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March 3, 2011

She's Lost Control

Kathy Fennessy
(C. Scott Willis, USA, 2010, DigiBeta, 82 mins.)


If Francesca Woodman hadn't killed herself, it's doubtful C. Scott Willis's provocative film would exist. There are, after all, other talented 22-year-old photographers who haven't merited their own documentaries. Similarly, camera man-turned-filmmaker Anton Corbijn's Control wouldn't exist if Ian Curtis hadn't hung himself, yet Joy Division was an undeniably important band whose legacy has outlived its lead singer.

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On the contrary, I had never even heard of Francesca until I read about The Woodmans in The New York Times. From Stephen Holden's review, I also learned about her parents, artists George and Betty Woodman, who have been married for over 50 years. It soon becomes apparent that the film wouldn't exist without them either, since this is a group portrait (as if the title didn't already give that away).

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Posted by Kathy Fennessy at 1:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2011


Kathy Fennessy

(Gregg Araki, US, 2010, 35mm, 86 mins.)

"I don't really believe in standardized sexual pigeonholes."
-- Smith (Thomas Dekker)

From the opening sequence alone, it's clear that Gregg Araki is back on familiar turf. This is good news for fans of The Doom Generation, Totally Fucked Up, and Nowhere, his teen apocalypse trilogy, but bad for those expecting another Mysterious Skin. Time will tell if he'll ever make a movie that gritty again (he followed it up with Smiley Face).

He introduces his latest lead, Smith (Thomas Dekker, likably low-key), a "perpetually horny" film student at an unnamed So-Cal college, as he's talking about his dreams. In one blue-tinged episode, he makes love with his roommate, when in reality Thor (Chris Zylka, believably stupid), a surfer dude who sleeps in the raw, prefers women.

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Posted by Kathy Fennessy at 9:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 9, 2011

Gekko à la Bourse

David Jeffers

L'Argent (1928)

Saturday February 12, 3:30pm, The Castro, San Francisco

An unscrupulous banker battles for dominance on and off the floor of the Paris Stock Exchange. In a scheme to save his failing business, Saccard (Pierre Alcover) exploits celebrity aviator Jacques Hamelin (Victor Henry) by financing his solo transatlantic flight, then manipulating stock and Hamelin's fragile wife, when false rumors of the flier's death are reported.

A cautionary tale of fraud, corruption and the evils of money, L'Argent (1928) was based on Émile Zola's original 1890 novel and brought to the screen by director Marcel L'Herbier for the princely sum of five million francs. With a dizzying combination of complex camerawork, editing, monumental set construction, locations including Le Bourget Field and the Paris Bourse, L'Herbier's epic also included a literal cast of thousands. Standout performances feature Brigitte Helm as the slinky femme fatale, Mary Glory as the forlorn Mme. Hamelin and Alcover as the greedy whirlwind who goes down fighting.

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Posted by David Jeffers at 8:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 7, 2011

Laughs, Lust and Love

Anne M. Hockens

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
6th Annual Winter Event
February 12, 2011
Castro Theatre

Brigette Helm strikes a glamorous pose in Marcel L'Herbier's L'Argent (1928)

Last year, while standing outside the Castro Theatre during the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, a friend and I overheard a young lady, passing by on her way to a local tavern, say, "Silent films are so boring." My friend looked at me and said, "Boring! I want to drag her into the theater and have her watch a film here. That will change her mind." He's right; most people haven't seen silent films the way they need to be seen, on the big screen with an audience and with live musical accompaniment. When they do, they come away with a different impression, that these films still have the power to make an audience laugh, think and cry. This year's line-up at the 6th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event, Saturday, February 12 at the Castro Theatre, gives modern viewers a chance to have that transformative experience.

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Posted by Anne M. Hockens at 6:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 6, 2011

La Vie Boheme!

David Jeffers

La Bohème (1926)

Saturday, February 12, 8pm The Castro, San Francisco

"Oh, Art she is a fickle jade,
If you work for her, you'll ne'er be paid!"

An aspiring playwright and a waif fall in love as they struggle to survive a life of poverty in nineteenth-century Paris. Mimi (Lillian Gish) sacrifices her own welfare for the sake of Rodolfe's (John Gilbert) success and pays the ultimate price.

Lillian Gish signed a spectacular two-year, six-picture contract with fledgling MGM studios in May 1925. She chose La Bohème (1926) for her first film and King Vidor for her director. "Suggested by" Henri Murger's Scènes de la vie de bohème, the popular story was well suited for the vast resources of MGM and their ambitious young head of production, Irving Thalberg. Photographed by the legendary Henrik Sartov, highlights include the lovely picnic (a Seurat masterpiece brought to life) and glowing scenes from the theater. Despite an obvious lack of chemistry shared by the principles, the film soars on magnificent production values and Gish's heartbreaking performance in the final reel.

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Posted by David Jeffers at 8:00 PM | Comments (0)