Moviemaking Against Apathy!

  • by David Lamble
  • Saturday October 7, 2017
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The 2017 Mill Valley Film Festival unspools Oct. 5-15 at the Sequoia Twin Cinemas in Mill Valley, San Rafael's Smith Rafael Film Center, and other venues, including one in Larkspur. The 40th edition of MVFF includes tributes to gay director-writer Todd Haynes ("Wonderstruck"), filmmakers Richard Linklater ("Last Flag Flying"), Andrew Garfield ("Breathe"), Dee Rees ("Mudbound"), Kirstin Scott Thomas and Joe Wright ("Darkest Hour"), and Greta Gerwig, making her directorial debut with "Lady Bird."

"BPM" ("Beats Per Minute") This Cannes 2017 winner details the efforts of ACT UP/Paris activists to combat public apathy surrounding the AIDS epidemic. Nathan (Arnaud Valois), new to the group, is captivated by Sean (Nahuel Perez Biscayart), a radical militant. Brought to the screen by Robin Campillo. (Sequoia, 10/8; Rafael, 10/12)

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" Director Simon Curtis brings the origin myth of a favorite nursery-based character to the screen. A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) is a struggling playwright who writes a story collection about his son's (Christopher Robin) stuffed bear. "Winnie the Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner," published in the 1920s, became morale-builders for WWI-fatigued Britain, later enjoying pop-culture afterlife from Disney. (Rafael, 10/14, 15)

"The Meyerowitz Stories" Writer-director Noah Baumbach returns with a tale about the lives of an estranged New York family as they celebrate the artistic work of their father. With Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman. (Corte Madera, 10/8)

"Woodstock" (1971) This 1969 celebration of folk-rock culture cemented the reputations of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Arlo Guthrie. Michael Wadleigh's doc captures the performances and the arduous conditions that almost wrecked the enterprise. Few who were there can resist the temptation to look for a fleeting glimpse of their mud-caked bodies in the nearly four-hour film. (Corte Madera, 10/7)

"The Florida Project" Director Sean Baker takes us to a broken-down motel in poverty-stricken Florida, where Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives with her childlike mom Halle (Valeria Cotto), a prostitute. The way she turns her tricks upsets other poor moms in her circle. (Rafael, 10/10; Sequoia, 10/11)

"Loving Vincent" Visual artist Dorota Kobiela collaborated with 125 artists to depict Vincent van Gogh's life in 65,000 hand-painted frames, drawing on his canvasses and over 800 letters and personal reflections. (Rafael, 10/5)

"Mudbound" African American director Dee Rees follows two men returning to Mississippi from service in WWII, showing the impact of postwar racism on an isolated rural community. With Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, and Jonathan Banks. (Sequoia, 10/7)

"Human Flow" Beijing-born conceptual artist Ai Weiwei presents a powerful and lengthy visual essay about the plight of 65 million people from 23 countries who are homeless, stateless and desperately in search of a stable source of shelter, food and a means for raising their offspring. (Sequoia, 10/6; Larkspur, 10/12)

"Call Me by Your Name" Luca Guadagnino's film unfolds over a glorious Northern Italian summer in 1983. An Italian falls for an American student who arrives to live with his family. Together they share a summer of music, food, and romance that will produce lasting memories. James Ivory and Andre Aciman adapted the latter's novel. With Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg. (Sequoia, 10/12; Larkspur, 10/14)

"Faces, Places" The 89-year-old French filmmaker Agnes Varda and the photographer-muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship. (Rafael, 10/6; Sequoia, 10/15)

"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" UK filmmaker Paul McGuigan directs Annette Bening depicting the final days of Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame as she moves in with a young British actor (Jamie Bell). (Sequoia, 10/7; Lark, 10/12)

"I Still Hide to Smoke" Director Rayhana Obermeyer profiles the women customers and workers at an all-female Algerian bathhouse. (Rafael, 10/9; Sequoia, 10/10)

"Felicite" The heroine of Sengalese director Alain Gomis' poetic, punishing film tries to save the life of her teenage son, badly injured in a motorbike accident. Felicite (Vero Tshanda Beya Mputu) sings in a rowdy nightclub in Kinshasa. She's got a beautiful voice, perfectly suited to her set of Afro-pop dance music. She goes on a mission to raise money to save her son's life. We take a cook's tour of a country where living conditions are still very raw. In Lingala with English subtitles. (Rafael, 10/8, 11)

"The Divine Order" Swiss director Petra Volpe depicts 1970, the tumultuous year before Swiss women got the vote. A strong woman takes on the stolid male establishment. In German, English and Italian, with English subtitles. (Rafael, 10/7; Lark, 10/8)

"The Desert Bride" This Argentine-Chilean co-production opens as middle-aged Teresa (Paulina Garcia) sets off on a bus trip across Western Argentina and all manner of things go wrong. Her bus breaks down in a dusty rural town; a mysterious vendor makes off with her belongings; and soon she's left to cope on the edge of the desert. Should appeal to fans of early Almodovar. In Spanish with English subtitles. (Sequoia, 10/7; Rafael, 10/9)

Continues next week. Info: