Volume 43 Number 09

Cossu

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› paulr@sfbg.com

Having spent many months — too many months — watching presidential aspirants address television cameras from cavernous halls, I stepped into Cossu recently and found it oddly familiar. The restaurant is cavernous, and it even has a spotlit stage, although not for presidential candidates or other bloviating politicos but live musical acts. It also, until recently, was called Pasha.

The place has changed hands and changed chefs, according to one of our servers, and it’s even (we were reassured) been redecorated. It didn’t look much different to me, I must say: the lighting tends toward nightclub dimness; the walls, flooring, and tented ceiling are all a red-burgundy shade — like being inside a huge box of red wine — and, in a slight ergonomic crisis, the square tables are still awkwardly low, with awkwardly low ottomans and banquettes to sit on. The tables are also still set with brass inlays that say "Pasha." I didn’t particularly care for Pasha, so I wasn’t particularly thrilled to see a recurrence of the name. On the other hand, it’s hard to read table inlays in dim light. So, a wash there.

The big change has been in the kitchen, where executive chef Hijam Senhaji turns out a "Moroccan fusion" menu. As one of our servers told us, the idea is (if I might be allowed a moment of Emerilspeak) to kick it up a notch. The result is mostly impressive; if you’ve liked the food at Saha, Medjool, or the original Baraka, you’ll likely like the food here. Of course there are traditional tagine and couscous dishes, but the cooking can soar well beyond the old boundaries. It can also catch the occasional wing in power lines.

The best dishes have at least one foot firmly planted on the soil of tradition. The bastilla, for instance — a packet of phyllo pastry filled with something savory, like a giant flaky raviolo — is a staple in Moroccan cooking (and, under various other names, throughout the Mediterranean). Cossu’s Essaouira version ($14) is filled with a mix of shrimp and calamari in a chermoula paste — a fragrant blend of garlic, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, coriander, and (guessing by the color) some saffron. The bastilla reaches the table looking like a big fat wallet and isn’t sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Some might account this omission a small mercy.

Another traditional Moroccan preparation is the salad of shredded spinach called bakoula ($8). It’s not exactly a beauty queen; in fact it looks like one of those clumps of wet grass you sometimes have to pull from the lawn mower, if you happen to have mowed a damp lawn. But it’s punctuated with slivers of green olive and imbued with the haunting, sour-salty flavor of preserved lemons. Even served cold, it casts a spell.

While you wait for the next treat to appear, you gnaw on your warm sesame-seed bun and nibble at your plate of green and black olives in their spicy marinade. (A word to the wise: most of the olives are pitted, but not all.) Maybe you’ve opted for the French fries ($6) as a kind of intermezzo; they’re wonderfully slender and tender-crisp, but they offer no discernable hint of Moroccan (or indeed any) fusion.

The kitchen saves the bulk of its innovative effects for the big dishes. Slices of Muscovy duck breast ($26) don’t, to me, suggest north Africa in the least, but the meat is expertly roasted to order (we asked for rare and got it rare — lovely reddish-pink flaps, with plenty of juice), and it’s sauced with a viscous, honey-like essence of apricot and cinnamon. As someone who is wary of the usual pairings made between fruit and flesh, sweet and savory (pork with apples or cherries comes instantly to mind), I found this combination to be winsome — and, in my experience, unique.

Well, semi-unique, since the sauce accompanying the black and white tuna ($24), also featured a cunning deployment of cinnamon, a supple and sublime spice we occidentals tend to underuse. Here the cinnamon was added to a tomato coulis, with the result being a distant relative of barbecue sauce. The fish itself, meanwhile, was sprinkled with black sesame seeds, seared to order, and presented on a bed of saffron rice.

So far, so good with these fusion dishes. The kitchen even served the duck with a pine-nut-and-parsley couscous, to distinguish it from the saffron rice. But both plates were piled high on one side with the same, not particularly interesting, medley of sautéed vegetables, mostly green and yellow summer squash, carrot tabs, and shreds of red cabbage. Of course these are all estimable — and colorful — foodstuffs; they are good for us and even, to a degree, seasonal. But they also suggest a kind of mass production that’s not quite consistent with the high ambition of turning out distinctive food, plate by plate. It’s especially jarring when the stars of each plate are so distinctive; it’s as if cheap tires have been fitted to a Lamborghini.

Is this disjunction a lingering ghost of Pasha? We attempted an exorcism by inquiring about dessert but were told our choices were limited to baklava and coffee. I like baklava well enough, but because it’s suffered overexposure on these hither shores — like tiramisù — and drifted in the direction of cliché, I almost never order it and didn’t here. Our knowledgeable and radiant server quietly supported us in this choice. She and her troupe, in fact, were altogether cosseting. *

COSSU RESTAURANT, BAR, AND LOUNGE

Tues.–Sun., 6 p.m. to closing

1516 Broadway, SF

(415) 885-4477

www.pasharestaurant.com

Full bar

MC/V

Noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Volume 43 Number 9 Flip-through Edition

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Holiday Guide 2008

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@@http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=7524&volume_id=398&issue_id=406&volume_num=43&issue_num=08&l=1@@

For those about to rock …

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As AC/DC gets back on the highway to hell, we break down the love, the lust, the power chords, the party sounds, and the continuing relevance of the rockers from Down Under

>>Where’s the party?
It’s wherever AC/DC is
By Mike McGuirk

>>Change rejection
AC/DC returns with more of the same: just the way we like it
By Ben Richardson

>>She’s got balls
AC/DShe’s love affair with AC/DC
By Mallory Young

>>Shaken, stirred
How relevant is AC/DC?
By Kimberly Chun

Nubostubalgubiuba!

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FREE TO BE TV If you were a kid in the late 1960s and early ’70s, you were an integral part of the counterculture’s trickling-down influence. Hitherto square as a toddler’s puzzle peg, children’s TV programming radicalized not long after various sexual and social revolutions liberated their parents from larger strangulations.

Displacing innocuous slapstick pacifiers, shows were redesigned to educate and empower. Or simply be groovy, like the Sid and Marty Krofft Brit-popping Bugaloos or then-teen idol Rick Springfield’s Mission: Magic! Kid Power stressed multiculturalism. Schoolhouse Rock made homework fiendishly catchy. Fat Albert brought the inner-city ghetto to Saturday mornings.

But the most innovative stuff came from PBS, at its peak of funding, popularity, and adventure. Beyond Sesame Street, there was "Laugh-in for kids," The Electric Company, ingenious labors of grownup performers, puppeteers, child psychologists, and so forth.

ZOOM was something else — a show exclusively performed and largely created by kids themselves, with the adult staff credited as mere "helpers." From 1972 to ’78, the original ZOOM (excluding its 1999-2005 revival) was all about participation, on and off-screen. "Who are you? Whaddaya do? / How are you? / Let’s hear from you /We need you!" the cast sang before trilling the post office box that jokes, games, stories, poems, and whatnot could be sent to.

Producer WBGH Boston has just released two-disc ZOOM: Back to the 70s. This DVD flashback — encompassing a documentary overview as well as four complete episodes — remains very DayGlo Me Decade. But it dates surprisingly well.

The seven grade-school cast members were no Mickey Mouse Club lil’ pros but ethnically diverse, Boston-accented reg’lar kids who line-stumbled, improvised, sang, and danced without polish. They had unscripted "rap sessions" to discuss interpersonal dynamics. They quarreled over jacks. They performed viewers’ submitted mini-plays, recipes, and science experiments. "ZOOMguest" segments profiled other kids’ interesting lives — as a violin prodigy, expat Cubana, budding claymationist, girl hockey player, ham radio enthusiast, or developmentally-disabled student.

ZOOM imprinted popular culture in enjoyably silly ways, from Zoomer uniforms (loud striped soccer jerseys) to gibberish language Ubbi Dubbi. What still refreshes, however, is how the show treats pre-adolescents sans condescension, as people whose opinions and questions aren’t just cutely immature but worth respect and encouragement. Even the increasingly slick, disco-funky presentation by season six couldn’t render ZOOM showbiz-as-usual.

"Confidence in yaself … that’ll help you a lot" says a hereditarily reading-challenged teen in Back to the 70s‘ final 1976 full episode. ZOOM not only portrays him sympathetically, but as a role model — someone whose handicaps inspire him to excel wherever he can. Pity such positive-messaging rings so nostalgic.

www.shop.wgbh.org/product/show/48031

Let the rhythm hit ’em

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> a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW The exuberance bouncing off the walls of the Palace of Fine Arts at the Nov. 22 opening of the 10th annual San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest probably kept the audience in a buoyant mood well beyond the theater. These young dancers — and hip-hop is still primarily a young person’s art — presented a show that was sassy, skilled, and a hoot to boot.

Artistic director Micaya has developed a dual approach to programming, and it works. She showcases local hip-hop schools that are worthy of exposure and that bring in audiences, and features them with professionals who, increasingly, may come from abroad. This year, in its infinite wisdom, the US Department of Homeland Security denied visas to dancers from Russia and the Netherlands.

Still, the DanceFest carried on. By their very nature, the school performances are ensemble-oriented. To watch these dancers is to be drawn into the sheer joy of what they are doing. Split-second timing and constantly shifting relationships within the group compensate for the relative simplicity of the individual steps. The whole, with its sense of interlocking gears, is held together by a sometimes almost militaristic discipline. Yet the format is flexible enough to showcase individual talent.

The DanceFest also gauges hip-hop’s ongoing evolution. Having started in the ’70s as a popular expression — urban folk dancing rooted in African and African American practices — hip-hop has been moving from the streets to the theater, from the community center to the concert hall. Whether that means that hip-hop will lose its grounding in pop culture remains to be seen. It probably has already. But there are gains.

Returning to this year’s festival with their mesmerizing HipHop/Beebop was the first-rate MopTop Music and Movement from Philadelphia. Two years ago they took on the founding fathers. Last year it was The Wizard of Oz. This time they brought a fabulously slinky vision of a hot night on the town. With Buddha Stretch and Mr. Valentine in zoot suits and rakishly tilted hats, and Uko Snowbunny and B-girl Bounce in flouncing minis, they were a marvel of strutting control, flashing showmanship, and barely contained heat. Flawless’ Manipulation was indeed flawless in the way its two ingenious dancers — dressed in metallic hats and jackets under black lights — sent currents of energy into each other’s bodies, both to support and to control. It’s no surprise that they were the UK’s World Hip Hop Dance Champions in 2006. Another champion was one-man wonder, veteran hip-hopper Popin Pete from Electric Boogaloos. With appropriate wigs on hand, he unfolded popping’s history in one smooth take — from a vibrating ’70s style, to raucous ’80s moves, to today’s elegant, dinner-jacket-clad incarnation.

Breaksk8 Dance Crew from Indiana, on rollerblades, disappointed. While somewhat impressive for their technical skills, they performed This Is How We Roll with a studied nonchalance that was off-putting. Also new to the festival was the all-male Formality group from San Diego. Their well-performed Players Club had the energy of a traffic jam and stood out in its fresh use of arm gestures. SoulSector turned out to be the only company interested in exploring hip-hop’s capacity to delve into deep issues: their Reinvention: Headhunters was a tough examination of militarism and war.

There was much to enjoy in the studio-based ensembles — the clean and swift U.F.O. Movement among them. Sunset’s smartly staged and hilarious Toonz dressed its dancers as Looney Tunes characters. Its smallest elementary-school-age dancers, of course, got the biggest applause. If this year’s DanceFest proves one thing, it’s that the artists have barely begun to scratch the surface of the genre’s potential for entertaining and thought-provoking dance. Now if we can just get Homeland Security off their backs …

Kickin’ ‘bot

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER A mashed-up stock market and credit-crunked fiscal outlook be damned — just what does the music industry have to do to make you part with your overly stretched entertainment dollar? Pay you to buy, Joe Deflation? Bookended by the double-B bombshells — Beyonce’s Nov. 18-released I Am … Sasha Fierce (Sony) and Britney Spears’ Dec. 2-scheduled Circus (Jive) — this week is likely major-label ground zero for pre-holiday CD releases — ready to tantalize us, peering through Pepto Bismol-smeared turkey goggles, with toothsome collaborations, tempt us with superstar potential, and dazzle with gleaming newness.

I’m taking a cue from a future-focused Kanye West and feeding a few Nov. 24 (Island Def Jam got a jump on the traditional Tuesday release date) and 25 releases to the trusty Micro-Reviewbot, our neutral yet far from neutered critical assessment generator, which will hold these discs up against infuriatingly fuzzy expectations and objectively critique said recordings. The exception: Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy (Interscope) — because it’s hard to review an album when, at press time, the label allows Micro-Reviewbot to listen to only two tracks. But hey, why spoil the shock and awe? Careful now, Micro-Reviewbot can’t not tell the truth. Micro-Reviewbot only knows how to speak truth — to power and powerless alike. All systems go, Micro-Reviewbot!

KANYE WEST, 808S AND HEARTBREAK (ROC-A-FELLA/ISLAND DEF JAM)


Anticipation level: Smokin’ high, tempered with likely some ambivalence about Graduation‘s Daft Punk-Takashi Murakami-Chris Martin alliances. Has West hitched his wagon to one too many trendoids? Still, we are spared the faux drama of a 50 Cent feud with the advance of 808s’ release date.

Micro-Reviewbot’s pop-psych diagnosis: Frankly, Kanye sounds depressed. I know the self-proclaimed genius of rap is working through some deep shit: he broke up with his fiancée, and his mom died a year ago during cosmetic surgery.

Witness the way West has dug himself so deeply into his Afro-futurist themes and coolly digitized sonic landscape. This space-age ice-cold killer is taking the next spaceship from reality, pronto, while yodeling through a thicket of effects, "See you in my nightmares, suckers!" You wouldn’t know that the political/cultural change is breaking out all over this month — straight from the 808, a.k.a., native-born Barack Obama’s Hawaii, where West recorded this album using, a-ha, a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Instead, Kanye has taken refuge in something he can rely on: the love between a man and his Vocoder — or rather, a man and his Auto-Tune plug-in. Still, the songs on the dampened-down 808s and Heartbreak continue to grow on Micro-Reviewbot.

Alternative: Ludacris’ take-that, mob-inciting Theater of the Mind (Disturbing Tha Peace) — with a guest cast including TI, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Nas, the Game, Rick Ross, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, and Spike Lee — also out Nov. 24. It’s as if Ludi hadn’t ever abandoned the rap game for the cineplex — even if his references tend to ride a pop culture loop of I Hate Chris and Any Given Sunday more readily than anything resembling clichéd gangbanger reality.

THE KILLERS, DAY AND AGE (ISLAND)


Expectations: Fall Out Boy feuds and suits by ex-managers aside, it’s hard to gauge, considering their paean to Wal-Mart moms, Sam’s Town, surprised everyone by taking a left turn from the guilty-pleasure deca-dance-pop of "Somebody Told Me" toward Broooce-fearing Freedom Rock, a then-untapped ’80s retro vein — and shocked further by going Putf8um.

Micro-Reviewbot’s stays-in-Vegas assessment: are the Killers trying to tell us something by opening with a track titled "Losing Touch"? Somebody told the Sin City band they had to drop that Broooce crush that made them look like the girlfriends they had in February 1983. It’s not confidential. They’ve got potential, so they mixed touches of anthemic melody lines, glockenspiel, and sax appeal with more nods to the dance-pop crowd (the cringe-inducing "Joy Ride"). These new-new rock romantics want to have their epics (thundering "A Dustland Fairytale") and eat, too (U2-y pop hit "Human").

Alternative: Look for further throw-away kicks from English-New Zealand trash pleash Ladyhawke — not to be confused with stateside indie vets Ladyhawk — and her weird combo of DIY-rock trappings (the new self-titled Modular/Interscope CD sports rough sketches of a head-banded hipster chick and kittens) and slick electro-pop odes to lovers jetting over the Atlantic, whizzing synth details, and artificial hand claps.

DAVID BYRNE AND BRIAN ENO, EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY (SELF-RELEASED)


Waxy critical buildup: a quiet storm has been building among graying ’80s-era fans and young ‘uns cognizant of the renewed relevance of the pair’s Talking Heads work and their last co-written full-length, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Sire, 1981).

Micro-Reviewbot’s "I Am … Fierce" take: the ironic-naïf act is wearing thin. Micro-Reviewbot wants to like Everything, but finds its attention consistently drifting, mid-listen. Likely the best Byrne album in years, though the promise of bitingly ironic opener "Home" and the C&W-laced "My Big Nurse" soon degenerates with obvious Radiohead dig, "I Feel My Stuff," a jab at the crit darlings’ chilly electronic bricolage, which goes terribly wrong in a Midnite Vultures-style Pro-Tools-is-crack kind of way. Except Midnite Vultures is actually more listenable. Sonically songs like "Everything That Happens" are lovely — scattered with plangent piano tinkles and aquatic guitar lines — but perhaps it’s too much to ask elders like Byrne and Eno to eschew the non-Viagra-like sax and trudging tempos on tunes such as "Life Is Long" and find some genuine energy.

Alternative: Shhh, how about giving Micro-Reviewbot a little quiet digestion time for a change? *

Irresistible ODC

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PREVIEW Some traditions are just too good to give up. I can forgo most holiday customs, except for singing carols, The Nutcracker, and a Tom and Jerry with lots of nutmeg and rum, preferably drunk from properly labeled china cups. Another, a peculiar San Francisco tradition is ODC/Dance’s The Velveteen Rabbit. It has proved remarkably sturdy and remains quite irresistible.

You’d think at a time when kids are growing up with anime and Nintendo games, there would be little interest in a story about a sawdust-stuffed rabbit and 10-foot-tall nanny who brooks no nonsense in the nursery. Yet KT Nelson’s 22-year-old adaptation of Margery Williams’ 1922 classic,with its whiff of upper-class British propriety, has not lost one iota of its charm. Nelson choreographed it when her son was young. Maybe that helped with the inspiration.

Another reason is that right from the beginning, ODC went for top quality in its choice of its collaborators. They could barely afford children’s author Brian Arrowsmith’s costumes and design, but what an investment that turned to be. The combination of Geoff Hoyle’s narration, Benjamin Britten’s score, and Rinde Eckert’s voice was inspired. By now ODC’s dancers may be able to dance their roles in their sleep — but it doesn’t show. They don the parts like a second skin and seem to enjoy themselves. Daytime performances, at 90 minutes, in a relatively small theater, should make Rabbit accessible even to the younger crowd.

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT Fri/28-Dec. 14, call for times, $15–$45. Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org, www.odcdance.org

Blitzen Trapper

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PREVIEW The pitter-pattering primal heartbeat of Blitzen Trapper’s whole-grain, acousti-organic stunner of an album, Furr, comes early in the recording, at track three with the title song, as songwriter-producer Eric Earley lightly rasps the tale of a boy turned wolf, turned human once more — haunted by dreams of running wild through the snow: "You can wear your fur like a river on fire<0x2009>/But you better be sure if you’re making god a liar<0x2009>/I’m like a rattlesnake, babe. I’m like fuel on a fire<0x2009>/So if you’re going to get made<0x2009>/Don’t be afraid of what you’ve learned."

"It’s metaphorical in a lot of ways," says Earley, 31, on the road with the band to Asheville, N.C. "But it’s an ancient story, in a way. It deals with the basic idea of the struggle between civilization and wilderness and the desire to return to a simpler state, which is impossible for us humans to do. But that battle is going on."

O what a lovely tussle it is, coupled with bravura organ-spiked, folk-rock opener "Sleepytime in the Western World," tooth-ache-sweet pop shot "God and Suicide," brash classic rocker "Gold for Bread," and glam nugget "Fire and Fast Bullets." With Wild Mountain Nation (Lidkercow Ltd., 2007) and now Furr, it’s as hard to pin down the Portland, Ore., beasties as ever before. At least there’s a pack for Blitzen Trapper to run with: one that includes current tourmates Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver. "There has been more of a revival in natural music, using acoustic instruments and the human voice," offers Earley, whose first instrument was banjo, taught by his bluegrass musician father. "I’m not sure why that is, but I think it depends on whether there’s anyone around making that music well, twisting and turning it into something modern and unique."

BLITZEN TRAPPER With the Parson Red Heads and Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band. Tues/2, 8 p.m., $12–$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1421, www.theindependentsf.com

Shwayze

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PREVIEW Shwayze would be impossible without reality TV, not only because Buzzin’, their own MTV vehicle, gives them the kind of exposure that YouTube, a place where music videos still circulate, couldn’t. Rather, the music on their self-titled Suretone/Geffen debut is about and of Los Angeles in a way that wasn’t thinkable before that form of programming legitimated some of the city’s embarrassingly tired clichés. Apply the sentiments of either of the Malibu duo’s charting singles — "Corona and Lime" and "Buzzin’" — to mainstream music during the early Bush administration, and you get Crazy Town’s "Butterfly" with an insanely pungent dash of LFO’s "Summer Girls." Not much new here, but the setting for these affectless feelings at least can finally be revealed.

What makes the duo feel current, if far from compelling, is that LA plays itself in their music, in a similar way the town stands for itself in, say, the Cobrasnake’s fake-real candids. From hook man Cisco Adler’s feather-weight, momentum-less production style — the template he figured out on Mickey Avalon’s "Jane Fonda" — to Shwayze’s max-relax loverman toasting, all their too-baked-for-love mellowship jams deliver some combination of the same three pieces of information: 1) girls in LA are probably the best ever; 2) there are a lot of parties in Malibu, and shit is laidback; 3) even if you’re broke, if you have weed, it’s chill — you can still hook up with girls.

Image-wise, Adler and Shwayze embody Urban Outfitters realness with a Pineapple Express sense of brofessionalism: both wear skinny jeans, slightly oversize tees, and high-tops, but Adler’s fedora and wayfarers tell us he’s the rock guy, while Shwayze’s cocked baseball hat tell us he’s the rapper dude. Lyrically, Schwayze’s concerned exclusively with girls — they talk about "girls" so much it’s hard not to imagine they’ve fallen in love with the word as a floating signifier. But watch a video and there they are, the word made flesh and Lycra.

SHWAYZE With Cisco Adler, DJ Skeet Skeet, and Krista. Sat/29, 8 p.m., $16.50. Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center, Van Ness and Sutter, SF. (415) 421-TIXS, www.goldenvoice.com

Czech it out

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REVIEW An attractive 30-something woman with a face hardened by rough times — most recently the 2002 Prague flood pretty much ruining her Prague home — Marcela (Anna Geislerova) is raising two children under precarious circumstances. Marriage to Jarda (Roman Luknar) is discordant, despite their volcanic sex, in large part because she objects to his paying the bills by running a chop shop. She’s already left the with the kids — albeit due to her son’s severe allergy to their digs’ post-flood moldiness — when Jarda steals the wrong guy’s car and gets his whole operation busted by police. With the breadwinner in jail, what’s Marcela to do? Move in with her crazy religious mother in-law (Emilia Vasaryova)? Nope. Stay with her own mother (Jana Brejchova) and the latter’s very creepy diabetic boyfriend (Jiri Schmitzer) in their cramped apartment? Yes, until something better comes along. Which, surprisingly, it does in the form of Czech-Italian vintner Benes (Josef Abrham), whose stolen car triggered Jarda’s arrest. He’s that staple of 1930s screwball comedies so seldom encountered since, in real or cinematic life: the suave older man who’s single, rich, lonely, and genuinely concerned over our underclass heroine’s welfare. This conceit might seem overly contrived in lesser hands than those of director Jan Hrebejk and scenarist Petr Jarchovsky (of prior foreign-language Oscar nominees 2000’s Divided We Fall and 2004’s Up and Down). But their excellently crafted and performed seriocomedy — with its frank yet funny sexual randiness — never feels less than credible. In a classically warm yet ironic, ambitious yet intimate, absurdist yet realistic Czech cinema fashion that Hrebejk and Jarchovsky will hopefully torch-carry well into the 21st century.

Beauty in Trouble opens Fri/28 in Bay Area theaters.

Take the red pill

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PREVIEW/REVIEW After a foray into the spirit-swindling zines and quilts of Olivia Plender that provide the other highlight of Berkeley Art Museum’s latest installment in the MATRIX series, it’s best to venture into the exhibition’s darkened back room, sink into a beanbag chair, and soak up the kinetic collage animation of Martha Colburn. Those beanbags, so different from the hard, backless blocks that art spaces and artists usually offer as places to sit, are an invitation to watch Colburn’s looping short film Myth Labs over and over — a worthwhile endeavor, since you could notice new things on your 20th dance with its blitz of religious, historical, commercial, and (oh yeah, before I forget) human imagery.

Rain clouds rain yet more rain clouds within just a single second-long burst of Myth Labs, which charts a tempestuous world where cops continually threaten to shoot whomever they encounter — cute kitties or Christ-like black men — in the face. Gunfire isn’t the only shooting going on, since the title of Colburn’s movie puns off of meth labs. The pairing of that literally explosive material with her animation is an apt one: as ever, her images erupt across the screen in rightward pans that no live action camera could capture. Beginning with battles between pilgrims and justifiably outraged and confused Indians, Colburn’s eight-minute version of American history is cinema as convulsive as its subject matter.

In an extension of the Berkeley Art Museum show, Pacific Film Archive is presenting a night with the artist and filmmaker. Though Colburn is most associated with Baltimore these days, it’s a homecoming of sorts, since she did time in the Bay Area in the 1990s, forging ties with fellow filmmakers at Other Cinema and collaborating since with Deerhoof. Spanning from 1995 to 2008, the hour-long program should be a decent representative look at the work of one of the best collage artists and animators in a post-Harry Smith world.

BENDING THE WORD/MATRIX 226 Through Feb. 8, 2009, free–$12. Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft, Berk. (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

MARTHA COLBURN’S COLLAGE ANIMATIONS Tues/2, 7:30 p.m; $5.50–$9.50. Pacific Film Archive, 2575, Bancroft, Berk. (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

Shaken, stirred

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Everyone has a tale to spin as part of the AC/DC piecemeal mythology/collective unconscious: the moment when the band’s music scored the cementing of a lifelong friendship, triggered a scarring bar brawl, or set off a particularly torrid tussle in the otherwise-antiseptic CD aisle of Wal-Mart. Mine occurred in Barstow, during a particularly soused night kicking off a college-ending road trip down Route 66, falling for my long-lashed, ringleted, metal guitar player boyfriend, tossing back Jack and Cokes, and dancing in cutoff hot pants in an almost-empty cow bar to "You Shook Me All Night Long." It’s basically impossible to mess up on the dance floor when it comes to that song: all you need to do is wiggle your pinky back and forth to the can’t-miss-it-with-a-sledgehammer beat — good times. American thighs and all.

But that was a lifetime ago: how relevant is AC/DC today — apart from providing the fodder for godawful cover versions of "You Shook Me All Night Long" by Celine Dion and Shania Twain? We won’t even go into Shakira’s wretched "Back in Black." When near-anonymous, rarely grandstanding band members emerge from the silence between albums, they purvey the image of a hard-working, headbanging, rigorously hard-rock constant in a world in the throes of change, an audience-friendly reliable in an unsettled music industry that gives the fans what they want, free of undermining irony and unfamiliar moves. The rock-solid conservative choice for rattled times.

True to its components’ working-class roots, the group is the blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of Joe the Plumber: rockers who are pro-rock, hence the innumerable tunes with "rock" in the title and the banishment of power-ballad softness. Get thy Guns N’ Roses operatic self-indulgence away from these manly men, churning out the hard stuff as if from a devilishly well-oiled engine à la their current "Rock ‘n’ Roll Train" stage set. In AC/DC’s hands, all is reduced, or elevated, to rock and its all-too-evident properties: solidity, earthiness (hence those free-floating big balls and bombastic babes), and physicality (thus the band’s refusal to allow its songs to be sold as MP3s). On the new Black Ice, the juggernaut only slightly slows for the ironclad blues-rock figure of "Decibel." Rockism is almost beside the point — what isn’t rock, can’t be rocked, won’t be rocked doesn’t exist in the AC/DC universe. Post-modernist pastiche? Hip-hop? Electro? Psychedelia? Neu-rave? Huh?

That’s not to say that AC/DC is rocking in a void, a timeless Platonic plane completely divorced from encroaching reality. The group that appealed to punkers with its disciplined songcraft and streamlined riffs — and nodded to skinheads with the "oi!"s that decorate "T.N.T." — has at various times embraced a palpable sense of danger (witness Angus Young impaled bloodily on a guitar in the video for "If You Want Blood [You’ve Got It]") while also allowing its music to be licensed to the US Military for use in recruitment ads. Yet Black Ice‘s "War Machine" offers other ways to parse lyrics like, "Make a stand, show your hand / Call in the high command / Don’t think, just obey / I’m like a bird of prey / So better get your name, come on in / Gimme that thing and feed your war," apart from simply "Go Army."

This crack in the armor of certainty — from a combo that hails from ye olde days of rock-as-rebellion monoculture, when big, bad guitars were the only option for revolt in town — reads like a cap tug toward increasingly murky times. And the marketplace concession of giving Wal-Mart exclusive rights to sell the Black Ice CD — even in Wal-Mart-free towns like San Francisco — complicates matters because independent merchants like Amoeba Music are forced to purchase new copies from the big-box retailer, relinquishing their mark-up, in order to provide the disc as a service to their customers (the vinyl Black Ice is not exclusive to Wal-Mart). "It’s a slap in the face for indie record stores and AC/DC fans, especially for a band like AC/DC that has always had a reputation of delivering what the fans want," comments Amoeba Music product manager Tony Green. Note to AC/DC: Wal-Mart does not equal working class — or a passion for music. Give these dogs their bone.

She’s got balls

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IN THE BEGINNING Where I went to high school in the Midwest, you were either a boozer or a stoner. Boozers listened to AC/DC; stoners to Zeppelin. I was neither a boozer nor a stoner, but I knew which side of the coin I was on the minute my Dad turned the volume down on AC/DC’s epic "Big Balls." Instantly I was captivated by Bon Scott’s tongue-in-check lyrical genius, and asked my father to please, for the love of balls, turn it up again.

If there was a pinnacle moment where my heart subscribed to AC/DC for all eternity, it was there, in the back of our blue Volvo station wagon, while Bon Scott’s balls bounced from left to right, and I so wished to hold them every night.

Our bass player Riff Williams had a similar start. The first time she heard AC/DC was sitting in the back seat of a parked car watching her babysitter make out with her hot David Cassidy-esque boyfriend. The heavy petting lasted during most of High Voltage (Atlantic, 1976) and set the tone for Riff’s unruly adolescence.

Drummer Philomena Rudd’s introduction to AC/DC came with Highway to Hell (Atlantic, 1979), a birthday gift. She would stare at the back cover endlessly, both enchanted and horrified by the five rocker dudes. She was scared of all of them — except Bon who had a friendly smile — and had crushes on all of them — except Bon who was too old! This was long before she played drums, but she had the burning desire and would play along with AC/DC, pounding their songs out with drumsticks on her pillows.

As for vocalist Bonny Scott, she can’t remember a time not hearing AC/DC. "Thunderstruck" was the anthem in junior high. But what cemented the deal was Let There Be Rock (1980), which a friend copied for her on VHS. She watched it so many times, it wore out in one month. That was a turning point: years later Bonny and Riff created AC/DShe.

LET THERE BE SOUND No other band gets your blood pumping the way AC/DC does. That’s because they are a no-nonsense, hard-working rock band. You aren’t going to get frilly melodies — you get what you came for: hard, pounding riffs, sexed-up lyrics, and a solid kick in the ass. Not everyone can handle that, but everyone must admit that somewhere deep down inside, AC/DC has touched them — maybe even a touch too much.

Perhaps that’s why AC/DC has one of the largest fan bases in the world, and why people dedicate themselves to the group much like a religion, where Bon Scott is god and high voltage rock ‘n’ roll is forever synonymous with a good time. Two of the most dedicated AC/DC fans we know are these amazing brothers from Sacramento, dubbed the "Sac Bros." They came to one of our shows at a bar called the Roadhouse, and we were immediately drawn to them. Their ultimate adoration for AC/DC was apparent, and their love for ladies playing AC/DC inspired us to become the best tribute to AC/DC we could be.

Terry "Sac Bro" showed up at our next gig adorned in a new AC/DC and AC/DShe tattoo on the small of his back, securing our fate to "Ride on in the name of Bon" until the end of time. A recent tally disclosed that the Sac Bros have been to more than 85 AC/DShe shows.

LET THERE BE ROCK AC/DShe has definitely had the opportunity to see the world through Rosie-tinted glasses. We have had the joy of spreading the gospel of Bon around the Bay Area and in small doses around the world, celebrating the music of our favorite band with people who can’t see AC/DC on a regular basis.

When we recruited our drummer Philomena to play with us, she told us she never wanted to be in a tribute band and was working on original music. Riff pushed the envelope by asking her to at least play one show before making up her mind. She knew that was all it would take.

The crowd pulls the music out of you: there is nothing like watching a mob of rabid AC/DC fans rocking out and singing the lyrics over the sound of the drums. She was hooked by the bouncing, pulsing crowd; the head-banging front row; the beers flying; the couples making out in dark corners; the walls sweating; the Sac Bros screaming. This is what it’s like to play AC/DC’s music.

Change rejection

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AC/DC stormed onto the international stage with a song called "It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll). The song was an incendiary introduction to the Australian band’s brand of overdriven razor-boogie, and vocalist Bon Scott’s nasally shriek cataloged a life of hedonistic melancholy that ended with his death from alcohol poisoning in 1980.

It is rare for a group to write a song so prophetic of the challenges that lay ahead of them, even rarer for an outfit to suffer the loss of a charismatic frontperson and continue to exist. Less than six months after Scott’s tragic death, AC/DC got to the top. Recruiting singer Brian Johnson, the combo released Back in Black (Atlantic, 1980), a smash-hit record that went on to become the second-best-selling album of all time.

Towering pinnacles of success often have unintended consequences. Musicians accustomed to the travails of the industry suddenly find themselves with a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of fan support, and enjoy the unquestioning indulgence of every creative whim. The desire to reinvent — to cast off cloying expectations of past success and established image — can be irresistible. This tendency has given us Kiss’ disco era, a Chris Cornell R&B album, and more iterations of Madonna than anyone cares to remember. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines. The best-selling album of all time, the only one to beat out Back in Black, is Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Epic, 1982). I think you can see where I’m going with that one.

AC/DC, by contrast, has stayed so doggedly true to its original concept that it’s hard to imagine the band members even entertaining the idea of change if only to reject it. Their new album, Black Ice (Columbia), is the first in eight years, packed chock-full with the Young brothers’ stuttering, bluesy guitar riffs and Phil Rudd’s studiously unadorned drumming. The big surprise this time around, if you can call it that, is the inclusion of slide guitar on the track "Stormy May Day." The band’s been around for more than three decades, and a largely technical change in instrumentation on a single song qualifies as news. That’s sticking to your guns.

They’re still writing tunes with "rock ‘n’ roll" in the title, and Black Ice clocks in with four — quite an accomplishment in the field of writing rock songs about rock, which AC/DC more or less perfected. The quality of the tracks is neither here nor there, and it was fun reading the world’s Important Rock Critics write circles around themselves trying to think of something clever to say about the latest disc. In fact, if AC/DC has a talent besides writing infectiously simple rock mega-hits, it is confounding music writers.

They may not conjure the same arena-shaking adrenaline of the glory years, but no one’s really expecting that. The songs all sound the same, but that’s always been true. Their craft is so finely honed that they avoid any blunders or clunkers, and their stubborn enmity toward innovation makes them immune to any ill-advised tinkering with songwriting or sound.

They won’t even sell their stuff on iTunes, an anomaly that makes them a veritable dinosaur in the age of experimental "pay what you want" download ploys, when even the Napster-suing nofunskis in Metallica have been brought into the electronic fold. A lot of noise is made about AC/DC being an "album band," a commendable if quixotic adherence — the mind reels at the amount of money they could make off frat boys looking to round out the keg party playlist with a little "You Shook Me All Night Long." Then again, when you’ve already sold 200 million-odd albums, what’s left to buy? A plane for your plane? Maybe AC/DC could bailout the Big Three.

It’s not every band that proclaims a long road to the top, and then proceeds to walk it. AD/DC lamented that it "Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)," but they waited and ended up millionaires. They argued that "Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution," and 42 million in sales proved them right. They saluted those who were about to rock, and got saluted right back. Their new album went No. 1 in 17 countries. If there’s one last self-referential song left to sing, it’s a cover of the Beatles’ "Don’t Ever Change."

Where’s the party?

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The best time to hear AC/DC — besides during the obvious coked-out, high-speed cop chase — is at a party. At least this is my personal fave: during a party I’m throwing and controlling the music being played.

I love the part of the night when it is appropriate to put on the first AC/DC song, really loud. It has to be pretty late — when the strangers start filing in, cigarettes are being smoked everywhere, and the rules have been tossed out. People need to be drunk enough to dance to AC/DC, after all — and the first song has to be "It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)."

The problem here is that once you start playing AC/DC, you have nowhere to go. You’ve reached the ceiling as far as loud rock ‘n’ roll music goes, from here you have to get into crazy metal or ubernoise in order to keep the bar set in the red. And if you play Pig Destroyer, even though the middle of the song might be awesome, awesome, awesome, by the time you get there, you’ve alienated almost everybody. So some restraint is necessary. I used to actually think about this while DJing parties and I eventually came up with the answer: what you do is play more AC/DC.

You start with Bon Scott-era stuff — a little "Jailbreak," "Beating Around the Bush," "Live Wire," and "Sin City" — then you drop Brian Johnson’s flat, cap-lidded bleat and the high-tech production of "Thunderstruck" on them. You’re now free to play "Safe in New York City," "Sink the Pink," anything — just stay away from "You Shook Me All Night Long," because you may as well play Bob Seger’s "Old Time Rock and Roll." And you gotta put on "Moneytalks" at some point.

AC/DC has a new album, titled Black Ice (Columbia). This is studio album 15 and is officially available for purchase either directly through the group’s Web site or at Wal-Mart. I didn’t get a promo copy of it and I don’t really shop at Wal-Mart much, except to get their spicy wings, which are fantastic, but I was able to hear some of the songs on YouTube, so I can give a somewhat informed review of the album. Like I said, I found the stuff on YouTube, but I didn’t watch the video for lead single, "Rock ‘n’ Roll Train," because, well, I love AC/DC, but even I have to admit that Angus Young wearing a school kid uniform as he approaches AARP eligibility is a little embarrassing.

I mean, the poor guy, he’s been duck-walking around the stage and over-performing for 40 years practically! Doesn’t it get to be like forced labor after a while? After, say, 30 years? Yipes.

Anyway here goes: the songs on Black Ice start with a bass line, then one guitar picks up the rhythm riff, then after exactly eight bars, the second guitar comes in, echoing the riff. Four bars pass, and the drums come in along with Brian Johnson screeching about women that could only have existed in the 1980s — "She’ll burn your eyeballs out," "she’s got it all," "she has two great danes on a leash," etc. Young peels off a blaring solo that erupts at exactly the right time, the chorus is repeated — peppered by "honey"s and "hey-hey"s from Johnson — and it all fades out. For my money, the tried-and-true formula works best on "Skies on Fire" and "Big Jack," which is about a guy who’s really got the knack and also never goes anywhere without a sack.

OK, the guys in AC/DC aren’t geniuses, and maybe they’ve been at it a little too long, but the formula still works, it always will, and Black Ice — like just about every one of their records — is not meant to be sat around with and listened to. The idea is to play it at parties, and you’re not supposed to look too closely at it. The idea is to let it wash over you. *

AC/DC

With the Answer

Tues/2 and Dec. 4, 8 p.m., $94.50

Oracle Arena

7000 Coliseum, Oakl.

(415) 421-TIXS

www.apeconcerts.com

Speed reading

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History is written on the skin. For proof, look no further than Russian Criminal Tattoo Encylopaedia Volume III (Fuel, 400 pages, $32.95), the final chapter in Danzig Baldaev’s epic, KGB-approved, ethnographic study. Alexander Sidorov’s excellent introduction traces the travels of tattoos from sailors to criminals. Then begins the parade of harshly imaginatively iconography (via Baldaev’s drawings) and grave faces (within Sergei Vasiliev’s photos). Stalin’s, Lenin’s, Khrushchev’s, Gorbachev’s, and even Clinton’s roles within — or relationship to — Russian criminal tattoos are revealed, along with rude images of scrotum-heads, scarily beautiful many-pointed stars, and vicious beauty marks.

Speaking of grave faces, a new edition of Lotte H. Eisner’s The Haunted Screen (University of California Press, 360 pages, $22.95) is cause for demoniac rejoicing. Eisner’s study of German silent cinema and the influence of Max Reinhardt remains fresh because her prose sings and stings. She reveals F. W. Murnau’s superiority to Fritz Lang in terms of painterly influence, reviews actors from "Magnani of the silent era" Pola Negri to hammy Emil Jannings, and contemplates what 1920’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari might have been like with sets by Alfred Kubin.

The unsettlingly handsome Alfred Kubin: Drawings, 1897-1909 (Prestel, 212 pages, $60) allows the curious to further such pursuits. Opening with a page that has Kubin’s eyes peeking through a door similar to those in his 1900-01 works The Entrance to Hell and In the Center of the Earth, it charts his shift from Poe-like shades-of-gray horror to colorful pre-Jean Painlevé underwater surrealism. Life was but a dream to Kubin. A very, very bad one.

Armed love

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REVIEW The struggle of young, white activists aspiring to the authenticity, confrontational stance, and street credibility of groups like the Black Panthers has generated some of the most enduring myths and storylines of the 1960s. Among these ’60s groups, perhaps the least documented is New York City’s mythical Motherfuckers, the "street gang with an analysis." Former Motherfucker and current Berkeley activist Osha Neumann’s colorful but uneven memoir Up Against the Wall Motherfucker (Seven Stories Press, 240 pages, $16.95) is the first book-length treatment of the so-called "group with the unspeakable name."

Much like the Diggers (members of the San Francisco Mime Troup who left the stage in 1966 to act out revolutionary change in the streets), the Motherfuckers got their start in art. In January 1967, Neumann attended a meeting for "Angry Arts Week," which called for Lower East Side artists to make politically engaged work against the war in Vietnam. There, he met anarchist painter Ben Morea. Morea and his art group Black Mask had been responsible for a series of actions that brought the heavy street vibe of the Black Panthers to the art world, including an announced "shut down" of the Museum of Modern Art that ended with riot cops ringing the museum. From Angry Arts Week evolved a new group with Morea and Neumann at its core that took its name from a poem by Leroi Jones.

A product of the tenements and rat-infested streets around Tompkins Square Park, the Motherfuckers roamed the Lower East Side in leather jackets, carrying knives and handing out manifestoes. Their political identity, worldview, and brutal tactics were all neatly encapsulated by their first action in January 1968. During a garbage strike in the Lower East Side, they gathered rotten trash from the streets and took it uptown to dump on the steps of Lincoln Center, where they handed out flyers that read, "We propose a cultural exchange: garbage for garbage." Similarly to the Diggers out west, UAW/MF operated a Free Store, and held regular free community feasts for hippies and dropouts. But the Motherfuckers also taught free karate classes; eventually, they stockpiled guns. As Neumann puts it today, "We didn’t fuck around."

Preaching "flower power but with thorns," the group’s politics of escalation anticipated today’s Black Bloc. At the October 1967 march on the Pentagon, while Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies were linking arms and chanting to "levitate the Pentagon," Morea and company tore down a chain-link fence, battled with federal marshalls, and fought their way inside. Although Neumann now mostly dismisses the Motherfuckers’ tactics as macho and ineffective, he skillfully evokes the paranoid, volatile time and place in which they made total sense. Unfortunately for the reader, the group disbands midway through the book, and the back half is devoted to deadly dull soul-searching about the meaning of the ’60s.

Assessing the Motherfuckers’ legacy, Neumann writes, "It is easy to dismiss (their) politics as nothing more than childish tantrums and to profess that a baleful acceptance of the status quo is more ‘mature.’ It is more difficult to disentangle, delicately, as one would a bird caught in a net, the genuinely radical and uncompromising elements in this politics from those which are self-defeating." Though Neumann never satisfyingly solves this challenge for readers or himself, perhaps that’s the point. The group that started out as artists ultimately ended where they began, leaving behind a myth with an irreducible riddle at its core that is perhaps best considered as art. *

Tale of the city

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If last week’s extensive Guardian coverage didn’t convince you, here’s my two cents: see Milk. Not that you may have needed convincing; seems like everyone in San Francisco is stoked to see Gus Van Sant’s political biopic, with Sean Penn starring as the first openly gay man elected to public office in America. If you live here, it’s impossible to separate yourself completely from the story — even if you’re too young to remember the history firsthand –- since so much of it is already familiar. There’s City Hall, Milk’s "theater" and the site of his 1978 assassination, along with Mayor George Moscone, by fellow supe Dan White; the Castro District, meticulously made over to mimic Milk’s 1970s; a dog-poopy moment in Duboce Park; and references to everything from district elections to this very newspaper.

Still, even out-of-towners, except bigoted ones, will be moved by Milk. Milk’s experiences allow the film to take a personal look at the struggle for LGBT civil rights in America, with a particular focus on Anita Bryant’s cross-country hate crusade. Scenes showing the triumphant defeat of Prop. 6 — a 1978 proposal to fire all gay teachers and those who supported them — are bittersweet in the wake of the passage of Prop. 8. At times, Van Sant’s film feels eerily timely, down to the spontaneously assembled protests on Castro at Market, and its focus on a politico who believed in hope despite the odds.

But Milk is more than its message — despite its many sober moments, it also manages to be an entertaining film. Thank Van Sant’s steady direction, which (mostly) avoids melodrama and integrates archival footage with seamless ease, and a Penn performance that feels remarkably natural even though he clearly obsessed over perfecting Milk’s voice and mannerisms. Among the supporting players, Emile Hirsch (funny and energetic as activist Cleve Jones) and Josh Brolin (fumbling and creepy as killer White) are standouts. Less successful is Diego Luna as Milk’s needy lover Jack Lira, though it’s not really Luna’s fault; the Lira subplot comes across as distracting, adding unnecessary drama to a story already brimming with compelling conflict. Look for Penn to scoop up mad awards-season praise, all the more deserved if his inspiring turn fires up a new generation to follow in Milk’s footsteps.

Milk opens Wed/26 at the Castro Theatre.

Boot up

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Writing about Umberto D (1952), André Bazin located the intrepid beauty of Italian neorealism in its accumulation of small slivers: "The narrative unit is not the episode, the event, the sudden turn of events, or the character of its protagonists; it is the succession of concrete instants of life, no one of which can be said to be more important than another, for their ontological equality destroys drama at its very basis."

The sentence’s movement from careful observation to impassioned ethos is typical of Bazin’s noble endeavor to demonstrate the Italians’ modest profundity. The French critic was no proponent of formalism, but his composite sketch of neorealism — a mixed use of professional and amateur actors, location shooting, long takes, and a situational plotline — remains a given at Cannes.

Looking at the films in the Pacific Film Archive’s series "Moments of Truth," it’s easy enough to see why. Realism is often used as a cover to smuggle ideological biases into narrative, but a movie like Open City (1945) still draws a bracing connection between an economy of means and a strong moral imperative. Filmed in the rubble of Il Duce, the procession of dark apartment corridors and deserted streets submerge suspense into the act of witnessing. Neorealist orthodoxy aside, director Roberto Rossellini surely would have admitted that the truth is a lot more palatable when you have Anna Magnani in the leading role. Her death scene would seem to depart from neorealism in its wrenching montage (and burst of melodramatic strings), but it is Open City‘s most searing breach of moral injustice, around which the quieter scenes of resistance and despair organize their electric charge.

Among the PFA’s selection, I dote most on Il Posto (1961), an ethnography of adolescence that summons vast stores of quotidian melancholy from a backdrop of workaday drudgery. Whenever such a delicate work of neorealism threatens to buckle under the weight of critical piousness, we might look to the French New Wave filmmakers who identified with the Italians more for reasons of intellectual fecundity than partisan rigidity. Jean-Luc Godard and company liked the Hollywood pictures too, of course, but one senses their close affinity to the neorealists in their resourcefulness and flexibility. Instead of film as product, here was film as choice; pictures like Open City and Il Posto may have been branded with ideals of Truth and Reality, but the secret of their success rests in their sense of possibility. *

"Moments of Truth: Italian Cinema Classics"

Nov 29–Dec 21, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

Plucky 15

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› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO When, oh, when, will someone acknowledge properly that Kinko’s was responsible for rave — at least the good rave? So many legendary early 1990s parties sprang from adorable Apple IIe addicts frantically photocopying the two-toned fruits of stoned flyer-making labors at 3 a.m. onto Lift-Off Lemon and good ol’ Lunar Blue. We grateful ex-ravers, despite ongoing nerve damage, should really erect a mimeo-monument to that generic copyhouse — a mass of leftover smiley-face baggies and filthy chill-out room inflatables, perhaps, fashioned in the shape of a poor, perplexed clerk?

I’m chortling over the phone about this with Flash, the guiding light and graphic design arm of the Tribal Funk party production crew, formed 15 years ago by South City teen Keith Neves with just such a rush-job handout. "Keith was really sick of the rave scene’s slickness and commercialism back then, so he passed out a handmade flyer saying, ‘Meet at my house and let’s see if we can do it right. Get it back on track. Do it for less,’" Flash explains. A couple dozen people showed up, and the Tribal Funk saga was launched.

It’s a wondrously wriggly epic, dotted with giggling daisy logos and projected grinning cows, that kicks off with a 1993 Thanksgiving Day rave called "The Beginning" at the National Guard Armory in Concord and winds its way through the College of San Mateo dining hall, the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, and across "some rickety pier in China Basin." It brushes up against other well-known party names like the Gathering, Stompy Stomp, Coolworld, Toon Town, and Funky Techno Tribe and survives huge rain-outs, threatened cop busts, wily rival crews, and several cringe-inducing encounters with the word "phat." It amasses a rippling pool of luscious West Coast DJ talent: Carlos, Tony, DJ Dan, Cut Chemist, Z-Trip, and Charlotte the Baroness. Also, Chi-town house god Mark Farina — virtually unknown in the Bay when he spun at a 1994 Tribal Funk joint — will be rocking the nostalgia train with the wiggy Bassbin Twins as part of the 15th anniversary celebration at Mezzanine.

From its original collective, T-Funk has been pared down to Flash and the now-Los Angeles-based Neves, and has gone through several retirements — yet it’s still delivered a massive massive many Thanksgiving weekends since its first Turkey Day bash. Vibe feathers! "I know it sounds clichéd," Flash reflects, "but we’ve always been about musical cross-pollination. It seems like the right time for us to be around again. We started when the scene was weak, and I feel it’s gotten weak again — the underground SF-sound scene, I mean.

"Plus," he adds, "it’s hard to kick the party-throwing bug. It’s a drug — not about money, you’ll never make money, and not about ‘scoring chicks.’ There’s no feeling in the world like standing behind the DJ as 2,000 people jump up and scream for joy. You just gotta do it, man." *

TRIBAL FUNK 15 YEAR FAMILY REUNION

Sat/29, 9 p.m.–7 a.m., $25

Mezzanine

444 Jessie, SF

www.mezzaninesf.com

CLUCK AND BEAR IT

Gobble all the stuffing you want, then dance as the rollicking, bear-and-other-friendly Blowoff party returns to Slim’s. I rarely recommend biggish parties like this — not because I don’t love me some bare-chested bear meat, but because I never trust the music at large gay-oriented affairs. But the last installment was a packed hairy hoot, and DJ duo Richard Morel and Bob Mould kept the beats interesting, rocky even. Claws out, kiddies.

Sat/29, 10 p.m., $15. Slims, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com

Sticky buns

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› le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS This Thanksgiving I am thankful for sushi, pre-cum, the hangtown fry, clam chowder, big green salads, soft-boiled eggs, carnitas tacos, biscotti, roasted chickens, cum, day-old sticky buns, and Canada. However, I have no plans for Thanksgiving dinner.

How can this happen? My favorite holiday! My only holiday!

Deevee and Gilley are going camping. I’m invited, but don’t like to be cold. The Maze invited me to San Diego for dinner with his parents. I like to be warm, but the train ticket costs $150 and you have to spend half the time on a bus. What kind of train ticket is that?

My new favorite country is Canada. Truth be told, Canada was my old favorite country too, only for different reasons. I used to like Canada because it seemed less like a country than other countries, the mouse sleeping next to the elephant. Its people, peaceful and funny.

Second City Television was my favorite TV show. "O Canada" stirred me more than "The Star-Spangled Banner." I almost died in Canada, in the late 1990s, and have only been back once since, to play cowboy songs for elderly shut-ins in Ottawa.

That was five years ago, and I was in a van. You don’t need a passport to get into Canada, just to come back. I learned. The hard way. I’m afraid to fly and can’t afford to and have no plans to visit my new favorite country, but that’s OK. Apparently, it will come to me.

In Canada all the animals are moose. If you have mice, and you trap one, you will find on closer inspection that your mouse is a little tiny moose. If you have a cat and a dog, you have a moose and a moose. Small ones. If you go to the zoo, or the circus, and they feature an elephant, it will be played by a humongous moose. And if you see an actual-size moose — say, on the side of a small road in the mountains — then that’s a moose too.

Thanksgiving in Canada happens in October and is not a big deal, according to my Canadian. After work I picked him up at the airport, and I took him out for sushi and then to a downtown hotel with clawfoot bathtubs.

We hardly slept that night, or the next, or the next. The groundwork had been laid online, which doesn’t sound right, I realize. But besides sex, we drove around and talked about food, and movies, and food. Fuck history, Canadians know as much about American barbecue as most Americans do. We’d eaten at a lot of the same places in the South. He knew where to get fried chicken in Missouri, and Buffalo wings in Buffalo. I showed him where to go for breakfast in San Francisco, lunch on the Sonoma Coast, and dinner in the wine country.

He bought me a bottle of great whiskey and a big book about road food. All weekend that weekend I didn’t check my e-mail or answer my cell phone, and my friends worried about me. They needn’t have. I was visiting Canada, in the comfort of my own county and country. And I found it infinitely sweet, hospitable, romantic, and, best of all, game.

The boys around here, you know, the too-cool-for-drool outside-the-box ones who describe themselves on the dating sites as open-minded, adventurous, looking for new experiences, blah blah barf … I hate to say this, my rad hipster sexually-liberated countrymen, but you were just schooled in all of the above by a middle-aged Canadian tweed with daughters and a favorite toothpaste.

He didn’t know I was trans when he first wrote to me, just liked my pics and words and food-itude. I told him right away. I told him and showed him: look, man, an outtie. And unlike you, he shrugged. Never been with a body like mine, he said, never even thought about it. But … he couldn’t wait to find out.

And did.

And loved it. And loves me. He said so.

"I love you too," I said. And I took him back to the airport and then went to play soccer as usual.

My new favorite restaurant is Sushi Man. Just for the name. That’s all. The sushi was … well, nobody got hurt or anything. I got sashimi hamachi and some saba, and the steamed spinach thing with sesame seeds, which was great. Better than the sushi. Nice atmosphere, surreal service, nobody there … *

SUSHI MAN

Daily: 5 p.m.–10:30 p.m.

731 Bush, SF

(415) 981-1313

Beer & wine

MC/V

In every dream home …

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› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I’ve been with my husband for 10 years, and we are still pretty young. He has become infatuated with a woman at work. It started as a ride-share and friendship, and recently developed (to their surprise) to an intense infatuation. He started staying out late nights drinking with the work crew so he could spend more time with her. They have not kissed or had sex, but the touchy-feeliness is there. After I discovered the relationship, he vowed to end it and to try to build stronger bonds with me. But ending it was a lot harder than he thought. It took me finding several communications between them for him to agree to go to therapy and finally tell her they could have no more contact outside of work. Now I’m having trouble trusting him. I break down a lot and he feels so guilty he thinks I’d be better off without him. We are starting couple’s therapy soon and he’s not in a position to leave his job. I can’t compete with this infatuation. We had a short infatuation, but things moved so fast that it dwindled more quickly than I think it should have. He told me that she makes him feel dizzy and that he’s never felt like that for anyone before. Am I going to lose him?

Love,

Tearfully Fearful

Dear Tears for Fears:

I’m a little worried, due to the finding of a few last (we hope) e-mails before he agreed to therapy, and frankly, due to your snooping (I assume you were snooping). Both are bad for both of you.

Given that he has apparently given up the stolen moments with Object of Affection (No more late nights drinking, right? And let’s assume his schedule doesn’t allow for Don Draper-style unexplained absences from the office, starting at lunch and ending when he damn well feels like ending them?), I can be cautiously optimistic, if a bit concerned about the you-not-trusting-him (understandable!) and him-feeling-like-skulking-off-because-it’s-all-ruined-now-anyway parts. Not only will he have to get over her for this to work, you will both have to get over yourselves. The latter may be harder.

Infatuations of the sort your husband had usually require some kind of fuel to keep burning, and if they have stopped seeing each other in any but the most unavoidable and quotidian "Hey, did you get that TPS report?" fashion, it has a good chance of dying down.

The truth is, 10 years in, something like this is to be expected. You could even consider patting yourselves on the back that it took 10 years, rather than the more expected seven (some researchers postulate that humans are programmed to move on after seven years, the time it takes to rear a man-cub to independence) or the alarming four, a figure that shows up in recent research on divorce in Western industrialized countries. Small consolation, I know, but 10 good years is worth a lot!

So what does he say now about the dizziness? Is he still dizzy when he thinks of her, or is it now mostly retroactive dizziness, dizzy with some distance? We’ve talked about those dizzy spells before in the column. They are a sure sign of "limerence," the crazy part of love, which I described here: "I make a distinction between loving a whole lot and limerence (which differs from infatuation in both duration and intensity), which is not so much a feeling as it is a form of madness, and like other forms of madness is turning out to have a biochemical basis. ‘When I think of you my serotonin plummets, my darling! O, how my dopamine soars! My heart pounds with norepinephrine …’"

Limerence produces sensations not only of lightheadedness but of physical pain or "heartache." It is tremendously exciting, and we tend to assume that anything so compelling must be both real and important. But if you remember that a really great book or a roller-coaster ride can create similar sensations, you realize that it needn’t be anything of the kind. The rush can be addictive, though, so let’s hope that your husband can give the rush its due and then steer clear. He will need some help, from both you and the therapist. Any sign that he is just nodding and saying whatever will get him out of there the fastest, and I’d start worrying again.

Interestingly, there are 12-step groups not just for the more obvious "sex addicts" but also for "love addicts." They are meant for those who use "love" as a drug to lend meaning to an empty life or excitement to a dull one, not to the ordinary person who, glimpsing something shiny, follows it through the faerie wood and then, realizing he’s been briefly enchanted, returns, chastened. Still, understanding that "love" (these are not quite scare quotes, but certainly sneer quotes; I don’t think what these seekers are finding deserves the name) can be so powerful a drug may help both of you to forgive him.

Love,

Andrea

Got a salacious subject you want Andrea to discuss? Ask her a question!

Also, Andrea is teaching! Contact her if you’re interested in (sex)life after baby classes. Her new blog is at www.gogetyourjacket.com, but don’t look there for the butt sex. There isn’t any.

Art star for a day

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Any retrospective of participatory art is a curatorial gamble that raises a host of questions. How do you encourage engagement? How do you physically display and arrange pieces that depend on the viewer’s actions, interactions, or interpretations? And how broadly do you define participation?

SFMOMA curator of media arts Rudolf Frieling has recognized and embraced such risks in organizing the timely survey "The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now." The payoff is an open-ended terrain that is alternately challenging, gimmicky, and surprisingly fun. Critic Lucy R. Lippard loosely defined ’60s and ’70s conceptual art as "work in which the idea is paramount and the material form is secondary, lightweight, ephemeral, cheap, unpretentious and/or ‘dematerialized’." This definition can double as a nice general description for many of the pieces Frieling has selected.

Formative minimal, conceptual, and Fluxus experiments fill the exhibit’s first two galleries. Many are embodied by photographic or filmed documentations of actions, such as Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1965). Others involve a notable absence of action — as with John Cage’s infamous 4’33" (1952), here represented by the double-whammy visual pun of David Tudor’s blank transcription of the score and the unattended piano the piece is performed on daily.

Some artists within "The Art of Participation" directly solicit input, although it should be said that browsing online art in a museum is kind of a drag when there’s so much else to see. Reproductions of Lygia Clark’s ’60s dialog objects allow viewers to physically explore what the artist calls "tactile propositions." An elderly couple generated some unintentional comedy when trying on Clark’s Terry Gilliam-esque, two-headed 1968 viewing apparatus Dialog: Goggles. Erwin Wurm’s delightful One Minute Sculptures (1997) double dares viewers to join the ranks of his subjects — photographed in varying fantastic and ridiculous situations that involve household objects — by following microscopic posing instructions scrawled on a white platform and the gallery walls.

The accumulated scuffs and scrapes of past visitors’ attempts at becoming art that surround One Minute Sculptures brought to mind Cage’s comment that Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings (1951) — which inspired 4’33" and are displayed near the perpetually silent piano — are "airports for dust and shadow." So, too, is the museum in the age of electronic reproduction, as more and more people participate in aesthetics via YouTube and Flickr. "The Art of Participation" recognizes and democratically celebrates this shift, even as it sometimes stubbornly clings to old, institutional habits and material objects.

THE ART OF PARTICIPATION: 1950 TO NOW

Through Feb. 8, 2009, $7–$12.50

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000

www.sfmoma.org