24 October 2012

French Cinema Now in San Francisco, 24-30 October

Beginning today, October 24, and running through the 30th, the San Francisco Film Society will be putting on French Cinema Now, a survey of ten French (or Francophone) features from the past couple years. The program opens with Noémie Lvovsky's comedy Camille Rewinds (Camille redouble), which premiered at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Lvovsky (House of Tolerance, Kings & Queen) stars alongside Samir Guesmi, Yolande Moreau, Michel Vuillermoz, Denis Podalydès, Vincent Lacoste, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Esther Garrel, and Mathieu Amalric. Also screening tomorrow is the debut film from Djinn Carrénard, Donoma, which was the recipient of the prestigious Prix Louis-Delluc du premier film in 2011. Carrénard wrote, directed, produced, shot, and edited the film, which examines race and class issues among a group of Parisian youths.

French Cinema Now continues Thursday, October 25, with Elie Wajeman's Aliyah (Alyah), which also premiered at this year's Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. French dreamboat Pio Marmaï plays a man in his late 20s in Paris considering moving to Tel Aviv to open a restaurant with his cousin but must first deal with his increasingly complicated family situation . Filmmaker Cédric Kahn (L'ennui, Red Lights), Adèle Haenel (House of Tolerance), Guillaume Gouix (Nobody Else But You), and Michaël Abiteboul (Belle épine) also star. Anne Fontaine's latest romantic comedy My Worst Nightmare (Mon pire cauchemar), which stars Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Poelvoorde as a pair of polar opposites whose sons happen to be friends, follows Aliyah.

On Friday the 26th, a trio of films are screening. On first, writer/director Stéphane Robelin's star-studded comedy All Together (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?) follows a group of aging friends who decide to move into a house together instead of being forced into a retirement home. Pierre Richard, Claude Rich, and Guy Bedos are joined by French-speaking American actresses Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin, as well as German actor Daniel Brühl as an anthropology student studying the group. All Together is followed by Mobile Home, the feature directing debut of François Pirot, co-screenwriter for Joachim Lafosse's Private Property (Nue propriété) and Private Lessons (Élève libre). This Belgian road film, which played in competition at the Locarno International Film Festival, stars Arthur Dupont (One to Another) and Guillaume Gouix, who can also be seen in Aliyah, as a pair of childhood friends who tire of being unemployed and living with their parents and decide to hit the open road. And finally, a medium-length feature (or moyen métrage), A World Without Women (Un monde sans femmes) from short filmmaker Guillaume Brac, finishes up the night. Though running close to an hour, A World Without Women was nominated for a César earlier this year for Meilleur film de court-métrage (Best Short Film); for further reference, the French consider anything under 60 minutes a "court-métrage" with moyen métrage filling some gray area between short and feature. It screens with Brac's previous short Stranded (Le naufragé), which follows the same central character of Women, Sylvain (Vincent Macaigne); Adélaïde Leroux (Bruno Dumont's Flandres, Ursula Meier's Home) and Julien Lucas (Regular Lovers, You Belong to Me) also star in Le naufragé.

Bruno Dumont's latest Hors Satan screens on Saturday, the 27th; the film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Sunday continues with one of the highlights of last year's Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival, Cyril Mennegun's Louise Wimmer. And Ursula Meier's Sister (L'enfant d'en haut), Switzerland's official Oscar submission, will close the program on Tuesday, the 30th. Sister features Léa Seydoux and Kacey Mottet Klein (the youngest child in Meier's Home) as a pair of siblings at a Swiss ski resort. Gillian Anderson, Martin Compston, Jean-François Stévenin, and Yann Trégouët (Artemisia, Born in 68) round out the cast. All of the films, excluding Sister, play twice over the seven days at the Embarcadero Center Theatre.

For those curious as to which films already have U.S. distribution: Adopt Films opened Sister in New York earlier this month, with it expanding throughout the country currently. Hors Satan will be released by New Yorker Films in the near future. My Worst Nightmare opened in New York City last week from Strand Releasing, as did All Together from Kino Lorber. And Film Movement will release both Aliyah and Louise Wimmer sometime in 2013. The San Francisco Film Society will be putting on a similar program for Italy in the early part of November. Stay tuned for that.

20 October 2012

RIP Sylvia Kristel

Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, best known to the world as the sensual, globe-trotting heroine of the Emmanuelle films, died in Amsterdam on October 17 at the age of 60. After beginning her career as a model in the Netherlands, Kristel got her big break as the title character of the French erotic sensation Emmanuelle, which spawned numerous sequels and even more imitators. Kristel reprised her role in four subsequent Emmanuelle features, as well as continuing on to play the character in a series of made-for-French-television movies in the early 1990s. She re-teamed with the director of the original Emmanuelle, Just Jaeckin, in a saucy, English-language adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1981 before starring in a pair of American sex comedies (Private Lessons and Private School, no relation). Kristel's other notable films include Walerian Borowczyk's La marge opposite Joe Dallesandro; Roger Vadim's second, "unofficial" adaptation of Les liaisons dangereuses, Une femme fidèle; Claude Chabrol's loose adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Alice ou la dernière fugue; Alain Robbe-Grillet's surreal mystery Le jeu avec le feu (Playing with Fire); the American espionage spoof, The Nude Bomb; Curtis Harrington's trashy Mata Hari film; and Fons Rademakers' dark thriller Because of the Cats.

11 October 2012

Official Submissions for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Oscar

71 countries will be competing for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's ceremony, setting a new record. A number of heavy-hitters will be vying for the award, from festival darlings to crowd-pleasing local hits. Each of the top prize winners at the three major competitive film festivals–Berlin, Cannes, and Venice–will be representing their respective countries. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Golden Bear winner Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire), which is set in a men's prison where the inmates are preparing a performance of Julius Caesar, was Italy's submission. Michael Haneke's Amour could earn the director his second Academy Award nomination just as it claimed his second Palme d'Or, following The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band) in 2010, though Amour will be representing Haneke's native Austria instead of Germany, which laid claim to his previous film. South Korea chose Kim Ki-duk's Pietà, this year's Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, as their submission.

In addition to Caesar Must Die, five other films from the Berlinale competition back in February made the cut: Christian Petzold's Barbara for Germany, Ursula Meier's Sister (L'enfant d'en haut) for Switzerland, Kim Nguyen's War Witch (Rebelle) for Canada, Nikolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) for Denmark, and Benedek Fliegauf's Just the Wind (Csak a szél) for Hungary. Japan's submission, Yang Yong-hi's Our Homeland, and Uruguay's, Rodrigo Plá's The Delay (La demora), screened as part of the Forum section at the Berlinale, and Morocco's submission, Faouzi Bensaïdi's Death for Sale, played in the Panorama section.

Amour will be joined by six other films from this year's Cannes Film Festival: Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills (După dealuri) for Romania, Benjamín Ávila's Clandestine Childhood (Infancia clandestina) for Argentina, Pablo Larraín's No for Chile, Joachim Lafosse's Our Children (À perdre la raison) for Belgium, Michel Franco's After Lucía (Después de Lucía) for Mexico, and Aida Begić's Children of Sarajevo (Djeca) for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rounding out the rest of the notable contenders: Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano's box office hit The Intouchables (Intouchables) for France; Chen Kaige's latest Caught in the Web, which recently played at the Toronto International Film Festival, for China; Cate Shortland's German-language feature Lore for Australia; Johnnie To's Life Without Principle for Hong Kong; Baltasar Kormákur's survival drama The Deep (Djúpið) for Iceland; Rama Burshtein's Fill the Void, which took home the Best Actress prize at Venice, for Israel; Annemarie Jacir's When I Saw You for Palestine; João Canijo's family drama Blood of My Blood (Sangue do Meu Sangue) for Portugal; Pablo Berger's Blancanieves, a 1920s-set silent film likely hoping to attract the attention this year's big winner The Artist received, for Spain; Pen-ek Ratanaruang's thriller Headshot for Thailand; and Lasse Halström's The Hypnotist (Hypnotisören), the director's first Swedish-language film in over twenty years, for Sweden.

A full list of the submissions can be found at this link, via Alt Film Guide. It's also worth noting that Iran, who won the previous Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Asghar Farhadi's A Separation, has officially boycotted the Oscar race. For those in the US, both Life Without Principle and Headshot recently became available on Netflix Instant. As in previous years, the Academy will narrow the list down significantly before announcing the five nominees on January 10th. The 85th Academy Awards will be held on February 24, 2013.

10 October 2012

San Francisco Screenings: October 11 - 20, 2012

I'm not quite sure how I want to format this new portion of my blog that I'm going to dedicate to exciting upcoming screenings in San Francisco, so bear with me as I figure out the best format for this. This post will cover up till October 20th, and all screenings are subject to change. As far as current theatrical engagements are concerned, there's only one film for me, and that's Lee Daniels' disaster at the year's Cannes Film Festival, The Paperboy, which opened in San Francisco last Friday. From all of the descriptions and reviews I've glanced over, it sounds like Daniels has returned to the absurdness of Shadowboxer after a brief stint as an Oscar darling with Precious. The rest of the screenings are in chronological order.

October 11 - 21: The Arab Film Festival opens with Sameh Zoabi's 2010 comedy Man Without a Cell Phone at 7:30 pm at the Castro Theater. The traveling film festival, now in its sixteenth year, moves onto additional California locales in San Jose, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Other films screening at the festival include the French comedy Top Floor, Left Wing (Dernier étage gauche gauche), winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at last year's Berlinale; Faouzi Bensaïdi's heist drama Death for Sale, which will represent Morocco for the Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars; Khalid Al-Haggar's Lust, which was Egypt's Oscar submission last year; Namir Abdel Messeeh's inventive documentary The Virgin, the Copts, and Me (La Vierge, les Coptes et moi...), which played at both this year's Berlinale and Tribeca Film Festival; and the Dutch road movie Rabat (pictured above). All screenings, except for the opening night gala, will be held at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

October 11, 13, 14: Chantal Akerman's latest film, Almayer's Folly (La folie Almayer), comes to the Yerba Buena Center for a three-day run. The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Joseph Conrad and reteams the director with her La captive star Stanislas Merhar.

October 11: The Thursday Film Cult will be hosting several horror-themed double features during the month of October at The Vortex Room. On the 11th, it will be a 16mm print of Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l'assassino) and Andrew Sinclair's Blueblood, a British occult film with Oliver Reed and Derek Jacobi. Showtime at 9pm.

October 12 - 14: At New People Cinema, the Film Society of San Francisco presents Taiwan Film Days, which will showcase seven Taiwanese films over its three days, including Edward Yang's classic four-hour epic A Brighter Summer Day, which is still MIA on DVD. Yang's widow is expected to be in attendance.

October 11 - 14: For those willing to make the trek north to Mill Valley, there are still a few days left of the 2012 Mill Valley Film Festival. Screening over the next four days: Leos Carax's Holy Motors (!); Lore, Cate Shortland's follow-up to her lovely Somersault; Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, a double prize-winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival (Best Actress, Best Screenplay); the latest from director Miguel Gomes (Our Beloved Month of August), Tabu; Hagar Ben Asher's Israeli sex drama The Slut; Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love; and a music doc about the recording of Stevie Nicks' 2011 album In Your Dreams, with Ms. Nicks herself (!!) in person.

October 12 - 19: Sure to attract a lively crowd, the Castro Theater will present another of its popular sing-a-long events to the film that began Walt Disney Animation's financial resurgence in the late 80s/early 90s (if you aren't counting The Rescuers Down Under), The Little Mermaid. I'd be willing to bet every plus-size drag queen within the city limits will be making at appearance as Ursula for (at least) one of the nightly screenings over its week run.

October 13: Midnites for Maniacs have programmed a rather impressive triple-feature for October: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; and Clive Barker's original Hellraiser. With a strange cast that joins Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, and Zsa Zsa Gabor with the leftovers of the first installment Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon (missing from the puzzling, gay panic second film), Dream Warriors is, without question, the best of the entire Elm Street series. In another unusual sequel to a hugely popular horror film, Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, made twelve years after the original, has Dennis Hopper on the hunt for the murderous family. All three films are shown on 35mm, starting at 7:30 pm at the Roxie Theater.

October 13: If the above triple-feature doesn't suit your fancy, you can always go to the Clay Theater for a midnight screening of one of the "great" San Francisco films, Tommy Wiseau's The Room.

October 15: At the Roxie, Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 silent classic Vampyr will be screened with live score by Siouxsie and the Banshees co-founder Steven Severin. Screenings are at 7pm and 9:30pm.

October 19 - 25: Andrea Arnold's stunning adaptation of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights begins a week-long run at the Opera Plaza Cinema. Expect a review from me sometime soon.

October 20: To celebrate its 20th anniversary just in time for Halloween, Peaches Christ will present a screening/event of/for Robert Zemeckis' Death Becomes Her. Over the past year or so, I've seen Peaches screen/perform Showgirls, Ken Russell's Tommy, and Silence of the Lambs, and this will be the debut run of Death Becomes Her, with Peaches as Madeleine Ashton (Meryl Streep) and Heklina as Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn).