Spring 2002 (1)

Smell of Camphor, Fragrence of Jasmine

7 and 9pm -- Wednesday • January 30

In 1978, Bahman Farmanara was one of the brightest young lights of Iranian cinema, the director of two internationally acclaimed features -- "House of Ghamar Khanoom" and "Prince Ehtajab" -- and head of his own film studio. But the following year's Islamic Revolution cut his career short just as he had finished his third feature, "Tall Shadows of the Wind." Its release was halted, Farmanara was barred from making further films, and he soon fled to Canada. He eventually returned to Iran, and now, at age 59, the loosening political grip there has finally allowed him to direct -- and star in -- "Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine," an absorbing, if melancholy, drama that is his first film in more than two decades. He more or less plays himself: an overweight, chain-smoking, long frustrated director with serious heart problems who obsessively feels the presence of death not far around the corner, but can't get past the injury done his life and career by the zealots of Tehran. The film also communicates, with great clarity and precision, the specific dilemma of Farmanara's own "futile" existence: the quiet horror of the artist who is denied the aching personal need and basic human right of self-expression. (Excerpt by William Arnold, Seattle Post Intelligencer.)(Iran; 2000; Farsi w/ English subtitles; Color; 93 min.; NR)


Waking Life

7 and 9:15pm -- Thursday & Friday • January 31 & February 1

One of the year's most innovative films, and a head trip in the best sense of the phrase, Richard Linklater's Waking Life smartly and sweetly takes us where we've never been. It's one of the coolest movies possible and a real breakthrough in movie animation. "Waking Life" is about a young man who seems to be floating from one dream to another in a hallucinatory cartoon landscape. This young guy appears on screen at first staring dreamily out a window as his bus pulls into the ever-changing city. Then he disembarks, has a few weird encounters in the bus station and gets picked up by a gabby guy in a captain's cap who has customized his convertible so it resembles a motorboat. When the cartoon Wiley leaves the car, he is apparently struck down in the street by another car, after which he quickly wakes up out of what was apparently all a dream. That's the first of this visionary movie's many enigmatic new beginnings. Wiley will wake up repeatedly during the course of Waking Life, a movie that breaks what I think must be the record for dreams within dreams in a single movie. The film is truly special, truly different - a wondrous talky roundelay about and for people who love life. Watching it feels like a dream that never ends, and, in this case, you don't especially want it to. (USA; 2001; English; Color; 99 min.; Rated R ) -- Michael Wilmington, Metromix

the independent

Saturday (7 & 9pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• February 2 & 3

This mockumentary is about a Cormanesque B-movie director named Morty Fineman, a guy who made 400+ films, from the navy sex health ed video The Simplex Complex (based on Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal ) to such titles as Christ for the Defense (Jesus as a lawyer). THE INDEPENDENT gives us the history of Fineman (Jerry Stiller), while following him around in the present, where he cannot finance a single film, has the bank about to buy all his films at $8 the pound, cannot get any attention from producers, and just saw his latest film get lost while completing it.  He gets his daughter Paloma (Janeane Garofalo) to step in as his producer and managerS Along the way we get fake interviews with Roger Corman, Ted Demme, Ron Howard, and many other directors.  In the cast we get in small roles or in interviews as

well the likes of Johnny Rotten, Ben Stiller (in the ultimate "Free Willy" parody) and many more. Quite frankly, I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. This movie actually knows how to satirize Hollywood, independent filmmaking, people who watch cult films, and B-movie making, while creating a character that we root for. (Excerpt by Parca Mortem, South by Southwest review.) USA, 2000, in English, Color, 95 mins., Rated R.

7 & 9pm -- Wednesday • February 6

For this unique classical music feature, ten leading directors were given the freedom to make short films setting a special vision of their own to music. Each director selected an aria from grand opera, which in some cases is only heard in the background occasionally behind the dialog and in others provides the sole soundtrack for the mini-film. The imaginative stories range from simple mood pieces to the very sexy and even violent. Nicolas Roeg - to music from Verdi's A Masked Ball - chose to set up a complex costume drama with Theresa Russell in drag as king of an Eastern European country on whom an assassination attempt is made. Godard uses an aria from Lully's Armide. Altman puts together one of the big crowd scenes he likes so much, this one at an 18th century Paris Opera matinee given for the patients at a hospital for the insane. One of the most gorgeous sections, both musically and visually, is Bruce Beresford's love duet with Peter Birch and a nude Elizabeth Hurley to a famous aria from Korngold's Die Tote Stadt. The hilarious comedy winner of the ten shorts is Julien Temple's film to music from Rigoletto. UK; 1987; English; Color; 90 min; Rated R. -- John Sunier


7 & 9:15pm -- Thursday & Friday € February 7 & 8

The recruiting of a skilled but effeminate young warrior creates a cancer of impulsive desires, rumors and jealousy that eats away at an esteemed 19th Century samurai militia in Nagisa Oshima's new psychosexual drama, Taboo. The men of this tight-knit unit all come to either admire the young enlistee for his talent with a sword or, unexpectedly, lust for his soft features and coy social demeanor - or more frequently both. The eventual result is upheaval in the camp, as the boy becomes the object of lust, scorn and gossip while taking various lovers, fending off others and at the same time trying to adhere to his duty as a samurai. The film's characters are largely fascinating and enigmatic, especially the boy – who absentmindedly toys with the affections and fury of his admirers – and a lieutenant who seems to be the only person in the camp keeping his perspective. (The lieutenant is played by "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, the actor-writer-director whose poetically violent gangster films have made him a Japanese cinema icon.) Oshima creates a vivid yet vaporous atmosphere of both honor and artifice. (Japan/France/UK; 1999; Japanese w/English Subtitles; Color; 100 min; NR)-- Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDWIRE


Saturday (7 & 9:15pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• February 9 & 10

An uncommonly potent take on a subject of major global importance, Stephen Trombley's STOCKPILE is a bracingly smart/funny/scary history of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. nuclear arms race, the scientists behind it and its enduring legacy of thousands of stockpiled, past-their-prime nuclear weapons. Chock-full of scientific minutiae, never-before-seen archival footage and crackling gallows humor, STOCKPILE opens a bold dialogue on nuclear disarmament without adhering to any perceived standards of political correctness. It looks with equal amounts of reverence and terror at mankind's mastery of nuclear fission and fusion. By enormous good fortune, Trombley and his crew obtained permission to shoot inside the famed nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M., and to interview its past and present employees. But even more stunningly, a pre-Putin Russian government granted Trombley the same access to Arzamas-16, the secret "nuclear city" that is the Russian equivalent of Los Alamos, and which to this day has never been identified on a Russian map. Narrated by Martin Sheen. (Netherlands/Switzerland/USA; 2001; English; Color; 102 min.; NR)-- Excerpt by Scott Foundas, Variety.


7 & 9 pm -- Wednesday • February 13

Free-flowing debut feature from French director Jacques Demy who, with his wife, director Agnes Varda, flourished during the New Wave. Because of its abundance of sweeping camera movement (superbly engineered by Raoul Coutard), the film has often been called a musical without music. Demy is best known stateside for his wondrous musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but some consider this, his debut feature, to be his best work. (Demy would later go to Hollywood and make a real musical with Gene Kelly.) Anouk Aimee plays the title role, a cabaret singer who awaits the return of Harden, her husband who has been away for seven years. In the meantime she has a few affairs, her strongest affections going to childhood friend Michel. Michel has dreams of settling down with Aimee, but those are shattered when Harden returns and sweeps Aimee away in his glaring white Cadillac. The picture is filled with cinematic allusions (a fondness of French New Wave directors) to Robert Bresson, Gary Cooper, Max Ophuls (especially his camerawork), and Josef von Sternberg. Demy received a helping hand from Jean-Luc Godard, who offered his talents as a production consultant.(France, 1961, In French w/ English subtitles; b&w, 90 min.)

A Matter of Taste

7 & 9 pm -- Thursday & Friday • February 14 & 15

Difficult to describe, not easily forgotten, "A Matter of Taste" lingers long after higher-profile films have come and gone. An elegant study of devious mind games and emotional perversion, it makes the strangest of psychological dynamics plausible and involving.  "Taste" is only the second feature for director Bernard Rapp, a top French television journalist. Co-written by Rapp with fine screenwriter Gilles Taurand ("Dry Cleaning," Andre Techine's "The Wild Reeds," among others), the film was nominated for five Cesars, the French Oscars, including best picture, best actor and best screenplay. Rapp's background does not include extensive work with actors, but it is the strong and complementary performances of his two leads, the veteran Bernard Giraudeau and the younger Jean-Pierre Lorit (featured in Claude Sautet's "Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud" and Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Red") that energize this depiction of a provocative relationship. (Excerpt by Kenneth Turan, LA Times.)(France; 1999; French w/ English subtitles; Color; 90 min.; NR)

Little Otik

Saturday (7 & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• Feb. 16 & 17

Updating a popular children's fable, leading Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer's latest is a compelling and highly contemporary social satire. Inventively combining live action with characteristically macabre stop-motion animation, Svankmajer's fourth feature, after Alice, Faust, and Conspirators of Pleasure, may also be his best. Infertile parents Bozena and Karel Horák seemingly find a humorous solution to their malaise when an unwitting Karel digs up a tree stump which physically resembles a young baby. After some brief cosmetics, Karel presents it to his inconsolable wife, hoping it may provide temporary comfort. However, his wife Bozena takes the gift too much to heart, faking the symptoms of pregnancy and mollycoddling the monstrous 'child' they christen Otík, until it develops a life and hunger all of its own. Otík's insatiable appetite arouses the interest of Alzbětka, the Horáks' precocious young neighbour who, though aware of the old Otesánek folk tale concerning a gluttonous, cannibalistic freak of nature, is desperate for a friend to call her own. The director describes the film as touching on one of the most basic myths of civilization: the myth of Adam and Eve and the tampering with the natural order, for which the protagonists must pay a terrible price. (Czech Republic, 2000, In Czech w/ English subtitles, Color, 127 mins., NR) -- Jason Wood

Band of Outsiders

7 & 9 pm -- Wednesday • February 20

In the thirty-five years since its American release, Jean-Luc Godard's lyrical gangster romance "Band of Outsiders" has been as difficult to revisit as it is impossible to forget. Starting today, the first part of that equation is going to change. Rialto Pictures, masters of the quality re-release, have struck a new 35-millimeter print of this rarely screened film and added fresh subtitles in the bargain. Now it's possible not only to understand why "Outsiders" has so many passionate advocates (Quentin Tarantino named his production company "A Band Apart" after the French title), but also to actually feel where that passion comes from.For this is not one of those classic films we appreciate rather than enjoy, not something we understand on an intellectual level as important in its time but have difficulty connecting to in the here and now. The wonderful thing about "Band of Outsiders" is that the daring elements that jazzed audiences then have the same power to intoxicate all these years later. (France; 1964; French w/ English subtitles; color; 95 min.; NR) -- Excerpt by Kenneth Turan, LA Times

Fat Girl

7 & 9pm -- Thursday & Friday • February 21 & 22

Possibly the most emotionally intense 83 minutes currently available to local moviegoers, Catherine Breillat's polarizing Fat Girl is a female coming-of-age film that radically redefines its sentimental genre. Having disposed of romance in her absurdist melodrama of the same name, France's foremost provocatrice returns to her favorite subject, and that of her strongest films, A Very Young Girl and 36 Fillette, namely the construction of female adolescent sexuality… However disruptive, the gothic horror of the finale has been carefully set up from the movie's opening scene. (This is a fiction in which a number of characters are granted their wishes.) Steeped in unconscious aggression as it is, the climax is also readable as Anaďs's fantasy, but this possibility doubles back on itself. "Don't believe me if you don't want to" are the fat girl's final words as the image freezes on her stubborn glare. A work of bold irrationality and highly questionable taste, Fat Girl is as fascinating as it is discomfiting and as intelligent as it is primal. From first shot to last, France's foremost bad girl has made an extremely good movieand maybe even a great one. (France/Italy/Spain; 2001; French & Italian w/English subtitels; Color; 93 min.; NR) -- J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.

Under the Sun

Saturday (7 & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm) • February 23 & 24

Under the Sun is a lush and sensuous film about love, trust, time, and the
quiet depth of loneliness. Set in the strikingly beautiful, sun-drenched rural countryside of Sweden, the story finds Olof, a lonely, secretly illiterate egg farmer, taking out a help wanted ad. "Lonely farmer, 39, own car. Seeks young lady housekeeper. Photograph appreciated." Having lived alone since the death of his mother, Olof is looking for more than just a live-in maid. He finds the beautiful and elegant Ellen, who has a few secrets of her own. Of particular note is the way seasoned actor Rolf Lassgard portrays Olof. He is shyness infused with a calm dignity. Veteran director Colin Nutley, who uses the actors' talents, the story, and the scenery to full advantage, expertly crafts one of this year's most sensuous films. It's an engaging love story with well-written and compelling characters, a lyric pace, and an exquisite beauty that will envelop you slowly, like a peaceful fog. (UK; 1992; English; Color; 77 min; NR) -- CINEQUEST San Jose Film Festival

Bay of Angels

7 & 9pm -- Wednesday € February 27

"I didn't think women like you existed anymore." A couple of hours at a casino at the behest of copain Paul Guers begins as just a Saturday diversion for uptight bank clerk Claude Mann, but after he wins, his vacation gets diverted to Nice's Baie des Anges and a seat at the roulette table next to a platinum blonde Jeanne Moreau. And as they rollercoaster from scrounging for change to hotel suites, cars, and couture, and back again, amid reds, blacks, pairs, impairs, manques, passes, transversales ŕ cheval, carrés and 35-1 shots, it seems life itself ("Here or Paris, it's all the same. You have to be somewhere.") is just a game of chance for Moreau - who's already shed husband, child, and wealth for the table. Demy's long-unseen second film is a triumph of style, from Jean Rabier's mobile camerawork amid sunsplashed Riviera location shooting, to Moreau, resplendently Bette Davisish in white lacy bustier (Moreau at the costume meeting: "Well, if that makes Jacques happy..."), to her entrance flashing across a succession of mirrors in the penultimate shot. (France; 1963; French w/ English subtitles; B&W; 79 min.; NR) -- Excerpt from the Film Forum in New York.

The Endurance
: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

7 & 9 pm -- Thursday & Friday • February 28 & March 1

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton, having lost his bid to be the first explorer to reach the South Pole, set sail with a crew of 28 men to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent. His three-masted sailing vessel was named after his family motto, 'By endurance we conquer.' In 1999, producer/director George Butler mounted an expedition to retrace Shackleton's two year struggle of extraordinary courageousness. Among Shackleton's many wise decisions was to bring along Australian photographer Frank Hurley, who documented their journey in both still photographs and moving film, which he editted into the 1919 documentary "South." What Butler has done is to recreate the entire amazing story, beginning with descendents of Shackleton's crew recalling the tales they were told and filling out personalities of the men who responded to Shackleton's newspaper ad. While he uses Hurley's footage and photos, Butler's documentary is a far richer, more emotional work. New footage and unobtrusive recreations continue Shackleton's determination to save his men after ten months trapped in the ice pack which crushed their ship. (USA; 2001; English; Color; 93 min.; NR) -- Excerpt by Laura Clifford, Reeling Reviews


Saturday (7 & 9pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm) • March 2 & 3

Set in the late 17th century, on the Western coast of Africa, ADANGGAMAN is a provocative retelling of the African slave experience, based on historical facts. A rebellious young man, who refuses to marry his parents' choice of a bride, flees his village one evening, only to return to find his father and girlfriend slain, his village destroyed and his mother captured by a tribe of Amazon warriors. His efforts to free his mother lead to the kingdom of Adanggaman, where captives are held before sale to European slave traders. Ivory Coast-born Roger Gnoan M'bala has a 30-year career in film, but ADANGGAMAN is his most controversial work to date: a tribute to the memory of Africa's martyrs that does not hesitate to blame those who willingly contributed to the enslavement of their own people. (France/Switzerlan/Ivory Coast/Burkini Faso/Italy; 2000; Bambara & French w/ English subtitles; Color; 90 min.; NR) -- Excerpted from the Film Forum in New York.

Last Wave

7 & 9:15pm -- Wednesday • March 6

Two years ago here at the IFS, and by popular request, we screened Peter Weir's THE LAST WAVE. Unfortunately, the years had been very unkind to the print, with visible scratches and jarring jump-cuts marring the big-screen experience. The good news was that the distributor, Kit Parker, had plans to release new prints in the future. The bad news was that Kit Parker, a 30+ veteran in the film distribution business, would shock many exhibitors by calling it quits around the summer of 2001. There seemed to be little hope for cinephiles hoping to savor a new print of Weir's enigmatic story about an Australian lawyer (Richard Chamberlain) who agrees to represent four aboriginal youths only to stumble into something much larger and apocalyptical. Thankfully, Cowboy Booking has come to the rescue and picked up where Kit Parker left off. Cinephiles should make a special note of this one-time opportunity to enjoy THE LAST WAVE, as it is meant to be seen, with this beautiful new print.(Australia; 1977; English; Color; 106 min.; Rated PG)


7 & 9:30pm -- Thursday & Friday • March 7 & 8

Patrice Chereau1s controversial new flesh-fest had its UK premiere in Cambridge  and the shrill outcry preceding it has focused on the graphic sex scenes involving its two leads. But the sex in Intimacy is central to the film, and not emptily pornographic. Where it does shock, is in its bruising portrait of a sexual relationship, and the unflinching trawl through raw emotion and suffering in search redemption that ranks up there with Pasolini. Intimacy combines Hanif Kureishi1s semi-autobiographical novella of the same name with his short story ŒNightlight1, and sees Claire (Kerry Fox) visit Jay (Mark Rylance) at his flat every Wednesday for silent anonymous sex. Jay then decides he wants to find out more about her, and embarks on a destructive path that leads to the discovery that she is an aspiring actress and wife of a taxi driver (Timothy Spall superb as the emotionally clueless husband). Set in the capital, this feels very much like Kureishi1s London, and has strong echoes of ŒSammy and Rosie Get Laid1, with a fitting soundtrack that includes David Bowie and the Clash1s ŒLondon Calling1. ŒIntimacy1 is a rare breed: a film that treats sex seriously. So a word of warning: if you1re looking for cheap thrills, don1t bother, because you'll get a rude awakening. (France/UK/Germany/Spain; 2000; English; Color; 119 min.; NR) – Julian Weigall

Downtown 81

Saturday (7 & 9pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• March 9 & 10

(To be preceded by Guy Maddin's short THE HEART OF THE WORLD, 6 mins., US) Jam-packed with riveting performances by some of the hottest underground Gotham bands of the early '80s, DOWNTOWN 81 is an extraordinary real-life snapshot of hip, arty, clubland Manhattan in the post-punk era. The film, shot nearly 20 years ago, brings viewers right inside the pulsating heart of late night Lower East Side New York in the No Wave period. Painter-graffiti-artist-musician Basquiat was 19 at the time, caught just months before he was transformed into a major figure in the world of modern art. (The painter, who died at the age of 27 in 1988, is also the subject of the 1996 BASQUIAT The DOWNTOWN 81 filmmakers pulled together a rough cut of the picture shortly after lensing, but financial problems scuttled the project shortly thereafter. Post-production began again in 1999 after producer Maripol Fauque discovered lost footage. Much work was done to clean up the sound of musical recordings, and the film was blown up from its original 16mm to 35mm. US, (originally filmed 1981, completed 2000, English, Color, 75 mins., NR) -- Excerpt by Brendan Kelly, Variety.