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Geneva Anderson digs into art

Globally relevant, the San Francisco International Film Festival 2015 starts Thursday—here are the Big Nights and Special Events

Oscar winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s new documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” opens the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival Thursday evening.  Just as his riveting Scientology exposé “Going Clear” deconstructed the cult of Scientology, Gibney’s latest film tackles our cult-like loyalty and emotional connection to Jobs and Apple products by methodically firing bullet after bullet at our rose colored glasses.  The film screens just once at SFIFF 58 which runs April 23-May 7, 2015 and offers 181 films and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages.  Photo:  Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Oscar winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s new documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” opens the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival Thursday evening. Just as his riveting Scientology exposé “Going Clear” deconstructed the cult of Scientology, Gibney’s latest film tackles our cult-like loyalty and emotional connection to Jobs and Apple products by methodically firing bullet after bullet at our rose colored glasses. The film screens just once at SFIFF 58 which runs April 23-May 7, 2015 and offers 181 films and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

The San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 58) opens this evening with a first in its 58 years—an opening night documentary.  Alex Gibney’s  Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, is a searing portrait of the late Steven Jobs that will hit tech-savvy Bay Area audiences where they live and breathe…in their Apple devices.  The festival continues over the following 14 days with 181 films—100 full-length features— and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), under the helm of Noah Cowan, now in his second year as SFFS Executive Director, and Rachel Rosen, Programming Director, this mammoth festival really defies categorization.  This year’s films, selected from a pool of 4,000 plus entries, mirror where global society is right now.  SFIFF is revered for its support of new filmmakers and for championing eclectic independent films that you just won’t see elsewhere and it always includes the crème from last year’s Cannes and fall festivals and this year’s Sundance festival.

One of the joys of attending is getting to see these films the way they were meant to be seen—on a big screen with digital projection—and participating in stimulating Q&A’s with their directors and actors.  With even more new onstage events and awards ceremonies that feature film luminaries in more lengthy moderated discussions, SFIFF delivers one of the highest ratios of face time with creative talent.

I am dividing my coverage of this year’s festival into two articles—this first one, below, gives an overview of the big evenings and tributes that ought to be on everyone’s radar; the second one will include short reviews of the top films that caught my eye.

BIG NIGHTS:

OPENING NIGHT: (Thursday, April 23, 7 PM, Castro Theater)  Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015, 127 min) Alex Gibney will attend.  Uniquely relevant to the Bay Area, this SXSW/Sundance documentary is a social inquiry into the phenomena of Steven Jobs by one of the most impactful filmmakers working today.  Gibney’s recent HBO doc, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), delivered a remarkable glimpse into scientology, made a scathing case against it, and garnered some of the highest ratings in recent times.  Gibney explores why Jobs has had such a wide ranging impact and why people who never knew him grieved him so.  He talks with insiders and methodically scrutinizes key ideas espoused by Jobs and Apple’s advertising and points out contradiction after contradiction, zeroing in on many of Apple’s unsavory practices and debacles. Unflattering, fascinating, and highly relevant to the latest generation of innovators being incubated in the Bay Area. (Click here to purchase tickets.)  Followed by an Opening Night Party at the iconic Madame Tussauds, featuring gourmet treats and beverages from San Francisco’s finest purveyors.  Must be 21+ to attend party. (Ticketed separately)

Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone journalist, David Lipsky, and Jason Segal as American author David Foster Wallace in James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour” (2015), which screens Saturday, May 2 as SFIFF 58’s Centerpiece film.  Image: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone journalist, David Lipsky, and Jason Segal as American author David Foster Wallace in James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour” (2015), which screens Saturday, May 2 as SFIFF 58’s Centerpiece film. Image: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

CENTERPEICE:  (Saturday, May 2, 6:45 PM, Castro Theater)  The End of the Tour (2015, 106 min) Director James Ponsoldt and actor Jason Segel will attend.  Set in 1996, when American author David Foster Wallace’s dystopian masterpiece Infinite Jest was on every informed reader’s A-list, James Ponsoldt’s (Smashed, 2012) moody chamber piece stars Jesse Eisenberg as journalist, David Lipsky, whose admiration, curiosity and fear of Wallace drive him to propose a long-form profile of the writer to Rolling Stone.  He gets the assignment and ultimately goes out on the road with Wallace during the final five days of his Infinite Jest book tour.  Jason Segel gives an affecting portrayal of Wallace whose erratic behavior and bouts of depression were evident then, 12 years before his suicide in 2008 at age 46.  The chemistry between Eisenberg and Segal makes their interaction intense, palpable, through all the phases of getting to know each other and Lipsky’s attempts to take what is essentially one long and rambling conversation and drill down on those windows of insight that will become “the story.”   Based on Lipsky’s 2008 memoir on the experience, Although Of Course You End Up Being Yourself.  After-screening Centerpiece Party, 9 p.m., at Monarch, a sophisticated event space, with dancing, delicious food and fine cocktails.  Must be 21+ to attend party. (Ticketed separately)

Peter Sarsgaard is psychologist Stanley Milgram’s in Michael Almereyda’s “The Experimenter” (2015) which had its acclaimed premiere at Sundance and closes SFIFF 58.  It’s been 15 years since Almereyda’s astounding “Hamlet” starring Ethan Hawke and similarly, he has conceived Milgram’s life and work as a kind of evolving theatre piece.  At one  point, he even has Sarsgaard trailed onscreen by a full-sized adult elephant.  Photo: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Peter Sarsgaard is psychologist Stanley Milgram’s in Michael Almereyda’s “The Experimenter” (2015) which had its acclaimed premiere at Sundance and closes SFIFF 58. It’s been 15 years since Almereyda’s astounding “Hamlet” starring Ethan Hawke and similarly, he has conceived Milgram’s life and work as a kind of evolving theatre piece. At one point, he even has Sarsgaard trailed onscreen by a full-sized adult elephant. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

CLOSING NIGHT: Thursday, May 7, 7 PM, Castro Theater) The Experimenter (2015, 98 min) Michael Almereyda will attend.   Michael Almereyda’s The Experimenter revisits Yale social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous 1961 experiment in which subjects were made to believe they were administering electric shocks to others in order to explore the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.  As much an examination of scientific ethics as it is an exploration of the moral consequences of just following orders, this playful and inventive biography of Milgram soars with Peter Sarsgaard as Milgram and Winona Ryder as his wife.  Began in 1961, a year after the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Milgram devised his now famous experiment to answer the question “Could it be that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?  Looking back, we all like to think we would not obey and harm our fellow man, but 65% of the study participants ended up administering (imaginary) shocks.  After-screening Closing Night Party, 9 PM, Mezzanine, an all-out evening of music, drinks and dancing, with complimentary beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres by some of San Francisco’s best restaurants. Must be 21+ to attend. (Ticketed separately)

AWARDS AND SPECIAL EVENTS:

Guillermo del Toro, recipient of the Irving M. Levin Directing Award at SFIFF 58.  Del Toro burst onto the international scene with Cronos (1993), winner of nine Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences and the Cannes’ International Critics Week prize. “The Devil’s Backbone” solidified his reputation as a masterful storyteller, while Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) opened to worldwide acclaim, winning three Oscars and garnering Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.  He directed Pacific Rim (2013), one of the highest grossing live action films that year.  Audiences await his upcoming gothic thriller Crimson Peak, set to release in October 2015.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Guillermo del Toro, recipient of the Irving M. Levin Directing Award at SFIFF 58. Del Toro burst onto the international scene with Cronos (1993), winner of nine Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences and the Cannes’ International Critics Week prize. “The Devil’s Backbone” solidified his reputation as a masterful storyteller, while “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) opened to worldwide acclaim, winning three Oscars and garnering Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. He directed “Pacific Rim” (2013), one of the highest grossing live action films that year. Audiences await his upcoming gothic thriller “Crimson Peak,” set to release in October 2015. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Guillermo del Toro Irving M. Levin Directing Award—(Saturday, April 25, 8 PM, Castro Theatre) SFIFF celebrates sci fi and fantasy legend, Guillermo del Toro with an evening at the Castro Theatre where the Mexican director, screenwriter, producer and novelist will participate in a conversation about his illustrious career, show clips from his past and present work and screen one of his favorite films, The Devil’s Backbone (2001).

Dark, bone chilling and edgy, the masterpiece is both a sophisticated commentary on war and a hell of a horror film that became a cult favorite.  It’s the final year of the Spanish Civil War and a bomb is dropped from the skies above an isolated Spanish orphanage, which leaves a boy, Santi, bleeding to death in its mysterious wake.  His corpse is then tied and shoved into the orphanage’s basement pool. When another young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), arrives at the ghostly facility some time later, seemingly signaling the arrival of Franco himself, he is drawn to the snails in the swampy basement.  Soon the two boys will meet.  We feel in our bones that there’s evil here that cannot be easily understood or expunged. The odd couple who run the orphanage are concealing a large stash of the leftist cause’s gold, which is another subplot that expands brilliantly.

Richard Gere, recipient of the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at SFIFF 58.  Gere started his career on Broadway before his on-screen breakthrough in 1978 with Oscar-honored Days of Heaven.  His subsequent films include Gary Marshall’s Pretty Woman, Paul Schrader's American Gigolo and Taylor Hackford’s An Officer and a Gentleman.  He will next appear in Andrew Renzi’s Franny, currently getting rave reviews at Sundance, and Oppenheimer Strategies, co-starring Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, and Steve Buscemi.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Richard Gere, recipient of the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at SFIFF 58. Gere started his career on Broadway before his on-screen breakthrough in 1978 with Oscar-honored “Days of Heaven.” His subsequent films include Gary Marshall’s “Pretty Woman,” Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo” and Taylor Hackford’s “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He will next appear in Andrew Renzi’s “Franny,” currently getting rave reviews at this year’s Sundance, and in “Oppenheimer Strategies,” co-starring Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, and Steve Buscemi. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Richard Gere Peter J. Owens Award— (Sunday, April 26, 6:30 PM, Castro Theatre)  Richard Gere (Golden Globe Award winner and activist) is the recipient of this year’s Peter J. Owens Award for acting, which will be presented to Gere at An Evening with Richard Gere where he will discuss his prolific career with David D’Arcy before the screening his latest film, Time Out of Mind (2014), directed by Oren Moverman.  Gere plays vagrant George Hamilton who is evicted from the empty New York apartment where he is squatting and thrust out into the streets with nowhere in particular to go, except the eternal search for his next meal and place to sleep.  Gere established himself as one of the top actors of his generation with his screen debut in Terrence Malick’s 1978 drama Days of Heaven and from there went on to star in a number of important films.  Seeing the silver haired actor who has excelled at playing roles of privilege go against the grain and immerse himself in a tour de force performance as a plain, disenfranchised man is beyond refreshing.

Virtual reality pioneer,  Nonny de la Peña, discusses her role in developing immersive journalism in the context of creating “Project Syria,” originally commissioned by the World Economic Forum and created at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

An Evening with Nonny de la Peña: Immersive Journalism—(Monday, April 27, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki)   Nonny de la Peña is a pioneer in “immersive journalism,” a new form of journalism that aims to place viewers within news stories via virtual reality.  Once immersed in the story, viewers feel an extraordinary emotional connection as witnesses.  Her project “Gone Gitmo,” created in collaboration with artist Peggy Weil and originally launched in virtual environment Second Life, was a groundbreaking approach to reporting through virtual experience.  Amongst her many projects, de la Peña’s newest VR work, “Project Syria” recreates both a street corner in Aleppo that comes under attack and a camp for refugee children that grows more crowded over time.   In this talk, de la Peña will present her work, its intents and consequences and lay out prospects for the future of nonfiction reporting.  Her vision has also culminated in Emblematic Group, a content- and VR hardware-focused company that she runs along with her brother in Los Angeles.

American director and screenwriter, Paul Schrader, will receive the Kanbar Award for storytelling.   Photo:  The Independent

American director and screenwriter, Paul Schrader, will receive the Kanbar Award for storytelling. Photo: The Independent

Paul Schrader: Kanbar Award—(Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki)  SFIFF will honor American  screenwriter and director Paul Schrader with an onstage interview prior to screening one his most acclaimed films, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985, 121 min).  Schrader’s breakthrough moment came at age 26, when he wrote the script for Taxi Driver (1976) which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was the first of several collaborations between Schrader and Scorsese, a list that includes Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Bringing Out the Dead (1999).  Mishima blends a recreation of Mishima’s (Ken Ogata) final day when the extent of his dedication to altering Japan’s political landscape and to bushido is made manifest; snippets of biography rendered in black and white that explore the psychology of one of postwar Japan’s most celebrated authors; and beautifully staged, luridly colored scenes from three key Mishima novels—Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses—that further explicate his psyche.  John Bailey’s luminous cinematography and Philip Glass’s sweeping, pulsating score add further texture to this mesmerizing drama, a portrait of one exceptional artist made by another.

Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world.  She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world. She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Kim Longinotto Persistence of Vision Award (Sunday, May 2, 3 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world.  She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature.  Longinetto will participate in an in-depth conversation and her latest documentary, Dreamcatcher (2015), will be screened.  The film follows the life of Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute, who works in a Chicago jail counseling sex workers and who also runs a weekly “Girl Talk” at the local school that mentors a group of at-risk girls.  Along with her friend Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, she runs the Dreamcatcher Foundation.  As Brenda unearths the horrific secrets and lies that have plagued the community for generations, she encourages girls and young women to change their lives by challenging the culture of silence and denial.  You’re inserted right into these girls’ lives which allows you to experience their daily struggles and judge for yourself whether or not one committed person can really make a difference.

Lenny Borger, recipient of SFIFF 58’s Mel Novikoff Award, is both a subtitler and an archivist who has been responsible for finding many important lost films.   Borger’s stellar work making French cinema come to life for English-speaking audiences and his passion for bringing lost classics back to the screen make him a true behind-the-scenes hero of world cinema,” says Rachael Rosen, SFFS director of Programming.  Borger taught himself French at a young age by simply listening to chansons francaises.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Lenny Borger, recipient of SFIFF 58’s Mel Novikoff Award, is both a subtitler and an archivist who has been responsible for finding many important lost films. Borger’s stellar work making French cinema come to life for English-speaking audiences and his passion for bringing lost classics back to the screen make him a true behind-the-scenes hero of world cinema,” says Rachael Rosen, SFFS director of Programming. Borger taught himself French at a young age by simply listening to chansons francaises. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

 

Lenny Borger Mel Novikov Award (Sunday, May 3, 1 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Brooklyn-born Parisian Lenny Borger is the recipient of this year’s Mel Novikoff Award.  The legendary archivist and master subtitler who has labored behind the scenes to bring French cinema to life for English-speaking audiences will participate in an on stage conversation with Variety’s Scott Foundas about the hunt for “lost” films and the unsung art of subtitling followed by a screening of the rediscovered 1929 silent masterpiece Monte Christo.  Borger originally came to France on a research grant to pursue doctoral work in Paris in 1977.  He abandoned his academic work to devote himself to covering the French film scene as a correspondent and film reviewer for Variety.  At the same time, he began scouring the European continent in search of rare and “missing” French films from foreign archives. His first discovery was the nitrate camera negative of Raymond Bernard’s The Chess Player, found in the vaults at the East German Film Archives where it had been concealed by the Nazi occupiers of France. A trip to Prague yielded even more exciting results: incomplete Czech distribution prints of Henri Fescourt’s Monte-Cristo—one of the highlights of the SFIFF tribute.

Douglas Trumbull, who has revolutionized movies more times than we can count, will deliver this year’s State of Cinema address, discussing the highs and lows of dreaming big and what the future looks like for the movies.  His short film UFOTOG, which he wrote and directed demos his radical new innovation, the MAGI process, a digital-projection method optimized for the eye-popping trifecta of 3-D, 4K, 120fps imagery.  Photo: Courtesy POdCAST

Douglas Trumbull, who has revolutionized movies more times than we can count, will deliver this year’s State of Cinema address, discussing the highs and lows of dreaming big and what the future looks like for the movies. His short film UFOTOG, which he wrote and directed demos his radical new innovation, the MAGI process, a digital-projection method optimized for the eye-popping trifecta of 3-D, 4K, 120fps imagery. Photo: Courtesy POdCAST

State of Cinema: Douglas Trumbull—(Sunday, May 3, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki) director, writer, inventor, engineer and visual effects master Douglas Trumbull will deliver the highly-anticipated state of Cinema address.  Trumbull first stunned film audiences in the late sixties with the development of cutting-edge visual effects for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, including the epic “Stargate” sequence.  He was the visual effects supervisor on many works that pushed the limits of film fantasy such as Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Blade Runner and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  He also directed science-fiction classics Silent Running and Brainstorm and was a visual effects consultant for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.  He continues to work as an inventor and engineer, is a sought-after consultant, and holds numerous technology patents.  His ingenious suggestion for capping the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill went viral.  Currently, Trumbull is rethinking the immersive cinematic experience to include ultra high frame rates, high resolution, high brightness, high dynamic range, and ultra wide hemispherical screen projection. His talk will challenge everything you think movies can and should be.

2015 SFIFF Details:

When:  SFIFF 58 runs April 23-May 7, 2014

Where:  Main Screening Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco; Landmark’s Clay Theatre, 226 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, Roxi Theater, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco,  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Theatre, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.

Tickets: $15 for most films.  Special events generally start at $20 or $35.   Two screening passes—the popular CINEVOUCHER 10-pack ($140 general public and $120 for Film Society members) and the exclusive CINEVISA early admittance to every screening, party, and program (with exception of Film Society Awards Night). ($1350 Film Society members and $1700 general public).   How to buy tickets—purchase online at www.festival.sffs.org or in person during the festival at Sundance Kabuki, Landmark’s Clay Theatre, Roxie Theater*, Pacific Film Archive and Castro Theatre*.  (*Day of show only and cash only)

Advance ticket purchases absolutely recommended as many screenings go to Rush.  Click here to see which films are currently at rush (the list is updated frequently).

Arrive Early!  Ticket and pass holders must arrive 15 minutes prior to show time to guarantee admission.

noon release tickets, daily : Every day, tickets may be released for that day’s rush screenings and may be purchased online or in person at Sundance kabuki, starting at noon.

Rush tickets:  Last-minute or rush tickets may be available on a first served basis to those waiting in line for cash only about 10 minutes before show time.  If you want rush tickets, plan to line up at least 45 minutes prior to screening time.

More info: For full schedule and tickets, visit http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

French Cinema Now starts Thursday— 10 of the best new French-language films in a four-day series at San Francisco’s historic Clay Theatre

Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a revenge drama and dark commentary on late capitalism, shot in Paris, with cinematography by Agnès Godard.  Vincent London plays a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and rescue his family. Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Denueve) plays Lisbon’s married lover who has trapped herself in a disturbing marriage for the sake of her child.  Screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark's Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a revenge drama and dark commentary on late capitalism, shot in Paris, with cinematography by Agnès Godard. Vincent London plays a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and rescue his family. Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Denueve) plays Lisbon’s married lover who has trapped herself in a disturbing marriage for the sake of her child. Screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

The sixth annual French Cinema Now (FCN) series begins Thursday, November 7, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre and offers four glorious days dedicated to significant new works of francophone cinema from France, Belgium, Quebec and anywhere else the sweet sound of the French language is heard. This year, FCN screens 10 films and includes an opening night post-screening soiree with French-inspired bites and wine at 1300 On Fillmore, known for Chef David Lawrence’s inspired soul food and its smooth jazz. The program eases into weekend by offering two films on both Thursday and Friday evenings and five films on both Saturday and Sunday, with some repeats on the weekend.

The four-day festival is organized by the San Francisco Film Society, in association with the French American Cultural Society, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco.  The selections were handled by Rachel Rosen, SFS, Director of Programming, whose choices for this series and the larger annual SFIFF (San Francisco International Film Festival) reflect keen intuition for mixing the unusual and the flavor of the moment with the timelessness of great storytelling and cinematography.  Several of these French films had their premieres
at Cannes and are being shown for the first (and only) time in the Bay Area.  The charming venue, the mighty Clay Theatre, situated on the busting Fillmore Street, was built in 1910 and is one of the oldest theatres in San Francisco (refurbished with comfortable new seats).

From the established talents of such notable filmmakers as Claire Denis, Nicolas Philibert and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi to new, emerging talent like Sébastien Betbeder, Katell Quillévéré and Axelle Ropert, French Cinema Now 2013 has something for cinephiles of all tastes.  Romantic triangles, unusual familial conflicts and examinations of sexuality—subjects French filmmakers are known for handling with particular skill—feature prominently, and Europe’s biggest stars such as Louis Garrel (A Castle in Italy), Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni (Bastards) appear with the region’s up-and-coming actors like Sara Forestier (Suzanne) and Vincent Macaigne (2 Autumns, 3 Winters).

OPENING NIGHT: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7   

7:00 pm 2 Autumns, 3 Winters Sébastien Betbeder (2 automnes 3 hivers, France 2013)      Sébastien Betbeder, whose debut Nights with Theodore was the winner of the FIPRESCI prize at this spring’s SFIFF, returns with this offbeat story of thirty-somethings navigating whatever crisis comes between quarter- and mid-life. Arman and Benjamin are friends from art school. Arman first meets Amélie when he bumps into her, literally, while jogging. His casual attempts to meet her again fail until one night when dramatic circumstances reunite them, intertwining the lives of all three. Playfully told, despite the serious nature of some of its events, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters applies indie charm to the vagaries of life. Written by Sébastien Betbeder. Cinematography by Sylvain Verdet. With Vincent Macaigne, Maud Wyler, Bastien Bouillon. 93 min. In French with subtitles. Film Movement. 

A scene from Sébastien Betbeder's “2 Autumns, 3 Winters” which screens Thursday and opens French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark's Clay Theatre in San Francisco.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

A scene from Sébastien Betbeder’s “2 Autumns, 3 Winters” which screens Thursday and opens French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

9:15 pm Opening Night reception A post-screening soiree sponsored by TV5 Monde with French-inspired bites and sponsored wine at 1300 On Fillmore (1300 Fillmore at Eddy).

9:15 pm A Castle in Italy
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Un château en Italie, France 2013)
In her third film, director, actress and writer Valeria Bruni Tedeschi continues to mine her own experience to portray the lives and crises of the bourgeoisie. Here she plays Louise, an actress tiring of her profession and longing for motherhood. When she runs into younger actor Nathan (VBT’s former real-life beau Louis Garrel) on a film set, he pursues her relentlessly, but he’s not particularly interested in fathering a child. As she has done in her prior work, Bruni Tedeschi presents the problems of the rich and famous without apology but with refreshing nuance and humor, and surrounds herself with a formidable cast. Written by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Agnès de Sacy, Noémie Lvovsky. Cinematography by Jeanne Lapoirie. With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi. 104 min. In French and Italian with subtitles. Films Distribution.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's “A Castle in Italy” is packed with raw emotion as it delves into the lives of the bourgeois.  The brother (Ludovic) is struggling with imminent death and the sister (Louise) is 43 and aching to have a child.   The family is selling off the castle, a tie to the deceased father.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “A Castle in Italy” is packed with raw emotion as it delves into the lives of the bourgeois. The brother (Ludovic) is struggling with imminent death and the sister (Louise) is 43 and aching to have a child. The family is selling off the castle, a tie to the deceased father. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 8

7:00 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna
Anna Novion (Rendez-vous à Kiruna, France 2012)
Ernest is working on a major architectural project at his firm when he receives an unwanted call from Sweden. His biological son whom he has never met has died in a boating accident and, with the mother away, Ernest must come to Lapland and identify the body. Although he protests that he has no emotional connection to the dead youth, he ends up on a long drive north during which he picks up Magnus, a young Swedish man on his way to visit his grandfather. Director Anna Novion’s interest in Bergman and her own Swedish heritage add a quiet flair to this story of unavoidable emotional ties. Written by Olivier Massart, Anna Novion. Cinematography by Pierre Novion. With Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Anastasios Soulis. 97 min. In French, Swedish and English with subtitles. Pyramide International.

A scene from Anna Novion's “Rendezvous in Kiruna,” playing at French Cinema Now, November 7 - 10 at Landmark's Clay Theatre.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

In Anna Novion’s quiet drama, “Rendezvous in Kiruna,” a man receives an unwanted call from Sweden informing him that his biological son, whom he has never met, has died in an accident and he must identify the body. Screens at French Cinema Now on Friday and Sunday. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.


9:30 pm Michael Kohlhaas
Arnaud des Pallières (France/Germany 2013)
Arnaud des Pallières’ austere and visually splendid medieval-era drama tells the story of Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen), a horse trader who is one day forced by a ruthless Baron to give over two of his prize steeds. When the nobleman’s subsequent mistreatment of the horses is revealed, Kohlhaas demands justice. But when a nobility-favoring court rules against him, and the Baron and his henchmen commit other hideous acts, Kohlhaas turns to the sword and crossbow for his revenge. Though the themes and moral conflicts will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans, the remarkable style recalls Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac. Written by Christelle Berthevas, Arnaud des Pallières. Cinematography by Adrien Debackere, Jeanne Lapoirie. With Mads Mikkelsen, Delphine Chuillot, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant. 122 min. In French and German with subtitles. Music Box Films.  

In Arnaud des Pallieres' “Michael Kohlhaas,” a 16th century horse merchant (Mads Mikkelsen) is mistreated by those in power and seeks revenge and justice.  Screens Friday, Nov 8, at French Cinema Now at Landmark's Clay Theatre. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

In Arnaud des Pallieres’ “Michael Kohlhaas,” a 16th century horse merchant (Mads Mikkelsen) is mistreated by those in power and seeks revenge and justice. Screens Friday, Nov 8, at French Cinema Now at Landmark’s Clay Theatre. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 9

2:30 pm A Castle in Italy    (see Thursday, 11/7)

4:45 pm Miss and the Doctors   Axelle Ropert (Tirez la langue, mademoiselle, France 2013, 102 min)

7:00 pm Suzanne   Katell Quillévéré (France 2013, 91min)

9:30 pm Stranger by the Lake   Alain Guiraudie (L’inconnu du lac, France 2013, 97 min)

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10

1:15 pm House of Radio
Nicolas Philibert (La maison de la radio, France/Japan 2013, 99 min)
Master documentarian Nicolas Philibert’s latest takes a delightful and surprisingly humorous look at public radio, French style. Inside an unusual round building in Paris is Radio France, comprised of several premiere stations. Luckily for us, these bustling offices are full of great characters both known (Umberto Eco in for an on-air interview) and unknown (a news manager who gleefully sorts through grisly news briefs, the director of a radio drama, a telephone operator who screens for a call-in show). Mixed in with the quiz shows, live musical performances and sports reporting, they form the fabric of a beautifully observed and pleasurable view of a public institution and beloved medium. Cinematography by Katell Djian. 99 min. In French with subtitles. Kino Lorber.


3:30 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna   (see Friday, 11/8)
6:00 pm Vic+Flo Saw a Bear  
Denis Côté (Vic+Flo ont vu un ours, Canada 2013, 95 min)
8:30 pm Bastards
Claire Denis (Les salauds, France 2013)
Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a dark and elliptical revenge drama shot in Paris with cinematography by Agnès Godard.  It screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Claire Denis’ troubled and troubling new film, highlighted by Agnès Godard’s masterful cinematography and Stuart Staples’ (of Tindersticks) evocative score, begins with rain and death and rarely lets up from there. For reasons at first mysterious, a sea captain named Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon) arrives in Paris and rents an empty apartment. Living directly downstairs are business tycoon Edouard Laporte (Denis regular Michel Subor) and his mistress Raphaëlle (Chiara Mastroianni), whose lives will intersect with Marco’s in dark and devastating ways. Denis’ latest is an angry and upsetting film, detailing a world where money and the power it wields can have poisonous and far-reaching effects. Written by Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis. Cinematography by Agnès Godard. With Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille, Michel Subor, Lola Créton. 100 min. In French with subtitles. IFC Sundance Selects.

 

For full program information and scheduling for Saturday and Sunday, click here.

Details: French Cinema Now is November 7-10, 2013 at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco.  Film tickets $12 for SFFS members, $14 general, $13 seniors, students and persons with disabilities, $10 children (12 and under); Opening Night film and party tickets $20 for SFFS members, $25 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $110 for SFFS members, $130 general.  Purchase tickets online here.

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