Looking Up in Green
The 51st San Francisco International Film Festival opens tomorrow, and a couple of friends have asked me what I hope to see from this year’s rich mix of Cannes leftovers and local premieres. I’ve only just had time to mark up my calendar a bit, but here goes, opening on a note of regret. I’m not going to be able to make the restoration of Leave Her to Heaven (pictured above), but by all means do if you can—failing that, rent it and rent it soon. Gene Tierney’s pinched performance is the stuff of Hollywood legend, and the gaudy, Technicolor noir is as magnificent as it is anachronistic. Hollywood was perfectly capable of sinister tawdriness in the 50s, but this fatalistic melodrama is of a different order. A few films I’ve already seen which I can happily recommend: Catherine Breillat’s latest, The Last Mistress, a composed chronicle of amour fou; Vasermil, a tough slice-of-life picture about Israeli disunity and machismo; the cinephiliac delicacy of In the City of Sylvia (as discussed here); a bravura mix of John Ford, Russian combat films and The Zombies in La France; Guy Maddin’s punch-drunk autobiographical reenactment, My Winnipeg. And certainly All is Forgiven, which I just watched yesterday evening. It’s a stunning study of drug abuse, the dying bohemian, redemption and all things French-beauty-drowsy-heroin-tears. Debut director and former Cahiers du Cinéma critic Mia Hansen-Løve films Victor’s spiral with roguish attentiveness—halfway through her film unexpectedly jumps forward ten years, and All is Forgiven blooms into an emotionally refined melodrama. Wonderful.
As to what I’ve circled on the calendar, I’m getting a second chance at a number of titles I missed at the Vancouver Film Festival despite good notices from fellow travelers. Alphabetically then: Alexandra brings the continually uncompromised Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov to Chechnya; Ballast has been said to imbue its Delta story with Dardennes-style neorealism and that’s enough for me; Cochochi is a nonprofessionally cast, elliptical work from Mexico that starts with two brothers and a horse; Dust is about dust, in all its impossible ubiquity; A Girl Cut in Two is by Claude Chabrol; Abel Ferrara’s Go Go Tales makes like an Altmanesque strip club saga, though it sounds a good deal funnier than most Altman; “In a Lonely Place: New Experimental Cinema” is co-curated by Irina Leimbacher, kino21 rouser and recent Film Comment contributor; The Man from London sees Hungarian long-take master (and key Gus Van Sant influence) Béla Tarr adapting a story by the French existential mystery author Georges Simenon; Mock Up on Mu is another multivalent, scrapheap fantasia from Craig Baldwin, this one sizing up Scientology and California’s military-industrial complex; 1000 Journals has a cute still; the lyrical documentary Profit Motive and the whispering wind has the best title in the festival and follows a Howard Zinn-inspired quest for battered monuments to American radicalism; The Romance of Astrea and Celadon is by Eric Rohmer; “Scott Arford: Static Life” spotlights a local experimenter I’m not familiar with; Secrecy brings Harvard credentials to an examination of the mounting costs of our government’s obsessions with cover-ups; Still Life is coming a year late, but it gives us a chance in the Bay Area to piece together a nice little series with YBCA’s screenings of a pair of director Jia Zhang-ke’s amazing documentaries in June; Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains because, of course, I’m curious; The Toe Tactic because I want to like inventive live-action/animation hybrids; and Water Lilies for my abiding interest in coming-of-age stories etched in light.
More than enough movie-love to go around, though the post wouldn’t be complete without sending up a cheer for the Snowblink CD release show this Saturday in Oakland. The album is called Long Live, and it’s a giant step for Daniela in many ways. By all means, come celebrate. To whet the appetite, here’s David Wilson’s card for the show. Besides being an ace best-friend and artist, David is always up for something new. To wit: he’ll be building an indoor tent for us to gather in Saturday night. Too good.