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Roxie screens

by David Lamble

Scene from directors Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi's "Fireworks." Photo: Courtesy Roxie
Scene from directors Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi's "Fireworks." Photo: Courtesy Roxie  

San Francisco's Roxie cinema, in business since 1909, offers an eclectic array of summer fare ranging from indie master Hal Ashby's best to classics from queer auteur Gus Van Sant. Call the theater for info on whether the film you're seeing is playing at the 275-seat "big" Roxie or the 50-seat "little" Roxie.

"Fireworks" Producer Genki Kawamura follows up his mega-hit "Your Name" with another tale of star-crossed adolescent lovers with a sci-fi fantasy twist. English-subtitled. (starts 7/6)

"Exilic Trilogy" consists of three arthouse docudrama films from Arsalan Baraheni, the exiled Iranian-Canadian filmmaker based in Toronto. The films, biographical, poetic and musical, profile a musician (Soleyman Vaseghi), a painter (Gholamhossein Nami) and a poet (Reza Baraheni). In "Light and Sound," Soli, a well-known Iranian musician, was forced to leave Iran after the 1979 revolution, when music was banned by the regime. He makes his music in exile. In "Frame & Wall," Master Gholamhossein Nami, an important Iranian visual artist, leaves Iran and ends up in Canada. In "Alchemy & Dust," Reza Baraheni, one of the greatest Iranian poets, was forced to leave Iran when he was blacklisted after signing a letter about censorship. This poetic docudrama was shot by Baraheni's son, who suffered exile with him. (all 3, 7/10)

"Ava" Based on her teenage memories, Sadaf Foroughi's film is a commanding debut about a young girl's coming-of-age in a strict, traditional society. Living with her well-to-do parents in Tehran, Ava is a bright teen with teenage concerns: friendships, music, social status, academics. When Ava's overprotective mother questions her relationship with a boy, Ava rebels against the strictures imposed by her parents, her school, and the society at large. (starts 7/13)

"Milk" This Greek tragedy made in San Francisco, nimbly staged by Gus Van Sant from Dustin Lance Black's passionate screenplay, is a humane political thriller with a grasp of the nuts-and-bolts of government intrigue, and its crushing impact on real lives. Sean Penn drops the macho posturing to give us a gentle Harvey who can still suggest a prickly edge.

"Mala Noche" In the opening frames of one of the most influential if least-seen works in the New Queer Cinema, two Mexican teens, the slender conman/Lothario Johnny (Doug Cooyate) and his shy, slightly older "chaperone" Pepper (Ray Monge), are riding a slow freight train headed for Portland, Oregon, and the heart of the horniest, most ravenously addicted to cute teenage boys convenience-store clerk, Walt Curtis (Tim Streeter). Van Sant trains his camera on the skittish ballet between Walt, Johnny and Pepper. Johnny slip-slides away from bedding down with Walt, and Pepper imposes his own rules for their hauntingly photographed coupling. Van Sant loosely adapted a novella by the real Walt Curtis, a Skid Row poet. It's a gay version of a Charles Bukowski-like universe where honest work is for suckers, or as Walt tells a cash-strapped wino, "Credit's like sex: some get it, some don't." Van Sant gets the details of Skid Row so right that the film is a poetic time capsule, with cans of Bud, quarts of Thunderbird, boxy old cars and a copy of The Oregonian that lets us see the exact day of filming: October 17, 1984. (both 7/15)

"Empire Records" The employees of Empire Records, an independent music store on the verge of being sold to a large conglomerate, stage a fundraising party to raise enough money to buy the business. Allan Moyle, director of "Pump Up the Volume," cranks it up with this comedy about an eventful day in the lives of the young slackers, doers and dreamers. With Anthony LaPaglia and Rory Cochrane. (7/17)

"Harold and Maude" This Hal Ashby-directed classic co-stars Bud Cort (Harold) as a deadpan 20-year-old obsessed with suicide, and a loveable Ruth Gordon (Maude) as a fun-loving eccentric about to turn 80. The pair bond at a funeral and develop an odd-couple romantic relationship in which they explore the meaning of life, underscored by an offbeat pop score by Cat Stevens. (7/25)

"Todo Lo Demas (Everything Else)" Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza plays a government clerk who punishes her clients as life has punished her. But when she loses her cat, she goes into crisis. (starts 7/27)

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