World-class cinema

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday March 28, 2017
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The 60th edition of San Francisco's longest-running film festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, kicks off earlier than usual (April 5-19) and plays at our Castro Theatre film palace, the Roxie Theater, the Victoria Theatre, the Alamo Drafthouse/New Mission, SFMOMA, Dolby Cinema @ 1275 Market, the Walt Disney Family Museum, YBCA, BAM/PFC (Berkeley) and Proxy. The festival's organizers attribute the earlier playdates to the shifting calendar of worldwide film festivals.

The opening-night film (4/5, Castro) is Landline, director Gillian Robespierre's probe of our distracted digital online world with its ever-increasing stress factors. The chief characters are sisters Dana (Jenny Slate) and Ali (Abby Quinn), their parents heading for divorce court (Edie Falco and John Turturro), and their boyfriends (Jay Duplass and Finn Wittrock). Landline references a recent past now way in the rear-view mirror, the Bill Clinton era, when our world was not run from an internet cloud. The only references to clouds in our romantic affairs lay in lyrics from Rodgers & Hart, Lerner & Loewe, Jagger & Richards, or Lennon & McCartney. Followed by an opening-night party at the Regency Center, 1300 Van Ness Ave., SF.

Here are capsule summaries of a few film programs of particular interest to the LGBTQ community.

Scene from director Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats. Photo: Courtesy SFFILM

Beach Rats Director Eliza Hittman, whose 2013 first feature It Felt Like Love played the festival, returns with a tale of a confused Brooklyn teen, Frankie (handsome newcomer Harris Dickinson), caught between a public life of drugs, Coney Island beach romps, handball games with macho, misbehaving buddies, and the world of online chats with older men. The film raises the question of whether Frankie can ever admit to his same-sex desires and still retain a social place his traditional Brooklyn neighborhood. Hittman won a Best Director award at the 2017 Sundance festival. (SFMOMA, 4/9; Roxie, 4/11)

Scene from director Travis Mathews' Discreet. Photo: Courtesy SFFILM

Discreet Travis Mathews, director of 2013's Interior, Leather Bar, returns with a small Texas-set tale of a man whose return home reawakens desires and memories he thought he had outgrown. Plays with Bay Area filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt's seven-minute Trump-era short Scared. Very Scared. (Castro, 4/8)

This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous Academy Award-winning documentary-maker Barbara Kopple directs this unveiling of the journey that allowed one Gregory Lazzarato to become "Gigi Gorgeous," then share her transition stories and advice with others on a similar path. Following this screening there will be onstage Q&A about the role of YouTube and other special media. (Victoria, 4/12)

The House of Tomorrow One-time child actor Asa Butterfield has grown up while retaining his acting chops, as demonstrated in this engrossing comedy-drama whose subjects cover the waterfront from young love to the legacy of geodesic dome inventor Buckminster Fuller. Butterfield is Sebastian, a bright teen and orphan living with his grandmother (big-screen legend Ellen Burstyn). Sebastian and Grandma are huge fans of geodesic-dome advocate Fuller, hoping that Bucky's ideas will lead to a revolution in home construction. In the course of his adventures, Sebastian meets another cute teen (Alex Wolff), and the duo bond over the boy's heart condition, his cute sister and the opportunity to form their own punk band. Peter Livolsi's direction includes a hint of homoerotic tension between the nominally straight teens. (SFMOMA, 4/8, 13; Dolby, 4/9)

The Death of Louis XIV (France/Portugal/Spain) It's shocking to realize that one of my all-time-favorite French actors, Jean-Pierre Leaud, is not only old enough to play, but through the magic of his craft and great makeup, indeed resembles the great Sun King, Louis XIV, on his death bed. Albert Serra's chamber piece reputedly touches on the pain, humor and downright weirdness of the death of a King, back when people took the whole monarchy thing deadly seriously. (BAM/PFA, 4/6; YBCA, 4/8, 12)

Citizen Kane (1941) A towering work from the then-25-year-old prodigy actor-writer-director Orson Welles. In concert with genius-level collaborations from screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, cinematographer Gregg Toland and composer Bernard Herrmann, Welles exposes the feet of clay of a newspaper baron (based on William Randolph Hearst) plutocrat pretending to be the people's tribune. The screening will be followed by an onstage conversation between Hearst grandson William R. Hearst III and film historian David Thomson. (YBCA, 4/6)

Rivers and Tides - Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time Director Thomas Riedelsheimer implants us with the aging artist as he prepares artistic installations on landscapes around the world, including England and Scotland. The result is a little bit like an extended version of CBS Sunday Morning's fabled Minute with Nature series, accented by a musical score by Fred Frith. (Vogue, 4/8)


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