class jobs. Flipping through City of Wounded Boys & Sexual Warriors turns out to be an emotional as well as aesthetic experience. It tells a story of an underground culture’s history and resilience despite continued adversity, and Chester cannily turns his camera on subjects that reflect and subvert major gay cultural shifts, like acceptance into the military.

48 Hills: Mark I. Chester
‘Inactive marine with active duty marine just back from Iraq, 2004’ — Photo by Mark I. Chester

But most of all the pictures are hot: explicit and raw, loving and frank, celebratory and documentary — of magical rituals, of sexuality in the time of AIDS, of leather’s transcendent multicultural and gender-inclusive nature. I spoke with Chester in preparation for his Fri/18 slideshow talk, during which he’ll tell the story of his photographs, and also of “stubbornly persisting” as an artist in San Francisco.

BIG WEEK: What to do Sept. 9-15, 2015

Celebrate Oakland Pride with the Prancing Elites, a J-setting dance troupe from Alabama.

By Caitlin Donohue

Prancing Elites warm you up for Oakland Pride, plus Slice Harvester, Lenny Kravitz, Big Dick’s House of Big Boobs, Mad Decent Block Party after info, and Tormenta Tropical

Celebrate Oakland Pride with the Prancing Elites, a J-setting dance troupe from Alabama.
Celebrate Oakland Pride with the Prancing Elites, a J-setting dance troupe from Alabama.

Being invited to perform, then summarily dismissed by a small town parade committee might not seem like the first steps to stardom. Unless of course, you’re familiar with the story of the Prancing Elites, the headliners of the Five Ten Entertainment/Swagger Like Us pre-party for Oakland Pride this weekend (see information on BAE below, Sat/12.) In 2013, the Prancing Elites were invited to march in a Christmas parade in Mobile, Alabama by homophobes who couldn’t be bothered to find out if their parade invitees were in fact, male-bodied J-setters whose whole thing is blasting apart gender assumptions with their sequined, YASSSS-inducing art. Undeterred that they were barred from prancing down the street, the PE’s did their routine behind the parade crowds. (You can watch their incredible flair in this Buzzfeed post.)

And apparently the world isn’t always an unjust hellhole because that moxie was enough to launch them into stardom. Nowadays, the group has a reality show on Oxygen, marches in way bigger parades like this year’s NYC Pride promenade. Their appearance in the Bay this weekend is not to be missed, especially if you’re in need of some good news from some people living their lives courageously and well. “The Prancing Elites are five incredible individuals who represent the dimensionality of gender expression, sexuality and style,” said Swagger promoter (and full disclosure, friend and collaborator) Kelly Lovemonster when I asked him why his team was bringing them to this coast. “That takes courage in a world that many may perceive as two dimensional. Also have you seen them dance?! They slay!”

BIG WEEK: What to do Sept. 2-8, 2015

The 4th annual Hiero Day fills West Oakland streets with quality hip-hop Mon/7.

Freedomland, Juanita More’s birthday, Total Freedom, Dub Mission’s 19th anniversary, Hiero Day and animated Kahlil Gibran fill the Burner void. 

The 4th annual Hiero Day fills West Oakland streets with quality hip-hop Mon/7.
The 4th annual Hiero Day fills West Oakland streets with quality hip-hop Mon/7.

By Caitlin Donohue

BIG WEEK I am over high pitched rivalries this week (the utility of the #mileywhatsgood hashtag not withstanding) so I’ll keep the Burning Man trash talk to a minimum. Let it suffice to say that the city is empty, lines are nil and that it is the perfect time to get your favorite soyrizo dish at Boogaloo’s, sniff. Here are some other excellent ways to spend your time until your roommate comes back to cover your couch in alkaline dust while they attempt to decipher their sales lead notes etched on the back of a packet of Tasty Bite channa masala.



>>>FREEDOMLAND The SF Mime Troupe’s 2015 production is a parodic indictment of law enforcement brutality from here to Baghdad. Today’s free outdoor function in the plaza in front of Bayview Opera House promises to be classic San Francisco good times, especially if you haven’t yet caught one of the Troupe’s shows in the park this season. 6:30pm, free. Bayview Opera House, SF. More info here. 

>>>BARBARA GITTINGS: GAY PIONEER Author Tracy Baim comes through the library to talk about her new biography of Gittings, an early LGBT activist (she joined the movement in 1958) and founder of NYC’s chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. The woman was one of the first queers to march in front of the White House — hers is a story worth knowing. 6pm, free. San Francisco Main Library, SF. More info here.