Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Artistically engaged: a datebook

Out There

Scene from director Gianfranco Cabiddu's "The Stuff of Dreams" ("La stoffa dei sogni"), New Italian Cinema's opening night. Photo: Courtesy New Italian Cinema
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It's not unusual for Out There to spend five nights out of seven attending cultural events, as we did last week. We went to a screening of directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman's "Loving Vincent" on Monday night, San Francisco Opera's "Manon" on Tuesday night, opening night of the New Italian Cinema film festival on Wednesday night, South African artist William Kentridge's "Refuse the Hour" at ACT 's Geary Theatre on Friday night, and an opening at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Saturday night. That's a lot of cultural input!

1. New Italian Cinema's opening-night film at the Castro Theatre, director Gianfranco Cabiddu's "The Stuff of Dreams" ("La stoffa dei sogni"), won the 2017 Italian Golden Globe for Best Film and other honors. A troupe of actors and a group of convicted criminals are shipwrecked together on a prison island near Sardinia. They're compelled by the prison warden to put on a (very) amateur production of Shakespeare 's "The Tempest." Well, all the world's a stage, you might have heard. Cabiddu's films are considered part of an artistic "nouvelle vague" that utilizes elements of Sardinia's indigenous film culture. Screenwriter Salvatore De Mola  was in the house for a Q&A with dramaturg Philippa Kelly after the screening.

The opening-night party transpired in North Beach at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, an old-school venue new to us. But we love SF, we love Italians, and we love athletes, so we were there. We also love Italian antipasti and Italian wines, which were also there.

The boatman (voiced by Aidan Turner) in directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchma's "Loving Vincent."

2. "Loving Vincent" is the first animated feature created entirely from oil paintings, setting immortal genius Vincent Van Gogh's timeless masterpieces in motion as a cinematic examination of his tragic life and death. Visually resplendent, it's truly a unique movie, marred only by its filmmakers' choice of that 70s earworm, Don McLean's "Vincent," as music over the end credits.

3. Three-and-a-half-hours of Massenet 's "Manon" put us deep into the world of 19th-century French art-music for a grand night at the opera. We'd heard that the minimalist aesthetic of this new production breathed new life into the opera, but we weren't prepared for the magnificence of the play of shadows on the set's back wall, which amplified and commented upon the dramatic action. Every time charismatic tenor Michael Fabiano opened his mouth, he had our rapt attention. We don't mind that he's engaged to his male lover, as long as he continues to share his beautiful voice with us.

4. "Refuse the Hour," the multimedia chamber opera conceived by and starring William Kentridge, mixed visuals, soundscapes, dance, live music, projections, drama, and scenic design. A meditation on the nature of time, more performance art than theatre, the piece began as Kentridge delivered a lecture upstaged by all sorts of business going on around him. Dancer Dada Masilo , vocalists Joanna Dudley and Ann Masina, and an onstage band performed composer Philip Miller 's score. Catherine Meyburgh 's video design vivified the background. An overhead musical machine clattered to life: the effect, while undoubtedly digital in execution, was of an analog, low-tech, steampunk spectacle. From South Africa to Geary Street, an artistic vision this way came.

5. The CJM opening was for "Sabbath," the 2017 Dorothy Saxe Invitational, in which 57 artists present new works of art that reinterpret and respond to the Sabbath, the traditional Jewish "Day of Rest." While we were at the museum, we visited its excellent exhibit "Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid," 16 artists as storytellers and "secrets revealers." Highly recommended.

And on the seventh day, OT rested (though not really).


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