Archive for the ‘Castro’ Category

Writers with Drinks, Pamela Z, Easter vigils

pamela_zTonight Writers with Drinks features Pam Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness), Stacie Boschma (Happy Rainbow Poems from the Unicorn Petting Zoo), Laurie R. King (Touchstone, The Art Of Detection), Sean Stewart (Cathy’s Key, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous), Regina Lynn (SexRev 2.0, Sexier Sex), and Minal Hajratwala (Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages To Five Continents). As usual, it’s at the Makeout Room, 3225 22nd. St. near Mission in San Francisco, starts at 7:30 pm, and benefits the Center for Sex and Culture. I’d go just to hear Pam Houston read — she’s always terrific.

If you’d rather see something artsier, experimental music maven Pamela Z (pictured at left) is presenting the second in her ROOM series of performances, tonight at 8:00 pm at the Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa St. at Harrison.

And if you’re up for something mystical, dark and theatrical, attend one of the many Easter Vigil services held at Christian churches tonight. Classically, a congregation would meet in the “undercroft” of the church, the sub-basement where the skeletons are buried, to remind them of the tomb from which Jesus rises. Nowadays you’re more likely to find yourself in a candle-lit church basement, but the service is still great theater, with scripture readings that move from the creation to the exodus from Egypt to the passion and resurrection. Good bets are Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in North Beach, 8:00 pm; St. Gregory Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, 8:00 pm; Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, 8:00 pm; or St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro, 7:00 pm.

Godard at the Castro, and in beer spoof

Godard's 'Made in U.S.A.'Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 film with Jane Fonda, Made in U.S.A., plays tonight at the Castro Theatre, 7:00 and 9:00 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, and through April 7.

Meanwhile, the Belgian brewer Stella Artois launched a new ad campaign in which one ad spoofs Godard’s work circa Le Mépris and Pierrot le fou. It has that wonderful ability of European ads to be chic and tacky at the same time. 7.

Wenders tribute, appearance Tuesday at Castro Theatre

Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders

The highlight of the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival, now playing through the 24th, has to be the Jan. 20 tribute to director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, The American Friend) which will include a new documentary about the German filmmaker, a live interview with him on stage, and a showing of his new film Palermo Shooting. Read an interview with Wenders from Sunday’s SF Chronicle.

Wenders’ connections to San Francisco are many. Francis Ford Coppola supported his work during the 1980s, even renaming the Zim’s Diner on the first level of the Zoetrope Building “Wim’s” (still owned by Coppola, it’s now the fancy Cafe Zoetrope) and producing Wenders’ 1982 film Hammet, which was shot here. Wenders also has connections to Bay Area actor and playwright Sam Shepard, collaborating with him on 1984’s Paris, Texas and 2005’s Don’t Come Knocking.

During the 1980s, Wenders often appeared for premieres of his films in San Francisco at the Castro, the Roxie and, I think, the old Surf Theatre.

Berlin & Beyond Festival: Recommended Weekend Films, 1/16-18


[Phillipe Graber as Emil in The Friend.]

Of the films playing in the Berlin and Beyond festival tonight and over the weekend, I’ve only had a chance to screen a few. But among them were a couple of genuine gems:

First, The Friend, which screens at 6:30 PM tonight, was an innovative and interesting film with a very unconventional premise: Emil (played by Phillipe Graber, pictured above) has a crush on Larissa, who sings in a local bar. Soon after they meet, Larissa asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for her parents’ sake. He agrees, perhaps because he thinks it might lead somewhere. But after a few days of silence, he calls her number only to reach Larissa’s sister Nora. She tells him that Larissa has died. “Were you her boyfriend?” Nora asks. Emil gulps, and not knowing what to do, says yes, he was. Soon he is invited to meet the family and finds himself helping to plan the funeral and memorials for this girl he only met once — all the while pretending to everybody that he was Larissa’s boyfriend. That’s messy enough, but things get even messier when he begins to fall in love with Nora. It’s really pretty wonderful. The film was selected for the festival’s Maurice Kanbar Award for Best First Feature, and it’s easy to see why they chose it. It starts with a delightful, unpredictable story, and then that story is told with real subtlety and emotional range. All the actors are good, but Phillipe Graber is really good — he reminds me strongly of Michael Cera, and it was easy to imagine an English-language remake starring him. Let’s hope some indie producer picks it up and does it right.

The other great film I had a chance to see was Bird’s Nest, which screens at 4:15 PM on Saturday. It’s a documentary about the five-year process of the design and construction of Herzog & de Meuron’s beautiful Bejing National Stadium. (In case you didn’t know, the architects also designed the De Young in conjunction with Fong & Chan Architects.) It’s really a must-see for anybody with an interest in architecture, urban planning, China, or Herzog & de Meuron.

Actually, the title is a little misleading, because it’s not so much about the stadium as it is an exploration of all the things the firm was working on over this period (including an entire urban development near Shanghai), with the progress of the stadium serving as a narrative to pull you through the whole film. Along the way, we have a chance to become familiar with the architects as individuals and learn a great deal about their sensibilities, plus the film explores the nature of business and construction in China, the promise of urban planning, the vagaries of cross-cultural exchange, much about the artist Ai Weiwei (who advised the architects on cultural matters), and more.

Don’t expect an expose, though. Bird’s Nest largely avoids the dark side of this subject, addressing it only in asides and allusions, and stays positive, mostly exploring how the architects themselves made peace with the contradictions inherent in their position. “To tell them that they have to do their homework first,” Herzog says, alluding mostly to the PRC’s undemocratic nature, “and only then we will build for them, would be incredibly arrogant of us.” De Meuron seems to find a more aesthetic reconciliation: “We didn’t want to practice monumentalism, to glorify a system” with the stadium. Similar to the Eiffel Tower, which was built for a single event but has continued to function as public space and public sculpture ever since, they tried to make “a stadium that was anti-monumental, something for people, with a human dimension.”

But in the end, those are probably just rationalizations to cover their real motive: to create beauty in a prominent construction that will endure. At one point in the film, Herzog says to a television reporter: “What is beautiful? … I don’t speak of taste, but of something that attracts you. It has a magic that you cannot always explain. Some projects do have that, other projects do not have that. So in a very strange way, we do not always know what we do.” And then he goes on to cite the Forbidden City itself as a supreme example of architecture that has this mysterious beauty.

There are twelve other films playing this weekend (schedule here), and though I’m sure many of them are awesome as well, I’ve heard especially good things about A Hero’s Welcome, which plays at 9:00 tonight after The Friend, Cloud 9 (check out Nicole Gluckstern’s review of it in the SFBG) and Revanche on Saturday night, and Evet, I Do! on Sunday afternoon. The weekend rounds out on Sunday night with the Wim Wenders classic, Kings of the Road, which was a great inspiration for Jim Jarmusch.

[This post is second in a series about the Berlin and Beyond Festival. The next installment will be published Sunday.]

Berlin & Beyond Film Festival at the Castro 1/15 – 21


[Above: Wim Wenders in One Who Set Forth.] 

The 14th Annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, which is a showcase for new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland curated by the Goethe-Institut, opens at the Castro Theatre tomorrow night. Altogether, the festival features twenty-five full-length films and a program of ten shorts, along with several special events.

One of these events is the presentation of an award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing to Wim Wenders, right after the US Premiere of his latest film, Shooting Palermo, about which I’ll write more later in the week. Brief review: it’s not as crisp as it might have been, but good watching all the same. Wim Wenders is the acclaimed director of such films as Kings of the Road (which will be shown Sunday), Buena Vista Social Club, and Paris, Texas.

Another special event is an extraordinary screening of the Marlene Dietrich classic, The Blue Angel. Extraordinary, because this is not the film you know! It turns out that German directors in the early sound era made a practice of shooting in German for the home market, and then shooting the same scenes in English for the international market. This print is of the English-language version, which was recently discovered in the Berlin Archives and restored.

Opening night begins on January 15th at 6:30 with a party (special admission required) followed by an open screening at 8:00 of Cherry Blossoms, which is being co-presented with Frameline. The story follows a middle-aged German-Japanese couple. When the wife unexpectedly dies on a journey from Berlin to Tokyo, where they had planned to visit their son, the husband continues on and on the way “discovers a new understanding of both his late wife and himself.” The director, Doris Dörrie, says that she drew heavily upon Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story for inspiration. The lead actress, Hannelore Elsner, will be present at the screening.

There are too many great films and events to highlight in a single article, so this will be the first of many posts covering the festival. Check back here for daily updates; in the meantime, here is the full schedule and the tickets page.

Tonight at the Castro: ‘Touch of Evil’

One of the landmarks of American cinema, Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) plays tonight at the Castro Theatre at 7:00 pm.

Justly celebrated for the ways it combines the ridiculous — Welles’ grotesquely rotund figure, Charlton Heston in dark makeup as a Mexican detective, and Dennis Weaver’s bugging-out night shift motel manager — with the sublime — Welles’ direction, including the famous three and a half minute long opening tracking shot running under the titles — the film inspired a generation of filmmakers by making great cinema on a tiny budget and a two-bit script.

The opening tracking shot itself is a cultural reference point — remember Robert Altman’s homage in “The Player” even as the characters themselves refer to it? (“He set up the whole picture with that one tracking shot… My father was key grip on that shoot.”) But the whole film is stuffed full of delights: Heston in brownface exclaiming about an explosion on the border, “This could be very bad for us… for Mexico!” Janet Leigh as his wife, menaced by a drug-dealing biker gang. Marlene Dietrich as the faded proprietess of a bordertown speakeasy. Weaver frantically protesting, “I’m the night man!!” And Welles himself, grumbling, shuffling, sneering, waddling his way through the film. This is a great chance to see it on the big screen.

Touch of Evil plays at 7:00 pm at the Castro; the tone companion Wait Until Dark plays at 4:50 and 9:10.

Film: 12th International Latino Film Festival, Nov 7th to 23rd

12th International Latino Film Festival

The 12th International Latino Film Festival is set to open tomorrow night at the Castro Theatre with Cachao: Uno Mas!, and it closes November 23rd. In between, the festival offers more than 50 films at four venues in San Francisco (plus one in Berkeley and 10 on the Peninsula).

The opening night film celebrates “the life of one of the most influential Afro-Cuban musicians,” Israel “Cachao” Lopez. The documentary “follows the legendary bassist from his early days in Cuba to worldwide recognition and features interviews with Andy Garca, John Santos, and more.” (As I recall, it was quite the favorite at SFIFF 51.) Naturally there will be a Noche Cubana to follow the film! (Nota bene: the party’s at the Hotel Kabuki.) If that’s not your style, you might stay on at the Castro to watch Los travestis tambien lloran, a French feature about two Ecuadorian transsexuals struggling to get by in Paris.

Other opening weekend highlights include Chevolution, which explores the life and legacy of Che Guevara; Children in No-Man’s Land, which documents the plight of the 100,000 unaccompanied minors who enter the US each year and are caught by immigration authorities; and the film that has, for my money, one of the best titles ever: Amor, dolor y viceversa, a “sexy thriller” featuring “the stunningly beautiful but forever single Chelo (Barbara Mori),” who is “haunted by recurring visions of a handsome lover (Leonardo Sbaraglia). But dreams turn to nightmares and nightmares to reality. As this tense and noirish jigsaw plot unfolds, truth, fantasy, and lies blur together, and a longing for love turns to unrelenting obsession.” Wow, sounds pretty good to me!

All films Saturday and Sunday are being screened at the Brava Theater for Women in the Arts (located at 24th & York, near Bryant, in Potrero Hill). There are several worthy films this weekend that I haven’t mentioned; for info on them and the other films in the weeks ahead, just check out the full schedule here.

Protest Prop 8 on Market Street this Friday

Last night some 2,000 people came out to City Hall to hold a candlelight vigil and protest the passage of Proposition 8. Susie Cagle at Curbed predicts this is just the beginning, and she’s right. You can take part in the next major protest this Friday. Word here. The plan is to meet above the Civic Center BART station (Market and 7th) at 5:30 PM, then march down Market street to Castro Street, down to 18th, and then back along 18th to Mission Dolores Park. The bigger the turnout, the better.

The joke you seek is in your hand

Residents and shopkepers of the Castro district are getting tired of tour buses full of “gawkers,” reports the Chronicle’s C.W. Nevius. It wouuld be one thing if they bought lunch, but a deli owner reported:

They come in here, 15 or 20 at a time. They look around, take a picture, and then they walk out. In the last three months I’ve sold one bottle of water. It is not worth having so much traffic.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty says the plague can be exorcised by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But let’s not forget the famous response of the Summer of Love hippies on Haight St, as recalled by Mick Sinclair in his book San Francisco: A Cultural and Literary History:

On Haight St. some hippies responded to the busloads of gawping tourists by holding up mirrors, inviting the “straights” to look at themselves.

Tragedy of the commons, and other clusterfucks

Neighbors of Dolores Park (the park, not the restaurant) are getting grouchy about the large crowds gathering there on nice weekend days. Like the thousand fans of The Breakfast Club, shown last weekend, or the crowds of gay sunbathers from up the hill.

Worlds collide in the 13.7 acre swath of green on the border between the Castro and Mission Districts and directly across the street from Mission High School.

Speaking of crowd scenes, UC Berkeley journalism professor and prolific magazine journalist Cynthia Gorney has a piece in tomorrow’s NYT Magazine about merging at freeway lane reductions, a subject near and dear to anyone who has approached the Bay Bridge on 101 in San Francisco or driven through the Caldicott Tunnel. The latter clusterfuck provides her main example. She writes about “sidezoomers” versus the benefits of feeling virtuous while choosing to wait in the “lineup” of cars that are already in the correct lane. The online version has many nifty multimedia graphics.

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