Monday, May 24, 2010

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2010 - Program Announcement!!

I was fortunate enough to attend the Press Conference and Program Announcement for this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival -- One of the HIGHLIGHTS of my film going year here in San Francisco!!

It was a comfortable and welcoming reception (catered fabulously by Poesia and Milette!) in which the festival staff (all four of them - HOW do they do it?!) were exceptionally accessible and excited to talk about this years program.

What I am personally excited about are two screenings. Firstly, METROPOLIS, which has been recently restored to within just 6 minutes of its reported, original screening length! Plus, it will be accompanied by none other than the Alloy Orchestra, whose present score for the film is wonderful and I can't wait to hear how they have expanded their work. Alloy Orchestra will also be present to perform with one of their standards: MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (the program notes of which will be provided by Brian Darr, who is sure to reveal some true nuggets of trivia about this hypnotic classic).

There is just a bit of consternation in the local filmgoing community that this will be a digital print. However, KINO is releasing it only in that format. The rest of the program will be in glorious and shimmering celluloid!

The other program that I am really jazzed about is HAXAN: THE HISTORY OF WITCHCRAFT, which has something of a cult following, and I have only previously seen in a terribly rough VHS copy, which had obviously been copied and passed around. (Oh, and I may have been in an intellectually "altered" state of consciousness!) Its screening in San Francisco promises to be of a restored print and accompanied by Matty Bye Ensemble, who I am not familiar with.

From the reception, another very unusual film that I have no exposure or knowledge of was announced as the Closing Night feature: L’heureuse mort, directed by Serge Nadejdine and featuring a cast and crew of Russian emigre's working in France. (A full description is below.)

As you can see in the program as described below, this is probably the Festival's most eclectic program of features to celebrate its 15th anniversary.


Press Notice May 24, 2010

For Immediate Release


We are thrilled to announce the complete program for the 15th Annual SILENT FILM FESTIVAL, July 15-18, 2010. We celebrate this special anniversary with an added day, more programs, and more music!

Special programs include our inaugural music program - Variations on a Theme: Musicians on the Craft of Composing and Performing for Silent Film - with all of the festival musicians participating. This not-to-be-missed program will be moderated by Chloe Veltman, regular contributor to the New York Times.

Among the many luminaries who will grace the Castro Theatre stage for this festival are Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury, the forces behind the inimitable Photoplay Productions of England. We are proud to present the Silent Film Festival Award to Brownlow and Stanbury at the screening of THE STRONG MAN, a delightful comedy from Photoplay favorite Frank Capra.

The Silent Film Festival is lucky to have the support of the family of Hollywood legend William Wyler. And luckier still that the wonderful Leonard Maltin will be here for an on-stage interview with the Wyler children before we show their father’s superb boxing drama THE SHAKEDOWN.

We are excited that Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) will be presenting his Director’s Pick of Arbuckle, Keaton, and Laurel & Hardy comedy shorts for The Big Business of Short, Funny Films, and that Maltin will grace the stage again for a conversation with Docter before the program.

Beloved founders of the Silent Film Festival Stephen Salmons and Melissa Chittick have chosen DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, our Centerpiece Film, for their Founder’s Pick What better way to honor Chittick and Salmon’s vision than with the divine Louise Brooks as directed by G.W. Pabst, and with an introduction by perennial Festival favorite, Frank Buxton?

And last but very far from least, Maltin will be on stage one more time to introduce the Closing Night film L’HEUREUSE MORT, an exhilarating French comedy of a failed playwright, a shipwreck, faux posthumous fame, and forged identity. This film captivated us in Pordenone, and we cannot wait to bring it to San Francisco!

For more information, please visit the Silent Film Festival website.

 Opening Night
Thursday, July 15, 7:00 pm, $17/$20
The Iron Horse
Directed by John Ford
With George O’Brien, Madge Bellamy
USA, 1924, 131 minutes
IMDb page
Set in mid-19th century America, The Iron Horse is the silent era’s version of How the West Was Won, weaving its themes of romance and history around the story of the building of the first transcontinental railway. This glorious print is the only surviving 35mm print of the American version, from the collection of Dennis James.
Dennis James will accompany on the Mighty Wurlitzer

Friday, July 16 11:30 am, Free Admission
Amazing Tales from the Archives (One)
Lost Films from the Silent Era
Presentations by Joe Lindner of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Peña of Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires (the archivists responsible for finding the lost Metropolis footage).
Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin

Friday, July 16, 2:00  pm, $12/$14
A Spray of Plum Blossoms (Yi jian mei)
Directed by Bu Wancang
With Ruan Ling-yu, Jin Yan
China, 1931, 100 minutes
IMDb page
One of the most prolific Chinese directors of the silent era, Bu Wancang based this film on William Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” setting the action in China, circa 1930 and casting China’s favorite on-screen couple Ruan Ling-yu and Jin Yan. Like all
Shakespeare comedies, Plum Blossoms is replete with star-crossed lovers, mistaken identity, and a wonderful happy ending. By situating the play in the ’30s-era Chinese army, the “gentlemen” of the Shakespeare’s title are the film’s officers, the duke is a warlord, and his daughter’s ladies-in-waiting are military police! 35mm print from China Archive
Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin

July 16, 6:00 pm, $12/$14
IMDb page
Directed by Mario Camerini
With Käthe von Nagy, Maurizio D’Ancora
Italy, 1929, 74 minutes
One of the most important Italian movies of the late silent period, Rotaie is the story is of two young lovers, very poor and on the brink of suicide, who come into a bit of temporary good luck. Finding a lost wallet in a train station, the lovers hop a train to two thrilling weeks of high living. The film’s exquisite style is influenced by the expressionism of German master F.W. Murnau. 35mm print from Cineteca Milano
Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne

Friday, July 16, 8:15 pm, $17/$20
Directed by Fritz Lang
With Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Brigitte Helm
Germany, 1927, 148 minutes
When Fritz Lang’s masterpiece debuted in Berlin in January, 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes, but in order to maximize box office potential the German and American distributors cut the film to 90 minutes for its commercial release. For decades crucial scenes from the film were considered lost. In 2001, the Munich Film Foundation assembled a more complete version with additional footage from four contributing archives, and Metropolis had a premiere revival at 124 minutes (widely believed to be the most complete version that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see). But, in 2008 archivists from the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires made a spectacular discovery—a 16mm dupe negative of Metropolis that was considerably longer than any existing print! That discovery led to this remarkable restoration and Metropolis can now be shown in Fritz Lang’s original—25 minute longer—complete version. Digital print from Kino International
Accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra

Saturday, July 17, 10:00 am, $12/$14
Director’s Pick! Pete Docter presents
The Big Business of Short, Funny Films
Director Pete Docter presents a selection of hilarious short films —some of the funniest moments in cinema—all in 35mm!
Dennis James will accompany on the Mighty Wurlitzer
The Cook
Directed by Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle
With Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Al St. John, Alice Lake
USA, 1918, 22 minutes
IMDb page
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton were physical comedians whose styles and physiognomies could not have been more different, and they complement each other brilliantly! Set in a restaurant where Fatty’s the cook and Buster’s the waiter, the inspired duo seem to be having the time of their lives—and the feeling’s contagious! 35mm print from George Eastman House
Pass the Gravy
Directed by Fred Guiol, Leo McCarey
With Max Davidson, Bert Sprotte, Martha Sleeper, Spec O’Donnell
USA, 1928, 23 minutes
IMDb page
A sheer delight, Pass the Gravy trades on the comic device of feuding neighbors and turns up the heat. Neighbors Shultz (Bert Sprotte) and Max Davidson call for detente when their children fall in love. But when Shultz’s prize rooster ends up on Davidson’s dinner table for the couple’s engagement party… Inducted into the National Film Registry in 1998. 35mm print from George Eastman House
Big Business
Directed by James W. Horne, Leo McCarey
With Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
USA, 1929, 19 minutes
IMDb page
The tagline to this Laurel & Hardy treasure is “The story of man who turned the other cheek and got punched in the nose.” That rather understates the hilarious mayhem of this sidesplitting short that was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1992. 35mm print from Library of Congress

Saturday, July 17, 12:00 noon, $12/$14
Variations on a Theme: Musicians on the Craft of Composing and Performing for Silent Film
Moderated by Chloe Veltman
This special moderated program will shine a light the process of composing scores for silent films. Pianists Donald Sosin and Stephen Horne will take part, along with organist Dennis James, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Alloy Orchestra, and Swedish musician and composer Matti Bye. Chloe Veltman, regular contributor to The New York Times and producer and host of public radio’s VoiceBox, will moderate.

Saturday, July 17, 2:00 pm, $12/$14
The Flying Ace
Directed by Richard E. Norman
With Lawrence Criner, Kathryn Boyd
USA, 1926, 65 minutes
IMDb page
Richard E. Norman was among the first to produce films starring African-American actors in positive roles. Between 1920 and 1928, the Norman Film Manufacturing Co. produced six feature-length films as part of a movement to establish an independent black cinema at a time when blacks were demeaned in mainstream movies. The Flying Ace is the only Norman film that survives and its story of a crime-fighting ace pilot is still a crowd-pleaser! 35mm print from Library of Congress
Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin

Saturday, July 17, 4:00 pm, $12/$14
The Strong Man
Directed by Frank Capra
With Harry Langdon
USA, 1926, 75 minutes
IMDb page
This Harry Langdon comedy will be shown in a pristine print from Photoplay Productions in England. Frank Capra’s second feature, this effervescent slapstick has Langdon as Paul Bergot, a mild-mannered Belgian soldier who goes on the road with German strongman Zandow the Great after World War I. When they get to the States, Paul searches for (and finds) his American sweetheart pen pal. 35mm print from Photoplay
Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne

Saturday, July 17, 6:30 pm, $15/$17
Diary of a Lost Girl (Das Tagebuch einer Verloren)
Directed by G.W. Pabst
With Louise Brooks, Kurt Gerron
Germany, 1929, 116 minutes
IMDb page
Diary of a Lost Girl represents the second and final work of one of the cinema’s most compelling collaborations: G. W. Pabst and Louise Brooks. Together with Pandora’s Box, Diary confirmed Pabst’s artistry as one of the great directors of the silent period and established Brooks as an “actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.” (Kevin Brownlow) This version has been mastered from a restoration of the film made by the Cineteca di Bologna with approximately seven minutes of previously censored footage. 35mm print of Kino International
Accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Saturday, July 17, 9:30 pm, $12/$14
Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages
Dir. Benjamin Christensen
Denmark, Sweden, 1922, 90 minutes
With Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio, Oscar Stribolt
IMDb page
Benjamin Christensen’s legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. But the film itself is far from serious—instead it’s a witches’ brew of the scary and darkly humorous. 35mm restored, tinted print from the Swedish Film Institute.
Accompanied by newcomer to the festival, Matti Bye (winner of the “Golden Beetle”—the Swedish Oscar—for his score for Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments
Sweden’s 2009 submission to the Academy Awards) and the Matti Bye Ensemble

Sunday, July 18, 10 am, Free Admission
Amazing Tales from the Archives (Two)
Using film clips and slides, Mike Mashon (Library of Congress) will present the fascinating and devastating reality of American silent film survival rates. Annette Melville (National Film Preservation Foundation) will follow presenting a way to bring back some of this history via a major international repatriation project.
Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne

Sunday, July 18, 12 noon, $12/$14
The Shakedown
Directed by William Wyler
With James Murray, Barbara Kent, Jack Hanlon
USA, 1929, 70 minutes
IMDb page
Restored to 35mm by George Eastman house, The Shakedown is a superb action-drama about a boxer whose life changes when he meets up with an orphan boy. Director William Wyler is most celebrated for his talkies (The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben Hur, Funny Girl) and this uplifting tale is a splendid introduction to the master’s early career. Beautiful camerawork, fast-paced editing, and remarkable effects make this a riveting feature. 35mm print from George Eastman House
Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin

Sunday, July 18, 2:30 pm, $12/$14
Man With a Movie Camera (Человек с Киноаппаратом)
Directed by Dziga Vertov
>USSR, 1929, 70 minutes
IMDb page
Considered one of the most innovative and influential films of the silent era, Man With a Movie Camera is startlingly modern, demonstrating a groundbreaking style of rapid editing and incorporating innumerable other cinematic effects to create a work of amazing power and energy. This dawn-to-dusk view of the Soviet Union offers a montage of urban Russian life, showing the people of the city at work and at play, and the machines that endlessly whirl to keep the metropolis alive. Vertov’s masterpiece employs all the cinematic techniques at the director’s disposal—dissolves, split-screens, slow motion, and freeze-frames—to produce a work that is exhilarating and intellectually brilliant.
Accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra

Sunday, July 18, 4:30 pm, $12/$14
The Woman Disputed
Directed by Henry King, Sam Taylor
With Norma Talmadge, Gilbert Roland
USA, 1928, 110 minutes
IMDb page
This splendid romance is a true discovery, starring the extraordinary Norma Talmadge as a goodhearted streetwalker who is coveted by Austrian and Russian rivals.  “I have just seen The Woman Disputed and it’s a remarkable piece of filmmaking. The plot takes Maupaussant’s Boule de Suif to extremes, but it succeeds so well as a brilliant piece of film craft that it MUST be brought back to life.” (Kevin Brownlow). 35mm print from the Library of Congress.
Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne

Closing Night
Sunday, July 18, 7:30 pm, $15/$17
L’heureuse mort
Directed by Serge Nadejdine
With Nicolas Rimsky, Lucie Larue
France, 1924, 83 minutes
IMDb page
This remarkable comedy stars Nicolas Rimsky as Parisian dramatist Théodore Larue whose latest premiere is a disaster. His reputation gone, Larue takes a sea voyage, during which he is swept overboard in a storm and lost.  The press and the literary world react with an abrupt revaluation of his work, elevating him to the stature of France’s greatest dramatist. His widow finds herself in possession of a hugely valuable literary property… At which point, Larue—inopportunely—returns home. But, dramatist above all, he decides to masquerade as his colonialist brother Anselme, while industriously turning out posthumous works by Théodore. But then the real Anselme turns up with his Senegalese wife… 35mm print from the Cinémathèque Française.
Accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble

Silent Film Festival | 833 Market Street, Suite 812 | San Francisco | CA | 94103

Maxxxxx says re The SF Silent Film Festival: "Wooooo!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

CLICK HERE for more...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - The Loved Ones and Solitude Standing

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screens April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For tickets and information, go to or call 925-866-9559.

In an odd bit of programming at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, there were a pair of screenings regarding the joys, sorrows and HORROR of being single: THE LOVED ONES (the final of "The Late Show" sidebar) and a collection of seven shorts grouped as "Solitude Standing".

THE LOVED ONES (dir. Sean Byrne, Australia, 2009, 84 minutes) was by far the most extreme of the screenings in "The Late Show" sidebar this year! The performances are so solid, that the emotional content more than keeps up with its violence quotient, which is nearly off the charts, as far as new ways of torture are concerned!  It is an "ugly duckling revenge fantasy" for all intents and purposes. However, Robin McLeavy's performance as the rejected Lola, is filled with such sadistic glee, that as fun as it is to watch, she ably avoids gaining any audience sympathy. Xavier Samuel plays her latest victim, but I found him to be a bit too 'emo boy' for me to really get behind, regardless of how competently he expressed the physical pain his character endures. It is really John Brumpton's performance as her long suffering father (and inspiration, more or less) that elicits the most compassion. Well, to an extent. There is that moment with the power drill, however...

The festival included a program of seven short subjects, all having to do with being alone, under the title "Solitude Standing." 

The Darkness of Day (dir. Jay Rosenblatt, USA 2009, 26 min) From the pgrogram guide: "Using fascinating and varied images salvaged from discarded film library collections, this poetic documentary explores suicide and the inherent aspects of depression, mortality and isolation." And, yes, it is about as depressing and bleak as it sounds. Still, fascinating to watch, but not exactly a great party-short!

The Shutdown (dir. Adam Stafford, Scotland 2009, 10 min) No doubt, part of the fault relies on myself for having waited nearly a week before posting comments on this program. However, unlike most of the other pieces, I really do not recall much of anything from this reminiscence by Alan Bissett and what happened when his father was caught in a petrochemical plant explosion. Given that it won the Golden Gate Award for Best Short Documentary this year, I probably have only myself to blame.

Me Time (dir. Matt Schuman, USA 2009, 11 min) "Steve" has decided to clean out his 'friends'. So, after making a list of "best friend(s)", "friends" and "acquaintances", he begins the not-so-pleasant process of dumping those who he doesn't feel overly connected to. It's a humorous enough premise (and gawd knows it is something I face every time I log onto Facebook!), but in actually playing it out, it doesn't really pull together, and the 'punchline', however O'Henry-esque as it is, lacks the emotional punch I think that Schuman expects. However, the production values are all around terrific and it is a fairly memorable little experience.

Laundry (dir. Danielle Katvan, USA 2009, 5 min) Silently and poetically, Katvan's little film dwells upon the romantic in the most of mundane places: A Laundromat. Katvan transcends her setting effortlessly and tosses in a lovely, if not semi-ambiguous climax, all within her brief five minutes. I'd love to see more from her.

The Armoire (dir. Jamie Travis, Canada 2009, 22 min) The richly deserved winner of the Golden Gate Award for Narrative Short, Jamie Travis concludes his Edward Gorey-esque trilogy of  "Saddest Children In The World" (which includes The Saddest Boy in the World (which I LOVED at Frameline, 2007), and Why the Anderson Children Didn’t Come to Dinner, which I've also seen and spooks me out!) with this story of a missing child and how his friend, Aaron (remarkably acted by William Cuddy), remembers their last day together.  Travis' production design continues to be enchanting, while his script is ultimately the most disturbing of his trilogy!  I look forward to seeing them gathered together as a single DVD! PLEASE!!

The Translator  (dir. Sonya Di Rienzo, Canada 2009, 8 min) Perhaps the most cinematic of the pieces in this program, Di Rienzo places a woman, whose job is to translate and subtitle French films, on a subway with her boring boyfriend, thus allowing her to daydream dialogue for those around her. She also gives herself a happy ending.  Fairly fascinating to watch unfold and as it doesn't give itself away.

Still Birds (dir. Sara Eliassen, Norway 2009, 13 min)  The program guide describes this as "unsettling fable", which is sort of an understatement! Had this been feature length, it would be perfectly placed in "The Late Show" sidebar! It is hard to describe, except to note that the group of children and teen performers that have been gathered for this are all exceptional, especially in their ability to contort themselves, physically and vocally, to Eliassen's demands.  It is the story of individuality, or more precisely, one little girl's attempts at keeping her voice. There is some disturbing Aryan undertones throughout, as redheads fight against shockingly blond children. The only verbalizations are the thoughts inside our heroic little girl's head.  It is a strikingly executed "fable"!

Maxxxxx says re THE LOVED ONES:  [cackles maniacally as he BITES my hand!]
re Solitude Standing: "Wooooo!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

CLICK HERE for more...

Friday, May 07, 2010

3rd i Films Presents: 3rd i's Queer Eye :: June 6, 2010

3rd i Films Presents:
3rd i's Queer Eye :: June 6, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, May 3, 2010

From art-house classics to documentary films, innovative and experimental visions to next-level Bollywood: 3rd i (, is committed to promoting diverse images of South Asians through independent film.

3rd i is proud to announce the launch of a brand new initiative this summer, 3rd i's Queer Eye, a mini-fest celebrating the South Asian LGBT community – and there's really a lot to celebrate these days: India repealed Penal Code 377 last year, which effectively decriminalized homosexuality; a spate of LGBT films and film festivals surge are popping up all over India; and even mainstream films are talking on queer themes boldly (the first full-on male-on-male kiss arrives this summer in Bollywood!).

3rd i Queer Eye puts a South Asian lens on the LGBT experience, and unfolds over an evening on June 6 at the VIZ Cinema in San Francisco.

The evening includes a program of shorts, "Queer South Asian Shorts", including:  Are We Talking Straight?, an enlightening survey on the streets of Calcutta about current cultural attitudes towards homosexuality in India; Sachin Kundalkar's The Bath, a poignant film about a Mumbai male sex worker; Jehangir Jani's Make-ups, a poetic observation of an ageing actress (Bollywood superstar of yesteryear Zeenat Aman), a gay man cruising the local train station, and a call-girl on the way to her john; Bay Area filmmaker Punam S.' Hollywood-spoof Mr. and Mrs. Singh; Tejal Shah's I Think There's a Spider Living Between Us, a frank and biting short where the filmmaker ponders the sexual life of her parents and Chingari Chumma – Stinging Kiss (made in collaboration with Anuj Vaidya) in which a hackneyed Bollywood ending gets an explicit treatment. Local filmmakers will be in attendance.

Following the shorts program is the Feature Presentation, Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story (Director's Cut). Rudi Dolezal's documentary traces the life of the legendary frontman of Queen, from his formative years in India to the height of his fame in England. 3rd i is pleased to offer a San Francisco Premiere of the soon-to-be-released Director's Cut, featuring previously unseen interviews with Freddie Mercury and more live performance. This updated version was recently featured at the Chicago International Film Festival and at Roger Ebert's Festival of Overlooked Films.

June 6, 2010 @ VIZ Cinema5pm Queer South Asian Shorts
7pm Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story (Director's Cut 2010)

Tickets are $10 for each film or $16 for both. For complete program information, including showtimes, ticket prices and other events, please visit our website at –

3rd i's Queer Eye is made possible, in part, through a sponsorship from Wells Fargo Bank.

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

CLICK HERE for more...

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - Closing Night (Audience Awards and... Miss Joan!!)

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screened April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For information, go to

Graham Leggat, Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society, who has been remarkably low-profile this year, introduced the Closing Night festivities with an enthusiastic, yet very funny acknowledgment of the ARMY of sponsors and supporters! I wish all directors, boardsmen, etc. were able to gently barb their sponsors, yet be so appreciative! He then announced the Golden Gate Award Winners (which were already previously announced) as well as officially revealing the Audience Awards (Best Narrative Feature went to Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, and Best Documentary Feature went to Julia Bacha's Budrus, neither of which I saw, of course! argh!) before bringing Festival Program Director, Rachel Rosen, onstage to begin the night's screening.

On, the surface, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (dirs. Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, USA, 2010, 84 minutes) would seem to be atypical of what is on the film festival circuit. However, directors Stern and Sundberg come with serious documentary creds, and have delivered a film that is more than a "Biography Channel" bio-pic of Joan Rivers. It spends an exhaustive year with the comedienne, observing and highlighting her near single-minded drive, if not near obsessive compulsion, to work. Neither rain, nor sleet., nor snow, nor red-eye flights will keep her from performing. She has taken the concept of 'bus-and-truck' to a higher level, as private planes and limos whisk her to cities, towns, clubs, bookstores, anywhere that wants to see her. She simply doesn't say "No", but not before negotiating for as high of a fee as she can get.  The filmmakers were fortunate to be present during a period where Rivers was making something of a comeback, namely, before and during her appearance on "Celebrity Apprentice" and the near infamous "Comedy Central Roasts Joan Rivers".  Though the film does open with her bemoaning an empty engagement calendar, one does get the impression that it always fills up. There is also a little bit of biography included, but only as it is recounted by Rivers and not cut away as background information, which keeps the film anchored in the present, without going into "Biography" mode.  It ended with the directors and Joan Rivers appearing on stage to a rousing standing ovation.

The ensuing Q&A was really a launch pad for her material. There was, as can be expected at the Castro Theatre, the unfortunate, weepy fan ("I came all the way from Palo Alto and you changed my life and I would love a picture with you!" etc.) and the co-directors were fairly ignored by the audience, though Rachel Rosen was able to work them into the discussion of what it was like following Joan for a year.  Overall, it was an enjoyable way to end a festival.

The post-screening party was at 1015 Folsom, which is a bit small and awkwardly maneuverable for a crowd with plates and glasses, but I did not overstay my welcome there, and actually left before using the two drink tickets (drink tickets?! wtf??) we were given at the door, but not before spying upon some SFFS staffers and their surprising "dates"!  But that's for the gossip columns...!

Maxxxxx says re JOAN RIVERS...:  "Such a pretty bird!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

CLICK HERE for more...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - Golden Gate Awards (Juried)

53rd San Francisco International Film Festival Winners Announced at Golden Gate Awards Ceremony, Wednesday, May 5


Golden Gate Award Documentary Feature Winners

Investigative Documentary Feature: Last Train Home, Lixin Fan (Canada/China 2009) • Winner receives $25,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple

Documentary Feature: Pianomania, Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis (Austria/Germany 2009) • Winner receives $20,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple

Bay Area Documentary Feature: Presumed Guilty, Roberto Hernández, Geoffrey Smith (Mexico 2009) • Winner receives $15,000 cash prize, FInal Cut Studio software provided by Apple and $2,000 in lab services from EFILM Digital Laboratories

New Directors Award: Alamar, Pedro González-Rubio (Mexico 2009) • Winner receives $15,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple

FIPRESCI Prize: Frontier Blues, Babak Jalali (Iran/England/Italy 2009)

Golden Gate Award Short Film Winners

Youth Work: Moon Shoes, Joel Vanzeventer (USA 2009) • Winner receives $1,500 cash prize
Honorable Mention: Alisha, Daniel Citron (USA 2009)

Work for Kids and Families: Leonardo, Jim Capobianco (USA 2009) • Winner receives $1,500 cash prize
Honorable Mention: The Mouse That Soared, Kyle Bell (USA 2009)

Animated Short: Tussilago, Jonas Odell (Sweden 2010) • Winner receives $2,000 cash prize

New Visions: Release, Bill Morrison (USA 2009) • Winner receives $1,500 cash prize and 1,000 feet of Kodak film stock

Bay Area Short, First Prize: Embrace of the Irrational, Jonn Herschend (USA 2009) • Winner receives $2,000 cash prize

Bay Area Short, Second Prize: Leonardo, Jim Capobianco (USA 2009) • Winner receives $1,500 cash prize

Documentary Short: The Shutdown, Adam Stafford (Scotland 2009) • Winner receives $5,000 cash prize

Narrative Short: The Armoire, Jamie Travis (Canada 2009) • Winner receives $5,000 cash prize and 1,000 feet of Kodak film stock

San Francisco Film Society
The San Francisco Film Society is a nonprofit arts and education organization dedicated to celebrating the world of film and media in four core areas: Internationalism and Cross-Cultural Exchange, Educating and Inspiring Bay Area Youth, Showcasing Bay Area Film Culture and Exploring New Media. Its activities are organized via three major program areas: Exhibition, Education and Filmmaker Services.

The Film Society shows the best of world cinema year-round and presents the San Francisco International Animation Festival, New Italian Cinema, Cinema by the Bay and French Cinema Now each fall. SFFS presents more than 300 days of programming each year, reaching a total audience of more than 100,000 people. Its acclaimed Youth Education program introduces international cinema and media literacy to more than 10,000 teachers and students annually.

SFFS publishes a daily online magazine,, with broad-ranging news and features on Bay Area film culture and provides crucial support to the Bay Area filmmaking community through Filmmaker Services, including grants, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, production assistance and development, networking and conference events and professional-level filmmaker classes and workshops.

53rd San Francisco International Film Festival
The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 22–May 6, 2010 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the Castro Theatre and Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco and the Pacific Film Archive Theater in Berkeley. Held each spring for 15 days, the International is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in the country’s most beautiful city, featuring 15 juried awards, 200 films and live events with upwards of 100 participating filmmakers and diverse audiences of 80,000+ people.

For tickets and information, visit or call 925-866-9559.

Maxxxxx says re Pianomania, Release, Leonardo, Embrace of the Irrational and The Armoire: "Whoooooo!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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Monday, May 03, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - Drag Divas!!

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screens April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For tickets and information, go to or call 925-866-9559.

Within the past couple of days, the San Francisco International Film Festival has presented a pair of programs with High Drag Queen Content! First, the FUN one!

All About Evil (dir. Joshua Grannell, US, 2010, 98 mins.) was one of the festival's most highly anticipated programs, due mostly to the dedicated, if not rabid, following of Joshua Grannell, more famously known as 'Peaches Christ', the hostess of "Midnight Mass", a series of midnight screenings here in San Francisco.  Grannell did not fail to disappoint, as he presented to the SFIFF audience a full out, no holds barred, Midnight Mass spectacular for this World Premiere!

Peaches Christ took the stage by storm by premiering her new film leader, which alone set a level of professionalism yet unseen in the typical Midnight Mass.  Then the theater rocked to a series of musical numbers from, and inspired by the film, as well as some banter with some of the cast that were present for its premiere, including Natasha Lyonne, Mink Stole, Thomas Dekker, Ashley Fink, Jade and Nikita Ramsey as well as the cast of his onstage chorus.  Peaches has built a stage show in which to frame the film "in the spirit of William Castle" that will tour the country with the premiere its screenings. (The first stop is in Austin, Texas, on May 15.)  Peaches also gave a shout-out to John Waters as her inspiration, who was also present in the audience.

(JimmyD uploaded this and the other musical numbers can be seen here.)

Then the film itself began, starring the truly inimitable and slightly inscrutable performance of Natasha Lyonne. She can perform schizophrenic like no one else on screen!  She begins the film as a mousy little librarian who inherits her father's movie theatre, which is "played" by the actual Victoria Theatre here in San Francisco. She accidentally trips upon the secret of success in keeping the theater open, or as the production's tagline would put it: "Audiences are dieing to see it!"  The resulting blood and gore fest does not fail expectations and, I would hazard to say, the talent and production values in ALL ABOUT EVIL far surpass those of us who are familiar with Grannell's earlier work, namely the "Peaches Christ TRAN-ilogy of Terror".  Even the end credits were a total hoot!

The following Q&A with nearly the entire cast and top-line crew was fairly enjoyable, though not without a slight audience faux-pas as there were people apparently unaware of Mr. Grannell's background in San Francisco. (My friend Jimmy (photos and vids) is convinced that a certain young leading man unintentionally "came out" on the Castro stage...) The three hour evening (sending us out into the streets at nearly 2AM), flew by and is, at this point, THE HIGHLIGHT of this year's festival for me!

On the other hand, the two and a half hours of To Die Like A Man (dir. João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal/France, 2009, 134 minutes) felt like five hours. I didn't walk in expecting a serious "Priscillia, Queen of the Desert", but then I wasn't expecting a transexual version of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" either. The screenplay is nearly unrelentingly bleak, even if there is a little bit of comic relief tossed in.  Also, Rodrigues filmed some extraordinarily long takes, which I usually am stunned by. However, in this case, the camera was usually quite static (except for the wild, final pan!). I just wanted it to keep moving. He has also included some surreal episodes, which only confused matters and made the progression take even longer. Also, in the spirit of FULL disclosure, I did doze off in the first half hour.  There was a Q&A afterward, but I just couldn't stay any longer...

Maxxxxx says re ALL ABOUT EVIL: [SCREECHES in joy!!]
 re TO DIE LIKE A MAN:  "Is it bedtime?"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - Pianos and Pastures

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screens April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For tickets and information, go to or call 925-866-9559.

Two of the highlights of the first week of the San Francisco International Film Festival have been documentaries.

PIANOMANIA (dirs. Robert Cibis, Lilian Franck, Austria/Germany, 2009, 93 minutes) is one of those documentaries that on paper sound interesting enough, but in the actual viewing, becomes a mind opening experience, or at least for the uninitiated.  Simply, it follows the work of Stefan Knüpfer, a technician and piano tuner for Steinway in Austria.  What follows though is a portrait of dedication, bordering on obsession, as he is works with some of the world's greatest pianists and is required to deconstruct the sound the instrument makes, both audibly and physically. The precision that some of the pianists require took me aback, though I should not have been surprised. The extent that the Steinway Company goes to fulfill the requests of these musicians is particularly incredible, to me at least.  But then, I have no concept of what the costs behind each of these instruments must be.  The drama hangs on the reputations of the artists, the concert halls, the recording companies, as well as Steinway itself as each instrument  is prepared for performance.  This was thoroughly engaging and surprisingly exciting!

On the meditative end of the scale, there is WAY OF NATURE (dir. Nina Hedenius, Sweden, 2008, 107 minutes), a pure documentary made for Swedish television depicting one year on a Swedish farm - without narration. That's right, there is no Oprah or David Attenborough (or, gawd help us, Sarah Palin!) telling you what you are seeing. There isn't even a musical score to punch up the drama.  The soundtrack is basically the clang of cowbells and baaing of sheep and goats. It is an extraordinary way to take a break and spend and hour and a half, observing Hedenius' idyllic portrait of what farming can be. I am sure that there can be some argument as to the "purity" of her unspoken narrative, as there is no mention of the hardships that are entailed in such an endeavor. However, in tone it is the anti-thesis to FOOD, Inc., while still being a compatriot of that film's message.

(My only reservation was that the video transfer that was projected at the Sundance Kabuki had some digital artifacts and over-scanning.)

Maxxxxx says re Pianomania: "Dooby dooby dooo-ooo!"
re Way of Nature: (quiet beak scratching)

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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