Fall 2000 (2)

Set Me Free
Wednesday, November 1 at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, November 1 at 9:00 pm

French Canadian director Léa Pool gets the balance just right in her tenacious but elegiac "Set Me Free" (its French title is "Emporte-moi"). Set in Montreal in 1963, the picture tells the story of 13-year-old Hanna, who becomes entranced with Anna Karina's character, prostitute Nana, in Jean-Luc Godard's "Vivre Sa Vie" ("My Life to Live") and tentatively sets out to build her own adult life, suddenly having an idea of the kind of woman she wants to be. What makes "Set Me Free" so wonderful is that there's no preciousness, no condescension, attached to the fact that a 13-year-old might fixate on a fictional prostitute (especially one who dies tragically) as a role model. Hanna, played with an astonishing amount of delicacy and perception by Karine Vanasse, is of course attracted to Nana's glamour and beauty, but the magnetism of the character runs deeper than that. When Hanna, charming with her girlish freckles and pixie haircut, drags on her cigarette in direct imitation of Nana, it's like a small love letter not just to the resonance of certain movie images but to a certain kind of womanly sophistication, an angle of feminine mystery and beauty that Hanna's reaching toward without really knowing why. (Excerpt by Stephanie Zacharek, SALON.COM) France / Canada / Switzerland, 1999, Color and B&W, in French with English subtitles, 94 min, 35 mm, not-rated. This program was made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC).

The Idiots
Thursday, November 2 at 7:00 pm
Thursday, November 2 at 9:15 pm
Friday, November 3 at 7:00 pm
Friday, November 3 at 9:15 pm

The Idiots is Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier's 1998 exploration of normality as a social system and the constraints it places on individuals to behave in prescribed ways even under abnormal circumstances. The film chronicles the escapades of a small group of young middle-class men and women who have formed an organization to upset what they perceive to be bourgeois principles and participants, that is, well-to-do and unscrupulous people. The group attempts to accomplish its goals by acting as if they are mentally challenged, so as to annoy the gentlefolk with their "spassing" (spastic behavior), and interacting with each other within the confines of their private commune. Here they create their own subculture with behaviors very different from those enforced by conventional society, which, of course, allows for extensive comical nudity and poor table manners. In telling this tale, which he wrote in four days during May 1997, von Trier utilizes the Dogma 95 filmmaking technique, one as convention-breaking and uncontrollable as the subversive subculture he depicts. (Excerpt by Sabadino Parker, POP MATTERS) Denmark, 1998, color, Danish with English subtitles, 117 min, 35 mm, Rated R.

Saturday, November 4 at 7:00 pm
Sunday, November 5 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, November 5 at 7:00 pm

Sunshine, a rare film of sweeping ambition and creativity, is a true epic. It is directed by the Academy Award-winning Hungarian master, Istvan Szabo (Mephisto), one of the foremost filmmakers of the postwar period. The entire 20th century is the backdrop for this elegantly told, deeply moving account of the fortunes of a Jewish family as its members try to survive in a world undergoing massive changes. Three generations of one Hungarian family pass through this eloquent film, and Ralph Fiennes plays a different role in each generation, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is one of the finest actors currently working in cinema. What makes Sunshine such a moving and powerful experience is the intimacy of the stories told and the sheer vitality of the personalities explored. Szabo and his magnificent international cast transport us back through the events that shaped this century. However, they never lose sight of the personal details that shape the legacy of this resilient family. The Sonnenscheins must endure hardship and suffering before finally emerging into the safety of the present. Despite the tragedy of 20th century Jewry, this is a heroic film of redemptive power. (Excerpted from the TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL program notes.) Austria, 1999, color, English, 179 min, 35 mm, Rated R.

Kirikou and the Sorceress
Wednesday, November 8 at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, November 8 at 9:00 pm

Set entirely in Africa, Kirikou recounts the story of a precocious newborn boy who, discovering that an evil sorceress has his his village in thrall, sets out to liberate his people. Armed oinly with inquisitiveness, intelligence and resolve, but aided by the deceptiveness of his small size, he battles against not only the vengeance of the evil sorceress, but the superstition and fear of the villagers. Based on West Africa folk tales, and animated with deliberately rudimentary perspective, lush colors and complex patterns, this intelligent and charming morality tale illustrates the value- the necessity, in fact- of thinking for oneself, of questioning the status quo, of challenging oppressive authority. Universal in its themes, the notable absence of any European characters puts the political focus not on what has been inflicted upon Africa from without, but on how some of Africa's present ills may have emerged from within. The film was a tremendous box-office success in France, thanks partly to the score by Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour, but also the narrative and stylistic authenticity realized by [Michel] Ocelot [writer/director], a French citizen who grew up in Guinea. France/Belgium/Luxembourg, 1998, color, in French with English subtitles, 70 min, 35 mm, Not-rated.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Thursday, November 9 at 7:00 pm
Thursday, November 9 at 9:00 pm
Friday, November 10 at 7:00 pm
Friday, November 10 at 9:00 pm

It comes as no surprise that there are a lot of giggle-inducing moments in the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye. With the erstwhile televangelist as the film's subject/heroine, how could it be otherwise? Whether it's her over-passionate singing, a speaking voice that contains an oft-grating girlish squeal, or her raccoon-thick mascara running down her face as she sobs for the camera, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner -- on first glance -- is a walking punch-line. What's so unexpected, and moving, is the amount of sadness captured by directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (the duo who also did the documentary, Party Monster, about club-kid turned murderer, Michael Alig). Almost from the start of her life (before she discovered the protective and deflecting powers of rouge and eyeliner), Tammy Faye was desperately in need of love, validation, and attention. There's a real poignancy to her tale of searching for those salves. What's even more surprising, though, is how incredibly cool she is. Progressive in her politics, resilient in the face of unbelievable adversity, and with a huge heart that she wears on her sleeves, Tammy Faye comes out of this documentary as a real heroine -- both in her private life and in the public arena. (Excerpt by Ernest Hardy, FILM.COM) USA, 2000, color, English, 79 min, 35 mm, Rated PG-13.

Saturday, November 11 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, November 11 at 9:00 pm
Sunday, November 12 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, November 12 at 7:00 pm

A Spanish import teaches us how simple and beautiful film can be. Butterfly tells the delightful story of Moncho, a young boy's coming of age as his world opens up through the eyes of his beloved teacher, Don Gregorio. As the teacher brings the boy into the fascinating world of butterflies, the boy begins to emerge from his cocoon. But looming on the horizon is the resurgence of a fascist regime that threatens to unravel their innocent world. In the summer of 1936 the whole of Spain was intertwined in the struggle between the Mussolini-inspired Nationalist Party and the Republicans. As the rest of Europe was being over-run by a couple of different fascist regimes, Spain was trying desperately to prevent that outcome. Butterfly portrays these events and lets the two main characters deal with the impending doom and the heart-breaking aftermath. The film also beautifully depicts the simple people who are desperately trying to find their way in the world while, on the other hand, a young boy is trying to understand the gigantic world around him. The teachings of the butterflies are a metaphor for the change coming in Spain and in both of their lives. The metaphor rings cleverly through each character in the film. Spain, 2000, color, Spanish with English subtitles, 95 min, 35 mm, Rated R.

Wednesday, November 15 at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, November 15 at 9:30 pm

"L'Humanite" is not an easy film and is for those few moviegoers who approach a serious movie almost in the attitude of prayer. A great film, like a real prayer, is about the relationship of a man to his hopes and fate. The man this time is named Pharaon De Winter. He is played by Emmanuel Schotte as a man so seized up with sadness and dismay that his face is a mask, animated by two hopeless eyes. He lives on a dull street in a bleak French town. Nothing much happens. He once had a woman and a child, and lost them. We know nothing else about them. He lives with his mother, who treats him like a boy. Domino (Severine Caneele) lives next door. She has an intense physical relationship with her lover Joseph that gives her no soul satisfaction. It is impossible to guess if Joseph even knows what that is. The film won the grand jury prize at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival; Emmanuel Schotte won as best actor, and Severine Caneele shared the best actress award. Onstage, Schotte seemed as closed-off as in the film. Perhaps Bruno Dumont cast him the way Robert Bresson sometimes cast actors--as figures who did not need to "act" because they embodied what he wanted to communicate. (Excerpt by Roger Ebert.) France, 1999, Color, French with English subtitles, 148 min, 35 mm Cinemascope, Not-rated. This program was made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC).

Human Traffic
Thursday, November 16 at 7:00 pm
Thursday, November 16 at 9:00 pm
Friday, November 17 at 7:00 pm
Friday, November 17 at 9:00 pm

`Human Traffic'' is the type of comedy most parents will want to keep their kids from ever seeing. It unabashedly glorifies recreational drugs, and it's got a no-holds-barred party flavor. But the neat trick by first-time director Justin Kerrigan, 25, is that this British film also mocks the rave culture it celebrates, and it's charming in a way that is hip but surprisingly down to earth. The wacky, fast-lane- style comedy is aimed at mature teens and young adults. Jip (John Simm), LuLu (Lorraine Pilkington), Koop (Shaun Parkes), Nina (Nicola Reynolds) and Moff (Danny Dyer) are best friends in downbeat, industrial Cardiff, Wales. Getting off from dead-end jobs on Fridays means clubs and a party scene where ecstasy and other playtime drugs are attractions. They party out, rave on, and get wild, sexy and obnoxious. But in ``Human Traffic,'' the five friends also are very engaging -- funny, satirical, unexpectedly exuberant -- as they shout on-the-mark observations about the dreary, oppressive world around them. In the end they sort of laugh at the fact they're as stupid as the world they hate. (Excerpt by Peter Stack, The San Francisco Chronicle) Ireland/UK, 1999, color, English, 100 min, 35 mm, Rated R.

Cecil B. Demented
Saturday, November 18 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, November 18 at 9:00 pm
Sunday, November 19 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, November 19 at 7:00 pm

What better place to launch a broadside at mindless mainstream movies than from within a mainstream movie? John Waters, Baltimore's master of subversive cinema, knows this better than anyone as he takes aim at big-deal, big-screen bores and all other manner of Hollywood excesses in "Cecil B. DeMented," a fast, furious and funny fusillade of a movie. Yes, it celebrates guerrilla-style filmmaking, but it's also an uproarious, smartly crafted, hard action flick with a certified Hollywood star, Melanie Griffith. You don't need to know film history to kick back with "Cecil," but it can't be denied that catching a glimpse of a marquee proclaiming "Les Enfants du Paradis--The First Time in English" offers a special jokey horror. As hilariously zany as "Cecil" is, it is charged with a passion and energy beyond most of Waters' ventures into mainstream production; all that Waters protests in such scabrous fashion is clearly a matter of conviction for him. Cecil B. DeMented, played to the hilt by Dorff, really is ready to die for his beliefs and to get his movie made. And this film is Waters' tip of the hat to the outlaw cinema from which he emerged. He's managed to stay true to it arguably better than anyone else who emerged from American underground cinema. (Excerpt by Kevin Thomas, LA TIMES) USA, 2000, color, English, 87 min, 35 mm, Rated R.

The Little Thief and Alone
Wednesday, November 29 at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, November 29 at 9:00 pm

Erick Zonka, the French filmmaker of ``Dreamlife of Angels,'` has a passion for young, marginalized characters who face the world alone and struggle, with mixed results, to improvise a means of survival. ``Dreamlife'' was the story of two lower-class women, one angry and one sanguine, who meet in the city of Lille. ``The Little Thief,'' Zonka's follow-up, is a lean one-hour portrait of a working-class kid who, disgusted with his job in a bakery, opts out for a life of crime. Played by Nicolas Duvauchelle (``Beau Travail''), ``S'' is naive and angry and full of empty bluster. ``The Little Thief'' is co-billed with ``Alone,'' a 1996 short by Zonka. It's a stunner: a heartbreaking look at a young Parisian waitress who loses her job and apartment on the same day and, lacking family or support, rapidly descends into homelessness and crime. Florence Loiret, who looks a bit like Isabelle Adjani, is fantastic as hard-luck Amelie. In its theme and spareness of style, it's a precursor to ``Dreamlife'' and ``Thief'' -- but in no way inferior. (Excerpt by Edward Guthmann, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) France, 1999, color, French with English subtitles, 100 min, 35 mm, not-rated. This program was made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC).

A Zed and Two Noughts
Thursday, November 30 at 7:00 pm
Thursday, November 30 at 9:15 pm
Friday, December 1 at 7:00 pm
Friday, December 1 at 9:15 pm

At the beginning of Peter Greenaway's 1985 film "A Zed and Two Noughts," the wives of identical twin zoologists, Oscar (Eric Deacon) and Oswald (Brian Deacon), are killed when a car driven by a woman named Alba Bewick (Andrea Ferreol) is attacked by a swan. Alba, who loses her leg in the accident, is wearing white feathers at the time, the Ford Mercury she was driving is white and so is the swan. The accident occurs on Swan's Way. As the Richard Dreyfuss character said in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "This means something." "A Zed and Two Noughts," filmed in and around the Rotterdam Zoo (the title is a playful spelling of "zoo"), is a drolly perverse art comedy so densely packed with literary and art historical puns and in-jokes that, watching it, the mind nearly boggles. As a result of their wives' deaths, the twins become obsessed with death and decay. And so, beginning with an apple and progressing to crocodiles and zebras and finally (though not successfully) to humans, he begins making time-lapse movies of decomposing objects. (Excerpt by Hal Hinson, WASHINGTON POST) UK, 1985, color, English, 116 min, 35 mm, Not-rated.

8 1/2 Women
Saturday, December 2 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, December 2 at 9:30 pm
Sunday, December 3 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, December 3 at 7:00 pm

Peter Greenaway's "8½ Women" is a nod to Fellini - and that "half" turns out to be a typically dark Greenaway twist. Greenaway is the detached, pitiless intellectual whose magisterial experimental flourishes can be recondite in the extreme. This film, one of Greenaway's most amusing and accessible, actually arrives at moments of tenderness, even love, fleeting though they may be. "8½ Women" finds Greenaway in a contemplative mood, musing about the interplay of sex and love and mortality, and the bonds between father and son - within the context of mordant absurdist humor, to be sure. In jaunty, elliptical fashion Greenaway introduces Philip Emmenthal (John Standing), a Geneva-based financier and banker, in the midst of driving so hard a bargain in acquiring a Kyoto pachinko parlor for his business associate and architect son, Storey (Matthew Delamere), that he gets his nose bloodied. Storey has to return to Geneva when his mother dies. Philip is bereft, overcome with the loss of his wife, more a companion than a lover, and Storey suggests that to cheer himself up his father turn his immense period palace into a virtual harem. (Excerpt by Kevin Thomas, LA TIMES) Germany, 1999, color, English, 120 min, 35 mm, Rated R

Beau Travail
Wednesday, December 6 at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, December 6 at 9:15 pm

French director Claire Denis' ``Beau Travail,'' a riveting adaptation of Herman Melville's ``Billy Budd,'' looks in lyrical detail at the rote physical rituals of military life in a French Foreign Legion outpost in East Africa. This simmering drama isn't an action picture but an exploration of moral and social values. Filled with implied eroticism, it's a rumination on the bitter predicament of a man stewing in petty jealousy that turns to murderous hate. The imagery is stylized in this darkly poetic film, set in an arid landscape and under blistering sun. Denis makes exceptional use of silences and stillness to set mood and suggest emotional layers. It's a beautiful film to watch as it captures the drills and training regimens of shirtless, muscular young men as forms of dance. The Legionnaires' outpost is the substitute for Melville's sailing ship, the soldiers for the sailors in a confined world. (Excerpt by Peter Stack, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) France, 1999, color, French with English subtitles, 111 min, 35 min, not-rated. This program was made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC).

The Sorrow and The Pity
Thursday, December 7 at 7:00 pm
Friday, December 8 at 7:00 pm

From the moment it was first released at a tiny Left Bank theater in Paris, Marcel Ophuls' epic account of France under Nazi occupation during World War II has been acclaimed as one of the most moving and influential films of all time. Refused by French TV for more than a decade, the film garnered international success and acclaim- including an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary and a recurring homage in Woody Allen's Annie Hall - while shattering the myth of an undivided and universally resistant France. Ophuls interviews the residents of Clermont-Ferrand who remember the time and would speak of it; as well as French, German, and British government officials, writers, farmers, members of the Maquis, spies, artists, and German veterans. The result is a staggeringly clear portrait of how people conducted themselves under the most extreme of circumstances. Ophuls constantly invites us to put ourselves in the position of these witnesses: what would we have done under the same circumstances? A triumph of humanist filmmaking, The Sorrow and The Pity leaves us with a great awareness of the power and responsibility that each of us possesses. By turns gripping, appalling, and exhilarating, the film is one of the most powerful achievements in the history of cinema. West Germany/France/Switzerland, 1971, B&W, French with English subtitles, 260 min, 35 mm, not-rated.

Girl on the Bridge
Saturday, December 9 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, December 9 at 9:00 pm
Sunday, December 10 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, December 10 at 7:00 pm

French director Patrice Leconte (The Hairdresser's Husband, Ridicule) is one of the cinema's most accomplished magicians. While showing only centimeters of skin, his movies have a powerful eroticism. Leconte can do more with a few well-placed closeups than most directors can with hours of feverish coupling. His movies are teaming with wit, style and endearingly odd characters. He can effortlessly juggle a film's moods, alternating between tension and whimsy without missing a beat. In short, Leconte knows how to grab an audience's attention and to hold it indefinitely. In The Girl of the Bridge, Leconte and screenwriter Serge Frydman features a couple that could only exist on the big screen. Vanessa Paradis stars as Adèle, a young woman whose relationship with men have so far amounted to little more than disappointing one-night stands. When Daniel Auteuil, who won BAFTA and Cesar awards for his turn here, and Paradis steal away to have a private session of knife-throwing, the two gaze at each other with such longing that the sequence becomes a visceral treat and not a silly sexual metaphor. The movie shifts from Paris to Monaco to Istanbul at lightning speed and never gets a chance to wear out its welcome. It's almost as if a 'thirties screwball comedy had made its way across the Atlantic. (Excerpt by Dan Lybarger, NITRATE ONLINE) France, 1999, B&W, French with English subtitles, 90 min, 35 mm, Rated R.