Roxie Theater

Film Listings: June 25 – July 1, 2014


Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, Lynn Rapoport, and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. For complete film listings, see


Frameline 38, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, runs through June 29 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF; Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, SF; and Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College, Berk. For tickets (most shows $10-15) and schedule, visit


Breathing Earth: Susumu Shingu’s Dream Japanese artist Susumu Shingu has built his career through his concerted engagement with the natural world. The wise and eternally smiling 75-year-old creates angular and often gargantuan mobiles that harness the power of wind and water to gyrate in ever-changing directions. In Breathing Earth, German director Thomas Riedelsheimer crafts a deliberately paced rumination on Shingu’s life philosophy that, while devoid of the frenetic facts, figures, and trite biographical rehashes that punctuate hyper-informative pop-docs, uses a beautifully simplistic narrative arc to illuminates Shingu’s attempt to create a hilly, open-air collection of windmills. The sculptor’s impassioned narration and charming conversations with potential landlords and investors (who usually entirely miss the point of his mission to raise environmental consciousness through aesthetic beauty) make Shingu impossible not to fall in love with — he is laid-back, funny, and astonishingly youthful. Riedelsheimer’s camera is similarly relaxed, gliding sumptuously over the green and wild landscapes on which Shingu installs his works. Despite his meditative tempo, Riedelsheimer manages to explore a remarkably wide scope; Shingu’s late-life marriage to a fellow sculptor, his appeals to both Japanese and German schoolchildren to care for the earth and help to avoid environmental disasters, and his intricate technical processes all receive intimate and inspiring sections. (1:37) Roxie, Smith Rafael. (David Kurlander)

Citizen Koch After quietly influencing conservative ideology, legislation, and elections for decades, the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers have found themselves becoming high-profile figures — much to their dismay, no doubt. The relative invisibility they hitherto enjoyed greatly abetted their impact in myriad arenas of public policy and “popular” conservative movements. Look behind any number of recent red-vs.-blue flashpoint issues and you can find their fingerprints: Notably state-level union busting; “smaller government” (i.e. incredible shrinking social services); seeding allegedly grassroots organizations like the Tea Party; furthering the Corporations = People thing (see: Citizens United); and generally helping the rich like themselves get richer while fostering working-class outrage at everybody else. This documentary by Trouble the Water (2008) co-directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessen touches on all those matters, while also focusing on Wisconsin as a test laboratory for the brothers’ Machiavellian think-tank maneuvers, following a Louisiana GOP candidate on the campaign trail (one he’s marginalized on for opposing corporate influence peddling), and more. Any one of these topics could support a feature of their own (and most already have). Citizen Koch‘s problem is that it tries to encompass too much of its subjects’ long reach, while (despite the title) leaving those subjects themselves underexplored. (It also suffers from being a movie completed at least 18 months ago, a lifetime in current US political terms.) For the reasonably well-informed this documentary will cover a lot of familiar ground—which is not to say that ground isn’t still interesting, or that the added human interest elements don’t compel. But the film covers so much ground it ends up feeling overstuffed and unfocused. (1:26) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Coherence See “Vortex Room.” (1:29) Presidio.

Korengal This companion piece to 2010’s Oscar-nominated Restrepo — one of the best docs about modern-day warfare to date, offering unfiltered access to an Army platoon stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley — uses previously unseen footage shot during the year filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington spent shadowing their subjects. Korengal is structured as a more introspective work, with musings on what it feels like to be a soldier in the Korengal, surrounded by rough (yet strikingly beautiful) terrain populated by farmers who may or may not be Taliban sympathizers, not to mention unpredictable, heavily armed opponents referred to simply as “the enemy.” Interviews reveal sadness, boredom, a deep sense of brotherhood, and the frustrating feeling of going from “100 miles an hour to a dead halt” after the surreal exhilaration of a firefight. Korengal also functions as a tribute to Hetherington, who was killed in 2011 while on assignment in Libya. Not only does his death add a layer of poignant subtext, it also suggests why Junger felt moved to revisit this story. That said, though Korengal‘s footage is several years old, its themes remain distressingly timely. (1:24) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Eddy)

Snowpiercer Eighteen years after an attempt to reverse global warming has gone wildly awry — freezing all life into extinction — the only known survivors are on a one-of-a-kind perpetual-motion train that circles the Earth annually, has its own self-contained ecosystem, and can smash through whatever ice buildup has blocked its tracks since the last go-round. It’s also a microcosm of civilization’s worst class-economic-racial patterns over history, with the much-abused “tail” passengers living in squalor under the thumb of brutal military police. Unseen at the train’s front is its mysterious inventor, Wilford, whose minions enforce “Eternal Order Prescribed by the Sacred Engine.” Curtis (Chris Evans) is default leader of the proletariat’s latest revolt, in which they attempt to force their way forward though the prison section (where they free Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung as the train’s original lock designer and his psychic daughter) on to the wonders of the first class compartments, and beyond. This first (mostly) English-language feature by South Korean Bong Joon-ho (2006’s The Host, 2009’s Mother), based on a 1982 French graphic novel, starts out as a sort of locomotive, claustrophobic Mad Max (1979) variation. But it gets wilder and more satirical as it goes along, goosed by Tilda Swinton’s grotesquely comic Minister Mason, and Alison Pill as a teacher propagandist in a particularly hilarious set piece. In case the metaphor hasn’t already hit you on the head, one character explains “The train is the world, we the humanity.” But Snowpiercer‘s sociopolitical critique is as effective as it is blunt, because Bong handles everything here — visceral action, absurdist humor, narrative left-turns, neatly etched character archetypes, et al. — with style, confidence, and wit. Some of the FX may not be quite as seamless as it would have been in a $200 million Hollywood studio production, and fanboys will no doubt nitpick like nitwits at various “credibility gaps.” (As if this movie ever asks to be taken literally.) But by current, or any, sci-fi action blockbuster standards, this is a giddily unpredictable, risk-taking joy. (2:07) (Harvey)

Third Person A screenwriter, Paul Haggis, pens a script in which a novelist (Liam Neeson) sits alone in a smoke-filled hotel room in Paris struggling over a manuscript about a novelist who can only feel emotions through his characters. What that psychic state would actually look like remains unclear — when the woman (Olivia Wilde) he’s left his wife (Kim Basinger) for shows up, their playful, painful, fraught interactions reveal a man with above-average emotional reserves. Meanwhile, in another hotel in another city, Rome, a sleazy fashion industry spy (Adrien Brody) finds his life turned sideways by a seemingly chance encounter in a bar with a beautiful Romanian woman (Moran Atias) in dire need of money. And in a third hotel, in Manhattan, a young woman (Mila Kunis) cleans up the suites she used to stay in when she was married to a renowned painter (James Franco), with whom she has a son she may or may not have harmed in some terrible way. The film broadly hints at connections between these three sets of lives — in each, the loss or endangerment of a child produces an unrelenting ripple effect; speaking of which, objects unnaturally submerged in water present an ominous visual motif. If the movie poster doesn’t give the game away as you’re walking into the theater, the signposts erected by Haggis ensure that you won’t be in the dark for long. Learning how these characters relate to one another, however, puts considerable drag on the fabric of the plot, exposing the threadbare places, and where Haggis offers his tortured characters redemption, it comes at the cost of good storytelling. (2:17) Shattuck. (Rapoport)

Transformers: Age of Extinction Mark Wahlberg and the Dinobots star in the latest installment of Michael Bay’s action sci-fi series. (2:30) Presidio.

Under the Electric Sky Hey, raver! This 3D concert film enables you to experience the Electric Daisy Carnival without punching any holes in your brain. (1:25)

Violette Taking on another “difficult” woman artist after the excellent 2008 Séraphine (about the folk-art painter), Martin Provost here portrays the unhappy life of Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devos), whose fiction and autobiographical writings eventually made her a significant figure in postwar French literature. We first meet her waiting out the war with gay author Maurice Sachs (Olivier Py), one of many unrequited loves, then surviving via the black market trade before she’s “discovered” by such groundbreaking, already-established talents as Jean Genet (Jacques Bonnaffé) and Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain). It is the latter, a loyal supporter who nonetheless retains a chilly emotional distance, who becomes bisexual Violette’s principal obsession over the coming 20 years or so. Devos does her best to portray “a neurotic crazy washed-up old bag” with an “ugly mug” — hardly! — who is perpetually broke, depressed, and awkward, thanks no doubt in part to her mean witch of a mother (Catherine Hiegel). “Screaming and sobbing won’t get you anywhere,” Simone at one point tells her, and indeed Leduc is a bit of a pill. For the most part lacking the visual splendors of Séraphine (this character’s environs weren’t so pastoral), Violette is finely acted and crafted but, like its heroine, hard to love. (2:18) Albany, Embarcadero. (Harvey)


Belle The child of a British naval officer and a Caribbean slave, Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is deposited on the doorstep — well, the estate grounds — of her father’s relatives in 1769 England after her mother dies. Soon she’s entirely orphaned, which makes her a wealthy heiress and aristocratic title holder at the same time that she is something less than human in the eyes of her adopted society. For Belle is black (or more properly, mixed-race), and thus a useless curiosity at best as a well-bred noblewoman of the “wrong” racial makeup. Based on a murky actual historical chapter, Amma Asante’s film is that rare sumptuous costume drama which actually has something on its mind beyond romance and royalty. Not least among its pleasures are a fine supporting cast including Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, and Emily Watson. (1:45) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Harvey)

A Coffee in Berlin How do you say “mumblecore” in German? Jan Ole Gerster’s debut feature has certain arty pretensions — it’s shot in black-and-white, and scored with peppy jazz — but it’s more or less a rambling day in the life of law school dropout Niko (Tom Schilling). It happens to be the very day Niko’s golf-loving father decides to stop funding his shiftless son’s slacker lifestyle, though that crisis (which, you know, Lena Dunham built an entire HBO comedy around) receives nearly equal heft as a cutesy ongoing gimmick that sees Niko incapable of getting a cup of coffee anywhere in Berlin. Hipster ennui can be compelling if it has some underlying energy and purpose (see: 2013’s Frances Ha, to which this film has been compared), but A Coffee in Berlin comes up short on both. That said, it does offer an intriguing portrayal of Berlin — a city whose modern-chic façade barely contains the history that haunts it — and some of its supporting characters, particularly Friederike Kempter as a former schoolmate of Niko’s who has outgrown him emotionally by about one thousand percent, provide pleasant enough distractions. (1:28) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Eddy)

The Fault in Our Stars I confess: I’m no card-carrying, vlog-flogging Nerdfighter in author John Green’s teen-geek army. But one can admire the passion — and teary romanticism — of the writer, readers, and the breakthrough novel that started it all. Much has been made over the cinematic tweaks to the best-selling YA book, but those seem like small beefs: OK, male romantic lead Gus’s (Ansel Elgort) perhaps-understandable brattiness seems to have been toned down a touch, but we’ll all get the somewhat-subversive push and pull of Green’s love story centered on two cancer-stricken innocents. Sixteen-year-old Hazel (a radiant Shailene Woodley) has been battling cancer almost all her life, fighting back from the brink, and now making her way every day with an oxygen tank and her devoted parents (Laura Dern, Sam Trammel) by her side. Her mordant wit, skeptical attitude, and smarts attract Gus, a handsome teen with a prosthetic leg, at a cancer support group, and the two embark on what seems like the most normal thing in the world — sweet, sweet love — albeit cut with the poignancy of almost-certain doom. Would the girl who calls herself a grenade dare to care for someone she will likely hurt? That’s the real question on her mind when the two reach out to the solitary author (Willem Dafoe) of their favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. The journey the two make leaves them both open to more hurt than either ever imagined, and though a good part of Fault‘s denouement boils down to a major puddle cuddle — with solid performances by all, but particularly Dern and Woodley — even a cynic is likely to get a bit misty as the kids endure all the stages of loss. And learning. (2:05) Balboa, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, SF Center. (Chun)

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia Nicholas Wrathall’s highly entertaining documentary pays tribute to one of the 20th century’s most brilliant, original, and cranky thinkers, with extensive input from the man himself before his death in 2012 at age 86. The emphasis here is less on Vidal’s life as a literary lion and often glittering celebrity social life than on his parallel career as a harsh scold of US social injustices and political corruption. (Needless to say, recent history only sharpened his tongue in that department, with George W. Bush dismissed as “a goddamn fool,” and earlier statements such as “This is a country of the rich, for the rich and by the rich” seeming more apt than ever.) He’s a wellspring of wisdoms both blunt and witty, sometimes surprising, as in his hindsight doubts about the virtues of JFK (a personal friend) as a president. We get plenty of colorful archival clips in which he’s seen verbally jousting with such famous foes as William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer, invariably reducing them to stammering fury while remaining exasperatingly unruffled. His “out” homosexuality and outré views on sexuality in general (at odds with an increasingly assimilationist gay community) kept him controversial even among many liberals, while conservatives were further irked by his rock-solid family connections to the ruling elite. In our era of scripted political rhetoric and pandering anti-intellectualism, it’s a joy merely to spend an hour and half in the company of someone so brilliantly articulate on seemingly any topic — but particularly on the perpetually self-mythologizing, money-worshipping state of our Union. (1:29) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)

The Grand Seduction Canadian actor-director Don McKellar (1998’s Last Night) remakes 2003 Quebecois comedy Seducing Doctor Lewis, about a depressed community searching for the town doctor they’ll need before a factory will agree to set up shop and bring much-needed jobs to the area. Canada is still the setting here, with the harbor’s name — Tickle Head — telegraphing with zero subtlety that whimsy lies ahead. A series of events involving a Tickle Head-based TSA agent, a bag of cocaine, and a harried young doctor (Taylor Kitsch) trying to avoid jail time signals hope for the hamlet, and de facto town leader Murray (Brendan Gleeson) snaps into action. The seduction of “Dr. Paul,” who agrees to one month of service not knowing the town is desperate to keep him, is part Northern Exposure culture clash, part Jenga-like stack of lies, as the townspeople pretend to love cricket (Paul’s a fanatic) and act like his favorite lamb dish is the specialty at the local café. The wonderfully wry Gleeson is the best thing about this deeply predictable tale, which errs too often on the side of cute (little old ladies at the switchboard listening in on Paul’s phone-sex with his girlfriend!) rather than clever, as when an unsightly structure in the center of town is explained away with a fake “World Heritage House” plaque. Still, the scenery is lovely, and “cute” doesn’t necessarily mean “not entertaining.” (1:52) Albany, Embarcadero. (Eddy)

Ida The bomb drops within the first ten minutes: after being gently forced to reconnect with her only living relative before taking her vows, novice nun Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) learns that her name is actually Ida, and that she’s Jewish. Her mother’s sister, Wanda (Agneta Kulesza) — a Communist Party judge haunted by a turbulent past she copes with via heavy drinking, among other vices — also crisply relays that Ida’s parents were killed during the Nazi occupation, and after some hesitation agrees to accompany the sheltered young woman to find out how they died, and where their bodies were buried. Drawing great depth from understated storytelling and gorgeous, black-and-white cinematography, Pawel Pawilowski’s well-crafted drama offers a bleak if realistic (and never melodramatic) look at 1960s Poland, with two polar-opposite characters coming to form a bond as their layers of painful loss rise to the surface. (1:20) Albany, Clay, Piedmont. (Eddy)

Ivory Tower The latest “issue doc” to come down the pipeline is this very timely and incisive look at the cost of higher education from director Andrew Rossi (2011’s Page One: Inside the New York Times). Rossi is a Yale and Harvard Law grad, and he begins his film in the hallowed halls of the latter to frame the question: In the era of skyrocketing tuition, and with the student loan debt hovering at a trillion bucks, is college still worth it? The answer is left open-ended, though with the very strong suggestion that nontraditional education (including community colleges, online learning, and the Silicon Valley-spawned “uncollege” movement) is certainly something worth exploring, particularly for the non-wealthy. Along the way, we do see some positive tales (a kid from the mean streets of Cleveland gets a full-ride scholarship to Harvard; students at rural Deep Springs College follow philosophy discussions with farm work; African American women at Spelman College thrive in an empowering environment), but there’s a fair amount of cynicism here, too, with a hard look at how certain state schools are wooing deep-pocketed out-of-staters with fancy athletic stadiums, luxurious amenities, and a willingness to embrace, however unofficially, their hard-partying reputations. Segments following a student protest at New York’s Cooper Union, a formerly free school forced to consider collecting tuition after a string of financial troubles, echo Frederick Wiseman’s epic At Berkeley (2013), a thematically similar if stylistically very different work. (1:37) California. (Eddy)

Jersey Boys The musical that turned the back story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — the 1960s hit making machines behind upbeat doo-wop ditties like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and a zillion more; you will recognize all of them — into Broadway gold ascends to the big screen thanks to director Clint Eastwood, a seemingly odd choice until you consider Eastwood’s own well-documented love of music. Jersey Boys weaves a predictable tale of show biz dreams realized and then nearly dashed, with a gangster element that allows for some Goodfellas-lite action (a pre-fame Joe Pesci is a character here; he was actually from the same ‘hood, and was instrumental in the group’s formation). With songs recorded live on-set, à la 2012’s Les Misérables, there’s some spark to the musical numbers, but Eastwood’s direction is more solid than spontaneous, with zero surprises (even the big finale, clearly an attempt at a fizzy, feel-good farewell, seems familiar). Still, the cast — including Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Valli, and Christopher Walken as a sympathetic mobster — is likable, with Young in particular turning in a textured performance that speaks to his years of experience with the role. For an interview with cast members Young, Michael Lomenda (who plays original Four Season Nick Massi), and Erich Bergen (as Bob Gaudio, the member who wrote most of the group’s hits), visit (2:14) Four Star, Marina, 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki, Vogue. (Eddy)

Obvious Child We first encounter the protagonist of writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s funny, original film — a Brooklyn-dwelling twentysomething named Donna (Jenny Slate), who works at a lefty secondhand bookstore and makes regular (if unpaid) appearances at a local comedy night — onstage mining such underdiscussed topics as the effects of vaginal discharge on your garden-variety pair of underwear. This proves a natural segue to other hefty nuggets of embarrassment gold concerning her love life, to the dismay of boyfriend Ryan (Paul Briganti), auditing from the back of the club. He pretty much deserves it, however, for what he’s about to do, which is break up with her in a nasty, well-populated unisex bathroom, taking time to repeatedly glance at the texts coming through on his phone from Donna’s good friend, with whom he’s sleeping. So when Donna, mid-drowning of sorrows, meets a nice-looking fellow named Max (Jake Lacy) at the bar, his post-fraternity-presidency aesthetic seems unlikely to deter her from a one-night stand. The ensuing trashed make-out dance-off in Max’s apartment to the Paul Simon song of the title is both comic and adorable. The fractured recap of the evening’s condom-free horizontal events that occurs inside Donna’s brain three weeks later, as she hunkers down with her best friend, Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann), in the bookstore’s bathroom after peeing on a stick, is equally hilarious — and unwanted-pregnancy jokes aren’t that easy to pull off. Robespierre’s treatment of this extended windup and of Donna’s decision to have an abortion is a witty, warmhearted retort to 2007’s Knocked Up, a couple generations’ worth of Hollywood rom-com writers, and an entertainment industry that continues to perform its sweaty contortions of storytelling in the gutless cause of avoiding the A-word. (1:15) California, Embarcadero, Piedmont, Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)

Ping Pong Summer Eighties teen flicks of the My Bodyguard (1980), smart-dweebs-beat-the-bullies ilk are paid homage in Michael Tully’s deadpan satire, which is closer in spirit to the Comedy of Lameness school whose patron saint is Napoleon Dynamite. Radley (Marcello Conte) is an average teen so excited to be spending the summer of 1985 in Ocean City, Md. with his family that he renames himself “Rad Miracle.” He acquires a new best friend in Teddy (Myles Massey), who as the whitest black kid imaginable might make even Rad look cool by comparison. However, they are both dismayed to discover the local center for video gaming and everything else they like is ruled by bigger, older, cuter, and snottier douchebag Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry) and his sidekick. Only kicking Lyle’s ass at ping pong — with some help from a local weirdo (a miscast Susan Sarandon, apparently here because she’s an off screen ping pong enthusiast) — can save Rad’s wounded dignity, and the summer in general. A big step up from Tully’s odd but pointless prior Septien (2011), this has all the right stuff (including a soundtrack packed with the likes of the Fat Boys, Mary Jane Girls, New Edition, Whodini, and Night Ranger) to hilariously parody the era’s inanities. But it’s just mildly amusing — a droll attitude with lots of period detail but not much bite. (1:32) Roxie. (Harvey)

The Rover Future days have never seemed quite so bleak as they are depicted in the wild, wild Aussie west of The Rover — rendered by Animal Kingdom (2010) director David Michod, who co-wrote The Rover with Joel Edgerton. Let’s just say we’re probably not going to see any primo Burner ensembles inspired by this post-apocalyptic yarn: Michod ventures to a plausible future only a decade out, after a global economic collapse, and breaks down the brooding road trip to its hard-boiled bones, setting it in a beauteous, lawless, and unceasingly violent outback. A heist gone wrong leads a small gang of robbers to steal the car belonging to monosyllabic, ruthless mystery man Eric (Guy Pearce). The latter wants his boxy little sedan back, badly, and, in the cat and mouse game that ensues, seems willing to die for the trouble. Meanwhile, one of the gang of thieves — the slow, dreamy Rey (Robert Pattinson), who has been left to die of a gunshot wound in the dirt — turns out to be more of a survivor than anyone imagined when he tracks down the tracker hunting for his brother and cohorts. Michod seems most interested in examining and turning over the ties that bind, in a mean time, an eminently absurdist moment, when everything else has fallen away in the face of sheer survival. Cineastes, however, will appreciate the elemental, existential pleasures of this dog-eat-dog Down Under out-Western, not the least of which include the performances. Pearce’s rework of the Man With No Name exudes intention in the very forward thrust of his stance, and Pattinson breaks his cool — and the confines of typecasting — as a blubbering, babbling, thin-skinned man-child. Clad in the mystic expanses of the South Australia desert, which tip a hat to John Ford Westerns as well as scorched-earth-of-the-mind movies such as El Topo (1970) and Paris, Texas (1984), The Rover is taken to the level of tone poem by the shuddering, moaning cellos of Antony Partos’s impressive, atonal electroacoustic score. (1:42) Metreon, Shattuck. (Chun)

The Signal Sharing its title with a 2007 film — also a thriller about a mysterious transmission that wreaks havoc in the lives of its protagonists — this offbeat feature from co-writer and director William Eubank belies its creator’s deep affection for, and knowledge of, the sci-fi genre. Number one thing The Signal is not is predictable, but its twists feel organic even as the story takes one hairpin turn after another. MIT buddies Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are driving Nic’s girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke), cross-country to California. Complicating the drama of the young couple’s imminent separation is Nic’s deteriorating physical condition (it’s never explained, but the former runner apparently has MS or some other neurological disease). The road trip turns dark when the trio (who also happen to be hackers) realize an Internet troll they’ve tangled with in the past is stalking them. After a brief detour into found-footage horror — fooled ya, Eubank seems to be saying; this ain’t that kind of movie at all! — the kids find themselves embroiled in ever-more-terrifying realities. To give away more would ruin the fun of being shocked for yourself, but think Twilight Zone meets Area 51 meets a certain futuristic trilogy starring Laurence Fishburne, who turns up here to play a very important role in Nic and company’s waking nightmare. (1:37) Metreon. (Eddy) *


Reel pride


The Case Against 8 (Ben Cotner and Ryan White, US) This documentary follows the successful fight to have Proposition 8 overturned as unconstitutional and restore legality to gay marriage in California. There’s way too much time spent on the couples chosen as plaintiffs, a Berkeley lesbian pair and two Los Angeles male partners — we get it, they’re nice people — and the decisions to disallow broadcast of the eventual court proceedings means we get laborious recitations of what people have already said on record. Frameline has shown so many documentaries about gay marriage already that festival regulars may find this one covers too much familiar ground at excessive length. (It also doesn’t bother giving much screentime to the anti-gay forces, which might have livened things up a bit.) Still, it’s a duly inspirational tale, with real entertainment value whenever the focus turns to the case’s very unlikely chief lawyers: mild-mannered Ted Olson and boisterous David Boies, the latter a longtime leading conservative attorney who’d argued the other side against Olson in the Bush v. Gore presidential election decision. Nonetheless, he’s all for marriage equality, and these otherwise widely separated figures are great fun to watch as they work, taking considerable pleasure in each other’s company. Thu/19, 7pm, Castro. (Dennis Harvey)

Bad Hair (Mariana Rondón, Venezuela, US) Living in a Caracas tenement, Marta (Samantha Castillo) has no husband, no romance in her life, and now no job after she’s fired from a security company. She turns her frustrations on the older of her two fatherless children, 10-year-old Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano), whose insistence on straightening his hair like the people he sees on TV strikes her as incipiently gay — and that is something she is not willing to tolerate. Mariana Rondón’s prize-winning feature is a small, subtle drama about the poisoning effects of economic pressure and homophobia within the family unit. It’s also quietly devastating about something you don’t often see in movies: The real-world truth that, sometimes, deep down, parents really don’t love their children. Sat/21, 1:30pm, Roxie. (Harvey)

Floating Skyscrapers (Tomasz Wasilewski, Poland, 2013) Competitive swimmer Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) has moved girlfriend Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz) into the Warsaw apartment he shares with his possessive divorced mother (Katarzyna Herman), but the two women don’t get along and Kuba doesn’t seem very committed to the relationship anyway. So Sylwia immediately worries her days are numbered when Kuba — who already indulges in the occasional furtive public gay sex — shows unusual interest in out Michal (Bartosz Gelner). As the two young men grow closer, it becomes clear that this is something neither of the women in Kuba’s life will stand for. Tomasz Wasilewski’s Polish drama has a crisp widescreen look and a minimalist air, with little dialogue articulating emotions the characters are wrestling with. Though its protagonist isn’t particularly likable, the film’s simultaneous confidence and ambivalence lends its eventually depressing progress real punch. Sat/21, 9:30pm, Victoria; June 26, 9:30pm, Roxie. (Harvey)

I Am Happiness On Earth (Julián Hernández, Mexico, 2013) When young dancer Octavio is picked up by well-known filmmaker Emiliano, he’s instantly smitten — not realizing yet that the latter is the kind of serial seducer allergic to fidelity. Rich, famous, and gorgeous, he can have anyone he wants, and he does. That’s about it for story in Julián Hernández’s latest, which features some of his characteristically lush camerawork and poetical romanticism. But it’s one of his weaker efforts, basically turning into one sex scene after another with even less attention to character and plot development than usual. This sexy, aesthetically sensual eye candy sports the odd enchanting moment, as when two men after a quickie are suddenly transfixed by the TV and begin singing a pop ballad along with it, to each other. But Hernández (2006’s Broken Sky, 2003’s A Thousand Peace Clouds Encircle the Sky) is a highly talented filmmaker who here seems to be running out of ideas. Sat/21, 9:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

The Foxy Merkins (Madeleine Olnek, US, 2013) Writer-director Madeleine Olnek of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2011) hits a bit of a sophomore slump with this similarly loopy but less inspired absurdist comedy. Lisa Haas returns as Margaret, a sad-sack new arrival to Manhattan who — apparently like most holders of Women’s Studies degrees — ends up homeless and prostituting herself to a large available client base of better bankrolled lesbians. She gets schooled in the ways of the street and kink-for-pay by veteran Jo (Jackie Monahan), who’s a good business partner if also a somewhat unreliable ally. After a hilarious first half hour or so, the movie runs out of steam but keeps plodding on to diminishing returns, despite scattered moments when Olnek and cast hit the comedic bull’s-eye. She’s got a unique sensibility, at once deadpan and utterly nonsensical, but it’s fragile enough to need a stronger narrative structure to sustain than it gets here to sustain feature length. Sun/22, 9:15pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Winter Journey (Sergei Taramaev and Luba Lvova, Russia, 2013) This stylish Russian drama depicts the paths-crossing and eventual unlikely friendship of two extremely different young men in Moscow. Keanu-looking Eric (Aleksey Frandetti) is a bratty, lieder-singing voice student who escapes pressures at home and school by getting drunk and hanging out with a circle of older gay artistic types. Lyokha (Evgeniy Tkachuk) is homeless and unstable, inclined toward picking fights and stealing stuff. Their not-quite-romance — a bit like a below-zero My Own Private Idaho (1991) with lots of Schubert — isn’t particularly credible, but it’s directed with confident panache by Sergei Taramaev and Luba Lvova, to ultimately quite poignant effect. Mon/23, 9:15pm, Victoria. (Harvey)

Violette (Martin Provost, France, 2013) Taking on another “difficult” woman artist after the excellent 2008 Séraphine (about the folk-art painter), Martin Provost here portrays the unhappy life of Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devos), whose fiction and autobiographical writings eventually made her a significant figure in postwar French literature. We first meet her waiting out the war with gay author Maurice Sachs (Olivier Py), one of many unrequited loves, then surviving via the black market trade before she’s “discovered” by such groundbreaking, already-established talents as Jean Genet (Jacques Bonnaffé) and Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain). It is the latter, a loyal supporter who nonetheless retains a chilly emotional distance, who becomes bisexual Violette’s principal obsession over the coming 20 years or so. Devos does her best to portray “a neurotic crazy washed-up old bag” with an “ugly mug” — hardly! — who is perpetually broke, depressed, and awkward, thanks no doubt in part to her mean witch of a mother (Catherine Hiegel). “Screaming and sobbing won’t get you anywhere,” Simone at one point tells her, and indeed Leduc is a bit of a pill. For the most part lacking the visual splendors of Séraphine (this character’s environs weren’t so pastoral), Violette is finely acted and crafted but, like its heroine, hard to love. Note: Frameline is also showing Violette Leduc: In Pursuit of Love, a documentary on the same subject. Mon/23, 9:15pm, Castro. (Harvey)

To Be Takei (Jennifer Kroot, US) The erstwhile and forever Mr. Sulu’s surprisingly high public profile these days no doubt sparked this documentary portrait by SF’s own Jennifer Kroot (2009’s It Came From Kuchar). But she gives it dramatic heft by highlighting the subject’s formative years in World War II Japanese-American internment camps, and finds plenty of verite humor in the everyday byplay between fairly recently “out” gay celebrity George and his longtime life and business partner Brad Altman — the detail-oriented, pessimistic worrywart to his eternally upbeat (if sometimes tactlessly critical) star personality. We get glimpses of them in the fan nerdsphere, on The Howard Stern Show, at Takei’s frequent speaking engagements (on internment and gay rights), and in his latter-day acting career both as perpetual TV guest and a performer in a hopefully Broadway-bound new musical (about internment). Then of course there’s the Star Trek universe, with all surviving major participants heard from, including ebullient Nichelle Nichols, sad-sack Walter Koenig, thoughtfully distanced Leonard Nimoy, and natch, the Shat (who acts like a total asshat, dismissing Takei as somebody he sorta kinda knew professionally 50 years ago.) We also hear from younger Asian American actors who view the subject as a role model, even if some of his actual roles weren’t so trailblazing (like a couple “funny Chinaman” parts in Jerry Lewis movies, and in John Wayne’s 1968 pro-Vietnam War film The Green Berets). Even if you’ve tired of Takei’s ubiquity online and onscreen, this campy but fond tribute is great fun. Tue/24, 6:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Back on Board: Greg Louganis (Cheryl Furjanic, US) For most Americans, the words “famous diver” conjure up only one name: Greg Louganis, the charismatic, record-breaking Olympian who dominated the sport in the 1980s. But as Cheryl Furjanic’s doc reveals, athletic perfection did not spell easy livin’ for Louganis. Though he hid the fact that he was gay (and HIV positive) from the public for years, his sexuality was an open secret in the diving world, and likely cost him lucrative endorsement deals. Louganis’ tale is not being shared for the first time (see also: the best-selling autobiography, which became a made-for-TV biopic), but Furjanic goes in deep, revealing Louganis’ considerable financial woes even as he finally finds personal happiness — and recharges his sports career when he’s asked to mentor 2012 Olympians. He’s clearly a good-hearted guy, and it’s hard not to root for him, particularly when we’re treated to so much footage of “the consummate diver” in his prime. He made it look easy, when clearly (in so many ways) it was not. June 25, 4pm, Castro. (Cheryl Eddy)

Regarding Susan Sontag (Nancy Kates, US) This excellent documentary by Nancy D. Kates (2003’s Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin) places more emphasis on the subject’s life — particularly her lesbian relationships — than on the ideas expressed in her work as a novelist, essayist, filmmaker, and cultural theorist. But it’s still a fine overview of a fascinating, often divisive figure. Extremely precocious (she began college at 15), she abandoned an early marriage for freedom in late 1950s Paris, then became a charismatic cultural theorist at the center of all 60s avant-gardisms. Her lovers included playwright Maria Irene Fornes, painter Jasper Johns, choreographer Lucinda Childs, and finally photographer Annie Liebovitz. A terrific diversity of archival footage and contemporary interviewees contribute to this portrait of a very complicated, difficult (both personally and as an artist/intellect) woman perpetually “interested in everything.” June 25, 7pm, Victoria; June 26, 7pm, Elmwood. (Harvey)

Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story (Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog, US) “I don’t do anything halfway,” admits Kristin Beck, a 20-year, highly-decorated veteran of the Navy SEALs. During her time in the military, she was known as Christopher — and she admits now, as a trans woman “trying to be the real person that I always knew I was, and always wished I could be,” that her willingness to embrace danger was a coping mechanism as she struggled to realize her true identity. In this moving, well-crafted doc, we follow along as Kristin travels to visit with family (some more accepting than others, and some, like her aging dad, making a heartfelt effort even as they stumble over pronouns and still call her “Chris”) and former Navy colleagues and fellow veterans, many of whom have put aside their initial confusion and embrace Kristin as she is. And who is she? A badass who survived multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, with a wry sense of humor and an easygoing, thoughtful personality, Beck is also an inspiration — an American hero on multiple levels. June 27, 1:30pm, Castro. (Eddy)

Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan, US) First seen packing her belongings under the malevolent eye of her newly ex–girlfriend, then walking unabashedly down the street with a harness and dildo in hand, Brooklyn-dwelling twentysomething Shirin (played by writer-director Desiree Akhavan) doesn’t seem like a person who has trouble owning her sexuality. And indeed, in the parts of her life that don’t require interacting with her close-knit Iranian American family, Shirin is an out, and outspoken, bisexual. Brash, witty, self-involved, and professionally unmoored, she has a streak of poor impulse control that leads her into situations variously hilarious, awkward, painful, and disastrous. Through a series of flashbacks, Akhavan walks us back through the medium highs and major lows of Shirin’s defunct relationship, while tracking her floundering present-day attempts to wobble back to standing. Akhavan’s first feature, Appropriate Behavior has a comic looseness that occasionally verges on shapelessness, but the stray bits are entertaining too. June 27, 7pm, Castro. (Lynn Rapoport)

Of Girls and Horses (Monika Treut, Germany) A semi-delinquent teenager named Alex (Ceci Chuh) is sent away to work on a horse farm as a sort of last-ditch effort to shift her onto a more salutary path. Under the care of thirtysomething Nina (Vanida Karun), who is taking time apart from urban life in Hamburg, where her girlfriend lives, Alex comes to fall under the quiet spell of the horses, and when another young girl, Kathy (Alissa Wilms), shows up to vacation at the farm with her horse, Alex falls for her as well. Director Monika Treut (1999’s Gendernauts) favors long, lyrical shots of horses grazing or gazing soulfully into the lens, of Nina and Kathy cantering over flat green expanses of countryside, and of Alex forking hay into the stalls. A few small dramas take place, but Of Girls and Horses is more of a sketch than a story, and whether it holds your interest may depend on how many Marguerite Henry horse stories you consumed in your youth. June 27, 9:15pm, Roxie. (Rapoport)

Futuro Beach (Karim Ainouz, Brazil) When two German men globe-trotting on their motorcycles go for a dip off the Brazilian coast, they’re pulled under by the current — only Konrad (Clemens Schick) is saved by local lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura), his companion lost. The two men console one another with sex. Then in the first of several disorienting jumps forward in time here, suddenly Donato has moved to Europe in order to continue their relationship, leaving his old life (including a dependent mother and younger brother) behind. There are further narrative leaps ahead — director Karim Ainouz (2002’s Madame Satã) is all about bold gestures here, but his visual and sonic assertiveness don’t necessarily fill the blanks in narrative and character development. The resulting exercise in style will leave you either dazzled or emotionally untouched. June 27, 9:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Cupcakes (Eytan Fox, Israel, 2013) After a run of politically tinged features, Eytan Fox (2002’s Yossi & Jagger, 2004’s Walk on Water) goes the Almodóvar-lite route with this flyweight comedy about a Eurovision-style song contest. Gay Ofer (Ofer Shechter) and various girlfriends who all live in the same Tel Aviv apartment building decide to enter the Universong competition, becoming Israel’s official entry with improbable ease despite never having performed publicly before. Their mild travails (fighting the creative inference of professional handlers, Ofer’s attempts to drag his boyfriend out of the closet) fill time pleasantly enough before the inevitable triumphant telecast climax. This candy-colored fluff, its mainstreamed camp sensibility predictably reflected in corny vintage hits (“Love Will Keep Us Together,” “You Light Up My Life”), is aptly named — it’s as colorful, easily digested, and about as nutritious as a tray of cupcakes. June 28, 8:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

I Feel Like Disco (Axel Ranisch, Germany, 2013) When housewife Monika (Christina Grobe) suffers a stroke and falls into a coma she may never come out of, her chubby teenage son Flori (Frithjof Gawenda) and junior high swim coach husband Hanno (Heiko Pinkowski) are forced to depend on each other without mom as a buffer. Things tentatively look up when Flori develops an unlikely friendship — and possibly something more — with dad’s star diver, Romanian émigré Radu (Robert Alexander Baer). Axel Ranisch’s gentle seriocomedy doesn’t make much of an impression for a while, springing few surprises (despite occasional deadpan fantasy sequences) along its moderately amusing path. But as father and son struggle to rise to the occasion of their shared crisis, we grow to like them more — and likewise this ultimately quite disarming feature. June 29, 7pm, Castro. (Harvey) *

Frameline 38, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, runs June 19-29 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF; Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, SF; and Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College, Berk. For tickets (most shows $10-15) and schedule, visit For even more Frameline 38 short takes, visit

Film Listings: June 4 – 10, 2014


Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, Lynn Rapoport, and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock.


The 13th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival runs June 5-19 at the Brava Theater, 2781 York, SF; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF; and Oakland School of the Arts Theater, 530 19th St, Oakl. For tickets (most shows $12) and complete schedule, visit For commentary, see “Peculiar Thrills.”


Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in this sci-fi thriller about an alien war being fought by soldiers caught in a seemingly endless time loop. (1:53) Four Star, Presidio.

The Fault in Our Stars Shailene Woodley stars in this based-on-a-best-seller romance about two teens who meet at a cancer support group. (2:05) Marina.

Night Moves Not to be confused with Arthur Penn’s same-named 1975 Gene Hackman thriller, Kelly Reichardt’s latest film nonetheless is also a memorably quiet, unsettling tale of conspiracy and paranoia. It takes us some time to understand what makes temporary allies of jittery Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), Portland, Ore.-style alterna-chick Dena (Dakota Fanning) and genial rural recluse Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), beyond it being a mission of considerable danger and secrecy. When things don’t go exactly as planned, however, the three react very differently to the resulting fallout, becoming possibly greater threats to one another than the police or FBI personnel pursuing them. While still spare by mainstream standard, this is easily Reichardt’s most accessible work, carrying the observational strengths of 2010’s Meek’s Cutoff, 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, and 2006’s Old Joy over to a genuinely tense story that actually goes somewhere. (1:52) Metreon. (Harvey)

Rigor Mortis Spooky Chinese folklore (hopping vampires) meets J-horror (female ghouls with long black hair) in this film — directed by Juno Mak, and produced by Grudge series helmer Takashi Shimizu — inspired by Hong Kong’s long-running Mr. Vampire comedy-horror movie series. Homage takes the form of casting, with several of Vampire‘s key players in attendance, rather than tone, since the supernatural goings-on in Rigor Mortis are more somber than slapstick. Washed-up film star Chin Siu-ho (playing an exaggerated version of himself) moves into a gloomy apartment building stuffed with both living and undead tenants; his own living room was the scene of a horrific crime, and anguished spirits still linger. Neighbors include a frustrated former vampire hunter; a traumatized woman and her white-haired imp of a son; a kindly seamstress who goes full-tilt ruthless in her quest to bring her deceased husband back to life; and an ailing shaman whose spell-casting causes more harm than good. Shot in tones so monochromatic the film sometimes appears black-and-white (with splashes of blood red, natch), Rigor Mortis unfortunately favors CG theatrics over genuine scares. That said, its deadpan, world-weary tone can be amusing, as when one old ghost-chaser exclaims to another, “You’re still messing around with that black magic shit?” (1:45) Metreon. (Eddy)

Test Writer-director Chris Mason Johnson sets his film at a particular moment in the early years of the AIDS epidemic — when the first HIV blood test became publicly available, in 1985 — within a milieu, the world of professional modern dance, that rarely makes an appearance in narrative films. Test‘s protagonist, Frankie (Scott Marlowe), is a young understudy in a prestigious San Francisco company, and the camera follows him on daily rounds from a rodent-infested Castro apartment, where he lives with his closeted roommate, to the dance studio, where he marks the steps of the other performers and waits anxiously for an opportunity to get onstage. Larger anxieties are hovering, moving in. We get a rehearsal scene in which a female dancer recoils from her male partner’s embrace, lest his sweat contaminate her; conversations about the virus in changing rooms and at parties; a sexual encounter between Frankie and a stranger, after which he stares at the man as if he might be a mortal enemy; a later, aborted encounter in which the man sits up in bed, appalled and depressed, after Frankie hesitantly proffers a condom, remarking, “They say we should use these&ldots;” A neighbor watches Frankie examine himself for skin lesions. Rock Hudson dies. Frankie warily embarks on a friendship with a brash, handsome fellow dancer (Matthew Risch) who offers a counterpoint to his cerebral, watchful reserve. And throughout, the company rehearses and performs, in scenes that beautifully evoke the themes of the film, a quiet, thoughtful study of a person, and a community, trying to reorient and find footing amid a cataclysm. (1:29) Elmwood (director in person Sat/7, 7:15pm show), Presidio (director in person Fri/6, 8:30pm; Sat/7, 3:50pm; and Sun/8, 6:15pm shows). (Rapoport)

We Are the Best! Fifteen years after Show Me Love, Lukas Moodysson’s sweet tale of two girls in love in small-town Sweden, the writer-director returns to the subject of adorably poignant teen angst. Set in Stockholm in 1982, and adapted from a graphic novel by Moodysson’s wife, Coco Moodysson, We Are the Best! focuses on an even younger cohort: a trio of 13-year-old girls who form a punk band in the interest of fighting the power and irritating the crap out of their enemies. Best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) spend their time enduring the agonies of parental embarrassment and battling with schoolmates over personal aesthetics (blond and perky versus chopped and spiked), nukes, and whether punk’s dead or not. Wreaking vengeance on a group of churlish older boys by snaking their time slot in the local rec center’s practice space, they find themselves equipped with a wealth of fan enthusiasm, but no instruments of their own and scant functional knowledge of the ones available at the rec center. Undaunted, they recruit a reserved Christian classmate named Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), whose objectionable belief system — which they vow to subvert for her own good — is offset by her prodigious musical talents. Anyone who was tormented by the indignities of high school PE class will appreciate the subject matter of the group’s first number (“Hate the Sport”). And while the film has a slightness to it and an unfinished quality, Moodysson’s heartfelt interest in the three girls’ triumphs and trials as both a band and a posse of friends suffuses the story with warmth and humor. (1:42) Embarcadero, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Rapoport)


Cold in July Though he’s best-known for his cut-above indie horror flicks (2010’s Stake Land; 2013’s We Are What We Are), Jim Mickle’s most accomplished film to date explores new turf for the writer-director: small-town noir. Cold in July, a thriller ranging across East Texas, circa 1989, is adapted from the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, who — buckle up, cultists — also penned the short story which spawned 2002’s Bubba Ho-Tep. That said, there are no supernatural elements afoot here; all darkness springs entirely from the coal-black hearts beating in its characters. Well, some of its characters, anyway; though Cold in July begins with a killing, the trigger hand is attached to mild-mannered Richard Dane (Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, rocking a splendid mullet). The masked man he shot was breaking into his home; Richard was just protecting his family, and the crime is breezed over by the police. Unlike Viggo Mortensen’s secret gangster in 2005’s A History of Violence, a film which begins with a similar premise, Richard has zero past aggression to draw on; dude’s got a history of mildness — with a heretoforth untapped curiosity about the wilder side of life awakened by a sudden bloody act. The good guy/bad guy dynamic is twisted, tested, and taken to extremes as the story progresses; it’s the sort of film best viewed without much knowledge of its plot twists, which are numerous and cleverly plotted. Throughout, the film expertly works its 1980s setting as both homage to and embodiment of the era’s gritty thrillers; its synth-heavy score and the casting of Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt) add to the feeling that Cold in July was crafted after much time spent in the church of St. John Carpenter. Amen to that. (1:49) Opera Plaza. (Eddy)

The Dance of Reality His unique vision recently re-introduced to audiences by unmaking-of documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, cinematic fabulist Alejandro Jodorowsky is back with his first film in a quarter-century. This autobiographical fantasia shows all initial signs of being a welcome yet somewhat redundant retread of his cult-famed early work (1970’s El Topo, 1973’s The Holy Mountain), as Santa Sangre was in 1989. It starts with the filmmaker himself fulminating wisdoms about the spiritual emptiness of a money-centric world, then appearing as guardian angel to his child self (Jeremias Herskovits). Little Alejandro is raised by a bullying, hyper macho father (Brontis Jodorowsky) and warm, indulgent mother (soprano Pamela Flores, singing every line of dialogue) who naturally clash at every turn. Jodorowsky’s stunning eye for bizarre imagery (abetted by DP Jean-Marie Dreujou’s handsome compositions) hasn’t faded, so there are delights to be had even in what fans might consider an over-familiar parade of dwarfs, amputees, anti clerical burlesques (like a dress-up dog beauty contest at church), Chaplinesque circus sentimentality, and other simple if surreal illustrations of society’s eternal victims and overlords. At a certain point, however, the misdeeds of father Jaime force his self-exile. The film’s consequent picaresque allegory of epic suffering toward redemption becomes cheerfully goofy, its symbol-strewn path increasingly funny and sweet rather than burdened by import. A large part of that appeal is due to junior Jodorowsky Brontis, who demonstrates considerable farcical esprit while flashing more full-frontal nudity than Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor combined ever dreamed of obliging. Shot in the family’s native Chile on a purported crowd funded budget of $3 million — could Hollywood provide so much original spectacle for 30 times that amount?—The Dance of Reality finds its 84-year-old maker as frisky as a pony, one that provides an endearingly unpredictable ride. (2:10) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)

The Grand Seduction Canadian actor-director Don McKellar (1998’s Last Night) remakes 2003 Quebecois comedy Seducing Doctor Lewis, about a depressed community searching for the town doctor they’ll need before a factory will agree to set up shop and bring much-needed jobs to the area. Canada is still the setting here, with the harbor’s name — Tickle Head — telegraphing with zero subtlety that whimsy lies ahead. A series of events involving a Tickle Head-based TSA agent, a bag of cocaine, and a harried young doctor (Taylor Kitsch) trying to avoid jail time signals hope for the hamlet, and de facto town leader Murray (Brendan Gleeson) snaps into action. The seduction of “Dr. Paul,” who agrees to one month of service not knowing the town is desperate to keep him, is part Northern Exposure culture clash, part Jenga-like stack of lies, as the townspeople pretend to love cricket (Paul’s a fanatic) and act like his favorite lamb dish is the specialty at the local café. The wonderfully wry Gleeson is the best thing about this deeply predictable tale, which errs too often on the side of cute (little old ladies at the switchboard listening in on Paul’s phone-sex with his girlfriend!) rather than clever, as when an unsightly structure in the center of town is explained away with a fake “World Heritage House” plaque. Still, the scenery is lovely, and “cute” doesn’t necessarily mean “not entertaining.” (1:52) Embarcadero. (Eddy)

Ida The bomb drops within the first ten minutes: after being gently forced to reconnect with her only living relative before taking her vows, novice nun Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) learns that her name is actually Ida, and that she’s Jewish. Her mother’s sister, Wanda (Agneta Kulesza) — a Communist Party judge haunted by a turbulent past she copes with via heavy drinking, among other vices — also crisply relays that Ida’s parents were killed during the Nazi occupation, and after some hesitation agrees to accompany the sheltered young woman to find out how they died, and where their bodies were buried. Drawing great depth from understated storytelling and gorgeous, black-and-white cinematography, Pawel Pawilowski’s well-crafted drama offers a bleak if realistic (and never melodramatic) look at 1960s Poland, with two polar-opposite characters coming to form a bond as their layers of painful loss rise to the surface. (1:20) Clay. (Eddy)

The Immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotilliard) is an orphaned Polish émigré who’s separated from her sickly sister at Ellis Island in 1921, and scheduled for deportation as an alleged “woman of low morals.” She’s rescued from that by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), though he’s not quite the agent of charity he seems — in fact, Ewa doesn’t realize she’s actually been recruited for a prostitution racket he thinly veils as a theatrical troupe. Still, she stays, believing she has no other viable path to freeing her sister from quarantine, she allows her own degradation for money’s sake. This latest collaboration between Phoenix and director-coscenarist James Gray is a handsome period piece that’s done skillfully and tastefully enough to downplay — but not quite hide — the fact that its moral melodrama might as well have been written (as well as set) nearly a century ago. Cotilliard is fine in her best English-language role to date, and Phoenix is compelling as usual; Jeremy Renner is somewhat miscast as a distant-third lead. But whether you find The Immigrant poignant or forced will depend on your tolerance for a script whose every turn is all too predictable. (2:00) Metreon. (Harvey)

Maleficent Fairytale revisionism is all the rage these days, what with the unending power of Disney princesses to latch into little girls everywhere and bring parental units (and their wallets) to their knees. Yet princesses almost seem beside the point in this villain’s-side-of-the-story tale — Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), the queen of the fairies in the magical moors, wronged by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who saws off her wings in order to win a crown. Accompanied by her shape-shifting minion, crow Diaval (Sam Riley), Maleficent attends the christening of King Stefan’s first-born daughter, Aurora, hot on the heels of three clownish good fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), and delivers a curse that will have this future Sleeping Beauty (Elle Fanning) prick her finger on a spindle and sink into a deathlike coma until her true love’s kiss. Will that critical smooch be delivered  by Prince Bieber, er, Phillip (Brenton Thwaites)? Considering the potential for Disney’s trademark, heart-tugging enchantment to get magically tangled up in girl power, it’s tough to suck up the disappointment in the ooey-gooey, gummy-faced troll-doll aesthetics of the art direction and animation, as well as first-time director Robert Stromberg’s choppy, dashed-through storytelling. Part of the problem is that there’s almost zero threat here, despite its antihero’s devilish presence — is there ever any doubt that a healthy resolution will win out, even at the expense of blood ties? Best to find dangerous pleasures where one can — namely in the vivid Jolie, cheekbones honed to a razor edge, who spits biting remarks at her accursed charge, beneath Joan Crawford-esque eyebrows and horns crying out for club-kid Halloween treatments. (1:37) Marina, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki, Vogue. (Chun) *


Good green: Lessons from the 4th annual SF Green Film Festival


I can count on my two hands the days it’s rained in San Francisco this year. You’d have to be living in a cave to not know that our city is having its worst drought in decades.

For that reason, the theme of the fourth annual San Francisco Green Film Festival is “Water in the West.” The festival, which began on Thu/29, is pushing us to reevaluate our relationship with water. As our state is faced with its worst drought since 1977, it is imminent that we answer the question on everyone’s minds: What is the future of water in California?

With over 60 films coming from 21 countries, the SFGFF is tackling our complicated relationship with water. Like a river flowing through the week-long festival, six feature films address this issue in varying ways: DamNation, Watermark, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, The Great Flood, Lost Rivers, and Chinatown.

Yesterday’s centerpiece film at the Roxie Theater, Watermark, explores humans’ relationship with water, traveling to countries far beyond what most of us have experienced. The film, directed by Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal and landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky, superimposes breathtaking aerial perspectives of water scenes from around the world. Watermark travels to the National Ice Laboratory in Greenland, the disturbing and daunting Xiluodu Dam in China, a heavily-polluted leather tannery in Bangladesh, a pilgrimage of 30 million people bathing in the Ganges river, and a parched, cracked desert in Mexico where the Colorado River used to run wild, among many other beautiful sites.

The film exposes the manifold layers of our water consumption and offers awe-inspiring cinematography but leaves something to be desired. With no narrator and minimal context, the documentary shows rather than tells. It excels visually, but flounders thematically. We see how the world consumes water for farming, for energy, for spiritual and recreational purposes and most importantly for survival but what does it all mean?

The Green Film Festival finds answers with a handful of other films. On Saturday night, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek was awarded the Green Tenacity Award for capturing the inspiring community fight for environmental justice in Mississippi. Over the weekend, the festival hosted two shorts showcases, several workshops, various panel discussions and nightly feature films, including a special 40th anniversary screening of Chinatown.

The event’s opening ceremony last Thursday night was fittingly held at the Aquarium of the Bay. It’s difficult to process the imminence of climate change with the majestical bay at fingertips length. But the opening night’s feature film DamNation drove the point home. The award winning documentary weaves together the ecological, political, economical and psychological implications of river dams. Focusing on the Pacific Northwest, the 87-minute film tracks the “era of dam removal.”

With nature-drenched cinematography and a candid narrator — co-director Ben Knight who admits in the first five minutes to his embarrassingly minimal knowledge on rivers dams when he signed onto the film — DamNation offers an excellent introduction to how the removal of river dams restore watershed ecosystems, revive fish migrations, improve water quality and the lives of adjacent communities and cultures. “The great beauty about wild fish is we don’t have to do a damned thing for them except leave them the hell alone,” says one of the activists in the film. At the end of the night, DamNation took home a 3-D printed award for Best Feature Film. The festival came full circle with Sunday night’s showing of The Great Flood, a film-music collaboration about the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, a catastrophe that prompted the “era of dams.”

The first leg of the Green Film Festival offered a wide array of perspectives about the green movement. Water is the world’s most precious resource and it affects all environmental issues from food security, healthy kids, and livable cities. The festival continues on with daily panel discussions and films promoting social change. Wednesday night’s Lost Rivers is the final installation of the six-part “Water in the West” theme. “Do you know what is hiding beneath our cities?” the film asks. Lost Rivers retraces history in search for disappeared rivers around the world. The film not only offers insight on how and why most rivers in major cities have disappeared today but also answers the question of whether we will see these rivers again.

Activism is rooted in community. For the fourth year, the Green Film Festival is engaging with the community through discussion and film. The community support in San Francisco is heartening. From the filled theaters to the community organizations who’ve partnered with this event: Earthjustice, American Rivers, Save the Bay, Restore the Delta and many others.

Water is invaluable to our daily lives but we treat water as an inexhaustible resource. The films showcased this week prove that this is not the case. Climate change is imminent and we are at the root of it. We can make a difference through education, engagement, activism, and our vote. And if you’re too lazy to do any of that, why not watch a film?


Seeds of Time + panel discussion with Sandy McLeod, director; Cary Fowler, agriculturalist; Greg Dalton, Climate One 

6pm, Roxie Theater

A Will for the Woods

8:30pm, Roxie Theater



Free Screening: Thin Ice: The Inside Story of Climate Science

12pm, SF Public Library


Angel Azul  + panel discussion with Marcy Cravat, director

6pm, Roxie Theater

Uranium Drive-In

8:15pm, Roxie Theater


Lost Rivers

6pm, Roxie Theater


Wrenched: The Legacy of the Monkey Wrench Gang + discussion with Ariana Garfinkel, archivist; David J. Cross, Earth First! photographer; Karen Pickett, activist; and other guest activists from the film.

8pm, Roxie Theater


Closing Night Wrap Party

10pm, Slate Bar

Stony lonesome


FILM Prison should be the most natural setting for film noir, as that’s where most of the genre’s protagonists are headed (if they don’t get bumped off first), and where many of them have already been. But it’s had spotty representation onscreen, with time served either skipped over in the narrative (how many pulp fictions start with a hard-luck protagonist just getting out of long-term for what’s sure to be short-term freedom?), or dominating entirely.

This spring’s edition of “I Wake Up Dreaming,” the recurrent Roxie noir showcase programmed by Elliot Lavine, has a number of notable titles dealing with the claustrophobic consequences of crime-not-paying. What’s even more notable this time around is the cross-pollination with Lavine’s other Roxie perennial, the series of Hollywood “pre-Codes” made in an approximately five-year window between the advent of “talkies” and the 1934 arrival of more rigidly enforced, censorious industry standards toward potentially objectionable content. Their peaks separated by about 15 years, pre-Codes and noirs shared a taste for hard-boiled dialogue and seamy situations, so their programmatic overlapping here feels right.

Two of the strongest entries here were released at least a decade before the arrival of anything that might legitimately be labeled noir. Daintily titled Ladies They Talk About (1933) is a rip-roaring original Women in Prison exploiter, with the inimitable Barbara Stanwyck as a moll who sashays into the hoosegow after enabling a bank stick-up. Getting two-to-five in San Quentin’s women’s ward, which here is like the world’s saltiest sorority, she quickly identifies her allies and enemies while spurning the visits of a childhood pal turned crusading DA (Preston Foster) — when she’d ratted on herself to prove “I’m on the level now” to him, he had the noive to actually charge her with the crime. That bum!

Another enduring star who came in with the sound era, Edward G. Robinson, gets all of Two Seconds (1932) to recall what got him to the electric chair — though that translates into a still-trim 67 minutes’ screen time in Mervyn LeRoy’s drama. The first half is a gem of snappy patter as the headliner and a terrific Foster play construction-worker roommates — Robinson the penny-pinching plodder, Foster the one always ready to blow his paycheck on booze, broads, and the horses. Yet it’s the former who’s taken for a chump’s ride by dancehall girl Vivienne Osborne, whose personality goes from Jekyll to Hyde the moment she’s manipulated him into an unholy matrimony. You can guess what happens — she’s already murder just to live with. As a none-too-bright lug who can’t get a break, Robinson gets a serious acting workout here, even if the climactic pre-execution Big Speech smacks overmuch of writing for Oscar’s sake.

Several rarities that verge on horror come from before and after the semi-official, immediately post-World War II noir era. Miracles for Sale (1939) was the final feature for director Tod Browning of Lon Chaney Sr. and Freaks (1932) fame. It stars Robert Young as a professional “magic” debunker investigating murders connected to an alleged witchcraft circle. Even so, this slick comedy thriller provides scant outlet for Browning’s love of the macabre.

Even less frequently revived are three early 1960s chillers: Erstwhile Incredible Shrinking Man Grant Williams plays a psychiatric patient and serial killer in The Couch (1962), Robert Bloch’s first screenplay after Hitchcock adapted his novel Psycho. The Hypnotic Eye (1960) has tall, dark, and handsome Jacques Bergerac (who married Dorothy Malone and Ginger Rogers) as a hypnotist whose prettier subjects tend to grotesquely disfigure themselves. Two on a Guillotine (1965) is a sub-William Castle gothic with the punishingly perky duo of Connie Stevens and Dean Jones having to spend an inheritance-earning week in the inevitable haunted house. They’re all terrible, but have a certain creaky charm.

Holding up very well indeed is 1949’s The Window, a rare genuine independent production of the era to achieve major recognition. As opening on-screen text announces, it’s the story of the boy who cried wolf — updated to a modern NYC tenement, where little Bobby Driscoll is testing the patience of his parents and playmates with his constant fabrications. Thus nobody believes him, of course, when he witnesses a real murder. Once his homicidal neighbors catch wind of him, our grade-school protagonist becomes prey himself. Criminal child endangerment was far from a typical story element in those days, and with its still-tense chase finale amid crumbling condemned buildings, The Window presented such a novelty that it won a (rather generous) special Oscar for Driscoll, who was usually seen in the more wholesome environs of Disney films like Song of the South (1946) and Treasure Island (1950). Yet soon after, adolescent acne would kill his acting career. Ironically echoing this famous role, the by-then heroin-addicted ex-con was found dead in an abandoned 1968 NYC tenement at age 31, his body found by playing children.

Other “Dreaming” highlights include a glossy 1947 double bill showcasing talented Warner Brothers star Ann Sheridan, the better being The Unfaithful, though Nora Prentiss has the virtue of being partly shot in SF. As sleepers go, though, two vintage “Bs” may rep the series’ best discoveries. Perhaps the program’s least likely inclusion is Angels in Disguise (1948), a later entry among the Bowery Boys’ nearly 100 juvenile hijinks. This one is a spoof of tough urban crime dramas, and a surprisingly good one, complete with shadow-heavy noir imagery and hard-boiled voiceover narration. As ever, the scene stealer is rubber-faced beanpole Huntz Hall.

From 1957, Death in Small Doses (“The picture that crosses the forbidden territory … of THRILL PILLS!”) rips the lid off amphetamine abuse among long-distance truckers, with future Mission: Impossible and Airplane! (1980) star Peter Graves as an undercover federal investigator. What makes it unmissable, however, is the supporting turn by none other than Chuck Connors (1979’s Tourist Trap, 1973’s Soylent Green) as perpetually hopped-up boarding-house hepcat “Mink.” If scene-stealing were a crime, Hall might get life without parole, but Connors would merit the chair. *


May 16-26

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St, SF


Devil’s advocate


FILM It’s taken nearly three years for Aleksandr Sokurov’s Faust to get to the Bay Area. That seems apt for what was surely, in 2011, the least popular recipient of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion in decades. Jury chief Darren Aronofsky (whose own epic about God and man’s purpose and such, Noah, is stone sober by contrast) called it the kind of movie that “changes you forever after you see it.” Others — especially those who expect some resemblance to the “tragedy by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe” the film claims to be based on, perhaps its first insidious joke — registered reactions in the general realm of “WTF?”

But mostly, this Faust simply hasn’t been seen very much, an odd fate for a fairly expensive art movie that purportedly Putin himself hoped would demonstrate the glory of modern Russian culture to the world. (Even if it is a German-language period piece shot in the Czech Republic.)

One can only imagine Vladimir’s subsequent dismay, and possible avowals to never again back auteurs without the surnames Bondarchuk or Mikhalkov — men who can be counted on to grunt out macho, patriotic cine-blintzes that in proud testament to national nepotism invariably get chosen as Russia’s official Oscar contenders. (Nikita Mikhalkov’s massive 2011 bust Burnt by the Sun 2: Citadel nudged out Faust for that honor, prompting international hilarity.)

What can Sokurov be counted on for? He is a weirdo. Even his popular triumphs — 1997’s rhapsodic Mother and Son; 2002’s extraordinary 300-years-of-history-in-one-traveling-shot Russian Ark — are very rarefied stuff, disinterested in conventional narrative or making their meanings too clear. In production scale, Faust is Sokurov’s biggest project, which hardly stops it also being possibly his most perverse. Whose idea was it to give this guy millions of euros in anticipation of something beautiful, accessible, or at least non-maddening? Surely a few heads rolled at the Russian Cinema Fund, Golden Lion or no.

But whatever bureaucrats’ loss is our gain … finally. Faust is compellingly, often hypnotically dreamlike and grotesque, a film not quite like any other. It rings bells redolent of certain classic 1970s Herzog features, and of course Sokurov’s own prior ones (as well as those by his late mentor Tarkovsky). But it has a stoned strangeness all its own. It’s not 140 minutes you should enter lightly, because you are going to exit it headily, drunk off the kind of questionable homebrew elixir that has a worm floating in it.

Bruno Delbonnel’s camera dives headlong from celestial clouds into a clammy mittle-Yurropeon town in which the thin margin between pissy bourgeoisie and dirty swine is none too subtly delineated when a funeral march collides with a cartful of porkers. Starving — for love, for lunch, for any sign that God isn’t just a nagging personal delusion — is Professor Faust (the marvelously plastic Johannes Zeiler), whom we meet dissecting a corpse in his filthy studio. Asked by bonkers assistant Wagner (Georg Friedrich) where the soul dwells, he shrugs “There’s only rubbish in here,” yanking out the most gratuitous onscreen innards since Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973). Impoverished and hungry, the questionably good doctor is an easy mark for Mephistophelean moneylender Mauricius Muller (physical theater specialist Anton Adasinsky), an insinuating snake who claims the soul is “no heavier than a coin,” and will happily relieve Faust of his in return for some slippery satisfactions.

Their endless day together encompasses a rowdy inn, the vaguely unsavory pursuit of dewy Margarete (Isolda Dychauk), and finally a sort of death in a volcanic landscape that’s like the setting for a creation myth — one encompassing both the religion Faust resists and the science he practices merely as “something to do to fill the void,” comparing it to his inamorata’s knitting.

There’s also the revelation of a naked Muller at the baths as some sort of a-human, asexual fleshy lump, with useless penis-tail on his backside; the unrecognizable fleeting specter of Hanna Schygulla as Frau Muller; a monkey on the moon glimpsed through telescope; poor Wagner revealing the “homunculus” he’s bred from “oils of asparagus and dandelion mixed with hyena’s liver,” a pathetic tiny monster as doomed as the Eraserhead (1977) baby.

Faust completes Sokurov’s tetralogy on power and corruption, which otherwise consisted of druggy fantasias about real historical leaders: 1999’s Moloch about Hitler, which showed once at the San Francisco International Film Festival; 2001’s Taurus (Stalin), which hardly played anywhere; and 2005’s stilted The Sun (Emperor Hirohito), which rather inexplicably played everywhere. Coming complete with the director’s trademark distortion effects (in both color tinting and image aspect), Faust has a soft, queasy, pickled feel, like a disquieting dream too fascinating to wake yourself from. Andrey Sigle’s orchestral score rolls beneath dislocating visuals, a constant wave assuring no one aboard gains their sea legs.

For all actual mention of the soul in a script devised with prior collaborators Yuri Arabov and Marina Koreneva, this is a less “spiritual” film than many Sokurov has managed before. God (or whomever) knows you are likelier to sense his very Russian mysticism as a redemptive force in Mother and Son, not to mention 2007’s Alexandra or such Soviet-era cries in the dark as Days of Eclipse (1988) or The Second Circle (1990). Faust is beautiful in its distinctive aesthetics, even if its view of human existence is philosophically, ornately ugly. It’s also antic in the semi-subterranean way you might expect from a once frequently-banned artist raised in Siberia. Nearly a decade ago he said this project would be “a very colorful, elegant picture with a lot of Strauss music and a smell of chocolate.” Always with the jokes, that Sokurov. *

FAUST opens Fri/18 at the Roxie Theater.

Get action


CAREERS AND ED Ah, the bright lights of Hollywood — so close, and yet thankfully far enough away to allow Bay Area filmmakers to develop their own identities. The SF scene thrives thanks to an abundance of prolific talent (exhibit A: have you noticed how many film festivals we have?), and continues to grow, with a raft of local programs dedicated to teaching aspiring Spielbergs — or better yet, aspiring Kuchars — the ins and outs of the biz.

San Francisco’s big art schools all have film programs. California College of the Arts offers both a BFA and an MFA in film, with an eye toward keeping students trained not just in cinema’s latest technological advancements, but its ever-changing approaches to distribution and exhibition. One look at the staff roster and it’s not hard to see why CCA’s program is so highly-acclaimed, with two-time Oscar winner Rob Epstein (1985’s The Times of Harvey Milk; 1995’s The Celluloid Closet; 2013’s Lovelace); indie-film pioneer Cheryl Dunye (1996’s The Watermelon Woman; 2001’s The Stranger Inside); and noted experimental artist Jeanne C. Finley, among others.

The Art Institute of California has a Media Arts department that offers a whole slew of programs, including BS degrees in digital filmmaking and video production, digital photography, and media arts and animation, as well as an MFA in Computer Animation. The school, which offers a number of online courses, is affiliated with the for-profit Argosy University system and aims for “career-focused education.”

The San Francisco Art Institute has this to say about its programs: “The distinguished filmmaker Sidney Peterson initiated filmmaking courses at SFAI in 1947, and the work made during that period helped develop “underground” film. From the 1950s to the early 1970s, filmmakers at the school such as Bruce Conner, Robert Nelson, Stan Brakhage, and Gunvor Nelson brought forth the American avant-garde movement. Our current faculty is internationally renowned in genres including experimental film, documentary, and narrative forms.” The school has embraced new technology and offers extensive digital resources, but it also supports artists who prefer working with celluloid. 16mm and Super 8 filmmaking lives!

The Academy of Art University may be largely known around SF for the number of buildings it owns downtown, but it does have a School of Motion Pictures and Television that offers AA, BFA, and MFA diplomas, augmented by an extensive online program. Its executive director is Diane Baker, eternal pop-culture icon for her role in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs (“Take this thing back to Baltimore!”) Other faculty members include acclaimed choreographer Anne Bluethenthal. Students can also take classes from Guardian contributor Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who programs the popular “Midnites for Maniacs” series at the Castro Theatre and is the school’s film history coordinator.

“I teach 11 different theory classes, including the evolution of horror, Westerns, melodramas, musicals, and ‘otherly’ world cinema, as well as a close-up on Alfred Hitchcock,” Ficks says. “But bar none, the History of Female Filmmakers class seems to create the biggest debates. Some find it sexist to emphasize gender — as artists, why can’t we transcend that concept? Except why have the majority of textbooks forgotten, ignored, or even re-written these women out of history? If the argument is that female filmmakers just aren’t good enough to be ranked alongside their male counterparts, how about watching more than one film by Alice Guy, Lois Weber, Frances Marion, Dorothy Arzner, Maya Deren, Ida Lupino, or Agnes Varda? And that’s just the first six weeks of class.”

The eventual fate of the City College of San Francisco is still being decided, but for now, its cinema department offers students a mix of hands-on (classes in cinematography, editing, sound, etc.) and theory (film theory, film history, genre studies, etc.) classes. The spring 2014 course catalog included such diverse offerings as “Focus on Film Noir,” “The Documentary Tradition,” “Pre-Production Planning,” and “Digital Media Skills.” Since 2000, the department has showcased outstanding student work in the City Shorts Film Festival, which last year screened both on-campus and at the Roxie Theater.

Tucked into the city’s foggiest corner is San Francisco State University, whose cinema department remains strongly tied to the school’s “core values of equity and social justice,” according to its website, with a special focus on experimental and documentary films. The faculty includes acclaimed filmmakers Larry Clark and Greta Snider, and students can earn a BFA, an MFA, or an MA (fun fact: like I did!)

On the newer end of the spectrum is the eight-year-old Berkeley Digital Film Institute, which offers “weekend intensives” to smaller groups of students. Dean Patrick Kriwanek says the school teaches “LA-style,” or commercial-style, filmmaking. “Our teachers all come from the American Film Institute or have worked on features,” he says. “We’re trying to train our kids to produce the same level of work that you’d see out of UCLA or USC grad schools — excellent work that’s thoughtful.”

The school also takes the practical side of entertainment into account. “I always joke that we try to be 51 percent art school and 49 percent business school, but it’s really true,” he adds. “You really have to be a business person if you want to succeed.”

On this side of the bay, at Mission and Fifth streets to be precise, there’s the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, which aims to “create filmmakers with careers in the entertainment industry.” Faculty members include Frazer Bradshaw, director of the acclaimed indie drama Everything Strange and New (2009) and screenwriter Pamela Gray (1999’s A Walk on the Moon). In addition to months-long programs, the school offers workshops like a crowd funding how-to (an essential area of expertise for any independent artist these days) and a single-day “boot camp-style” intro to digital filmmaking. *


Doin’ it in the dark


SUPER EGO “If people want to accuse me of being a heteronormative queer assimilationist, they can come to my traveling amateur porn film festival and say it to my face!”

That’s Dan Savage — spunky sex columnist, “It Gets Better” maestro, and editor of Seattle’s the Stranger — calling me on the way to the airport. He’s flying the friendly skies for the nationwide Hump Tour (coming Fri/28 and Sat/1 to the Roxie Theater in SF,, which is giving the Stranger’s notorious — and notoriously successful — annual homemade skin flick competition more, er, exposure.

In fact, the Hump Tour reminds me a little of the hilarious Sodomy Bus from Michael Moore’s 1990s TV show, filling the hills and crevices of America with resounding squeals and joyful bangs. Of course, the Sodomy Bus deliberately targeted anti-gay areas to make a political point — back when sodomy was still illegal, remember then? Whereas the Hump Tour projects handcrafted erotica with titles like Rumpy Pumpy (“an animated starter with funny, floppy dicks”), D&D Orgy (“roll for experience as the dungeon master’s fantasy game gets extremely real”) and Go Fuck Yourself (“one man time travels to save the world and fuck himself. Then things get complicated”) onto big screens in major cities with a side of popcorn. You can’t get more cuddly-quaint than that, no?

“I’m actually kind of worried about coming to San Francisco, though,” Savage said with an emphatic laugh. “Here I am, with my monogamish husband, editing this severely liberal paper and writing a sex column, my schedule full of porn, and I always feel like I’m going to be attacked for not being radical enough for SF, because I spoke out for same-sex marriage and other things.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him how much things have changed here — our overheated scandal du jour is over a queer club in Oakland politely asking straight people not to come because it’s too crowded, sigh.

So, what are the benefits of touring the country with a suitcase full of funny, irreverent, poignant, crude, and sweet stag films? “I’m at the point now where I’ve been writing about sex for so long that people mob me after each screening to say how they grew up reading me, how they would sneak my column into their bedroom, how I convinced them to try some things. And now I’ve enticed them to come see some porn with their friends and family. That’s kind of funny.”

Meanwhile, his stacked hubby has become a fixture on Seattle’s underground queer dance scene — does Dan ever hit the dance floor with him? “I usually hide in my room and write. It would never work if we were into the same things. You need some difference for that spark that makes you want to screw each other rather than just be each other.”

We’ll forgive you, Dan. Just keep the smut coming.



Techno heartthrob Matthew Dear’s dirtier, funkier alter ego Audion steps back into the limelight with what’s said to be an insane visual experience for this tour. (The team behind Amon Tobin’s mindblowing ISAM tour designed it.)

Wed/26, doors at 7pm, show at 8pm, $20, all ages. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.



Dark south London dubstep visionaries Mala and Coki drop in for Noisepop to school the kids on beautiful angst and swooping boom. With Chicago juke kingpin DJ Rashad.

Thu/27, 10pm, $17.50–$20. 1015 Folsom, SF.



Danny’s been spinning for 30 years and has become the elder statesperson when it comes to dance music in America. But the mixes! Oh, the mixes. He’s a master of creating a roiling, huge-room groove, bending the sound of each track toward a glimmering whole. Most DJs give you crap about how they “take you on a journey” — Danny actually delivers. A four-hour set with Nikita and John Kaberna supporting.

Fri/28, 9pm-4am, $25–$30. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF.



Wickedly good NYC house player headlines a Rong label showcase with local heads Corey Black of 40 Thieves, Jeffrey Sfire of Ghostly International, and — woot! — DJ Ken Vulsion, finally out of retirement and ready to enchant.

Fri/28, 9pm-3am, $10. F8, 1192 Folsom, SF.



This is a monthly Riot Grrrl tribute night at the bear bar. So perfect. February’s installment celebrates Carrie Brownstein, right after the new “Portlandia” season debuts, and we think how happy we are for her success, but please get on that Sleater-Kinney reunion already. With DJs Crowderism and Jimmy Swear.

Fri/28, 8pm, free. Lone Star Saloon, 1354 Harrison, SF.



The magic techno man from LA is a smooth, smart beast on decks, laying on the pulsing rhythms and subterranean energy. He’s at the Night Moves party with Shiny Objects and Brother in Arms, the nifty new “slo-mo deep house” collab from hometown heroes Deejay Theory and J-Boogie.

Fri/28, 9pm-4am, $20. Monarch, 101 Sixth St, SF.



Killer broken bass sounds at this regular party, bringing Low End Theory’s DJ Nobody and IZWID Records’ Esgar to the tables, along with the heady Slayers Club crew supporting. It’s a release party for one of my favorite local basshead Joe Mousepad’s new EP, too.

Fri/28, 9pm-3am, $5–$10. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF.



You could do way worse than to jam out to “World Destruction,” this hip-hop god’s legendary 1984 collaboration with the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon, while you’re applying your mascara in the evening. Or do the dip to “Planet Rock” when you take it off the next morning. Zulu Nation has you covered round the clock.

Sat/1, 10:30pm, $26, 18+. Yoshi’s SF,1330 Fillmore, SF.


This Week’s Picks: January 29 – February 4, 2014




The year 2013 was a tumultuous one for this London indie outfit. It recorded and released its sophomore album within a matter of months, simultaneously announcing the record and frontman Daniel Blumberg’s departure from the band. This was a surprising turn of events for a band that should have been basking in the afterglow of the critical success of its 2011 debut, not to mention universal adoration by both music journalists and the blogosphere. Instead of disbanding or recruiting a new vocalist, guitarist Max Bloom has stepped up to the mic and taken a turn from its shoegaze-tinged debut to embrace other forms of alternative rock, but don’t worry — it still sounds like it emerged from a time capsule buried in 1997. (Haley Zaremba)

With GRMLN, The She’s

8pm, $15

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421



Performance Research Experiment #2

It sounds deceptively dry, but “Performance Research Experiment #2” is a fairly accurate description of what Jess Curtis and his partners will show this weekend: It’s simultaneously a show and a scientific inquiry of what a performance does to a viewer — like it or not. Some of it will be sheer fun, some of it puzzling, and some of it difficult to watch. Curtis admits that the experience can be “intense.” The work — about a dozen two-minute episodes performed by Curtis and his partner on stage Joerg Mueller with media artist Yoann Trellu — raises fascinating questions about our bodies’ involuntary responses to what comes at them. This performance shows that science and art, contrary to common assumptions, can in fact inhabit the same universe. (Rita Felciano)

Jan. 30-Feb.1, 8pm, $15-20

Joe Goode Annex

499, Alabamba St. SF


“Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese”

Oakland food writer and chef Stephanie Stiavetti has gone and done something we were all waiting for: made our near-constant urge to eat only macaroni and cheese for dinner seem like a reasonable, adult thing to do. Her new cookbook marries the sophistication of handcrafted artisan cheeses from around the world with the simple joy produced only by the smell of perfectly browned, parmesan-covered pasta filling your kitchen. There are classic recipes, to be sure; there’s also an entire roasted pumpkin stuffed with Italian sausage, pasta and Fontina. She’ll talk all things mac-and-cheesy at this reading, and of course — don’t forget your Lactaid — she’ll be bringing samples. (Emma Silvers)

6:30pm, free

Omnivore Books on Food

3885a Cezar Chavez, SF

(415) 282-4712



Jean-Luc Godard: Expect Everything from Cinema

We know him best for his 1959 black-and-white debut Breathless, a genre-changing film that came to epitomize the French New Wave with its philosophical angst, tender tragedies, and haphazard American-Western heroism — all set in Paris of the ’60s, with recklessness, heavy eyeliner, and a rejection of the traditional love story. Yet Jean-Luc Godard produced a number of works, and when viewed together they form an inventive collection, to say the least. Beginning Jan. 31, BAM/PFA will screen Godard’s shorts and features in the film series “Expect Everything From Cinema,” allowing Godard die-hards and New Wave newbies the chance to see his films on the big screen, and begin to recognize characteristics of his work on a continuum, from subversive political messages to his ambiguous-realism style. (Kaylen Baker)

Times vary per week, visit BAMPFA website for details, $9.50

Pacific Film Archive Theater

2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

(510) 642-1124


Dirty Harry

Of all of Clint Eastwood’s many iconic film roles, that of rogue San Francisco Police Detective Harry Callahan in 1971’s Dirty Harry is perhaps the most indelible. Shot on location throughout the city and Marin County, the film mixed the traditional cop drama with a harsh and gritty approach, incorporating then-recent events such as the Zodiac into the script about a serial killer terrorizing the populace. Here’s your chance to cheer on one of the most famous — but misquoted — lines in film history: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?!” Feature preceded by cartoons, newsreels, games, and more. (Sean McCourt)

8pm, $5

Paramount Theatre

2025 Broadway, Oakland

(510) 465-6400



Reggie and the Full Effect

For a guy who played with classic emo outfits like the Get Up Kids and My Chemical Romance, Kansas City’s James Dewees sure seems like a happy guy. His solo act, Reggie and the Full Effect, is the polar opposite of Dewees’ other musical endeavors. This bizarre and completely hilarious side project bounces back and forth between genres as varied as hardcore, emo pop, and bluegrass, sporting song titles like “Happy Chickens” and “Revenge is a Dish Best Served at Park Chan-Wook’s.” Though Dewees hit the road for a farewell tour in 2008, he’s back this year with a new album (thanks, Kickstarter) and his first solo tour in half a decade. The only thing to expect from this show is the unexpected. And trust us, the unexpected is very, very entertaining. (Zaremba)

With Dads, Pentimento

8:30pm, $16

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St, SF

(415) 626-4455


Millennium Film Journal: 35th Anniversary Celebration

Sprung from the still-vital Millennium Film Workshop, which had its edgy beginnings in New York City’s fertile 1960s Lower East Side scene, the bi-annual Millennium Film Journal has been studying and celebrating avant-garde film since 1978 (and has since expanded to include video and works in other mediums, too). This San Francisco Cinematheque presentation welcomes current editor Grahame Weinbren to celebrate the publication’s 58th issue with a program of film and video by Stella Brennan, Catherine Elwes, and others, as well as a slideshow that looks back through its long and varied history on the printed page. (Cheryl Eddy)

7:30pm, $6-$10

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF



The Fourth Annual Super Bowl: Men In Tights

If you’d rather do your taxes than watch three hours of football this weekend, join SF Indiefest at the Roxie for the Fourth Annual Super Bowl: Men in Tights comedy show — “Come for the comedy, stay for the commercials.” Indiefest’s SportsSweater comedians will provide hysterical (and most likely incorrect) play-by-play commentary, raunchy sketches, and general debauchery while the game plays on Roxie’s big screen. Ad junkies rejoice, as the only untouched part of the Superbowl comes every 15 minutes. Watch America’s top-notch commercials uninterrupted by the horde of jokesters. And what Sunday football viewing is complete without beer, wine, bloodies, and snacks? Tickets benefit the Roxie Theater and IndieFest. (Laura Childs)

3pm, $10

The Roxie

3117 16th, SF


The Toasters

Everything has changed since 1981. The Soviet Union has fallen, the Internet has taken over the world, smartphones have taken over our brains, and no one listens to Kim Carnes. One thing, however, has stayed completely, unflaggingly consistent: New York’s checker-caped crusaders of third-wave ska. Thirty-three years, nine albums, and 40 lineup changes later, the Toasters are still skanking. Though they haven’t released a new record since 2007, these ska kings have been touring nearly constantly for three decades. If you’re looking for up-and-coming, hip, or new and different, this is not the show for you. But if you’re looking for an absolute blast with some well-practiced dudes who know how to put on a show better than just about anyone, you definitely want to be at the Gilman tonight. (Haley Zaremba)

With Monkey, Jokes for Feelings, The Skunkadelics, Skank Bank

5pm, $10

924 Gilman, Berkeley

(510) 524-8180


Groundhog Day

If you’re among the grouchy, local Niners fans looking for something else to do this Sunday, why not enjoy the uniquely brilliant 1993 comedy Groundhog Day screening on the holiday itself? The cult classic stars Bill Murray as a cantankerous TV reporter who is grudgingly sent to cover the annual proceedings in Punxsutawney, Pa., only to be trapped in a mysterious time loop where he is forced to repeat the same day, over and over again. Following his journey, going from annoyed and suicidal to finally embracing life and love, this funny and touching film was added to the National Film Registry in 2006. (Sean McCourt)

2pm, $8-$8.50

CineArts @ Empire Theater

85 West Portal, SF

(415) 661-2539



Burroughs at 100: The Films of William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs is best known for his powers with the written word. Specifically, his tendency to do terrible, wonderful, innovative, influential, shocking and heroin-laced things with it over the course of 18 novels, six collections of short stories, and four collections of essays. His work in films, however — the result of collaboration with artist Brion Gysin and filmmaker Anthony Balch at the Beat Hotel in Paris — showcases an entirely new side to the writer, who was interested in the ways visual art could adapt his “cut-up” method and other themes in his writing. Part of City Lights’ celebration of Burrough’s 100th birthday, the films Towers Open Fire, The Cut-Ups, and Bill and Tony will be screened with commentary by Burrough’s friend, filmmaker, and film historian Mindaugis Bagdon. (Emma Silvers)

8pm, free

City Lights Bookstore

261 Columbus, SF



From Russia Without Love: The 2014 Winter Olympics and Human Rights in Russia

Two good things, at least, that have come from the worldwide outrage at the horrifying persecution of homosexuals going on right now in Russia: a wake-up call that, despite many encouraging gains, us LGBTs are far from out of the woods yet. (The other good thing? Tons of hilarious memes of Putin in drag. Oh, and also we discovered which vodkas were actually Russian, so we could boycott them.) This discussion with educators and advocates will discuss the treatment of Russian homosexuals and queer athletes and spectators in the shadow of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The panel includes Dr. Krista Hanson, SFSU professor of Russian culture, and Helen Carroll, sports project director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. (Marke B.)

5:30pm, $8-$20

Commonwealth Club

595 Market, SF

Mumble, mumble, murder


FILM Joe Swanberg’s latest film to play the Roxie, 24 Exposures, isn’t actually his newest. That’d be family drama Happy Christmas, which just premiered at Sundance. Going by festival reviews, Christmas sounds like it’s in the vein of Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies — last year’s Olivia Wilde-starring tiptoe into the mainstream, a departure for the indie writer-director-actor — with a marquee cast that includes Buddies‘ Anna Kendrick and hipster queen Lena Dunham.

24 Exposures is the busy artist’s 15th flick to play the Roxie in a year (the list includes Buddies, 2012’s acclaimed All the Light in the Sky, 2007 breakout Hannah Takes the Stairs, and the only public screening to date of short Privacy Settings). In some ways, 24 Exposures marks another departure, being an “erotic thriller” (scare quotes needed, because it’s highly aware of its genre) — though it also incorporates Swanberg’s affection for relationships that aren’t working out, no matter how much the principals talk about their problems. His interest in horror (see: his participation in 2012 anthology film V/H/S and 2011 cult hit You’re Next, etc.) flavors 24 Exposures‘ plot: Parallel lives collide when photographer Billy (Adam Wingard), who snaps cute, topless women posed in gruesome death scenes, meets depressed cop Michael (Simon Barrett), who happens to be investigating the actual murder of a cute, topless woman.

Yep, this film stars director Wingard and writer Barrett of You’re Next and V/H/S fame. That slurping sound you hear is the mumblecore snake eating its tail, and not for the first time. (Is there anyone in that scene who hasn’t appeared in or worked on a peer’s film? The answer is no.) In 24 Exposures, it’s less of an in-joke than expected, since Billy and Michael don’t achieve BFF mode until the film’s coda. The relationships that form the core of the film are between Billy and the various women in his life, including girlfriend Alex (Caroline White), who is totes cool with his artistic pursuits as long as she’s included in the process, and any three-ways that occur after the shoots. Inevitably, there’s tension when she returns from a weekend away and realizes Billy’s been “taking smutty pictures when I’m not here.”

Billy is a sleaze, but otherwise he’s basically a harmless dude in a cardigan. If 24 Exposures had been made in early 1980s Europe, the film would pump out more bloody bodies for Michael to find; there’d be way more POV creeping and probably a chase involving an unseen killer wearing black leather gloves. Despite a sleek credit sequence illustrated with pulpy artwork, this is no lo-fi giallo. A better reference point is one from the script itself: Silk Stalkings, that 1990s epitome of basic-cable sexy thrillerdom. That it’s brought up jokingly (as in, “Do you feel like a character in Silk Stalkings right now?”) only enforces 24 Exposures‘ aspirations toward meta-ness.

The self-consciousness doesn’t end there. The film’s synthy score, which swells knowingly during suspenseful moments, is another obviously obvious choice. But if you’re expecting 24 Exposures to descend into full-on camp, you’ll come away disappointed. Lurid is perhaps a better descriptor, since 24 Exposures is bulging with “boobies” — a word Billy uses moments after explaining to a skeptical model that he practices “dress-up mixed with fine art.” Earlier, he’s described his work as “personal fetish photos,” clarifying that they’re “classy.” (Truly, they’re not.) We never see the results displayed anywhere, yet this is apparently his profession, not a private hobby, since the photo shoots involve makeup artists and assistants.

Clearly, 24 Exposures is poking fun at the erotic-thriller genre, and itself by extension. Any haters who cry “misogyny!” — because Swanberg’s camera ogles just as much as Billy’s does — are answered in a scene that’s been planned with them in mind. Photographing death is “way more interesting than taking a picture of a fuckin’ tree in your front yard,” Billy tells Michael, who counters by asking, “Why is it always dead women? Why not a dead old guy?” It’s not about that, Billy insists. “It’s ridiculous for me to try and explain this, because it’s not something that I even think about. You can’t say, ‘Why am I doing this?’ You just have to say, ‘OK, I’m attracted to this, and that’s what I’m gonna do.'”

That’s vague, and — again — Billy is a sleaze, but Swanberg’s careful to make his underlying point visually. When Michael asks Billy, “Have you ever seen a real dead body?”, it foreshadows the film’s second cute-girl murder. A distinction is made when a character we’ve come to sympathize with is brutally killed, and hers is the only crime scene that doesn’t invite us to leer at the victim.

The film’s last act cuts some months ahead; we see aspiring memoirist Michael receiving feedback from a book agent (played by Swanberg), who advises him to rewrite his manuscript. There are too many loose ends, he says, and not enough strong connections between the cop and the photographer. Oh, and the ending needs work, too. 24 Exposures, you’re talking to yourself — and you know it, and we know it, and you know we know you know.

Up next for the prolific, probably sleep-deprived Swanberg, who’s likely also got a dozen or so new movies in the pipeline: helming an episode of the San Francisco-set HBO series Looking. Wonder if there’ll be a scene set at the Roxie? *


24 EXPOSURES opens Fri/31 at the Roxie.




SF Bay Guardian How’s Sundance?

Joe Swanberg It’s been amazing. [Happy Christmas] is a pretty small, personal movie, so it’s nice that people seem to be liking it.


SFBG When will it be coming out theatrically?

JS We’re probably gonna follow the Drinking Buddies (2013) release pattern of doing VOD and theatrical sometime around July, and then having it come out on DVD around Thanksgiving.


SFBG You’ve had 15 movies screen at the Roxie Theater in the past year, which is a pretty astonishing number.

JS They did a retrospective, which was incredible. Not only was it a great chance to hang out in San Francisco for a week, but it was amazing for me to look back at a lot of movies that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s also crazy to think that there’s that much stuff. I sort of forget that I’ve made that many movies.


SFBG Do you not consider yourself prolific?

JS Because I don’t write, I can very quickly jump from one project right into the next. The first six years I was making movies, I was making around one a year, because I had a day job and that was all the time I could spend on it. As soon as I was able to support myself as a filmmaker, I really was making a lot of them [laughs] — there was one year where I made six, which was really too many by anyone’s standards. It made the following year really strange, trying to actually get all of those out into the world. And also, while they’ve all had some form of distribution, there’s really only four or five of my movies that people have heard of. There’s all of these others that only the hardcore cinephiles have checked out.


SFBG When you say you don’t write, do you mean because your films are improvised?

JS Yeah, exactly. I do write, but it’s just an outlining process. I’m working so collaboratively with the actors that it’s not the sort of difficult screenplay process that a lot of filmmakers go through.


SFBG With this long filmography, is it weird for you to be suddenly known as “the director of Drinking Buddies”?

JS It’s totally fine. I tend to like the newest film the best, just because it’s the closest to where my head is at. Drinking Buddies would be the one that I would recommend to people, and talk about as well. And probably Happy Christmas will very quickly become the next center of conversations. I haven’t watched a lot of those early ones in a long time, so I don’t even know if I would like them anymore [laughs]. Hopefully, they’re all leading toward something. Getting better. Let me put it this way: It’s great that people are talking about Drinking Buddies and not some movie I made six years ago.


SFBG You mentioned that Happy Christmas is a personal movie, and obviously Drinking Buddies ties into your much-documented love of beer. So what inspired 24 Exposures?

JS I had been acting in genre movies a lot, especially with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. I was really interested in what motivated them to make those kinds of movies instead of romantic comedies or something [laughs]. Also, I think a lot of what 24 Exposures is about is the responsibility and ownership of that stuff. I wanted to investigate where the women fit in. Are they passive models who are being exploited, or are they willing participants? Are they co-authors of the art? Is it a little bit of all of those things? It’s something that I’ve made other movies about, too. I’m genuinely interested in the collaborative process. Who ends up taking the credit, and who ends up feeling taken advantage of?  

SFBG The film is very meta.  

JS Definitely. I was reading Richard Brody’s book on Jean-Luc Godard at the time, so meta was very much on my mind. I was interested in the way that Godard played around with genre movies, but very atypical genre movies. They were always much more like Godard movies than they were genre movies. It was fun to sort of dabble in that space. The other thing that was exciting to me was how my generation’s sexuality was informed by late-night Cinemax and very cheesy, soft-focus, heavy-music kind of stuff. (I’m 32.) When all of us were in junior high, that was the most erotic thing we had access to. That aesthetic is such a joke now. It’s so dated. So I wanted to investigate that as well.  

SFBG Do you worry that someone will come across the film and not pick up on that subtext?

JS This is an interesting one for that question. Pretty much all of my movies have existed very squarely in the art-house audience, so I haven’t really thought much beyond that sort of space. But that’s changing these days, especially with Drinking Buddies, and, I’m assuming, with Happy Christmas too. So maybe 24 Exposures will be seen by considerably more people than some of those earlier ones. But I feel like the movie’s sort of subverting the genre at every turn. It never fully gains momentum as a pure exploitation thriller. Every five minutes it reminds you that you’re watching a movie, and puts in some sort of criticism or other unsexy thought into your head.  

SFBG Totally changing gears, but I noticed you directed an episode of HBO’s Looking, which all anyone here can talk about right now.  

JS Yeah! It was one of the most fun things I’ve done as a filmmaker. I really like the show, too, so I’m just happy to have had some little piece of involvement. I live in Chicago, so I have hometown pride, but San Francisco is without a doubt the most beautiful city in America. I spent three weeks trying to find a bad view, and I couldn’t. *

Alerts: November 6 – 12, 2013



Talk on Ohlone history 518 Valencia, SF. 7:30pm, free. This free public talk sponsored by Shaping San Francisco is about ongoing history. Doesn’t European and American history in San Francisco begin with genocide? Today, we have the chance to talk with people who descended from some of those who lived here before 1775, when Europeans arrived. We can’t change what happened, but what can we learn about San Francisco, the US, Europe, the Ohlone and Native America from this dialogue? This is part of a larger conversation spearheaded by the Ohlone Profiles Project, to counteract a history of discrimination.


Big Oil in the East Bay Berkeley Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo, Berk. 7-9pm, free. A panel discussion with scientists and community activists about East Bay refineries, which export more petroleum than any other metropolitan region in the country, their plans for expansion, their impact on local communities’ health and the climate, and what can be done to combat them. The event will be hosted by 350 Bay Area, the Sunflower Alliance, Idle No More, and the Ecology Center.




Film Screening: “Call Me Kuchu” Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF. 7-9pm, free. Screening of the award-winning documentary chronicling the life and death of the first openly gay man in Uganda, activist David Kato. The film follows Kato’s fight for the human rights of the LGBT community within one of the most homophobic countries in the world, where a bill making homosexuality punishable by death was proposed in 2009. Directors Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall are expected to attend the San Francisco screening of the documentary.


San Francisco Green Festival Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th St, SF. 10am-6pm Sat/9, 11am-5pm Sun/10. $10–$25, free for cyclists who park with Clif Bar Bike Valet and youth under 18. This weekend-long festival features talks by leaders in the social justice and environmental community, an organic beer and wine pavilion, live cooking demos, hundreds of eco-friendly businesses and informational workshops on green living. The Green Festival is a project of Green America and Global Exchange.  

Poets and speakers on human trafficking Emerald Tablet Gallery, 80 Fresno, SF. 7pm, free. As part of social justice month, the Revolutionary Poets Brigade will host speakers such as filmmaker Jeffrey Brown and poets Alejandro Murguia, Agneta Falk, Mahnaz Badihian and others. The focus of the evening will be seeking justice for victims of human trafficking.

Weekly Picks: October 9 – 15, 2013





“Calacas: Day of the Dead”

This is the first year Creativity Explored — which guides artists with developmental disabilities — has taken on Day of the Dead, and if the colorful images (depicting, mainly, an array of bejeweled, multicolored, dressed-up, and carefully detailed skull and skeleton sculptures) released ahead of the exhibit are any indication, it won’t be the last. Swing by tonight for the opening reception, or visit anytime during gallery hours through late November to admire a diverse slate of works by over 20 studio artists. (Cheryl Eddy)

Through Nov 24

Opening reception tonight, 7pm, free

Creativity Explored Gallery

3245 16th St, SF



Frameline Encore: The New Black

The complexities of the struggle for equality come to light in The New Black, a documentary that shows both the advocacy for and opposition to recent marriage equality movements by the African-American community. Winner of the Frameline37 AT&T Audience Award for Best Documentary, The New Black is returning to the Roxie Theater as a part of Frameline Encore’s free queer film series. Come in and enjoy the documentary, and perhaps even chat with filmmaker Yoruba Richen, who is expected to be in attendance. (Kirstie Haruta)

7pm, free

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St, SF

(415) 431-3611



Stereo with Le1f

Albany Bowl plays the same mix every Wednesday night. Somewhere between Calvin Harris with Rihanna and the Biebs, a familiar saxblat beat begins. “I love this song,” I tell my friends, before realizing I’ve been fooled again: It’s not actually the playfully sinister “Wut” by motormouthed rapper Le1f, but a popular knockoff. I should just get used to it. Because while some people will know what it is/what is up, there’s also that larger contingent that is painfully oblivious to basic shit. (Some stores exist that sell used clothes for less money?) Catch Le1f — who just released his Tree House mixtape — with fellow Tumblr spawn, including “Wut” producer Matrixxman, at this 3D visual (first 100 people get glasses) and arcade themed dance party. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Lakutis and WolfBitch

9pm, $15 presale


119 Utah, SF

(415) 762-0151

FRIDAY 10/11


“Imagining Time, Gathering Memory: Día de Los Muertos 2013 Opening Celebration”

SOMArts opens its 2013 Día de Los Muertos exhibition with an evening of live music and interactive performance, and the unveiling of over 30 altars and art installations. Curated by René and Rio Yañez, the exhibition is a display of works inspired by memories that honor life and the lives of loved ones no longer with us. With this theme in mind, the exhibit has been dedicated to those who have been affected by cancer, which has become the No. 1 cause of death of Latinos. Artists were also asked to keep in mind recent national tragedies and local issues that have touched their lives while creating their works. Join in to celebrate your own memories and honor the lives of your loved ones. (Haruta)

Through Nov. 9

Opening reception tonight, 6pm, $7–$10

SOMArts Cultural Center

934 Brannan, SF

(415) 863-1414

FRIDAY 10/11


Arab Film Festival

The 17th Arab Film Festival begins its California tour tonight at the Castro Theatre before shifting to the Opera Plaza Sat/13-Sun/14, then meandering to Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Diego over the next several weeks. At press time, organizers were still shaking out the specifics of the schedule, but opening night is locked in: Annemarie Jacir’s When I Saw You, which picked up the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award at the 2012 Berlinale. It’s the Jordan-set tale of Palestinian refugees, including an 11-year-old boy and his mother, struggling to make their way in a new country after the 1967 war. (Eddy)

7:30pm, $15–$40

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

FRIDAY 10/11


A Rite

PBS’ The News Hour closes its Friday shows with headshots of the soldiers who died recently in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of them were just so unbearably young. Looking at those faces gives you an inkling of why Bill T. Jones and Ann Bogart did not choose a virgin girl but a soldier as a sacrificial victim for their rethinking of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The two collaborators didn’t have to look far to see that innocents are still being slaughtered, supposedly for the “common good.” Calling their work A Rite, and making free use of Stravinsky’s score, they set it on six actors of Bogart’s SITI Company and nine dancers of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. For the purpose of this show, they call themselves “dactors.” (Rita Felciano)

Through Sat/12, 8pm; Sun/13, 3pm, $35–$40

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company

Lam Research Theater at YBCA

701 Mission, SF


FRIDAY 10/11



Why is it that our teen years — insert a faded class portrait with braces and acne, mixtapes slipped into Bobby-from-math-class’s locker, and Prom Night (aka Wrong Night) — leave behind indelible scar tissue? This month’s Mortified, a live comedy-musical show where adults explore the most embarrassing moments of their formative years, features love letters, diary entries, and angst-filled poems on getting the guy in 10 days, a kid’s trip out of the closet with guru Liza Minelli, a temporary pathological liar and his gullible Jewish parents, and a girl’s stab at erotica. Borrowing words from the audience, freestyle hip-hop/improv crew the Freeze will add laughter to the tears with musical interludes. (Kaylen Baker)

7:30pm, $21

DNA Lounge

375 Eleventh St, SF

(415) 626-1409



Alternative Press Expo

A Bay Area institution that stands out even more in the absence of still-wayward WonderCon, APE is focused on independent and self-published comics, with all the comic-con trappings — an exhibit hall with creators and publishers hawking their goods, workshops for aspiring professionals, and even a “Comic Creator Connection” networking event. Programs include a 10th-anniversary discussion of SF’s Cartoon Art Museum, a talk among comic-creator couples, and a panel on queer cartoonists. Special guests include Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead), Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin (Bandette), Anders Nilsen (Big Questions), Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama), Diane Noomin (DiDi Glitz), Bay Area publishing legend Ron Turner (Last Gasp), and APE founder Dan Vado (SLG Publishing). (Sam Stander)

Sat/12, 11am-7pm; Sun/13, 11am-6pm, $10–$20

Concourse Exhibition Center

835 Eighth St, San Francisco



Chocolate 101 with Dandelion Chocolate

For the past 3 million years, the cacao plant has thrived in the cool, dewy mountains of Central America, cultivated by Mesoamerican peoples to make a bubbling, dirt-bitter beverage representing power, desire, and sanctity. Dandelion Chocolates will teach a workshop on the methods of grinding beans on a metate, and mixing ingredients to re-create this ancient hot chocolate, right inside the Mesoamerican cloud forest at the SF Botanical Gardens. Only three decades old, this plant collection survives far from Central America by the grace of Karl, the bay’s infamous fog. After class, gardens curator and horticulture expert Dr. Don Mahoney will lead a tour through the forest, detailing the cultural impact of the plants on the inhabitants of Mesoamerica. (Baker)

11am, $30–$40

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

1199 Ninth Ave, SF

(415) 661-1316



Play it Cool with Lovefingers

When I’m not taking my own advice, Derek Opperman’s list of top 5 parties over at SF Weekly is always my go-to for planning a night or weekend out. Likewise, if I miss a DJ that I wanted to see (or that I did see, but have no recollection), I always check out his “Lost in the Night” blog the morning after, for a more clear-headed account. It follows that I’m looking forward to hearing what Opperman and company bring to their Play it Cool parties. This inaugural event upstairs at Balançoire (formerly 12 Galaxies) features LA’s left-field disco head Andrew Hogge, aka Lovefingers aka half of the Stallions, the person behind E.S.P. Institute label and the beloved but now defunct (Prendiville)

9pm, $5 (free before 10)


2565 Mission, SF

(415) 920-0577

SUNDAY 10/13


King Khan and the Shrines

Huzzah! King Khan and the Shrines have finally recorded a new album! After six years of silence, these psychedelic soul-punk weirdos are back and showing their softer side with Idle No More. The new album is informed not by Khan’s typical crass humor and brash antics, but with a new sense of introspection. In the years he’s been gone, Khan has dealt with the tragedy of losing a few close friends and has coped by spending time in psych wards as well as Buddhist monasteries. As the next step of the healing process, Khan has returned to music, his original source of salvation. While his live show is not quite as insane (or nude) as it was in his youth (he’s now 36 years old) he’s still a helluva performer, and we couldn’t be happier to have him back in the spotlight. (Haley Zaremba)

With Hellshovel, Slipping Into Darkness

8pm, $16


333 11th St, SF

(415) 255-0333



Quintron and Miss Pussycat’s Mystery in Old Bath

Miss Pussycat and Quintron have a reputation for putting on colorful, imaginative, and otherworldly musical performances on stage. With their latest puppet film, The Mystery in Old Bathbath, (featuring characters, Trixie and the Treetrunks) they delve deeper into a realm of wonder, but in a different medium. This 45-minute opus contains drama, high jinks, and handcrafted cuteness — and it has already garnered creative accolades in some high places. Greet Q&P in person at the Roxie as they’ll stick around for a Q&A after unveiling this all-puppet cast adventure, written and directed by the duo for our viewing pleasure. (Andre Torrez)

7:30pm $10

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St, SF




FILM It still boggles the mind that perhaps the most important single figure in the socio-religiously conservative Italy’s artistic media of the 1960s through the mid-’70s — an extraordinarily fertile period, particularly for cinema — was an openly queer Marxist atheist and relentless church critic. Pier Paolo Pasolini stirred innumerable controversies during his life, ending prematurely in his alleged 1975 murder by a teenage hustler. (Conspiracy theories still swirl around its actually being a political or organized-crime assassination.)

He was an acclaimed poet, novelist, screenwriter, director, playwright, painter, political commentator, and public intellectual. In several of those roles he was pilloried — and prosecuted — for obscenity. What seemed pornographic to some at the time now, for the most part, looks simply like heightened, gritty social realism, and frank acknowledgement that sexuality (and morality) comes in all shades. Yet one must admit: Arguably no filmmaker outside the realm of actual porn put so much dick (often uncut, and occasionally erect) right there onscreen.

Pasolini’s film work has a lingering rep as being somewhat rough sledding, in both themes and technique. Certainly he was no extravagant cinematic stylist on the level of Antonioni, Visconti, Fellini, and Bertolucci (though he contributed as a writer to films by the latter two), the other leading Italian auteurs of the time. But it’s surprising how pleasurable on many levels his features look today, as showcased in a traveling retrospective getting its Bay Area exposure at the Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater, and Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive through Oct. 31.

The two San Francisco dates highlight the three periods of Pasolini’s cinema; the PFA’s more extensive survey (ending with 1975’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom for Halloween, the kind of programmatic coup de grace that leaves you suspended between “genius!” and “WTF?”) running weeks longer. While there are overlaps, the latter provides berth for his neorealist classic feature debut Accatone (1961), shorts, and several documentaries including 1964’s seldom-revived Love Meetings, in which PPP himself interviews Italians about their sexual attitudes — from asking not-so-young kids how babies are born (“the stork brings them”) to grilling adults about gender double-standards regarding marital virginity. Then there’s 1969’s bizarre Pigsty, which put leading 1960s Euro-art-cine weirdos Pierre Clémenti and Jean-Pierre Léaud in separate threads of a two-pronged experimental narrative. It was weird enough to forgo US release until 1974.

There are also such baffling, shit-stirring features as Hawks and Sparrows (1966), an existential comedy suspended between Beckett and A Hard Day’s Night (1964); plus 1968 shocker Teorema, in which Terence Stamp’s mysterious bisexual visitor liberates and destroys a repressed bourgeoisie Italian family.

This weekend’s Castro-Roxie showcases the extent to which Pasolini was a cinematic populist — however inadvertently for such a radical thinker. His “trilogy of life” brought to the screen bawdy medieval stories by Boccaccio (1971’s The Decameron), Chaucer (1972’s Canterbury Tales) and unknown legend scribers (1974’s Arabian Nights.) All were originally rated X. The first is a bawdy delight; the last is a gorgeously melancholic, serpentine lineup of seriocomic stories-within-stories. Canterbury is a mixed bag, as Pasolini had problems structuring it editorially and was despondent over longtime protégé and lover Ninetto Davoli — who was 15 when they first met — leaving him for a woman. Nonetheless, he gave Davoli a big part in the wonderful Nights, albeit one in which his hapless character is finally castrated by angry women. (Touché.)

With their unprecedented amounts of full nudity, offering up sexuality (and normal, imperfect bodies) as something simply natural rather than prurient, each portion of this “phallocentric” trio was instantly notorious. The films became his greatest commercial successes — though curiously he later abjured them, partly out of guilt that so many actors’ “innocent bodies [had] been violated, manipulated, and enslaved by consumerist power.” Who but Pasolini would be depressed by having hits?

That shift from comparative joie de vivre back to bleak commentary on social injustice resulted in unintended swansong Salò, a grueling depiction of classist sadism that usefully transfers the Marquis de Sade’s infamous Bastille-written 1785 120 Days of Sodom to the bitter end of Italy’s World War II-losing fascist era. While in the literary original aristocratic children were kidnapped to be abused by decadent church and secular power mongers, here it’s pointedly spawn of the anti-fascist peasant underclass (all actors assuredly 18-or-plus to avoid prosecution).

The characters forced into ever-escalating sexual and violent degradations to survive, no mercy is spared. Salò remains banned in several countries, notably Asian and Middle Eastern ones. Its largely naked, helpless “young victim” cast (who apparently thoroughly enjoyed the filming, having no idea just how fucked up the material was) proved Pasolini’s last instance of drafting nonprofessionals who struck his eye. As a showcase for such raw talent, it was second only to a film he’d made a decade earlier: 1964’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew, a gritty, black-and-white riposte to the garish CinemaScope Biblical epics of the era. Ironically, that film by a Commie atheist fag remains one of the cinematic depictions of Christ most highly regarded by believers.

Nearly all these movies featured his favorite discoveries Davoli and Franco Citti, the former an endearing comic goofball, the latter a smoldering hunk usually cast as amoral evildoer. Both enjoyed long careers after their mentor died. Their very different types of screen charisma remain high among the delights that Pasolini’s cinema offers today. Davoli will be on hand at the Castro and Roxie screenings. Given his guileless, antic persona in the films, it’s a fair bet he’ll be a riot in person. *


Sat/14, $12

Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF

Sun/15, $12

Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF

Sept. 20-Oct. 31, $5.50-$9.50

Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk.


Live to tell


FILM The most popular feel-good documentary last year was Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul’s film about the somewhat mysterious Rodriguez — a talented singer-songwriter who recorded two major-label albums in the early 1970s, attracted no notice whatsoever, then disappeared from any public view. Unbeknownst to him (or to his bank account, since the royalties seem to have vanished more completely than he did), the records were a big hit in South Africa, where fans eventually tracked him down and informed him that he was, well, a star. So, decades after falling into obscurity, he was playing before large audiences he’d never known he had, and (via the film) getting new ones.

Sugar Man made you wonder how many other such stories might be waiting to be excavated. We’ve probably all seen or heard acts that deserved some commercial success, but never got close to it. More than ever, the musical mainstream seems more about marketing a package than promoting genuine, idiosyncratic talent. And examples of the latter slip through the cracks all the time, hopefully getting re-discovered later — for instance Nick Drake, sainted godhead of sensitive singer-songwriters, was barely a blip on the public-awareness horizon during his life. It was only after he’d died that the cult, and record sales, began to swell.

A Band Called Death is a similar story of recognition delayed so long that the principal vindicated character was no longer alive to enjoy it. Sons of a Detroit Baptist minister, David, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney were enamored with rock music from the time the family sat down to watch the Beatles play The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. By 1971 they were calling themselves Rock Fire Funk Express — but exposure to live hard-rock acts like the Who and Alice Cooper convinced them to ditch the funk part completely. Their father’s tragic death (he was killed by a drunk driver while taking an injured coworker to the hospital) hit all of them hard, but especially guitarist David, who had a spiritual awakening of sorts and insisted their band be named after what he now considered “the ultimate trip:” Death.

It seemed a career-killing moniker if ever there was one. (Though by 1983 Orlando’s death metal pioneers would have no trouble using the same name.) Nor did the trio’s loud, fast, heavy sound — their rehearsals drove the neighbors nuts — make sense for an African American outfit in a city where Motown ruled. Though their parents had always encouraged them, nearly everyone else took a “Why are you playing that white boy music?” stance. Nonetheless, they found a supporter at local studio-music publisher Groovesville Records, recorded some tracks, and shopped them around to every imaginable label here and abroad. After innumerable rejections, they seemingly hit the jackpot with Columbia Records prez Clive Davis, who was eager to sign them … if they’d just change that name. As the band’s “visionary,” however, David Hackney was unwilling to budge on his total “concept.” The offer was withdrawn.

Defeated and exasperated, the brothers accepted a relative’s invite to stay with him in Burlington, Vt., and wound up relocating there — but when they put up Death posters around town, the unamused local cops assumed this was some sort of gang-activity threat. That was the last straw; Dave reluctantly agreed on a name change, to the 4th Movement. In that form they played some gigs and recorded a couple albums — but their new, more overtly spiritual emphasis didn’t play well with rock audiences who really didn’t want to flick their Bics to lyrics about Jesus Christ.

A man with a plan — but no backup plan — Dave eventually slunk back to Detroit, and was dismayed when his brothers moved on musically, experiencing some success with a reggae band called Lambsbread. Death wasn’t just forgotten; it had never really been noticed. Its only material issue was a self-distributed 1974 single of “Politicians in My Eyes” b/w “Keep on Knockin'” that had scored just token local radio play. But three decades later some of its 500 pressings started surfacing on underground DJ’s turntables, rare-record collectors’ wish lists, and on eBay (at $800 a pop). What could be a more fascinating enigma and find than an unknown African American group making music that was precociously protopunk (with some psych influences) well before even the Ramones’ first album in ’76?

Eventually the surviving members saw their ancient masters released at last, and toured clubs as a reformed Death with Lambsbread’s guitarist taking cancer-felled Dave’s place. It was all made sweeter by the fact that three of Bobby’s sons now had their own band, named Rough Francis after their late uncle’s last recording pseudonym.

A bit overlong, the documentary nonetheless ingratiates with its surprising wealth of home-movie footage, commentary from the very genial Hackney clan, and testimony from latter-day fans like Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Kid Rock, and Questlove.


A BAND CALLED DEATH opens Fri/5 at the Roxie Theater.

More to grow on


Pit Stop (Yen Tan, US) One of the very best narrative features at Sundance this year, Yen Tan’s drama nonetheless completely flew under the radar of media attention. It’s a beautifully low-key tale of two 40-ish gay men in a Texas small town. Neither are closeted, but they aren’t exactly fulfilled, either, both being in awkward domestic situations. Gabe (Bill Heck) is still living with angry ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) for the sake of their six year-old daughter. Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) still shares his apartment with younger, slackerish ex-BF Luis (Alfredo Maduro), who keeps dragging his feet about actually moving out. Everyone is dissatisfied, but not quite willing to risk making a leap into unfamiliar territory. We know Gabe and Ernesto are fated to meet, yet it’s Tan’s terrifically nuanced portrayal of the relationships they must exit first that dominates almost the entire feature. Pit Stop is the kind of slow burner that sneaks up on you, surprising with the force of well-earned climactic joy after so much concise observation of credibly ordinary, troubled lives. Fri/21, 4pm, Castro; June 27, 7pm, Elmwood. (Dennis Harvey)

Free Fall (Stephan Lacant, Germany) A young German police cadet, Marc (Hanno Koffler), finds himself disturbingly drawn to a fellow cadet, Kay (Max Riemelt), during a weekend of training exercises — a regimen that proves to be not quite enough of an outlet to diffuse the erotic tension between them. Back home, though, are Marc’s very pregnant girlfriend, Bettina (Katharina Schüttler), and a circle of friends and family who expect him to continue along his current track of shacking up, forming a family, and demonstrating his loyalty to the macho brotherhood of his colleagues on the force. When Kay transfers into the department, his presence exerts a pressure on Marc that threatens to derail him. Director Stephan Lacant’s film, co-written with Karsten Dahlem, movingly depicts the painful breakdown of a man ruled by impulses he’s unable to face up to, and the consequences that come of remaining paralyzed in an impossible state. Fri/21, 6:30pm, Castro; Mon/24, 9:30pm, Elmwood. (Lynn Rapoport)

C.O.G. (Kyle Patrick Alvarez, US) The first feature adapted from David Sedaris’ writing, Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s film captures his acerbic autobiographical comedy while eventually revealing the misfit pain hidden behind that wit. Tightly wound David (Jonathan Groff), on the run from problematic family relations and his sexual identity, takes the bus from East Coast grad school to rural Oregon — his uninhibited fellow passengers providing the first of many mortifications here en route. Having decided that seasonal work as an apple picker will somehow be liberating, he’s viewed with suspicion by mostly Mexican co-workers and his crabby boss (Dean Stockwell). More fateful kinda-sorta friendships are forged with a sexy forklift operator (Corey Stoll) and a born-again war vet (Denis O’Hare). Under the latter’s volatile tutelage, David briefly becomes a C.O.G. — meaning “child of God.” Balancing the caustic, absurd, and bittersweet, gradually making us care about an amusingly dislikable, prickly protagonist, this is a refreshingly offbeat narrative that pulls off a lot of tricky, ambivalent mood shifts. Sat/22, 9:15pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Bwakaw (Jun Robles Lana, Philippines, 2012) Grumpy old man in the rural Philippines — OK, Jun Robles Lana’s seriocomedy isn’t going to top many lists as the sexiest movie at Frameline. But it’s one of the most deeply satisfying films at this year’s festival. Six-decade Filipino cinema veteran Eddie Garcia plays Rene, a crusty loner who lives alone and works without pay (he’s officially retired) at the local post office just to have something to do. He has cranky relationships — “friendships” would be a stretch — with the area priest, a widowed neighbor, and two over-the-top queens who run a hair salon. His closest bonds are to a rest-home denizen now too senile to remember who he is, and to the stray mutt who’s sort of his dog — though not so much that he’ll actually let it in the house. After decades in denial, Rene finally accepted his homosexuality at age 60, when “my time was [already] passed.” But he gets an unanticipated new surge of hope, possibly misdirected, upon befriending rough-hewn younger bicycle-taxi driver Sol (Rez Cortez). With its leisurely pace and seemingly stereotypical characters who turn out to be much more complex than they initially appear, Bwakaw is a disarmingly modest movie that gradually reveals a rather beautiful soul. Sun/23, 5:45pm, Victoria. (Harvey)

The Out List (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, US) Documentarian Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose previous projects have focused on prominent African Americans and Latinos, supermodels, and porn stars, turns his lens on the LGBTs for a survey film set to air on HBO this month. While there’s no sign of the radical faeries or the poly queers with negative interest in the marriage equality battle, Greenfield-Sanders has gathered a decently varied collection of 16 LGBT individuals, mostly but not only celebrities, whose common thread is having gone public. Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and ex-NFLer Wade Davis describe their time in the closet and their coming-out episodes, while Hollywood stars Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon comment on strategies for getting work and fighting the good fight (which for the latter includes closeting her bisexuality). Only an hour long, The Out List merely skims the surface of its subjects’ experiences, but we do get some sense of their scope, which includes finding family in NYC’s ballroom scene, getting elected as a lesbian Democratic sheriff in Dallas County, Texas, and learning to view one’s orientation as a gift from god. Tue/25, 4:30pm, Castro. (Rapoport)

Beyond the Walls (David Lambert, Belgium/Canada/France, 2012) Aptly compared in the Frameline catalog to such intelligent recent gay relationship studies as Weekend (2011) and Keep the Lights On (2012), David Lambert’s finely crafted debut feature charts its protagonists through an unpredictable, rocky romance. Paolo (Matila Malliarakis) is living with an older woman when he meets bartender-musician Ilir (Guillaume Gouix), who’s amused by the young blonde’s drunken antics while wary of the mutual attraction between them. When immature, puppyish Paolo gets thrown out by his exasperated girlfriend, he lands on Ilir’s doorstep as an uninvited instant-boyfriend, and despite some initial grumbling, that’s pretty much how it works out. Yet an unfortunate turn of events forces a long, involuntary separation between the two that their coupledom might not survive. While it requires a certain suspension of disbelief that focused, self-confident Ilir would fall for the flighty, needy Paolo, the eventual complexity of their relationship makes for a powerful cumulative impact. June 27, 9:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Reaching for the Moon (Bruno Barreto, Brazil) Brazilian director Bruno Barreto (1997’s Four Days in September) offers a moving account of the romantic relationship between the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) and the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires), which spanned the 1950s and the better part of the ’60s. The pair meet under inauspicious circumstances: traveling to Brazil, Elizabeth visits her old Vassar friend Mary (Tracy Middendorf) at the gorgeous rural estate where she lives with Lota, a wealthy woman from one of Brazil’s prominent political families. Unfortunately for Mary, Lota’s regard for the timid, restrained Elizabeth moves along a precipitous arc from irritation to infatuation, her subsequent impetuous pursuit of her lover’s friend revealing a heartless egoism — as well as an attitude toward householding that blends a poly sensibility with a ruling-class sense of entitlement. The film tracks Elizabeth and Lota’s enduring affair during a period marked by professional triumphs, personal lows, and political turmoil, all of which take their toll on the relationship. June 28, 6:45pm, Castro. (Rapoport)

Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project (Jonah Mossberg, US) Jonah Mossberg’s documentary crosses the country seeking out the perspectives of LGBT farmers, visiting some 30 farms before narrowing the focus to seven disparate subjects growing food in settings that range from a community garden in West Philadelphia to a farmstead in rural Alabama (or what one participant calls “the toenail of the Appalachians”). An allegiance to organics and other sustainable practices establishes some common ground. However, asked to encapsulate how queerness impacts her farming life, a woman raising crops and chickens in the Bronx’s Garden of Happiness observes, “I don’t think the land asks that question — if you’re gay or straight,” while others tease queerness out of acts like turning to permaculture and draw connections between heteronormativity and industrial agriculture. Look for fermentation guru Sandor Katz at Tennessee’s Little Short Mountain Farm, and stay seated for the longish closing credits interspersed with earnest (and otherwise) discussions of which veggie wins the title of queerest piece of produce. June 29, 1:30pm, Victoria. (Rapoport)

Young and Wild (Marialy Rivas, 2012) Structured around the anonymous and oft-graphic blog posts of a Chilean teenager, director-cowriter Marialy Rivas’s inventive, engaging film depicts a young woman’s navigation — both solitary and very, very public — of her sexual and romantic impulses as they clash with a rigid upbringing of spiritual indoctrination. Raised in an evangelical Christian household, Daniela (Alicia Rodríguez) bluntly documents, under the screen name Young and Wild, a period of upset and exploration during which she is outed as a fornicator and expelled from school, threatened by her hard-edged mother (Aline Küppenheim) with missionary exile, and faced with the sorrow of watching a beloved aunt (Ingrid Isensee) battle cancer. As Daniela begins a relationship with a young man (Felipe Pinto), begins a relationship with a young woman (María Gracia Omegna), and records the proceedings with a complicated mixture of comic insights, lyrical observations, and obscenities, her introspections play with the device of the straightforward voice-over—broadcast to untold numbers of unknown peers who avidly follow and comment on her adventures and misadventures. June 29, 8:30pm, Roxie. (Rapoport)

Frameline37 runs June 20-30 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF; Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, SF; and Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College, Berk. For tickets (most shows $12) and complete schedule, visit

Sexy events: Fatties rise up


Happy Pride Month everybody! This is neither sexy nor an event in the strictest sense, but anyone who doesn’t kindle to forced body norms should know that we began this week with evolutionary psychology professors tweeting about how fat people shouldn’t even try to get a PhD.

Geoffrey Miller, a University of New Mexico psychology prof had this to say on his Saturday afternoon: “Dear obese Phd applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth”. Miller reportedly told UNM in response to the school’s concern that the tweet was part of a research project, which doesn’t seem right but who is to say what those social scientists are up to these days.

Props to “hate loss not weight loss” activist and friend of the Bay Guardian SEX SF blog Virgie Tovar for being less than satisfied with Miller’s comment that the tweet was related to a research project he was involved in, and bringing his body predjudice to the attention of her Internet community. UNM is “looking into the validity of this assertion” about the research project thing. 

In other news, someone stole the iPad that belongs to Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis’ girlfriend and now sex tapes starring the two of them are being shopped around to various porn companies. Francis’ lawyer says they’re doing everything in their power to stop the tape’s release. We here at the sexy events column do not condone theft or nonconsensual publication of erotic images. But if you laughed there we understand.  



This big budget ’70s gay porn extravaganza featuring a gorilla suit comes to the New Parkway as part of downtown Oakland sex shop Feelmore510’s monthly Friday night screening series. Expect special effects, sci-fi homage, and a ripped cast over 50 strip-stunners. 

Fri/7, 10pm, $10. New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St., Oakl.

“Fairoaks Project”

Photographer Frank Melleno’s Polaroids from the Fairoaks Hotel Haight-Ashbury bathhouse between 1977-’79. Play parties, commune living, history galore. Inspiration for all you alternative culture types to start taking snaps of your own, perhaps?

Through June 30. Opening reception: Fri/7, 7-10pm, free. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF.

Public Sex, Private Lives

We’re kicking off floozy film fest season here — between SF DocFest and Frameline, there’s roughly a thousand flicks making their SF premiere that center on sexuality themes this month. This documentary on the lives of’s domme starlets is a great way to kick it all off. Director Simone Jude is an ex-Kink employee and her access to her subjects unquestionably benefits from a level of trust. Even avid fans will have a lot to learn from this look at a single mom, a bereaved daughter, and a grad student testifying in an obscenity trial — who all make BDSM porn for a living.


Sat/8 and June 12, 9pm; $11. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF. June 15, 7pm, $11. New Parkway, 474 24th St., Oakl.

“Hot, Healthy, Happy, and Living With Herpes”

Sex educators Midori and Charlie Glickman teach how to live (sexily) with herpes, including ways to break the news to partners, safe sex practices, more.

Tue/11, 6:30-8:30pm, free. Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF.

Dan Savage

The source of Senator Rick Santorum’s SEO problems and the country’s leading voice on progressive sex education comes to the Castro to chat about his new book American Savage.

Tue/11, 7pm, $80. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF.

Go deep


SEX Public Sex, Private Lives filmmaker Simone Jude was on set with dominatrix Isis Love when Love received a call from Child Protective Services. The single mom would have to meet with CPS staff — there’d been questions raised about her parenting of 12-year old Rusty. For most documentarians, plot line would pause there.

But Jude was a cameraperson for the San Francisco BDSM porn company before and while embarking on the four-year challenge of following three of Kink’s most known dommes for PSPL (screening Sat/8 at the Roxie for SF DocFest). She was a trusted quantity.

So Jude jumped in the backseat behind Love’s sweet, aspiring dancer offspring Rusty, and was there when the mother-son duo emerged relieved that the cause for the meeting had been not Love’s penchant for hogtying subs for the Internet, but rather Rusty’s petulant reportage of a minor fight they’d had to a mandatory reporter employee at his school.

Though it will be judged as such by mainstream audience (not necessarily a bad thing), this is not a documentary on, or BDSM porn, or porn at all. Leave that to James Franco’s documentary kink, which makes its SF debut at Frameline Fri/21 (

In another stressful scene, we watch PSPL protagonist Lorelei Lee agonize as she prepares to explain to the jury at John “Buttman” Stagliano’s 2010 obscenity trial her reasons for starring in a film featuring milk enemas. Jude’s third muse Princess Donna not only allowed her real first name to be used in the film (a name that I, even after years of interviewing and hanging out with Donna, learned for the first time thanks to PSPL), but let Jude film her beloved dad’s funeral and an awkward moment exploring her newly-kink-curious mom’s bag of sex toys.

Through this intimacy, PSPL emerges not as a love letter to, or exposé of, rough sex on camera, but rather a portrait of three extraordinary women, whose singularity dictated, rather than resulted from, their career path.

“You have to be willing to be outside the norm of society,” Stagliano muses, regarding porn industry careers. The dairy enemas and tit slaps that the PSPL three undergo are far from the three dommes’ primary hurdles — those would be dealing with the outside world’s perception of their lives.

Which is not to say the film’s a downer. Some shots sing: a golden ray slices behind Tina Horn’s bound figure as Lorelei strides into a Donna-directed bondage scene; Princess Donna and her mother connect post-funeral by a blue river framed by rolling hills.

“It’ll be interesting to see how [Donna, Lee, and Love]’s fans react,” Jude tells me. But given the film’s easy access point — even “BDSM” is defined by a cue card flashed on screen — she hopes the wider world will learn a little about the objects of its desire.

Public Sex, Private Lives Sat/8 and June 12, 9pm; $11. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF. June 15, 7pm, $11. New Parkway, 474 24th St., Oakl.


“Fairoaks Project” Through June 30. Opening reception: Fri/7, 7-10pm, free. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. Photographer Frank Melleno’s Polaroids from the Fairoaks Hotel Haight-Ashbury bathhouse between 1977-’79. Play parties, commune living, history galore.

“Hot, Healthy, Happy, and Living With Herpes” Tue/11, 6:30-8:30pm, free. Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF. Sex educators Midori and Charlie Glickman teach how to live (sexily) with herpes, including ways to break the news to partners, safe sex practices, more.

Dan Savage Tue/11, 7pm, $80. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF. The source of Senator Rick Santorum’s SEO problems and the country’s leading voice on progressive sex education comes to the Castro to chat about his new book American Savage.

San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival


This week, attend the the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival for parties, shows and movies at the Center for Sex & Culture and the Roxie Theater.

On Thur/23, get a whores-eye view from Amber Dawn, Brontez Purnell, Juba Kalamka, Ckiara Rose, Rhiannon Argo, Doug Upp, Lola Sunshine, Daphne Gottlieb, Lisa Kester, Kym Cutter at Oral Services spoken word, complete with sex worker open mic. Catch the mystery party on the bus after watching Mariko Passion’s Whorrific Popcorn Theatre Bus and Cabaret.

On Fri/24, attend the Institute for Sexworkology and learn about Whore Logic from the Incredible Edible Akynos, plus a marketing workshop with Alice in Bondage Land, and Housing Justice = Sex Worker Rights.

See the Sex Worker Sinema, screening all day and night at the Roxie Theater on Sat/25, including Lot Lizard, American Courtesans, and Stripper Damage.

Get more festival details at