Sara Scheiron

Seniors behaving badly


REVIEW From the onset, it seems as though a documentary about a choir of seniors behaving badly would be a comical one-trick pony. But because of the involvement of a very savvy choral director and the endlessly unpredictable antics of high-spirited octogenarians, Young@Heart is a sweet, wonderful, harrowing laugh riot from start to finish. Seriously, I didn’t laugh this hard at Superbad. Director Stephen Walker also narrates; he’s a British expat whose dry delivery is well timed and well chosen. The singers are instantly lovable, and they do nothing but outfox their physical maladies — they’ve earned their age and let nothing restrain their appetites for living. The inevitable tragedies that befall a few subjects make for painful plot twists, though certain changes of context make this a unique meditation on age; the videos tapped by Walker to illustrate the unconventional songs this choir sings are clever cues. "I Wanna Be Sedated," anthem of disaffection and recreational drug use, is set in a convalescent home. Meanwhile, other more melancholic meditations (like the choir’s version of Talking Heads’ "On the Road to Nowhere" — placed in the doc just after the passing of a central member) seem pointed at the possible conclusion that the subjects of Young@Heart grasp their existential crises, and simply choose not to be bothered.

YOUNG@HEART opens Fri/18 in Bay Area theaters.

Quite an interview: a talk with Judy Stone


"There’s no craft. I’m just curious." To which I respond, "Are you sure?" as if this respected journalist could be putting me on. I’ve just read Judy Stone’s new book of interviews, Not Quite a Memoir: Of Films, Books, the World (Silman-James Press). "How do you prepare your questions?" I ask. "I don’t," she replies as I stare down at my list of prepared questions. "But don’t let that intimidate you."

Because Stone was born into a family that "couldn’t resist a joke," her confessed lack of organization seems unconvincing. This is the woman who, during a colossal televised press conference for Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, asked Hitch what he’d like on his gravestone. Later, Pauline Kael confronted Stone about her question, to which she responded, "Pauline, the whole movie was about that."

"I don’t include myself in my interviews because that’s not the point," Stone insists. Regardless, her priorities and ethics are clear in her writing. Take the subject of Israel: "I have always felt that I have ethical obligations," she says. "I’m not a Zionist. I’d like to see equal justice for Palestinians. My oldest brother [I.F. Stone] wrote a book called Underground to Palestine. He went with people right out of the concentration camps on the first ship to Palestine. In his articles he came out for a binational state." As if to suppress emotion, she fidgets with her copy of Not Quite a Memoir and reads a quote from her interview with Amos Oz: "Israel was a land for two people, not just one…. This particular national movement is the most stupid and cruel in modern history but we ought to do business with it…. You can’t make peace with nice neighbors." This quote, Stone says, is relevant today, not simply because the conflict in Palestine persists but because "it also applies to the question of negotiating with Iran. Their president is an imbecile and dangerous; so is Bush. So now we have two imbeciles making policy, and it’s a very, very dangerous situation. However, I hope that my interviews with Iranian directors show more of the human side of Iran."

Stone’s new book and her previous collection, Eye on the World: Conversations with International Filmmakers, should be regular fare in college film classes. But although her first book, The Mystery of B. Traven (about the enigmatic author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), has recently been republished, Eye on the World is currently out of print. And Not Quite a Memoir, boasting more than 120 interview portraits, including ones of Jean Genet, Leroi Jones, Donald Ritchie, Kathy Acker, Anne-Marie Melville, and Juan Goytisolo, has been publicized little and reviewed less. "It hasn’t even been reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle, where I worked for 30 years."

Partly guided by an interest in "how each person’s homeland has affected him," Stone’s interviews with writers and filmmakers have taken her all over the world. Although Bernardo Bertolucci didn’t like Stone’s review of his film Luna, he told her a critic is supposed to be "a bridge between the filmmaker and the audience," to which she replied, "I try, I try." Proof positive: her interview with novelist Orhan Pamuk helped American critics better understand his complex work The Black Book.

Today she feels as she did while writing "Encounter in Montenegro." The previously unpublished piece, written in 1959, concludes Not Quite a Memoir and is the only one in which she reveals the way she responds to people. In it she’s a young reporter riding a bus through the black mountains of Yugoslavia. She engages in a discussion with a student from Ghana who makes clear his contempt for Stone, a stranger, and worse, an American. "I still feel that way," she says now. "Feel what way?" I ask. "Feel what way?" she repeats, pausing to help me understand. "This man despised me because I was an American." "So you felt despised?" To which she replies, "Don’t you?" (Sara Schieron)

CineKink 2007


The simple act of witnessing can transform sex into politics, so it’s not hard to see why privacy (like permission) is sacred. The quaint notion of the boudoir is ingrained in most acts of physical intimacy — whether lovers seek haven in the bedroom or take joy in rejecting it. More like Wild Kingdom than Girls Gone Wild, the CineKink 2007 series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts neutrally observes sexual transgression: the forms it takes, the relief it offers, and the privacy it (often jubilantly) breaches.

More fun than watching actual webcam girls, Aerlyn Weissman’s doc WebCam Girls (Thurs/18, 9 p.m.) looks at three successful mavens and frames their stories with academic analysis. These women all began their journeys in the world of semivoyeurism from a place of corporate exploitation, so it’s ironic that they, like their patrons (commonly nine-to-five cubicle dwellers), are surveyed at work … well, at their home offices. In this surveillance their homes are as public as their patrons’ cubicles — to the 15 people (as opposed to 15 minutes) for whom they’re famous. Their identities are their brands, putting them in vulnerable positions both figuratively and literally.

Almost a brother film to WebCam Girls, Damon and Hunter: Doing It Together is a short feature nested in the Passion Plays Program (Fri/19, 9 p.m.). For the women of WebCam Girls, the issue of individualism is essential (Anna Voog makes Rorschach-inspired videos for her word-association songs, and Ducky Doolittle puts on fashion shows), but Damon and Hunter are like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: porn stars with protected identities as opposed to global brands. Primarily composed of one talking head interview with the two lovers, director Tony Comstock’s documentary intercuts a XXX scene that is more sweet than erotic. The footage feels deliberately contrary to a porn aesthetic, giving the impression that we’re observing, with anthropological so-called neutrality, the well-worn sex life of a couple. One partner asks, "Are you comfortable?" and the request for consent is like a demonstration of love.

Unlike the docs in the CineKink Series, Going Under (Sat/20, 7 p.m.), a sensitive and occasionally vague narrative feature, expressively represents the erotic and ultimately calmative values of nonvanilla sex. Psychoanalyst-turned-filmmaker Eric Werthman’s movie is about a relationship between psychoanalyst Peter (Roger Rees) and his dominatrix, Suzanne (Geno Lechner). Exhausted by her field of work, Suzanne announces her retirement, which signals an opportunity for them to see each other "outside." The two bond over childhood trauma: for them, history is a tragic theme. "I can never forget how we met" is an important sentence: not so much shamed as burdened, Suzanne struggles with the couple’s desires outside the security of her leather-bound workplace.

Fans of Going Under will find a good companion piece in Howard Scott Warshaw’s documentary Vice and Consent: The Art of Wrapping Intimacy in Very Scary Paper (Fri/18, 7 p.m.). Offering a more incisive view of BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism) than Going Under, Vice and Consent initiates a remarkable dialogue about the transcendence that results from this highly rigorous discipline. The hour-long doc has a homespun production value that gives a kind of authenticity to its interviews but also somewhat clouds its dialogue about sex as an exploration of human consciousness. Exhaustively, this film discusses the means by which the community rejects "vanilla" — and poetically, the world outside vanilla is as infinite as the characters who go searching. (Sara Schieron)


Thurs/18–Sat/20, 7 and 9 p.m. (Thurs/18, 6 p.m. free reception), $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787


Get Crafty!


Each holiday the populace drones out to the local malls in search of appropriate gifts. Not that there’s anything wrong with the holiday institutions of bad parking, blasphemy, and Black Friday — they are, after all, our modern manifestations of the holiday spirit — but in the event you like the idea of giving charming gifts handmade with affection and idiosyncrasy, you have an array of clever and affordable online options at your fingertips. Largely conceived and produced by local artisans, these handicrafts play well to most audiences, offering irony for the siblings, sincerity for the grandparents, and neutrality to the ne’er-do-wells.
Before we hit the gifts, it’s worth noting that the holiday season is a time to acknowledge all the people in our lives. As nice as that is, few of these folks will actually receive gifts. Happily, the right card can take the place of a casual gift and still produce warm fuzzies the way the best wrapped packages do.
Take, for example, Motormouth Press’s ornament cards ( These paper fetishes are fitting mementos for those in small living spaces as they store easily, weigh nothing, and are as cute to receive as they are to hang on your space-saving tree. Motormouth’s penguin flexagon card tells a little story and ends with a seasonal greeting. In a more mixed-media vein, Notesink ( builds cards using remnants of fabric, buttons, and paper and also features screen-printed, kid-themed, and, of course, holiday cards. These cards are so cute you’ll rub your eyes in disbelief — they may even inspire you with their crafty prowess. If that happens, you should look into Sideshow Stamps ( A purveyor of funky stampedelica, Sideshow features pithy images such as its Leg Lamp stamp, and if you’ve seen A Christmas Story, you know that’s Xmas imagery plain and true.
The Bay Area has much to offer in the way of bath and beauty product lines. Though using soap is a personal matter, bath products make peculiarly neutral gifts. To spice up the body politic, the following kitchen chemists have put some weight into product design. Take Lizzie Sweet (, for example. The tangy-looking packaging is intended to make you feel as sexy about buying the bath line as using it. Presentation also matters to Aqua Energy Design Studio (, whose island-inspired products include supersexy bath salts that resemble uncut diamonds. The Aromatic Way Apothecary ( uses potent olfactory triggers to make its pragmatic products. The cold salve clears your pathways better than Vicks and without the chemical blur, while the scented shea butter sticks, packaged in deodorant twist-up tubes, are practical for the pocketbook.
Though all bath products can be hedonistic experiences, not all are. Mandrake Apothecary puts the sense into sensual. Perfect for the solstice, Mandrake’s line of sexy scents ( is rife with plant extracts and mystical purpose. It’s genuinely magic stuff. And not like Jesus magic — like magic magic. For a more arcane approach to the sacred ritual of bathing, look to Oakland’s Pomegranate Body ( Skin-nourishing shea butter abounds, and the Citrus Sun line smells like sunshine.
The Curiosity Shoppe ( could be San Francisco’s one-stop craft shopping mecca. With themed products for the home and the office, it has layers of quippy objets d’art that can offer petite grandeur to all the people on your shopping list. The brass bird nest (with stone eggs) is precious, and rumor has it that using the owl paperweights will make you smarter. For the “kitschen” (get it?) it’s all about Lorena Barrezueta’s ceramic takeout containers. For more gender-specific items, think about getting Conphorm’s Um Felt wool tote and carry bags, which have a durable design for the modern maiden, and Deadly Squire’s shrewd neckties — ideal for the alternadad. For other whip-smart items, look to Poketo’s intoxicating array of clever wallets ( or the jocular skull patches from Krooked Stitches (
Fabric always warms up the coldest of transactions, and fabric checkbook covers from Blissen ( make bill paying that much sweeter. If you know someone who could use more comfort while managing their finances, throw in Sprout Studios’ cozy tea-inspired ceramics kit ( it’s ideal for making your hot beverage merry and bright.
When it comes to the eenie ones, let’s be honest: you’re buying more for the parents than the kids, so why not consider adorable attire? Tiddly Toggs (408-371-7919) offers hand-knit sweaters, dresses, and hats for babies and toddlers in colors and shapes that vary with the seasons. Crafted by a British ex-nanny and seamstress (imagine Mary Poppins with knitting needles), the work features patterns both unpredictable and sedate. The three-owl pullover with buttons for eyes is a real heart warmer. The baby attire available at One Hot Tomatoe ( is pretty adorable too. Tomatoe’s cheeky lobster bib could help train your favorite one-and-a-half-year-old in the ancient art of snobbery — that is, if the training isn’t already over.
If said one-and-a-half-year-old is a smart-alecky lass, you might want to drop her right into a RicRac pirate party dress from Tartlette ( Festooned with a skull and crossbones (the skull is dotted with a tiny pink bow), this dress could get your toddler into the VIP room at a SoMa club. If your fav one-and-a-half-year-old is a lad, perhaps a Mary tee from Oh Baby Apparel ( is more fitting. With a Virgin of Guadalupe patch adorning the shirt’s pocket, believers could well consider it a layer of protection (from on high!) for their bouncing boy. Complete that ensemble with high-top- or Mary Jane–<\d>style felted boots from the Clever Kitty ( and then round out the look with a grouchy stuffed doll. The Little Gorgeouses from Little and the Girl ( are sweet felt stuffed toys with an air of mystery. Lucille the French poodle carries a comforting expression, while kitten Clive is a masked avenger complete with cape. For the more acidulous, consider Scared Girl’s cunning felt Pretend Friends (, who live squarely on the intersection of adorable and wonky. Rectangulo’s name may give you an idea of his shape, but it says little about his demeanor. Equally emotive is poor little Grubbly, who cries perpetually, perhaps because he’s got seven appendages. He just needs a little love! (FYI, these creatures are great gifts for everyone — even the grouches who say they don’t care about local businesses or craftspeople and would rather scarf down food court junk while being crushed half to death at a mall. Maybe they too just need a little love.)