Review: “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” a delightful trip down memory lane showcasing 50’s and 60’s pop hits, at 6th Street Playhouse through May 13, 2012
Flashback: It’s 1958 and prom night at Springfield High School. The live entertainment is The Marvelous Wonderettes, four best girlfriends, high school seniors—Betty Jean (Shari Hopkinson), Cindy Lou (Ashley Rose McKenna), Missy (Katie Veale) and Suzy (Julianne Lorenzen) who hit the sweet spot in four part harmony. Baby Boomers especially will enjoy 6th Street Playhouse’s dynamic musical review The Marvelous Wonderettes, Roger Bean’s long-running Los Angeles and Off Broadway hit which won the 2007 Los Angeles Ovation Award for Best Musical. Directed by Craig Miller, 6th Street’s Artistic Director, and Janis Wilson, Musical Director, with choreography by Alise Girard, the show features 35 oldies from the 1950’s and 1960’s, 28 of which are sung in glorious four part harmony. There’s no real plot to speak of, save for some fairly innocent high school antics; the drama showcases the music which is a delightful end in itself.
The girls start out with Mr. Sandman and that all time favorite, Lollipop, both popularized by the Chordettes, and then move on to Dreamlover and Hold me Thrill Me, Kiss Me, and other 1950′s classics, demonstrating a solid mastery of the beloved and quite difficult tradition of vocal harmonizing. And the fun they’re having is infectious! You’ll have to work out your politics for how to silence the guy next to you who breaks out in his own crackly soprano rendition of one of these oldies. Act I’s prom theme is “All I Have to Do Is Dream/Dream Lover” and a dreamcatcher is used as a vehicle for each girl to dedicate a song to her special love. Over the course of their special prom performance, some unexpected cracks emerge in the tight gal-pal bond—Cindy Lou steals Betty Jean’s Alleghemy Moon solo, and her boyfriend, and the two bicker about it by blowing liquid soap bubbles over each other. The music is cotton candy sweet and so are Tracy Hinman Sigrist’s very colorful retro costumes—50’s prom dresses in pastel satins with full skirts and crinolines and matching dyed shoes. Act I closes with the audience voting on prom queen, which is quite exciting until you discover that the ballot you and the rest of the audience has cast is hastily thrown out in a dramatic gesture made by one of the girls and never counted.
Act II is set in 1968 and picks up at Springfield High School Class of 1958’s 10-Year Reunion and the Marvelous Wonderettes open with Heatwave. During the course of the reunion, we learn what has happened in each of the girl’s lives since graduation and it turns out that each of them is suffering in some way over love. Missy, burnt out and frustrated, has been dating the same guy for five years with no marriage proposal in site and Suzy is very pregnant and her husband is cheating on her. Each of four young women sings a powerful medley of songs that fits her situation and the girls support each other and discover strength and healing in friendship.
The show, pleasant enough, somehow aches for more depth, especially in Act II. All the rich promise of 1968—the peak of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, riots at the Democratic National Convention, Black Power demonstrations at the Summer Olympics, Feminist demonstrations at the Miss America pageant, and so much more—is basically ignored and it appears that Springfield is just another small suburban enclave looking inward. Never really tapping into the collective mindset of our country’s most rebellious decade, nor its rich and complex zeitgeist, seems a bit of cop-out for playwright Roger Bean who has gone on to make a career on the Wonderettes and sequels like Winter Wonderettes. The toe-tapping music itself, though, is fabulous and 6th Street and each of its four singers deliver a thoroughly enjoyable salute to girly pop.
Highlights of the show include vibrant four-part harmony in Mr. Sandman, Lollipop, and Maybe.
Santa Rosa resident Ashley Rose McKenna in her debut performance at 6th Street beams in Act I as the petite brunette trickster Cindy Lou. She delivers a lush Allegheny Moon and follows through in Act II with an energetic Son of a Preacher Man and Leader of the Pack and a tender, pleading and heartfelt Maybe, with back-up by the talented ensemble, possibly the evening’s most poignant offering.
Rohnert Park resident Katie Veale also makes her 6th Street debut as Missy, a sweet nerdish girl in glasses who’s also a serious soprano, delivers a very moving It’s In His Kiss and Wedding Bell Blues as she is joined by the ensemble.
In addition to her consistently strong singing, Shari Hopkinson, part of 6th Street’s full-time team, brings compelling soul and a rich willfulness to Betty Jean, while Julianne Lorenzen adds a dose of authentic vulnerability to Suzy.
And behind a sheer curtain in back of the stage action is the talented six member band that keeps the rich music flowing all evening long. Led by Janis Dunson Wilson (conductor/keyboards), the group includes Casey Jones (saxophones), Chad Baker (guitar), Steve Hoffman (bass) and Laurie Bilbro (bass) and Mateo Dillaway (drums).
Up Next at 6th Street Playouse: Stephen Temperley’s Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins recounts the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy, tone deaf socialite who dreamed of being a great opera singer. Her efforts to become a great coloratura soprano led to fame and notoriety with annual private recitals at the Ritz Carlton Hotel; a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944; and an impressive list of celebrity fans of her day including Cole Porter, Enrico Caruso and Tallulah Bankhead. Memories and experiences are recalled by her accompanist and friend, Cosmé McMoon in this poignant comedy that celebrates the spirit of a woman who defied criticism and followed her bliss. Directed by Michael Fontaine, Souvenir features award-winning actress Mary Gannon Graham as Florence Foster Jenkins (who dazzled as Patsy Cline in Always…Patsy Cline at 6th Street in 2010) and John Shillington as accompanist, Cosmé McMoon. May 11 to May 27, 2012, part of 6th Street’s Studio Theatre Series.
Another 1968, with grit and rebellion: Witness the powerful richness of the year 1968—twelve months of culture shifting, life-changing, memory stamping events, and explore the Bay Area’s pivotal role, at the Oakland Museum’s fabulous new 1968 Exhibit, through August 19, 2012.
Details: The Marvelous Wonderettes ends May 13, 2012. 6th Street Playhouse – GK Hardt Theatre, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA, Performances: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8 p.m. and Sundays 2 p.m. Tickets: $15 to $35. For more information: www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or phone 707.523.4185.
San Francisco Ballet closes its season with “Don Quixote”—all new costumes and scenery, this Friday through May 6, 2012
Driven by stories of ancient rivalries and his vision of female perfection—Dulcinea—the wildly romantic aging nobleman Don Quixote sets off on an epic journey with his trusty squire Sancho Panza in tow. When he encounters the lovely Kitri in a gypsy camp, he is smitten believing that he has found his Dulcinea. Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov’s staging of Russian master choreographers Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky’s 1869 Don Quixote returns to San Francisco Ballet this Friday, April 27, 2012, with spectacular all-new scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Martin Pakledinaz. There are just 10 performances of SF Ballet’s highly anticipated season closer and if you are going to be impacted by this weekend’s Doyle Drive closure, you can skip the opening weekend and attend the following week, which offers 7 performances, starting Tuesday May 1, through Sunday, May 6, 2012, including convenient Saturday and Sunday matinees.
Miguel de Cervantes’ romantic and witty story, placed in the colorful streets of Spain, comes to life with comes to life with a lively cast of characters and the bravado and excitement of some of classical ballet’s most technically demanding dances. Under the expert conducting of Martin West and David Briskin, Austrian composer Léon Minkus’ lushly light and melodic music with its clear dance rhythms will be brought to life.
Traditionally, the scene stealer in this ballet is the live horse or donkey that makes a stage appearance, delighting the audience to no end. Most of the dancing glory in this sweeping classic ballet is in the lead role of Kitri. Vanessa Zahorian will dance the opening and Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung will alternate thereafter. All eyes will be upon Kitri as she executes dozens of fouteé turns and triple pirouettes in the grand pas de deux which will also see her Basilio put through his paces. Joan Boada, will dance the role of the barber Basilio for the opening, with Taras Domitro, Vitor Luiz, Davit Karapetyan and Gennadi Nedvigin alternating in subsequent performances.
Helgi Tomasson, SF Ballet’s Artistic Director, discusses Martin Pakledinaz’s costumes for Don Quixote:
SF Ballet’s 2013 Season: San Francisco Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in America and, in 2013, will celebrate 80 years of performances. SF Ballet’s 2013 Repertory Season will begin with Nutcracker, which runs December 7 through 28, 2012 for a total of 31 performances. Following the Opening Night Gala on Thursday, January 24, 2013, the season will consist of eight programs performed in alternating repertory, from January 29 to May 12. The season includes the U.S. premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s full-length Cinderella; the Northern California premiere of Nijinsky by Hamburg Ballet Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer John Neumeier, which will be performed on Program 2 by the renowned Hamburg Ballet; the SF Ballet premiere of Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc; plus world premieres by Wayne McGregor, SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov, and Alexei Ratmansky. The season will also feature works by acclaimed choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Cranko, Edwaard Liang, Mark Morris, Rudolf Nureyev, Ashley Page, Jerome Robbins, and San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. For detailed programming information and subscription and ticket information go to SF Ballet’s 2013 season announcement.
Details: Don Quixote opens Friday, April 27, 2012 and runs through May 6, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, in San Francisco’s Civic Center. (415) 865-2000 or http://www.sfballet.org.
Absent Iranian filmmakers deliver memorable films at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, through May 3, 2012
Over the years the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 55) has showcased some remarkable Iranian films and this year is no exception. Mohammad Rasoulof’s Goodbye, Reza Mirkarimi’s A Cube of Sugar and Marjanne Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Chicken With Plums are this year’s offerings— each film screens several times throughout the festival which ends on May 3, 2012. Sadly, we’ve come to accept that it’s rare for Iranian filmmakers to make personal appearances at film festivals these days but we revel in their creativity and courage and unparalleled storytelling. What makes the situation so fascinating is that, in present day Iran, filmmakers have no freedom of expression and yet they have managed to become central in its complex social and political discourse, to the point that they are considered serious threats by the Iranian regime. Working under the constant threat of censorship and imprisonment has forced Iranian filmmakers to express themselves indirectly through metaphor and allegory and they have astounded us with rich stories that are about politics yet transcend politics to reveal what is intimate and poignantly familiar in our human condition.
Goodbye (bé omid é didar)(2011, 100 min) In 2009, Mohammad Rasoulof (along with fellow filmmaker Jafar Panahi) faced arrest, a six-year prison sentence and a 20 year filmmaking ban at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Court, which also prohibited interviews with local and foreign media. Goodbye, his fifth feature film, and most realistic to date, was smuggled out of Iran and made its debut at Cannes in 2011, where it won the award for best direction in the Certain Regard section. The film is a gripping indictment of Iran, told through the bleak story of a Tehran activist lawyer, Noura (Leya Zareh), whose legal license has been suspended and who is desperate to leave Iran. Her husband, some type of political journalist, has escaped authorities and is living low in Southern Iran. Noura has consulted a fixer whose job it is to help people leave Iran and her pregnancy figures in her exit scheme. As she quietly prepares to leave her homeland and aging mother, she encounters all sorts of hitches which ratchet up the suspense. At the same time, just navigating the course of her daily life—always covered, always monitored, always explaining, always navigating tight passages and not having her husband present to authorize things as simple as checking into a hotel, we get a very good feel for the chilling lack of personal freedom afforded Iran’s educated and professional women. Rasoulof’s previous films include Head Wind (2008), Iron Island (SFIFF 2006) and The White Meadows(SFIFF 2010). Read ARThound’s review of The White Meadows and about film censorship in Iran here. (Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 1:30 p.m., Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 1 p.m., Mon Apr 23, 2012, 6:30 p.m., all at Kabuki)
Chicken With Plums (Poulet aux prunes) (2011, 91 min) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s drama based on Satrapi’s best-selling graphic novel of the same name which, in 2005, won the Prize for Best Comic Book of the year at the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Festival. Satrapi, who lives in Paris, was born in Iran in 1969 but was sent by her family to Vienna in 1983 to escape the post-Shah fallout, a story she told in her acclaimed book and animated film Persepolis (2000, 2007). Chicken with Plums is as riveting a portrait of an artist and all his brilliant and disturbing excesses that you’ll find. Set in 1958 in post-Mossadegh Tehran (deftly filmed in German and France), the winding story captures the last eight days of Nasser Ali’s life. The virtuoso tar player (a Persian string instrument) has resigned himself to die after he runs into his old love, Irâne, who does not recognize him, and then returns home to find that his wife has smashed his prized musical instrument beyond repair. As he miserably, egocentrically and brilliantly winds down, only his daughter, Farzaneh, his memories, and his favorite dish, chicken with plums, rouse his desire. Imaginative sets, lighting and animation all enhance the drama. (Mon, April 30, 2012, 6:15 p.m. and Wed, May 2, 2012, 12:30 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
A Cube of Sugar (Ye habe ghand) (2011, 116 min) Reza Mirkarimi’s sublimely beautiful dramatic comedy about three generations of an Iranian middle class family coming together in the old family home as the youngest girl, Pasandide (Negar Javaherian), is about to be married. Not everything goes as planned and it has something to do with the sweetener. Traditional family dynamics play out as four sisters gather together to cook, sew, gossip and prepare for the wedding. The family compound of aged Uncle Ezzatolah (Saeed Poursamimi) proves an ideal site for this reunion with its lush courtyard gardens, labyrinthine parlors and passageways, and erratic electrical system (subject to untimely city blackouts). Mirikami captures all the proceedings with breathtaking images bathed in glowing light, accompanied by a sensual musical score by Mohammad Reza Alighouli. In 2005, Mirkarimi’s film Too Far, Too Close (Kheili dour, kheili nazdik), which he also co-authored and produced, was Iran’s selection for the Foreign Language Oscar. Javaherian won the best actress prize in the 2010 Fajr International Film Festival for her role in Gold and Copper (Tala va Mes) (2010) and is likely to deliver a memorable performance here as well. (Sun, Apr 22, 2012, 4 p.m., Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 9 p.m., Wed Apr 25, 2012, 12:30 p.m.—all at San Francisco Film Society Cinema.)
55th S.F. International Film Festival
When: Thursday, April 19, 2012 through Thursday, May 3, 2012
5 Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco, S.F. Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post Street, San Francisco, Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco, SFMOMA, 151 Third Street, San Francisco, Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Tickets: $11 to $13 for most films with a variety of multiple screening passes. Special events generally start at $20
More info: (415) 561-5000, www.sffs.org
The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s “Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought”—artists respond to trees with hope and despair, through May 28, 2012
From the earliest times, trees, which offer shelter and protection, and bear fruit, have been a potent symbol and the focus of religious life for people all over the world. Today, Earth Day, when we think about the state of our planet and our dependence on nature, we are reminded that trees are on the front lines of our changing climate too and that, for a myriad of reasons, trees really do matter. Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought, at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum(CJM) through May 28, 2012 is a compelling exhibition that explores the tree in Jewish tradition through the lens of more than 70 contemporary artists, drawing inspiration from today’s ecological movements as well as Jewish ritual and tradition. The title, Do Not Destroy (Bal Tashchit in Hebrew), comes from a commandment in the Torah (Deuteronomy 20:19) that forbids the wanton destruction of trees during wartime.
“When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down…” (King James Version with Strong’s, Deuteronomy 20:19)
The exhibit, curated by CJM’s Dara Solomon, consists of three parts: The Dorothy Saxe Invitational featuring works by 57 artists, mostly local, who were asked to create works incorporating reclaimed wood in response to the range of themes inspired by Tu B’Shevat, a minor Jewish holiday which is essentially a New Year for the Trees. The second component is a selection of loaned works by internationally prominent artists, examining the tree as image and as a political symbol in contemporary art. The third component is the expansion of the exhibition beyond the walls of the Museum on to the Jessie Square Plaza with a commission by the San Francisco-based environmental design firm Rebar. Taken together, the newly commissioned works, the selection of existing works and the Jessie Square Plaza project offer an opportunity to commune with trees through design, video, photography sculpture, drawing and painting.
As you enter the exhibition on the second floor, Zadok Ben-David’s “Blackfield” (2007-2009) is laid out before you. This is a work all about perspective and the best viewing angle is on your knees. The work is an enormous circular field of thousands of carefully rendered 2-3-inch-tall, stainless steel cut sculptures of plants that spout up from a field of sand. Each plant sculpture takes its form from Victorian botanical illustrations which Ben David found in old text books. The detail on these delicate pieces is quite amazing and delightful. The trees are painted in jewel tones on one side and black on the other. When viewed from the front, the darkness presents a scene of desolation. But when viewed from the back, these plants blossom luminously into a colorful wonderland. Born in 1949, Ben-David, an Israeli who lives and works in London, has had over forty solo exhibitions since 1980 and is the recipient of many prestigious awards.
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, half Japanese, half Vietnamese, is best known for his captivating dreamlike underwater videos depicting local fishermen pulling rickshaws along the seabed and divers performing traditional Chinese dragon dances underwater. “The Ground, the Root and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree” is a mesmerizing three-chapter video work of enigmatic beauty that the artist completed with a group of 50 art students from Luang Prabang Fine Arts School in Laos. The chapter entitled “The Air” closes the film with a flotilla of these students, each on a small, simple boat, painting while traveling down the Mekong River. As the current takes them down river, what they attempt to paint rapidly vanishes from view and they are forced to romanticize the moment, a blip in time. As they approach Vat Sing, a monastery outside of Luang Prabang, a giant Bodhi tree stands on the river shore and the beckoning sound of chanting is heard. Some of the students jump out of their boats and swim toward the tree, the species of tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Others, in contrast, float by without stopping. Nguyen-Hatsushiba has commented: “As locations and moments are left behind by the flow of the river, so will this symbol of Buddhism gradually fade away from the view of the painters, leaving them with some measure of doubt about the journey they have started.” (Quote taken from artist comments issued for France Morin’s four year project The Quiet in the Land, the sponsor of the film.)
Tal Shochat’s series of photographs depicts 5 fruit trees native to Israel—peach, almond, apple, pomegranate, and persimmon—all at the height of their ripening and enhanced to the point they look too bountiful to be entirely natural. Shochat carefully cleaned every branch and leaf and then completely stripped the trees of their context, sharply silhouetting them against a dramatic black background. Her artificially constructed forest of fruit trees ironically alludes to an idealized vision of Eden, where nature was preserved from human intervention.
Other works on view in this loaned portion of the exhibit range from Joseph Beuys’ 7,000 Eichen (7,000 Oaks)—a political activist performance Buey’s initiated at documenta 7, in 1982, with the planting of 7,000 oak trees in the city of Kassel, Germany—to April Gornik’s Light in the Woods (2011)—an oil painting of sunlight mystically shining through a grove of trees—to Roxy Paine’s Model for Palimpset (2004), a stainless steel tree sculptures with branches that form impossible loops and strange, gravity-defying configurations.
The Dorothy Saxe Invitational builds on the Museum’s long-standing tradition of asking artists from a variety of backgrounds to explore a Jewish ceremonial object, holiday, or concept within the context of their own mediums and artistic philosophy. This year’s theme is the holiday Tu B’Shevat (the New Year for the Trees). All of the works in the invitational are for sale, with the proceeds split 50-50 between the artist and the Museum.
Berkeley artist Gale Antokal made her own charcoal and then used it to create “Rebirth,” which is a drawing of the root from which she made the charcoal. The piece is inspired by Antokal’s mystical understanding of the “Tree of Life” as “a renewal of the flow of divine energy that occurs during the darkest time of winter when the deepest roots begin to stir.”
Stanford-based artist Gail Wight fashioned handmade paper–a delicate and ephemeral medium–on which she has created an image of a cross section from a Devonian tree from over 400 million years ago.
Luke Bartels, a member of the Woodshop collective in San Francisco’s Sunset district, contributed “The Wood Standard.” a stack of wood, which has been fashioned to resemble bars of gold. He cleverly questions the manner of ascribing value to particular materials over others–in this case positing trees or wood as valuable as gold.
Details: Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought closes May 28, 2012. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between 3rd & 4th streets), San Francisco. Parking is Hours: open daily (except Wednesday) 11 AM – 5 PM and Thursday, 1 – 8 PM. Museum admission is $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for students and senior citizens with a valid ID, and $5 on Thursdays after 5 PM. Youth 18 and under always get in free. For general information, visit www.thecjm.org or phone 415.655.7800.
Review: In Jordan Harrison’s “Maple and Vine,” a stressed out modern day couple chooses to live life like it’s 1955 again, at A.C.T. through Sunday, April 22, 2012
How much would you be willing to sacrifice for what you thought would lead to true happiness? In Jordan Harrison’s provocative comedy, Maple & Vine, which has its West Coast premiere at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), a young professional couple overwhelmed by the complexity and plentitude of the modern world find an unconventional exit—they join a community of 1950’s re-enactors, the “Society for Dynamic Obsolescence.”
The idea of leaving it all behind for simpler times is certainly intriguing but the play itself never rises to the level of engrossing drama. The story unfolds simply—Emily Donohoe, as Katha, and Nelson Lee, as Ryu are representative of the young New York couple on the rise—she’s got a high-powered position in publishing that allows her the satisfaction of pushing around a few people and he’s a plastic surgeon. He’s also Japanese –American. On the surface, things look good, but Katha’s suffered a miscarriage that she can’t seem to recoup from, is no longer interested in sex and is just plain lost. They meet another couple (Jameson Jones, as Dean, and Julia Coffey, as Ellen) who seem to have the joie de vivre and confidence that they lack and so crave. Their secret—which they are happy to share—is that they have essentially checked of the modern world and live happily in a community where it’s always 1955. After a few meetings, the idea grows of Katha. At her urging, she and Ryu decide to swap their cell phones, sushi, lattes and stressed-out lives in Manhattan for rotary phones, fish sticks and Sanka by joining this community in the Midwest where life is slower, passion is risqué́, and a cocktail is a daily accessory.
Escapism—it’s always lovely at first. Katha—now Kathy—especially, enjoys her life as housewife. It’s an implausible stretch to imagine that Ryu gets much out of his entry-level position as a box assembler at the local factory, but he goes along for the ride. Of course, there’s a trade-off. This meticulously recreated Ozzie and Harriet world is way beyond off-the grid. Conformity is strictly enforced by an “authenticity committee” that meets regularly to ensure that disruptions from the real world are minimized. Rigid retro attitudes about gender, race, and sexuality stir up powerful questions about how good the “good ole days” actually were. Kathy and Ryu encounter pressure about their interracial marriage and, in her attempts to fit in, Kathy actually stirs the pot by encouraging more prejudice.
A potentially interesting subplot involving a homosexual affair between Ryu’s very bigoted boss and seemingly straight-laced Dean (who brought them into the community) takes off but doesn’t sufficiently land. All in all, by the middle of the second act, the play has grown so implausible that it has become a farce and it ends without having sufficiently explored the many complexities created by the conscious choice to check-out.
Set designer Ralph Funicello outdid himself with a splendid New York City backdrop that is expertly lit by Russell H. Champa. The 1950’s clothing too, by Alex Jaeger, is to die for, especially the women’s dresses with their fitted bodies and flowing skirts and the elegance of heels. Of course, we all know that under those dresses, enforcing the hourglass shape, are foundation garments that literally meld to the body.
Run-time is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
Friday’s 50’s Dress-Up—the Drinks are on A.C.T.: Come dressed head-to-toe in ’50s wear at the 8 p.m. Friday performances, and enjoy a free pre-show cocktail at the Geary Theatre’s third-floor Sky Bar. Limit: one free drink per ticketholder. Valid only before the show at the third-floor Sky Bar.
A.C.T. Family Series Workshop: Saturday, Apr. 21, at 1 p.m.
A new theater experience for young adults and their families! Meet before the 2 p.m. show for a lively, interactive workshop. Please note: due to sexual situations and partial nudity, Maple and Vine is recommended for audiences ages 14 and up.
Details: Maple and Vine ends its limited engagement Sunday, April 22, 2012, at the American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco. Performances: Tuesday–Saturday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets (starting at $10) are available by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or at act-sf.org.
SF MOMA Gallery Talk: Curator Lisa Sutcliffe on Rineke Dijkstra’s Beach Portraits, Thursday evening, April 19, 2012
One of the most highly regarded photographers of her generation, Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra is well known for her psychologically probing portraits of ordinary people in states of transition. Her Beach Portraits, a very painterly series taken between 1992-1996, in which adolescents from all over—the U.K., Croatia, Poland, Ukraine—are posed alone against a background of sea and sky brought her immediate acclaim. More than simply documenting a transitional moment, Dijkstra reveals a heightened tension in her subjects who are delicately poised on the edge of an unknown future. These life-size photographs and videos, subtly colored, are celebrated for capturing the essential nature and complexities of growing up. Taken as a group, these portraits reveal fascinating cultural differences and some universal similarities and allow us to draw some profound conclusions about how people react under a watchful eye.
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) through May 28, 2012, is the artist’s first midcareer retrospective in the United States, bringing together 70 of her large-scale color photographs, including many of the beach portraits, and five video installations, including two new video projections. The exhibition is coorganized by SFMOMA and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and curated locally by Sandra Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography, SFMOMA. On Thursday, April 19, 2012, Lisa Sutcliffe, assistant curator of photography, SFMOMA, will give a 20 minute gallery talk, sharing her perspective on one of Dijkstra’s portraits in her Beach Portraits series. Meet in the Haas Atrium at 6:30 p.m. before moving into the galleries. Free with museum admission.
If you go, be sure to watch her 12 minute video “I see a woman crying (the weeping woman)” (2009) which unfolds on three screens and is the first work in which she used the human voice. Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” (1937), in the Tate Liverpool, was used as the talking point for a group of British schoolchildren who are filmed having a prolonged serious discussion about what they see in the painting. To create the video, she set up three cameras on tripods and had the children look at a reproduction of the painting that was attached to the middle tripod, so none of them were looking straight into the camera lens but beyond it, at the image. Unlike a conventional portrait in which the subject looks at the camera, the children here were engaged with each one another and thus disconnected from the viewer. What they come up with and how they respond to each other’s remarks and begin to speculate on the woman’s emotional state and situation is truly fascinating.
Also riveting is her series “Almerisa,” (1994-2008) a study in how a subject, in this case a 6-year-old Bosnian girl in a refugee center for asylum seekers in Leiden, Netherlands, changes over time. When Dijkstra first photographed Almerisa in 1994, she was in her best and probably only dress, and posed lifelessly, almost like a rag doll, her feet dangling because they could not touch the floor. Concerned about what had happened to her, Dijkstra found the family after they left the center and settled into life in the Netherlands and began photographing Almerisa every two years or so, completing 11 portraits of her sitting in a chair, that also captured her maturation into a young woman. The final portrait captures Almerisa holding her own baby. The orthodoxy in this powerful series is one of honesty rather than beauty. The subject’s body and character are transitioning for many reasons that invite the viewer to embark on the same type of speculation that Dijkstra asked of the school children who encountered Picasso’s powerful portrait.
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective is the second of three shows at SFMOMA this year focusing on Female Pioneers of Photography. The first was Francesca Woodman, September 5, 2011-February 20, 2012. The third is Cindy Sherman, July-October, 2012.
Details: SFMOMA is located at 151 Third Street, San Francisco, across from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. General admission is $18—Thursday evenings admission is half-price. For more information, visit www.sfmoma.org.
The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival opens Thursday night with a captivating French drama and continues with 14 days of fabulous film
The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF55) opens this Thursday and runs for 15 days, featuring 174 films and live events from 45 countries, 14 juried awards, and upwards of 100 participating filmmakers present. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society, the festival is well-known for its emphasis on experimental storytelling, its support of new filmmakers and for championing independent films that are unlikely to screen elsewhere in the Bay Area.
Opening night is dedicated to SFIFF executive director, Graham Leggat, who passed earlier this year. The Thursday evening festival opener is Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen, (Les adieux à la reine) (France 2012, 99 min), a lush and captivating historical drama about the early days of the French Revolution that dovetails perfectly with March’s celebrated Bay Area screenings of Abel Gance’s silent film Napoleon. Set in July 1789, Farewell, My Queen, covers the final 4 days at the court of Louis XVI at Versailles as seen from the perspective of palace servant Sidonie Labord (French actress Léa Seydoux), Marie Anionette’s personal reader. The film quickly rises beyond the standard historical costume drama into territories aptly explored by Jacquot—the internal world of women all at levels of society and how French royalty dealt with the very rapidly approaching societal changes at hand. Self-absorbed Marie Antionette (Diane Kruger), oblivious to politics, has an obsessive crush on Gabrielle De Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), who reciprocates just enough to keep the exquisite baubles coming. As Sidonie aptly navigates the enormous passages of Versailles trying to secure information about what is happening, she is constantly called upon to console the desperate queen through reading, the intimacy of which spawns her own platonic infatuation with the queen.
Below are capsule reviews of the festival’s art-related line-up, which is strong this year. Stayed tuned to ARThound for full reviews in the coming days.
ARThound’s recommendations: ART, ART, ART!
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present (Mathew Akers, 2011, 105 min) This riveting documentary tracks the prolific career and struggle of the so-called grandmother of performance art—Yugoslavian Marina Abramović— who it turns out is youthful, outspoken, glamorous, shrewd, very talented, and craves the validation of the big leagues. The film is the perfect companion piece for Lynn Hershman Leeson’s riveting !Women Art Revolution (2010) which screened at SFIFF54 and was a shocking visual primer for the oft-repeated statement “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Anyone familiar with Abramovic knows that she’s not—and never has been—well-behaved, which is a large part of her enduring intrigue. The film’s framework is her preparation for her celebrated 2010 MOMA retrospective—Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present— and the film is the longest-duration solo work of her career. As she brutally questions her own relevancy, we see a very serious artist at work. Filmmaker Mathew Akers and Marina Abramović will attend. (Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 4:15 p.m. and Sat, April 28, 2012, 3:30 p.m., both at Kabuki, and Sun, April 29, 2012, 5:40 p.m., PFA.)
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman, 2012, 91 min) An authentic and thorough portrait of renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s chronic pursuit of art, freedom of speech and human dignity using imagination, skill, and social media savvy. Weiwei came to global prominence via Twitter after he doggedly probed the deaths of over 5,000 in the Sichian earthquake. This riveting documentary by American journalist Alison Klayman is also a persuasive portrait of the harsh underbelly of today’s China and the union of art and politics in our increasingly networked world. The film gives a glance to time Ai spent in New York in the 1980’s and his recent major installation at London’s Tate Modern in which he carpeted the Tate’s Turbine Hall with 100 million sunflower seeds made of porcelain (all hand-fabricated in China, of course). The emphasis is primarily on his political activism though which keeps him in the news. (Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 6 p.m. and Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 9:15 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (Sam Green, 2012, 60 min) Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green presents the world premiere of his “live documentary” on Buckminster Fuller. The piece is a follow-up to his internationally acclaimed live film Utopia in Four Movements, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In this new piece, Green looks at the projects Fuller proposed for the Bay Area, including a gargantuan floating tetrahedral city in the middle of the Bay, and explores his utopian vision of radical change through a “design revolution.” Green’s narration draws inspiration equally from old travelogues, the Benshi tradition, and TED talks, and will be a live collaboration with experimental indie band Yo La Tengo. The film itself is part of a larger Green project that includes a multi-channel installation (built by Obscura Digital) on display in a concurrent exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area” (Tues, May 1, 2012, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. SFMOMA)
The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi, 2012, 109 min) Commissioned by the 10th Sharjah Biennial, a huge contemporary art event in the Persian Gulf region to make a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act,” independent Iranian-American filmmaker Caveh Zahedi (I Am a Sex Addict (2005)) goes for it in a big way. Told that he can basically do whatever he wants except make fun of the ruler, Sheik Sultan bin Muhammad-al-Qasimi, who finances the Biennial, Zahedi decides to do just that. He turns his camera on the Biennial itself and presses every culturally sensitive button he can find which is a big no-no in the most conservative Islamic state of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates. His antics fail to amuse. Zahedi’s film is banned for blasphemy and he is threatened with a fatwa. (Sat, Apr 21, 9 p.m., Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Sat. Apr 28, 9 p.m.—all at Kabuki.)
Chicken With Plums (Poulet aux prunes) (2011, 91 min) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s drama based on Satrapi’s best-selling graphic novel of the same name which, in 2005, won the Prize for Best Comic Book of the year at the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Festival. I’ve placed this film in the art category because it’s as riveting a portrait of an artist and all his brilliant and disturbing excesses that you’ll find. Set in 1958 in post-Mossadegh Tehran (deftly filmed in German and France), the winding story captures the last eight days of Nasser Ali’s life. The virtuoso tar player (a Persian string instrument) has resigned himself to die after he runs into his old love, Irâne, who does not recognize him, and then returns home to find that his wife has smashed his prized musical instrument beyond repair. As he miserably, egocentrically and brilliantly winds down, only his daughter, Farzaneh, his memories, and his favorite dish, chicken with plums, rouse his desire. Imaginative sets, lighting and animation all enhance the drama. (Mon, April 30, 2012, 6:15 p.m. and Wed, May 2, 2012, 12:30 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon, 2012, 85 min) Malcolm and Sofia, two Bronx teens, are the ultimate graffiti-artists. When a rival gang buffs their latest masterpiece, they must hatch a plan to get revenge by tagging the iconic Home Run Apple during a Mets game, but they need to raise $500 to pull off their spectacular scheme. Over the course of two whirlwind, sun-soaked summer days, Malcolm and Sofia travel on an epic urban adventure involving black market spray cans, calling in favors, selling pot or even committing robbery. (Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki; Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 9:30 p.m., FSC; Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Kabuki)
The Double Steps (Los pasos dobles) (Isaki Lacuesta, 2011, 87 min) Isaki Lacuesta, representative of a new Spanish cinema and winner of the Golden Shell in San Sebastián, tells a poetic story which unfolds in the deserts of Mali, northwest Africa, with an odd group of people in search of a bunker in a remote, undisclosed location that is covered with frescoes—a rumored Sistine Chapel. The 20th –century French painter and writer, Francois Augiéras, supposedly left behind these frescoes but covered the bunker with sand to protect the paintings for future enlightened humans—ones who can decipher the cryptic clues to its whereabouts that he left behind. “The best way to escape from your pursuers without leaving any trail,” says Augiéras, “is to walk backwards over your own footprints.” In this layered tale, the fractured logic of poetry prevails over any linear reality. The film uses two different characters to investigate the clues and mysteries that could lead to this secret artistic trove. A black African, Bokar Dembele, is cast as a soldier who imagines he is Augiéras and goes in search of the bunker. The real-life artist Miquel Barceló, who has a spent time painting in Mali, creates intriguing Rorschach-like watercolors throughout the film, which serve as another thread in the fabric of conundrums, mysteries, riddles and paradoxes, woven from the folk wisdom of the Dogon people. (Sat, Apr 21, 2 p.m., PFA, Sun, Apr 22, 2012, 3:30 p.m. and Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 6:45 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
55th S.F. International Film Festival
When: Thursday, April 19, 2012 through Thursday, May 3, 2012
5 Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco, S.F. Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post Street, San Francisco, Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco, SFMOMA, 151 Third Street, San Francisco, Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Tickets: $11 to $13 for most films with a variety of multiple screening passes. Special events generally start at $20
More info: (415) 561-5000, www.sffs.org
Opening night: Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen, (Les adieux à la reine) (France 2012, 99 min), a historical drama about the French Revolution, screens Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 7 p.m., Castro. Followed by Opening Night Party, 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m, with live music, Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison Street (at 1st), San Francisco
Film Society Awards Night Gala: Benefitting SFFS and its Youth Education programs, the evening honors exceptional directing, acting and screenwriting—Thursday, April 26, 2012, VIP cocktail reception; 7 p.m. dinner and awards program, both at Warfield Theatre, 983 Market Street, San Francisco. Individual Ticket starts at $625. To book, phone Margi English at (415) 561-5049
Persistence of Vision Award: Filmmaker Barbara Kopple appears before a screening of her Oscar-winning 1976 documentary, Harlan County, USA, a vivid historic film about a Kentucky coal miners’ strike using arresting cinematography and poignant protest songs to call up the sights and sounds of underclass Appalachia in the 1970’s. Sunday, April 22, 2012, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki.
Centerpiece Presentation: Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister (USA, 2011, 90 min) features Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass. Saturday, April 28, 2012, 7 p.m., Kabuki
Closing night: Ramona Diaz’s inspirational Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey follows the iconic band Journey on tour and tells the AMAZING story of their lead vocalist Arnel Pineda’s rise from poverty and obscurity in the Philippines to becoming Journey’s lead singer. This is one of the best stories you’ll ever hear about making it in the topsy-turvy music industry. Thursday, May 3, 2012, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre.
From the bark of the dog to the howl of the wolf, the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival offers three Dogtastic films, April 11-15, 2012
ARThound’s love of film is only exceeded by her love of dogs! I am delighted to report that three films screening at the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, which begins today in scenic Sonoma, are about dogs and wolves. Each film offers a different take on the profoundly touching canine human connection, from Andrew Simpson’s Wolves Unleashed, a documentary shot in location in Siberia, to Gerardo Olivares’ Among Wolves (Entre Lobos), a feature based on a true story of Spanish boy raised in the wild among wolves, to Romanus Wolter’s new comedy Doggie Boogie, a heartwarming story that featuring doggie dancing.
Andrew Simpson is a world-renowned animal trainer based in Alberta Canada who has worked with major Hollywood film studios on more than 100 projects. Wolves Unleashed (2011, 89 minutes) documents his 2009 trip to Siberia, where he travelled with his pack of 13 wolves to shoot a movie in a remote camp in the mountains of Siberia. This is documentary that evolved in the course of making a film that never came to fruition. Simpson and his crew lived in isolation with his wolves for 5 months, essentially forming a human-canine pack. Wolves Unleashed lays bare the innner workings of both the human and canine crew, revealing how remarkably intelligent, sensitive and social the wolves are as they are readied for their various roles in the film. As the temperatures plummet to-60C, the film crew and wolves are tested physically and mentally and Simpson begins to question everything he knows about wolves. In some very emotionally vulnerable moments, he speaks candidly about how difficult it is to violate the trust an animal has placed in you for the sake of film footage, an obvious downside to working in the film industry. Filmmaker Andrew Simpson will attend. (Screens: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. at the Sonoma Community Center and Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 11:00a.m. at the Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room.)
Gerardo Olivares’ documentary Among Wolves (Entre Lobos)(2010, Spain, 114 minutes) is based on a remarkable true story that took place in Spain’s breathtaking Cordoba mountains. Marcos (Manuel Angel Camacho) was born in 1946 into a very poor and abusive family. As it was common at the time, when his family slipped into extreme poverty, and Marcos was just 7, he was sold by his father to the district’s wealthy landowner to settle some of their outstanding debts. The landowner considered him slave labor and sent him to help one of his goat keepers (Sancho Gracia) in a remote valley within the Sierra Morena mountains. A few months later, the goat keeper dies and Marcos is left alone, living in a cave, to fend for himself. He spends the next 12 years without any human contact and learns the painful lessons of survival, becoming more animal-like over time. He carries around a pet ferret that gradually helps him hunt and befriends a special wolf cub, “lobito,” along with owls and other animals. At age 20, Marcos is caught by the police as he is crossing the woods barefoot, dressed in animal skins, and with his hair down to his waist. (Screens Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. at the Sonoma Charter School and Sunday, April 15 2012 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Community Center.)
Entre Lobos is part of “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta, ” a special festival-within-a festival, in honor of SIFF’s 15th birthday and celebrating Spanish-language filmmakers from across the globe which starts Friday evening and runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All films will be presented in Spanish with English subtitles at the Sonoma Charter School. Ticket prices for each film will be $1, with childcare provided.
Romanus Wolter’s comedy Doggie Boogie makes its world premiere at SIFF. Audiences will cheer as Pijo – a devoted Bichon pup – helps his owner and her dog-dancing uncle go for their dreams. Dog dancing, also called “Canine Freestyle,” is an international competitive sport where dog and human pairs dance in front of judges. Doggie Boogie’s message is that it is never too early or too late to go for your dream. Filmmaker will attend. (Screens Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 9:30am at Vintage House.) Dogs are allowed to attend!
The 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, pairs 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings— 123 new films of all genres from more than 30 countries— with great gourmet food and wine. Festival Details: www.sonomafilmfest.org. A variety of festival passes and ticket options are available.
The 15th Sonoma International Film Festival opens this Wednesday with a stellar line-up of cinema, food, and wine in gorgeous Sonoma
This Wednesday, the curtain rises on the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings— 123 new films of all genres from more than 30 countries— with great gourmet food and wine. Highly anticipated by its loyal film-savvy audience, who see an average of 5 or more films each, this festival takes place in seven venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s charming town square and has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors. “What gives our festival a very personal feeling is the chance to mingle with filmmakers and actors in our Backlot tent and at screenings and we absolutely deliver on the best in the film, food and wine,” said festival director Kevin McNeely on Monday.
Tribute to Christopher Lloyd: This year’s festival will honor acclaimed actress Christopher Lloyd with an Award of Excellence on Thursday April 12th, 2012, at 8:30 p.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre, after the World Premiere of Last Call. Lloyd, now 74, began acting at the age 14 and rose to prominence in the 1980’s as Jim Ignatowski in the popular TV show, Taxi. Lloyd is best known for playing Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values and Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Throughout his career, he has acted on stage and in the summer of 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in a Weston Playhouse production of Death of a Salesman.
Last Call is a classic raunchy buddy comedy with a heart of gold—underachieving siblings Phil and Danny O’Donnell are forced to run the family pub to save their eccentric uncle Pete (Christopher Lloyd) from jail time and financial ruin. The only problem is that Pete, a crazy off-the-boat Irishman, has already alienated most of the clientele, nearly run the bar into the ground and created an almost impossible situation. The boys rise to the occasion, instigating a number of hilarious schemes, from turning the pub into a strip club to a high school speakeasy, just to keep it afloat. Christopher Lloyd, along with fellow cast member Clint Howard (brother of Ron Howard), will be joined by producers Greg Garthe and Spence Jackson for a Q&A after the screening. Following that, there will be a montage of Lloyd’s work and presentation of the Award of Excellence by Festival Director Kevin McNeely.
John Waters: On Saturday evening, the festival welcomes innovative American filmmaker, actor, stand-up comedian, writer and artist John Waters, now 65, with a special tribute dinner and Waters’ one-man vaudeville show “This Filthy World,” at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Building. Waters is best known for creating Pink Flamingos (1972), Hairspray (1988), Cry-Baby (1990), and Serial Mom (1994). ”John Waters exemplifies some of America’s most unique filmmaking beyond mainstream storylines. said Festival Director Kevin McNeely. “His ability to portray extreme characters with both darkness and humor is a testament to his extreme talent.” (The dinner is 6 to 8 p.m. and the show is 8:15-9:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, 2012 at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Building.)
The Film Line-Up:
The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with three screenings, all at 7 p.m: Luc Besson’s biopic, The Lady, at the Sebastiani Theatre; Jill Sharpe’s documentary, Bone, Wind, Fire, at the Sonoma Museum of Art and Orlando Arriagada’s documentary, Beyond the Miracle, (Detras del Milagro) (2010, 52 minutes). Thematically, you can go in any direction your taste takes you. This festival has something for everyone. I am focusing on films that tell great stories that you aren’t likely to see screened anywhere else.
The Lady (2011, 132 minutes) is the film to see for its timeliness and compelling drama. Fresh from a landslide election to parliament last week, the heroic Myanmar prodemocracy activist and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, now 66, is the subject of The Lady. Michelle Yeoh, one of Asia’s best known actresses, stars in this intimate chronicle of the exhausting and exhilarating life of Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release last year. The Lady follows Suu Kyi starting in 1988 when she returned to Myanmar, formerly Burma, to care for her ailing mother and soon became iconic in the battle against the military dictatorship. The story focuses on her family life—her marriage to British academic Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and their two sons. Aris, an Oxford professor, strongly supported Suu Kyi’s decision to stay in Myanmar, raising their children and playing a pivotal role behind the scenes in campaigning for her Nobel Peace Prize. This decision, for the greater good, entailed years of separation and was a tremendous burden yet it was mutually agreed upon and seemed to cement their courageous love. This is inspirational film that will send chills down your spine and as you witness this courageous lady in action.
If you have the patience to wait and see The Lady when it comes to your local theatre—and it will come—then Jill Sharpe’s Bone, Wind, Fire (2011, 48 minutes) is a beautiful contemplative documentary that pays homage to three iconic artists—Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr. The film just snagged Best Canadian Film award at FIFA (Montreal’s International Festival of Films on Art) and is an intimate and evocative journey into the hearts, minds and eyes of three of the 20th century’s most remarkable artists. Each woman had her own response to her environment, to the people that surrounded her and to the artistic or practical challenges she faced in wringing beauty and truth from her particular time and place. Bone Wind Fire uses the women’s own words, taken from their letters and diaries, to reveal three individual creative processes in all their subtle and fascinating variety. ( Screens 7 p.m. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. Plays with short film Hotstuff.)
The main character in Romanian-born Radu Mihaileanu’s poignant and funny feature film The Source (La source des femmes)(2011, 135 min) is a very undemocratic arid mountain village in North Africa (the Atlas mountains of Morocco) in which women, young and old, fetch water, day in and day out, while the men sit back and watch. Frustrated by this, a young bride―actually, an outsider from the South―played by the French-Algerian actress Leila Bekhti, works on her entourage, and urges the other women to strike: no more sex until their men go to work. The opposition she faces is from both men and women, especially her mother-in-law. Breathtaking cinematography and beautiful choral music. What this film, released just as the Arab Spring protests were taking place, shows is that revolution starts at home, with the evaluation of long-standing customs and attitudes. And, of course, that human heart too can suffer from being arid. (Screens Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at Sebastiani Theatre)
Lunafest—shorts by, for and about women
Lunafest is an annual traveling film festival of award-winning shorts by, for and about women. This year, it features 9 films—stories of reflection, hope, and humor—that will travel to over 150 cities and benefit organizations like the Breast Cancer Fund. All of the shorts sound fascinating but Saba Riazi’s The Wind is Blowing on My Street tells a simple story with poignant implications, especially for the young Iranian lead actress in the film who appears in the credits as simply “anonymous.” This veiled young woman can’t wait to come home and rip off her head scarf. When she accidentally locks herself out of her apartment and her scarf is whooshed away in a gust of wind, the reality of living in contemporary Iran sets it. The Iranian filmmaker who made it lives in New York and attends film school at NYU but she did a short stint in Iran’s film industry before leaving. The program starts with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2012 at the Sonoma Museum of Art and the screenings begin at 6:30 p.m.)
New: “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta”
The weekend’s programming kicks into high gear Friday with concurrent screenings in all venues across town. New this year, in honor of the festival’s 15th birthday, is a festival-within-a festival, “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta” honoring Spanish-language filmmakers from across the globe Friday evening and two full days, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. There is a kick-off party with live mariachi music on Friday in the Backlot tent. All films will be presented in Spanish with English subtitles at the Sonoma Charter School. Ticket prices for each film will be $1, with childcare provided. The mini festival was organized by Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, who has pulled 15 films from Argentina to Spain, including Orlando Arriagada’s documentary Beyond the Miracle (Detras del Milagro) (2010, 52 minutes) which tells the story of four of the 33 Chilean miners who spent 69 days, 688 meters underground in 35°C heat in the hellish mine, Los 33. Director Orlando Arriagada will be in attendance. (Screens: Wednesday, April 11- 7:00pm Women’s Club. Friday, April 13- 3:00 pm, Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room. Plays with two short films by Carlos P. Beltran, Pasion and Voluntad & Paz.)
Chico y Rita (Chico & Rita) (Fernando Trueba, Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal, Cuba, 2010, 94 min) is a musical Cuban film set in 1948 Havana which follows a jazz pianist and singer enthralled in a romance that unfolds against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution. As the couple escape Cuba and travel to New York, Las Vegas and Paris to follow their dreams, all set Latin jazz, they discover that they really do need each other to make their music. The film captures a defining moment in the evolution of jazz and earned an Oscar nomination for “Best Animated Feature.”
America….Ella se Atrveio (America…She Dared) (Sonia Fritz, 2011, Puerto Rico, 90 minutes) follows a thirty year-old mother, America, from her remote Caribbean village to Manhattan, where she seeks refuge after her abusive lover takes her daughter from her. (Screens Friday 8:30 p.m., Sonoma Museum of Art and Sunday 4:30 p.m., Sonoma Charter School. Filmmaker Sonia Fritz in attendance.)
Music, Music, Music
This festival always offers exceptional music documentaries and this year, there are two that are essential viewing—Kevin MacDonald’s Marley, which plays Saturday evening, and Judy Chaikin’s The Girls in the Band, which plays Friday and Sunday afternoons. Violinist Kenji Williams will also give a live performance on Friday and Saturday evenings as he accompanies his film Bella Gaia.
Jamaican reggae-superstar, Bob Marley, who died of cancer in 1981 at the tender age of 36, is the subject of Kevin MacDonald’s Marley (2012, 144 min), the new highly buzzed-about bio-pic about Marley which has the blessings of his son, Ziggy, his widow, Rita, and the long-estranged original Wailer, Neville “Bunny” Livingstone. The filmmaker, who also directed the Oscar-winning documentary One Day in September (1999) and The Last King of Scotland (2006), told New York Times writer John Anderson that said he set out to “interview anyone who was alive and intimate with Marley.” (NYT 4.6.2012) Aside from children, partners and musicians, Marley introduces a new character, Dudley Sibley, a former recording artist and janitor who lived with Marley for 18 months in the back of the Jamaican recording studio, Studio 1, where young Marley started out.
This year, Judy Chaikin’s The Girls in the Band (2012, 81 minutes) does for jazz what Lynn Hershman Leeson’s !Women Art Revolution (2010) did for women artists —through intimate interviews with three generations of women jazz artists, she explores the hidden significant history of women in jazz. The film starts off with women from the 1930’s and 1940’s, the golden age of big band and swing, who relate their triumphs and struggles in a very sexist and racist environment. Roz Cron, Clora Bryant, Billie Rogers, Peggy Gilbet and Viola Smith, Vi Red, Melba Liston and others all grew up around music and wanted to pursue it professionally but were barred from all-male bands. Many of these women formed or joined all female groups and the film tells their poignant stories. And the proof of their talent is in their music clips, which roar. (Screens: Friday April 13, 2:30 pm, Sebastiani Theatre, and Sunday, April 15, 3:30 pm, Sebastiani Windery Barrel Room. Judy Chaiken will be in attendance.)
Bella Gaia (Beautiful Earth) (2012, 50 minutes) is an awe-inspiring film and live music performance created by award winning filmmaker, composer, and violinist Kenji Williams. The film incorporates stunning scientific visualizations by NASA and successfully simulates space flight, taking the audience on a spectacular journey around endangered planet Earth. Bella Gaia showcases a thought-provoking stream of current scientific data about our changing ecosystems while also celebrating the amazing beauty and cultural heritage of humanity, delivering an unforgettable experience—all guided by the hypnotic, ecstatic music of Kenji Williams performed live. (Screens 6 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2012, at the Sonoma Community Center and 6 p.m. Saturday, April 14, 2012, at the Sebastiani Theatre.)
Cinema Epicurea Food and wine is where SIFF stakes its claim. John Beck’s Harvest, a new wine documentary follows the 2011 wine grape harvest in Sonoma, picking up viewers and dropping them in the vineyards at 2 a.m. to see night picks orchestrated by tiny headlamps, 24/7 machine harvesting and how a few inches of rain can destroy a promising cluster of grapes. Beck, who delighted audiences with Worst in Show (2011), has cast his intimate DSLR lens on five tight-knit family-owned wineries―Foppiano, Robledo, Rafanelli, Harvest Moon and Robert Hunter―along with an amateur home winemaker and a rare all-female picking crew from Mexico assembled by Bacchus Vineyard management, through what many would call “the toughest harvest” in their lifetime. The pick, known as “La pisca” by the Mexican crews, involved long days and nights among the vines. Stories that come to life under Beck’s direction, include that of Reynaldo Robledo of Robledo Family Winery, the first winery to be owned by a former migrant farm worker, and the all-female Mexican crew assembled by Bacchus Vineyard Management. (Screens Friday, April 13, 2012 at 5 p.m. and Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 3 p.m. at Sebastiani Winery, 389 4th Street East. Attendees at the Friday’s premiere will be served wine from the wineries in the film. )
Wine, Food and “Backlot”
Anyone who has been to Sonoma knows that this is a community that savors life along with the finest of food and wine. This ambiance infuses SFIFF too. “The Backlot,” the festival’s culinary hub, is a one-of-a-kind hospitality tent on the North side of Sonoma’s City Hall that is open to all pass holders. Here, they can mingle in a chic lounge environment while enjoying the best wine country vintages and culinary delights. You’ll also notice at many of the screenings that staff is on hand giving out generous samplings of treats like yogurt, ice cream and snack bars. To celebrate the festival’s opening on Thursday, April 12, 20120, Bistro Boudin of San Francisco will present gourmet cuisine with premium Sonoma Valley wines. Click here to see a complete list of event, food & beverage and winery partners for SIFF15.
Closing Night Festivities: The festival closes on Sunday, April 10th, with an Awards Ceremony in the Backlot Tent at 8 pm. Winners of the Jury Awards in all film categories including Features, Documentaries, World Cinema, Shorts, and Animation will be announced.
Festival Details: www.sonomafilmfest.org
Festival Passes and Tickets:
Star Pass $700 each/$1,325 for two. Access to Festival Films and panels with “Fast Lane” entry for priority seating; access to all receptions and post-film parties; all Spotlight Tributes; “Big Night” Party; entry to special VIP Food & Wine area of Backlot.
Premiere Pass $30/$625 for two. Access to all films and panels with priority film entry before Festival Pass holders; Opening Night Reception; entry to celebrity Spotlight Tributes; Closing Night 1st film screening and Awards Party
Festival Pass $175 each/$320 for two. Access to all regular films and panels & Closing Night Awards Party.
Weekend Pass: Saturday & Sunday ($110 each) Access to all films and panels on Saturday and Sunday
Two-Day Pass: Friday & Saturday ($100) Access to all films and panels on Friday and Saturday.
Single Film Tickets: $15 general entry tickets can be purchased at box office. Arrive 30 minutes before screening and wait to be seated.
3 films for the Price of 2! $30: good for entry to three single films, redeemable any time during the Film Festival.
Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East
New Belgium Pub at The Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East
Mia’s Kitchen at Sonoma Community Center – 276 E. Napa Street, Room 109
Murphy’s Irish Pub – 464 First Street East
Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room – 389 Fourth Street East
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway
Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Hall – 126 First Street West
Vintage House- 264 First Street East
For days, I’ve thought about Mark Rothko and Berkeley’s Rep’s red-hot Red. There’s a fascinating tension in the play that involves watching the thermodynamics of Rothko’s savage personality reel into something increasingly repulsive and tragic and experiencing another set of thermodynamics at play around the fragility of his creative process and his efforts to protect his artworks from the harshness of the world. And that’s the crux of Red—we are watching subtle transitions to other states of being unfold in man and art, right before our eyes. That’s complex and John Logan’s intimate two character play, under Les Waters’ powerful direction, could not be more engrossing. Originally scheduled to close on April 29, 2012, Berkeley Rep has just added 12 more performances of Red, so it will now run through May 12, 2012. If you’ve never before crossed the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge into Berkeley for art, this multi-Tony drama is worth the effort.
One of the best things about Red is its realistic set, designed by Louisa Thompson, on Berkeley rep’s intimate Thrust stage. It evokes the temporary New York Bowery studio that Rothko used from 1958-1960, when he painted 40 enormous murals for the swank Four Seasons restaurant in the newly completed Seagram Building on Park Avenue. The entire 90 minute play unfolds in this paint-encrusted studio, which is laid out with a ladder and a paint splattered wooden work table, old cans and jars full of brushes, rags and buckets of paint. Rear panels move to expose a wall of lights, designed by Alexander V. Nichols, that illuminate Rothko’s discussion of the importance of light and why natural light is insufficient for him. What the audience is privy to in this studio though is mainly talk—a running conversation between Rothko (David Chandler) and Ken (John Brummer), a young painter who is hired, just as the play begins, to assist Rothko, at the peak of his career, with whatever he wants.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who’d be a better fit for the role than Chandler, who so thoroughly embodies Rothko’s fierce narcissistic grandiosity and numerous insecurities that’s he literally frightening to behold. Rothko lectures, berates and prods Ken, insisting that he is not there to teach him, but, of course, an ego this large can’t resist sharing and what ensues is a passionate live course in art history and art appreciation for young Ken. The problem—Rothko needs to be in total control and reflexively shoots down anything anyone says. Ken, who serves almost a cipher/slave in the beginning, really begins to come into himself once he accepts Rothko’s dangerous invitation for discourse and begins to express some very interesting opinions despite Rothko’s limitations. Ken is John Brummer’s debut role with Berkeley Rep and he does a remarkable job. Ken is a character who’s got a fascinating side story of suffering and anguish that, by all rights, should leave him as screwed up as Rothko is but it doesn’t. One of the best exchanges between the two men takes places as Rothko brilliantly defends the old masters—Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Michelangelo and Caravaggio against Ken’s list of new painters —Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollack, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg. The art discourse is superbly crafted and avoids the perilous slip into clichéd references, instead getting into some meaty philosophical issues. I can’t recall one affirmational thing that Rothko says to Ken at any point in the play. About the highest compliment that Rothko pays him is expressed in the negative, telling him that he’s gotten all he can out of the studio experience and he needs to move on.
One of the Red’s highlights comes when the two men, working quite feverishly, prime a canvas with red paint, orchestrated to gorgeous classical music. This single very theatrical act of priming speaks volumes. As much as the play is about painting though, the act of painting isn’t really shown as much as it is inferred. In Mark Rothko’s studio, the magic of the artistic process is tightly controlled and there is a critical balance and tension that is sought—learning how far to go until everything changes and becomes something else. Rothko lives on that edge with both color and process and it seems the very best and worst moment is when a piece of art slips away from his grasp and develops into something that he can no longer predict from the ingredients and processes he used. When we look at a Rothko, in low light, there’s a magical sense of transition—shifts between solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter, shifting from one form of being into another—something not so easily understandable, but deeply recognized and felt. What Logan has done and these two actors beautifully embody is the subtle tipping points in human character too—Rothko tilts from pompous to sickening to borderline dangerous, very tragic, while Ken becomes more insightful, interesting, and attractive for who he is and what he’ been through.
A Rothko at auction now: Neither art nor theatre happens in a vacuum. On May 8 and 9, 2012, Christies New York will sell the Pinkus Family’s 1961 Rothko, “Orange, Red, Yellow,” which is roughly from the same period that John Logan’s play Red references. The 1961 painting was purchased by David and Geraldine Pinkus from the Marlborough Gallery in New York in 1967. Measuring nearly 8 feet by 7 feet, the painting is unusually large and of vibrant orange and reds. It is estimated to sell for $35 million to $45 million. Other abstract expressionist works from the Pinkus collection, from this period will be auctioned too, including works by Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still and Arshile Gorky. Several of these artists are mentioned in Red. Christies calls this “the most important and comprehensive ensemble of Abstract Expressionism ever to come to auction.”
Rothko’s have been making the news for years with their record-setting prices at auction. In early November, 2005, Rothko’s 1953 oil on canvas painting, Homage to Matisse, broke the record selling price of any post-war painting at a public auction, at US$ 22.5 million.
In May 2007, Rothko’s 1950 painting White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), sold by philanthropist David Rockefeller, broke this record again, selling at US$ 72.8 million at Sotheby’s, New York.
More about John Logan: San Diego born (9.24.61) playwright, screenwriter and film producer John Logan grew up in California and New Jersey and attended Northwestern University in Chicago. He received the Tony Award, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League Awards for Red. It premiered in 2009 at the Donmar Warehouse in London and, in 2010, played at the Golden Theatre on Broadway, where it won five other Tony Awards as well. Logan is the author of more than a dozen plays, including Hauptmann and Never the Sinner. His adaptation of Ibsen’s The Master Builder premiered on the West End in 2003. As a screenwriter, Logan had three movies released in 2011: Coriolanus, Hugo, and Rango. His previous film work includes Any Given Sunday, The Aviator (Oscar, Golden Globe, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and Writers Guild of America nominations), Gladiator (Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and WGA nominations), The Last Samurai, RKO 281 (WGA award and Emmy nomination), and Sweeney Todd (Golden Globe Award).
Red: Written by John Logan, Directed by Les Waters, Designed by Louisa Thompson (sets), Anna Oliver (costumes), Alexander V. Nichols (lights), and Bray Poor (sound)
Starring David Chandler (Mark Rothko) and John Brummer (Ken)
Run-time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
Details: Red runs through May 12, 2012 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street at Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704. Tickets are $17.50 to $85 and can be purchased online at http://tickets.berkeleyrep.org/. To purchase seats by phone, or, for more information, call (510) 647-2949.
Pre-show docent talks: Tuesdays 4/10, 4/17 & 4/24 and Thursdays 4/5, 4/12, 4/19 & 4/26 @ 7:00 PM
Post-play discussions: Thursday 4/5, Tuesday 4/10, and Friday 4/20 @ 8:00 PM
Student matinee: Thursday 4/19 @ noon
Tastings: Fridays 4/6 (Dr. Kracker) & 4/13 (Urbano Cellars) @ 7:00 PM, Saturday 4/14 (Peterson Winery) @ 8:00 PM, and Sundays 4/15 (Stella Nonna Catering) & 4/22 (Martin Ray Winery) @ 6:00 PM