Pacific Film Archive

Magic and memory: Matt Sussman chats with Apichatpong Weerasethakul


Whereas David Lynch at times utilizes all the excesses of a bad rock video to give form to the dream logic of his films, Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul creates quietly evocative cinematic reveries. Paced to the unhurried rhythms of their character’s lives and structured around the landscapes (frequently, the verdantly green jungles of his native Thailand) in which they unfold, Apichatpong’s films invite introspective contemplation as much as they have puzzled many an audience and critic. His elliptical narratives, shot through with moments of sharp humor and unexpected beauty, are imbued with a sense of openness, a kind of responsive flexibility that allows their course to be redirected by other forces: a song, memories, folktales. These last two items, in particular, kept coming up as Apichatpong discussed his latest feature Syndromes and a Century (a twice told tale loosely based on how his parents met, showing April 13-15 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts), his love of American disaster movies, and the magical potential of film. (Matt Sussman)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul and actor Sakda Kaewbuadee accepting the Jury Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival

Guardian: You are doing a scene by scene breakdown of Tropical Malady at Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive. How do you feel about that kind of engagement with your film?

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: I’m not sure. I’m excited about it, because it’s a film that’s quite difficult to explain. One part of my mind thinks that it’s not good to talk about this film because it’s very open to interpretation, but another part thinks that it’s a very nice way to get the audience’s feedback. And I may learn that we can also maybe adapt [the format] and do similar events in Thailand, where very few people relate to my films.

SFIAAFF: 25 Alive: SF International Asian American Film Festival



Kim Chun on director Justin Lim

Cheryl Eddy on this year’s crop of war docs

Matt Sussman on the films of Hong Sang-soo

Air Guitar Nation (Alexandra Lipsitz, US, 2006). Considering the so-called sport of air guitar consists of one-minute spates of cheesy posturing by proudly self-identified poseurs whose musical chops (and instruments) are a figment of the imagination, mockumentarian Alexandra Lipsitz manages to squeeze plenty of drama, one-liners, self-importance, and rock ‘n’ roll chutzpah out of her spot-on material. Brooklyn actor David Jung — in the kimonoed, Hello Kitty–breastplated air guitarist guise of C-Diddy — is the reason Air Guitar Nation is Asian and American: Lipsitz follows Jung as he hams his way into the US air guitar crown, doing battle with stubborn arch nemesis Björn Türoque (Nous Non Plus–Les Sans Culottes bassist-vocalist Dan Crane), and then travels to Finland to compete in the world championship against Euros who take their air guitar very seriously. Seriously. Regardless, Jung is the real reason this doc rocks, guitar or no guitar. For his good humor, over-the-top buffoonery, and ready wisecracks, I give him at least a 5.8. (Kimberly Chun)

Sun/18, 7:15 p.m., 1000 Van Ness; March 24, 7:15 p.m., Camera 12 Cinemas

Do Over (Cheng Yu-Chieh, Taiwan, 2006). Hopefully, you’ve got a little room left in your heart for one more movie of interlocking stories with connections to each other that aren’t immediately apparent (patent pending). Taiwanese director Cheng Yu-Chieh’s first feature film follows the events in the lives of five people on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as they spiral downward into compelling, if improbably concurrent, personal crises. You may leave the theater having forgotten a plot point or two, but you will certainly remember the satisfyingly disorienting fight scene shot from a behind-the-shoulder perspective, or the image of four people with their ears to a table listening for lottery numbers being announced in the room below. (Jason Shamai)

Mon/19, 6:45 p.m., 1000 Van Ness; March 23, 8:45 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; March 25, 4 p.m., Camera 12 Cinemas

The Great Happiness Space: Tales of an Osaka Love Thief (Jake Clennell, US, 2006). On any given night in downtown Osaka’s neon jungle, one can see handsome young men — uniformed in designer suits, their meticulous Rod Stewart shags in various shades of bottled blond — incessantly chat up nearly every passing woman in sight. These would-be suitors are actually hosts, male drinking companions who are, as host club boss Issei explains, "in the business of selling dreams" to female clients with empty hearts and deep pockets. The sad irony that the majority of these women support themselves doing "night work," whether as hostesses themselves or prostitutes, is lost on neither director Jake Clennell nor his subjects, the employees and customers at popular host bar Rakkyo. The thoughtful candor with which the hosts and their regulars speak of their investment in "fake love" only underscores the financial and emotional costs demanded by such a fantasy. But beneath the bankrupt surfaces, Clennell finds a stronger desire for connection that’s tended to in, as one host poetically describes it, this "space to rest your heart." (Matt Sussman)

Sun/18, 9:30 p.m., Van Ness 1000; March 23, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; March 25, noon, Camera 12 Cinemas

In Between Days (So Yong Kim, South Korea/US/Canada, 2006) Fighting a world as cold as a city freeway overpass and as lonely as the reverb in a karaoke box for one, In Between Days is closer to a contemporary South Korean feature — formed from an individual, female point of view — than anything belched forth from Sundance’s labs. The film’s friction between South Korean and North American identities lives and breathes within Aimie (Jiseon Kim), who resentfully semi-inhabits a Toronto block apartment. So Yong Kim’s camerawork holds Aimie close even as she’s dismissive of a boy she likes and cruel to her divorced live-in mother, whom she keeps on the periphery. Impulsive actions with permanent results — be they skipped classes or homemade tattoos — are at the fore of this past-haunted tale of first sorta-love gone wrong. Waking up with Aimie each morning and more than once watching her looking at something painful just around the corner, Kim is as attuned to intimate frustration and revelation as Gina Kim (Invisible Light, Never Forever). Together, they’re two of the top young feature directors in the United States today. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Fri/16, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Sat/17, 2:30 p.m., Van Ness

It’s Only Talk (Ryuichi Hiroki, Japan, 2005). Like Sofia Coppola with a sense of humanity, Ryuichi Hiroki takes his bored and aimless female characters seriously. This film — like his lovely 2004 road movie Vibrator — features an unwell woman with more time on her hands than is probably good for her. Last time the trouble was bulimia; this time it’s manic depression. Yuko (the impossible to dislike Shinobu Terajima) has been living off the insurance money from her parents’ deaths for several years and has just moved to the outskirts of Tokyo, where she spends her more chemically balanced days snapping pictures and smiling beatifically. Horny as the next girl, she further occupies herself with a series of relationships that range from the involuntarily platonic to the incestuous. Hiroki makes truly therapeutic films, the kind that dispense with pat resolutions in favor of a general reassurance that life can be beautiful even when it sucks. (Shamai)

Sat/17, 6 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Tues/20, 9:15 p.m., Van Ness; March 22, 6:45 p.m., Van Ness

King and the Clown (Lee Jun-ik, South Korea, 2005). The world’s but a stage, and we are merely players — either playing or being played — in this loving, gender-twisting tribute to entertainers of the Chosun Dynasty in the 1500s. On the road to Seoul, a pair of actors — enterprising scruffster Jang-seng (Karm Woo-sung) and beauteous cross-dresser Gong-gil (Lee Joon-gi) — discovers the key to the kingdom and possible fortune in poking dangerous fun at their regent and his courtesan. But in the process of tweaking authority, the companions find themselves straying a little too close to ugly reality while clowning for their lives and triggering a bloody burst of truth telling, along with some unexpected guffaws from imperial quarters. (Chun)

Sun/18, 2:45 p.m., Castro; March 24, 2 p.m., Camera 12 Cinemas

Pavement Butterfly (Richard Eichberg, Germany/UK, 1929). Roland Barthes may have rhapsodized over Greta Garbo’s face, but Anna May Wong’s eyes in Pavement Butterfly belong no less to "that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy." At times they are narrow slits through which flicker sparks of vindictiveness. At others they open to seemingly inhuman proportions, tremulous moons that drip rivulets of tears. Like the similarly coiffed Louise Brooks, Wong did some of her greatest work with European directors. Here, Richard Eichberg casts Wong as a circus fan dancer on the lam after being framed for murder. Given her namesake, strains of Giacomo Puccini (as well as a blackmailer) trail behind this butterfly’s fateful climb from Paris’s bohemian demimonde to the scaffold of high society. While the narrative damns her to the gutter, Wong’s optical pyrotechnics alone confirm her rightful place in that empyrean of stars Hollywood so stubbornly refused her. (Sussman)

Sun/18, 12:30 p.m., Castro




Feb. 28


Citizen Cinema’s Love Series

The gods of antiquity were intelligent creations. Venus, for example, represents lust and motherhood, marriage and adultery, reverence and sacrilege; in short, she was love in all its contradictions. Inspired by this and other Gordian knots, Rob Nilsson of Citizen Cinema has put together a 12-part series on the subject of love. The first film is Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. (Sara Schieron)

7 p.m., $10 donation
Edwin Johnson Screening Room
1418 Fifth St., Berk.


Sunset Blvd.

You don’t have to be a fresh-faced undergrad to take advantage of UC Berkeley’s Film 50 class. This week’s selection is Billy Wilder’s essential Tinseltown tragedy, Sunset Blvd.; even film school dropouts can get behind this narrated-by-a-dead-guy picture that opens with a chimp’s funeral and climaxes with one of cinema’s most iconic close-ups. (Cheryl Eddy)

Through May 2
3 p.m., $4–$8
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-5249

Underworld meets underground



A freeway is viewed from a distance in pitch-black night as oncoming white dots (the fronts of cars) and retreating red dots (their backs) hop like tiny Lite-Brites from one spot to another. It’s a cinematic atmosphere as potent as a dream; this first shot from William E. Jones’s Film Montages (for Peter Roehr) isn’t the kind of image one might associate with porn. In fact, highly poetic urban documentary was commonplace in ’70s and early ’80s gay porn. Directors such as Fred Halsted, Christopher Rage, and Peter Berlin used film to creatively explore and express sexual identity before urban gay life was attacked by AIDS and vampirized by mainstream consumerism. For Jones, the works of these underworld auteurs contain an endless array of sidelines to rediscover and uncover. Instead of excavating the era’s graphic, condom-free sex, he spotlights the erotically charged spaces around it.

With a feature doc about Latino Smiths fans (2004’s Is It Really So Strange?) on his résumé, Jones knows about hidden subcultural histories, his own included. He might be considered the unsung talent associated with the new queer cinema of the early ’90s. A few of the era’s bigger names (Todd Haynes, Gregg Araki) have since moved deeper into Hollywood, while others (Jennie Livingston, Tom Kalin) seem trapped in creative lockdown. Jones’s semiautobiographical 1991 feature, Massillon, was, along with Haynes’s Superstar, the most experimental and exciting formal work when the movement was cresting; since then his output has been infrequent and varied. Whereas Massillon (a huge influence on Jenni Olson’s recent San Francisco–set The Joy of Life) was shot, with oft-gorgeous results, on film, subsequent Jones works such as 1997’s unconventional biography Finished and the self-explanatory 1998 short The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (which would make for a perfect mini–double bill with Phil Collins’s 1999 How to Make a Refugee) primarily reframe preexistent video footage for new narrative purposes.

Last year, however, Jones experienced a renaissance in terms of output. Three of at least five works he completed during 2006 will be screened at the Pacific Film Archive this week; alas, Mansfield 1962, one of the best and a hot document of legally sanctioned homophobia, isn’t among them. Its title notwithstanding, Film Montages is the one that favors sensory pleasure over discursive pursuits. A tribute to the editing of the late German experimental filmmaker Roehr, it magnifies the visual and sonic textures of pre-AIDS gay porn through a series of short shots, initially presented in times-four repetitions. Wonderfully chunky bass lines and sinister-cold keyboard stabs, images of hands grazing against each other and over black leather, close-ups of tape recorders with Maxell C-90 tapes, campy Germanic voice-overs discussing men "who shyly moved about without ehhhvvver exchanging a word" — they all go through four-step paces, establishing a rhythmic musicality. Then Jones’s montage lands on an orgiastic still of four entwined male bodies, and he further emphasizes its languor — a quality now nonexistent, as Daniel Harris has noted, due to current porn’s bored god–playing–with–hairless dolls couplings — by increasing the repetition. From there the masculine noise of boots scuffling on a floor and snippets of threatening dirty talk about making "a real man’s man" lead to an ending that teases around the edges of climax with fetishistic fervor and skill.

In comparison, More British Sounds possesses an overtly argumentative politicism. There Jones matches images from the 1986 gay porn movie The British Are Coming with a soundtrack of uncannily current posh snob remarks from the Jean-Luc Godard–directed Dziga Vertov Group’s 1969 movie See You at Mao, a.k.a. British Sounds. Class warfare and sexual cannibalism are stripped bare, teased with a whip, tattooed, suckled, and showered in a mere eight minutes. To paraphrase Jones, More British Sounds counters the complete lack of homosexuality in Godard’s films, rephrasing the French auteur’s famous remark that all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun — in this case all you need are some boys and a locker room.

The contents of the 59-minute v.o. aren’t so clearly delineated, and the frisson they produce might not be as intense — though for some viewers, that might be due to a familiarity with the source material, whether it be Halsted’s 1972 L.A. Plays Itself or tape recordings of Jean Genet and Rosa von Prauheim spouting off presciently about homosexual fatalism and conservatism. Not so much a mashup as a metamaze odyssey through the subways, nighttime ghetto alleys, and other spaces of pre-AIDS and pre-Internet gay cruising, v.o. doesn’t take its title from voice-over — even if the abbreviation does suggest that facet, which is dominant in many Jones films — so much as version originale, a French term used for films presented in their original language with subtitles. Subtitles over a bare bottom doesn’t make art, but in this case it makes for ripe nostalgia. Moving from a record needle into the dark hole of a Victrola like some dirty, dude-loving cousin of Inland Empire, v.o. might not end up anywhere in particular, but it finds a hell of a lot — Colonel Sanders’s face, gay-power graffiti, Halsted’s red Ranchero, a Peter Berlin S-M romp in the underground recesses of the SF Art Institute — along the way. *


Tues/20, 7:30 p.m., $4–$8

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft Way, Berk.

(510) 642-0808

For an extensive interview with Jones, go to our Pixel Vision blog at



FEB. 7



If you made a short movie for the cost of a lunch, how much would yours cost? In the case of Bobcat Goldthwait, the answer was $26.79; for Jem Cohen, it was $11.30. The person footing the bill each time was Mike Plante, whose LunchFilms project gets various directors to make a movie for a meal, with the contract written on a napkin. Every LunchFilm has some self-imposed rules: Martha Colburn is making a life-affirming movie with a bunny in it, while Cohen’s must contain full frontal. (Johnny Ray Huston)

7:30 p.m., $4-$8
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft Way, Berk.
(510) 642-1412


Day of solidarity with Haiti

Join an international protest of military violence in Haiti by United Nations troops, particularly a mostly Brazilian squad that raided Cité Soleil in late December 2006, killing many civilians. (Deborah Giattina)

4:30 p.m. rally at Powell and Market, SF
5 p.m. march to the Brazilian Consulate
300 Montgomery, SF
(510) 483-7481,

Yay Area five-oh


“Before Vanishing: Syrian Short Cinema” A series devoted to films from Syria kicks off with a shorts program that includes work by Oussama Mohammed. (Sept. 7, PFA; see below)
The Mechanical Man The PFA’s vast and expansive series devoted to “The Mechanical Age” includes André Deed’s 1921 science fiction vision of a female crime leader and a robot run amok. The screening features live piano by Juliet Rosenberg. (Sept. 7, PFA)
“Cinemayaat, the Arab Film Festival” This year’s festival opens with the Lebanon-Sweden coproduction Zozo and also includes the US-Palestine documentary Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority, which looks at events before and after Israel’s 1948 occupation of Palestine.
Sept. 8–17. Various venues. (415) 863-1087,
“Global Lens” The traveling fest includes some highly lauded films, such as Stolen Life by Li Shaohong, one of the female directors within China’s Fifth Generation.
Sept. 8–Oct. 4. Various venues. (415) 221-8184,
“MadCat Women’s International Film Festival” MadCat turns 10 this year, and its programming and venues are even more varied. Not to mention deep — literally. 3-D filmmaking by Zoe Beloff and Viewmaster magic courtesy of Greta Snider are just some of the treats in store.
Sept. 12–27. Various venues. (415) 436-9523,
The Pirate The many forms and facets of piracy comprise another PFA fall series; this entry brings a swashbuckling Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as Manuela, directed by then-husband Vincente Minnelli. (Sept. 13, PFA)
“A Conversation with Ali Kazimi” and Shooting Indians Documentarian Kazimi discusses his work before a screening of his critical look at Edward S. Curtis’s photography. (Sept. 14, PFA)
“The Word and the Image: The Films of Peter Whitehead” The swinging ’60s hit the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as curator Joel Shepard presents the first-ever US retrospective dedicated to the director of Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London. Includes proto–music videos made for Nico, Jimi Hendrix, and others. Smashing! (Sept. 14–28, YBCA; see below)
Edmond Stuart Gordon of Re-Aminator infamy makes a jump from horror into drama — not so surprising, since he’s a friend of David Mamet. Willam H. Macy adds another sad sack to his résumé. (Sept. 15–21, Roxie; see below)
Anxious Animation Other Cinema hosts a celebration for the release of a DVD devoted to local animators Lewis Klahr, Janie Geiser, and others. Expect some work inspired by hellfire prognosticator Jack Chick!
Sept. 16. Other Cinema, 992 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-3890,
Kingdom of the Spiders Eight-legged freaks versus two-legged freak William Shatner. I will say no more.
Sept. 17. Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF. (415) 401-7987,
Landscape Suicide No other living director looks at the American landscape with the direct intent of James Benning; here, he examines two murder cases. (Sept. 19, PFA)
La Promesse and Je Pense à Vous Tracking the brutal coming-of-age of scooter-riding Jérémie Renier, 1997’s La Promesse made the name of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, but Je Pense is a rarely screened earlier work. (Sept. 22, PFA)
Muddy Waters Can’t Be Satisfied Billed as the first authoritative doc about the man who invented electric blues, this plays with Always for Pleasure, a look at New Orleans by the one and only Les Blank. (Sept. 22–26, Roxie)
Rosetta and Falsch The Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta made a splash at Cannes in 1999; Falsch is their surprisingly experimental and nonnaturalistic 1987 debut feature. (Sept. 23, PFA)
loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies A reunion tour movie. (Sept. 29–Oct. 5, Roxie)
American Blackout Ian Inaba’s doc about voter fraud made waves and gathered praise at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival; it gets screened at various houses, followed by a Tosca after-party, in this SF360 citywide event.
Sept. 30. Tosca Café, 242 Columbus, SF. (415) 561-5000,
Them! “Film in the Fog” turns five, as the SF Film Society unleashes giant mutant ants in the Presidio.
Sept. 30. Main Post Theatre, 99 Moraga, SF. (415) 561-5500,
“Zombie-Rama” Before Bob Clark made Black Christmas, Porky’s, and A Christmas Story, he made Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. The ending is as scary as the title is funny.
Oct. 5. Parkway Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400,
“Swinging Scandinavia: How Nordic Sex Cinema Conquered the World” Jack Stevenson presents a “Totally Uncensored” clip show about the scandalous impact of Scandinavian cinema on uptight US mores and also screens some rare cousins of I Am Curious (Yellow). (Oct. 5 and 7, YBCA)
“Mill Valley Film Festival” Why go to Toronto when many of the fall’s biggest Hollywood and international releases come to Mill Valley? The festival turns 29 this year.
Oct. 5–15, 2006. Various venues. (415) 383-5256,
“Fighting the Walking Dead” Jesse Ficks brings They Live to the Castro Theatre. Thank you, Jesse. (Oct. 6, Castro; see below)
Phantom of the Paradise Forget the buildup for director Brian de Palma’s Black Dahlia and get ready for a Paul Williams weekend. This is screening while Williams is performing at the Plush Room.
Oct. 6. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124,
Calvaire Belgium makes horror movies too. This one is billed as a cross between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance — a crossbreeding combo that’s popular these days. (Oct. 6–12, Roxie)
Black Girl Tragic and so sharp-eyed that its images can cut you, Ousmane Sembene’s 1966 film is the masterpiece the white caps of the French new wave never thought to make. It kicks off a series devoted to the director. (Oct. 7, PFA)
“Animal Charm’s Golden Digest and Brian Boyce” Boyce is the genius behind America’s Biggest Dick, starring Dick Cheney as Scarface. Animal Charm have made some of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
Oct. 7. Other Cinema, 992 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-3890,
Madame X, an Absolute Ruler Feminist director Ulrike Ottinger envisions a Madame X much different from Lana Turner’s — hers is a pirate. (Oct. 11, PFA)
“The Horrifying 1980s … in 3-D” Molly Ringwald (in Spacehunter), a killer shark (in Jaws 3-D), and Jason (in Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D) vie for dominance in this “Midnites for Maniacs” three-dimensional triple bill. (Oct. 13, Castro)
“Dual System 3-D Series” This program leans toward creature features, from Creature from the Black Lagoon to the ape astronaut of Robot Monster to Cat-Women on the Moon. (Oct. 14–19, Castro)
“Early Baillie and the Canyon CinemaNews Years” This program calls attention to great looks at this city by Baillie (whom Apichatpong Weerasethakul cites as a major influence) and also highlights the importance of Canyon Cinema. (Oct. 15, YBCA)
“War and Video Games” NY-based film critic Ed Halter presents a lecture based on From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, his new book. (Oct. 17, PFA)
Santo Domingo Blues The Red Vic premieres a doc about bachata and the form’s “supreme king of bitterness,” Luis Vargas.
Oct. 18–19. Red Vic, 1727 Haight, SF. (415) 668-3994,
“Monster-Rama” The Devil-ettes, live and in person, and Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women, on the screen, thanks to Will “the Thrill” Viharo.
Oct. 19. Parkway Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400,
“Spinning Up, Slowing Down”: Industry Celebrates the Machine” Local film archivist Rick Prelinger presents six short films that epitomize the United States’ machine mania, including one in which mechanical puppets demonstrate free enterprise. (Oct. 19, PFA)
The Last Movie Hmmm, part two: OK, let’s see here, Dennis Hopper’s 1971 film gets a screening after he personally strikes a new print … (Oct. 20–21, YBCA)
What Is It? and “The Very First Crispin Glover Film Festival in the World” … and on the same weekend, Hopper’s River’s Edge costar Glover gets a freak hero’s welcome at the Castro. Sounds like they might cross paths. (Oct. 20–22, Castro)
I Like Killing Flies And I completely fucking love Matt Mahurin’s documentary about the Greenwich Village restaurant Shopsin’s, possibly the most characterful, funny, and poignant documentary I’ve seen in the last few years. (Oct. 20–26, Roxie)
“Miranda July Live” Want to be part of the process that will produce Miranda July’s next film? If so, you can collaborate with her in this multimedia presentation about love, obsession, and heartbreak.
Oct. 23–24. Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF. (415) 552-1990,
The Case of the Grinning Cat This 2004 film by Chris Marker receives a Bay Area premiere, screening with Junkopia, his 1981 look at a public art project in Emeryville. (Oct. 27, PFA)
The Monster Squad The folks (including Peaches Christ) behind the Late Night Picture Show say that this 1987 flick is the most underrated monster movie ever.
Oct. 27–28. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124,
Neighborhood Watch Résumés don’t get any better than Graeme Whifler’s — after all, he helped write the screenplay to Dr. Giggles. His rancid directorial debut brings the grindhouse gag factor to the Pacific Film Archive. (Oct. 29, PFA)
“Grindhouse Double Feature” See The Beyond with an audience of Lucio Fulci maniacs. (Oct. 30, Castro)
“Hara Kazuo” Joel Shepard programs a series devoted to Kazuo, including his 1969 film tracing the protest efforts of Okuzaki Kenzó, who slung marbles at Emperor Hirohito. (November, YBCA)
“International Latino Film Festival” This growing fest reaches a decade and counting — expect some celebrations.
Nov. 3–19. Various venues. (415) 454-4039,
Vegas in Space Midnight Mass makes a rare fall appearance as Peaches Christ brings back Philip Ford’s 1991 local drag science fiction gem.
Nov. 11. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124,
“As the Great Earth Rolls On: A Frank O’Hara Birthday Tribute” The birthday of the man who wrote “The Day Lady Died” is celebrated. Includes The Last Clean Shirt, O’Hara’s great collaboration with Alfred Leslie.
Nov. 17. California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF. (415) 552-1990,
Sites and Silences A shout-out to A.C. Thompson for his work with Trevor Paglen on the well-titled Torture Taxi, which helped generate this multimedia presentation by Paglen. (Nov. 19, YBCA)
“Kihachiro Kawamoto” One of cinema’s ultimate puppet masters receives a retrospective. (December, YBCA)
“Silent Songs: Three Films by Nathaniel Dorsky” The SF-based poet of silent film (and essayist behind the excellent book Devotional Cinema) screens a trio of new works. (Dec. 10, YBCA)
429 Castro, SF
(415) 621-6120
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-5249
3317 16th St., SF
(415) 863-1087
Screening room, 701 Mission, SF
(415) 978-2787\ SFBG



“It just ain’t a kegger without Church Mouse.” So says someone at a rager in Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines’s controversial Seventeen, and almost 25 years since the movie was first suppressed, my favorite line of movie dialogue in 2006 has arrived. Seventeen isn’t Not Your Average Teen Movie, nor is it your average teen movie. It might be the best movie about teenage life I’ve seen — one that walks high school hallways more convincingly than Frederick Wiseman (let alone Gus Van Sant), and one that makes some of Larry Clark’s underage adventures (certainly his explorations of race) seem trifling.
Complete with a freckled Bobby Brady look-alike chugalugging beer, DeMott and Kreines’s direct-cinema study of students in Muncie, Ind., incited the wrath of Xerox, a corporate sponsor that canceled the film from PBS broadcast and then went on to target it (helped by dronelike journalists) with an effective smear campaign. Basically, Seventeen’s sin was to cut too far into life as it really was (still is?) in the Midwest.
Viewed today, period details in this documentary are 200 proof. In comparison, Hollywood nostalgia is tame and bogus. The filmmakers’ portrait of what they call “high girlishness and boyishness” (emphasis on the high) comes loaded with feathered hair, ’fros, Dorothy Hamill cuts, thin gold necklaces, and jerseys with iron-on letters. The soundtrack is split, with the black kids listening to Smokey Robinson (the magnificent “Being with You”) and Ronald Isley and the white kids largely rocking out to the dreams and nightmares of AOR (where rock ’n’ roll never forgets and you don’t have to live like a refugee if you hold on to me against the wind).
The tension between these sounds matches the human interaction in DeMott and Kreines’s movie, which among other story threads follows a white girl, Lynn Massie, as her romance with a black boy inspires bigots to put a burning cross on her front yard. Critic Armond White once observed that Massie’s life is “the best Debra Winger role that Debra Winger never played,” and if there can be a Searching for Debra Winger, then Massie’s fate also deserves some speculation, because it’s impossible to walk out of Seventeen without wondering what happened to all these teens — and their babies. (Johnny Ray Huston)
Tues/22, 7:30 p.m.
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-0808

After the Revolution


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If you have any interest in seeing Philippe Garrel’s latest feature on the big screen, its three San Francisco International Film Festival screenings may be your only chance. While Regular Lovers is a major film by an important director associated with the French new wave, it’s hard to fathom a distributor gambling on a three-hour foray into French history with more emphasis on philosophy than on plot. In its reconsideration of the chaos that was 1968, the film is, in part, a response to Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers; there was a time when European art cinema mattered enough for this kind of exchange to turn heads, but such is not the case in today’s film culture.

If that seems too gloomy an opening, it should be said that Garrel’s disillusioned movie is all about things coming to an end. Whereas Bertolucci’s last film builds to epochal May ’68, Regular Lovers opens with fighting in the streets. Our protagonist, a young poet-radical named François (played by Louis Garrel, who also starred in The Dreamers and just happens to be Garrel’s son), skirts through the Latin Quarter as unorganized bands of freedom fighters overturn cars and toss Molotov cocktails. Garrel has said that this ghostly hour-long sequence attempts to re-create the documentary footage he himself shot during 1968, and, indeed, the perspective is almost journalistic in its distance. In one long shot, a man and woman embrace in the corner of the frame while cars burn a few meters away. If he had filmed the same scene, Bertolucci would have stylistically emphasized the kissing because, for him, this was a time when sex and politics were inextricably linked. Garrel’s vision is colder but makes more sense with 40 years of hindsight. For him, the romance and sexual liberation come after the revolution, or, more precisely, these elements (along with other distractions like opium and music) shift the revolution’s focus away from the political and toward the personal

And so it is that François falls in love with Lilie (Clotilde Hesme), a pensive girl-with-bangs who is a sculptor and goes to all the right parties. Young François trades his idealistic politics and poetry for romance and an increasingly nihilistic take on bohemianism, moving from the action of the Latin Quarter to the inertia of opium dens and artists’ lofts. By the film’s end, the events of May ’68 seem like more of a head trip (at one point François wonders whether it’s possible to "make the revolution for the working class despite the working class") than a true revolution.

Throughout Regular Lovers, there’s an obvious tension in the way Garrel uses ’60s-era new wave conventions (handheld camera, location shooting, etc.) to undercut that same decade’s mythos. But careful, the Paris of this film isn’t that of Breathless. Gone are the exhilarated long shots of boulevards and canals; Garrel pictures the city as a series of shadowy, bare interiors and geometric exteriors — more along the lines of Fritz Lang’s nightmarish visions of Berlin than, say, Cléo from 5 to 7.

Now that we’re seeing the return of the repressed in French culture and cinema (France’s postcolonial legacy haunts Michael Haneke’s Caché as well as at least three films playing at this year’s SFIFF: The Betrayal, I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed, and October 17, 1961), the entropy of Garrel’s narrative arc seems that much more dark and, as Paris burns once again, tragic. Although overlong and sometimes didactic, Regular Lovers reveals a filmmaker impressively responsive to change. SFBG


(Philippe Garrel, France, 2005)

Fri/21, 8:45 p.m., Kabuki

Sun/23, 12:45 p.m., Kabuki

April 29, 8:15 p.m., Pacific Film Archive