SFIFF54


The 54th San Francisco International Film Festival kicked off yesterday and will run through May 5, featuring 192 films. Carol and I will be going about every day, sometimes to the same film, sometimes to different films. I will write capsule reviews of the films I see and post them here as soon as I get them written. The most expeditious way to do these reviews, for me, is to take the advance blurbs and edit them for what I saw. If you’re interested, you can see the advance blurbs at the SFIFF54 web site. Reviews will be added at the end of this post.

SFIFF54 – 2011

APRIL
Thu 21 M and C – Beginners(review below)
Fri 22 M – The City Below, C – Meeks Cutoff
Sat 23 C – The Last Buffalo Hunt, M – World on a Wire
Sun 24 M and C – At Ellen’s Age
Mon 25 M and C – Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Tue 26 M and C – New Skin for the Old Ceremony
Wed  27 M – The Sleeping Beauty, M – The Mill and the Cross
Thu 28 M and C – Love in a Puff
Fri 29 M and C – Detroit Wild City
Sat 30 M and C – Kanbar Award – Dog Day Afternoon, C – Blessed Events

MAY
Sun 1 – Member screening – won’t know what film until we see it
Sun 1 M and C – A Cat in Paris, M and C – Page One: NYT
Mon 2 M and C – The Stool Pigeon
Tue 3 M – Yves St Laurent L’Amour Fou, C – American Teacher
Wed 4 M and C – The Trip
Thu 5     M and C – Closing Night – On Tour

SFIFF54 Opening Night: Beginners

Opening Night of the San Francisco International Film Festival is two days away! Kick off the 54th year with Mike Mills’s Beginners, about a graphic artist (Ewan McGregor) absorbing the lessons imparted by his father’s late-blooming eagerness to let love into his life.
Mills and McGregor are expected to attend for a postscreening Q&A.

Join the convivial throng at the Castro Theatre for a screening of Beginners, and then head to the lavish party to enjoy culinary delights from local restaurants, sophisticated cocktails and, of course, dancing. You must be 21+ to attend the party.

At the Castro, SFFS Executive Director Graham Leggat was paid tribute for 5 years of superb service by the President of the Board, J. Patterson McBaine. Under Graham’s leadership, SFFS has grown from 11 staff to 32, $1 million budget to $6 million, doubled its membership and become a year round operation.

Graham introduced Rachel Rosen, Director of Programming, who introduced the writer/director Mike Mills. Mills introduced the film with great spirit and wit. He said that after 44 years of marriage, his mother died and his 75 year old father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), announced he was gay and intended to live life to the fullest even in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. In spite of the turmoil and heart rending situation, as a writer/director Mills recognized “a helluva story” and set to work writing, and invented the character Oliver to tell his story. (Ewan McGregor was delayed on a flight from Paris and was making his way from LAX.)

The film jumps nimbly back and forth through time telling three stories; the story of Hal, the father, Oliver’s relationship to his mother as a child, and Oliver (Ewan McGregor), age 38 who is afraid to be happy even when he’s met Anna (Inglourious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent), the woman of his dreams. . A “talking” Jack Russell terrier acts as a sounding board for Oliver during the Anna period. Such fun, even for this non-dog lover. Stylish direction and Mills’ witty, intelligent script add to the film’s delights. This is a moving and layered work with lots of laughs and all the poignancy of a son’s love letter to his father.

Ewan McGregor arrived at the Castro, as Rachel Rosen was conducting a Q&A with Mike Mills. Their interchanges and the Q&A itself was the best since Quentin Tarantino’s for Inglourious Basterds.
mr and Pam Grady

The afterparty at Terra Gallery was OK. The trouble with those things is that everybody arrives at once, so there are initially long bar and food lines.– and man, we were hungry — as we didn’t get there until well after 10pm. Drinks of Angel Vodka ****, scallop salad ***, truffled soup ****, Aidell’s sausages ***, Aidell’s meatballs ****, all the other food, and there was plenty **. The venue had no character, whatsoever. The best parties were at City Hall.

The City Below
Christoph Hochhäusler    World Cinema        Germany    2010

Inexplicable forces of attraction ensnare two disparate individuals in this tense drama set in the upper echelons of Frankfurt’s banking sector. An affair between an executive and the wife of an underling sets the stage for a probing inquiry into a morally ambiguous realm.
It’s a malevolent world of high finance and corporate malfeasance, in which dour men sit around gargantuan tables in penthouse boardrooms plotting the takeover of rival firms. The dourest of all is the reptilian Roland Cordes (Robert Hunger-Büehler) who, at the outset of the film, seems to have lost some of his appetite for conquest. A chance encounter with the wife of an underling reignites the fire in his belly, and soon it’s business as usual for Roland, except that now his machinations play out in the bedroom instead of the boardroom. His enigmatic paramour Svenja Steve (Nicolette Krebitz) is no shrinking violet, as Roland quickly discovers, and before long he finds himself embroiled in some of the most delicate negotiations of his career. An impressive, unflinching exposé of late capitalism on the wane.
mr / —Michael Read

MY TAKE — I had a lot of trouble getting into this… the bankers were cold and unlikable, and especially unlikable was the sixty-something Roland Cordes; why on earth would Svenja want to touch him, let alone fuck his brains out.
Totally saving this film was incredible photography of Frankfort from those penthouses to the city below… and Svenja was easy on the eyes, as well — all of her.

mr

Meeks Cutoff
Kelly Reichardt    World Cinema    USA    2010

Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) stars in this eagerly anticipated new feature from Kelly Reichardt (River of Grass, SFIFF 1994; Old Joy, 2006), characterized by the filmmaker’s innate ability to locate emotional truth in the smallest of gestures and rituals. If tackling a period Western might seem like a departure, Reichardt approaches the subject matter with masterful ease, elegantly exposing the desperation, hard struggles and simple desires of her working-class protagonists. In 1845, during the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, three families undertake a perilous journey to begin life anew. Boastful rogue Stephen Meek, whom they have employed to guide them safely through uncharted danger, seems to have led them astray. They are running out of water and uncertain of survival. When they capture an Indian scout who has been tracking them, the group must wrestle with where to place its trust. Led by the adroit Williams (Wendy and Lucy), Reichardt’s powerhouse ensemble vanishes effortlessly into their respective roles, contributing to a dissection of compassion, instinct and human dignity amid literal life-or-death stakes. With a finely tuned attention to detail, Meek’s Cutoff courageously and resonantly strips away the grandeur of the Old West.
—Landon Zakheim

Carol saw this one… Here’s what she had to say.
In an interview before the Festival, the director said she wouldn’t allow the women to  wash or change clothes for the entire two-weeks of filming… we’re talkin’ serious discomfort and body odor here, just like the “romantic” wild west. Almost a “silent” movie and the visuals did the talking…folks walking a covered wagon from Missouri to Oregon across mountains and desert trying to find a source of water just don’t do much chatting. They work from before the sun comes up to after it goes down to just stay the course. I had to wonder just how many people actually made it to their destination. I came out of the theatre and immediately looked for a drink of H2O as did many other viewers.

THE LAST BUFFALO HUNT
Lee Anne Schmitt
Documentaries ?USA, 2011, 76 min


Lee Anne Schmitt (California Company Town, SFIFF 2009) turns her essayistic directorial style onto the mythic idea of the American Western frontier. Centering on an officially sanctioned annual hunt on one of the last free-ranging American bison herds, the film meditates on the iconography and activities associated with a special brand of American individuality as seen through the lens of a dying cowboy culture. Schmitt deftly poses the ideologies of frontierism and freedom against the practicalities of commodification and regulation. She displays the breathtaking open landscapes of southern Utah and presents the men who have worked its land for decades against a growing clutter of plastic teepees and casinos. Perhaps most troubling is the industry that has grown out of the hunt, now a mere tourist activity, an anachronistic experience for scrapbooks. The result is a rounded picture of the trajectory of the ideals surrounding our shared national narrative, an unvarnished look at the residue of a Western past and future. Schmitt continues her work of documenting culture through its detritus and decay. As in California Company Town, her approach is to let images and activities unfold and accumulate, allowing the duration of events to speak for themselves (recalling the work of experimental auteur James Benning.) The result is double-edged, as we are given access to the majestic beauty of an America we all desire, while we also witness it fading away.??—Sean Uyehara

Carol saw this one… Here’s what she had to say.
Each year the government declares an open season on buffalo in the Henry Mountains in southeastern Utah. This is another movie on high desert and in bleak mountains. The guide who claims to be doing his last hunt after 30 years in the business and his crew of redneck men — mostly Mormon — mostly from Hanksville guide like minded adventurers from around the country on 10 day hunts to find and shoot the biggest and best buffalo. Traveling with them are men who — when a buffalo is killed — immediately hang it up, skin and gut it, and quickly get the head to a taxidermist. For this service, the patrons are charged $4000 each. Oh, there was one woman who had been on safaris all over Africa and collected heads of 5 different animals. Took her five shots to bring down a buffalo. Some found the film — and the idea — very disturbing; I found those coarse old men kind of quaint, even humorous and good at their job.


WORLD ON A WIRE
World Cinema
Rainer Werner Fassbinder     Germany, 1973, 214 min

Largely unseen since its 1973 broadcast in Germany, the restoration of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s cyberpunk precursor is a revelation. This immensely satisfying and entirely singular work has rarely screened in the United States. Adapted from Daniel F. Galouye’s novel Simulacron-3, the film’s treatment of virtual worlds brings to mind The Matrix or Tron, but with its own astounding visual style. Director of photography Michael Ballhaus, who also supervised the restoration, mounts a riot of reflected, refracted and severely fragmented images in the service of a prescient story concerned with the illusory nature of reality and the subjectivity of perception. Scientist Fred Stiller replaces a colleague who was in charge of an enormous computer simulation until he committed suicide. The simulation is an artificially constructed world, made up of “identity units” with human thoughts, emotions and behaviors, created in order to predict the real-world needs of the future. Stiller’s paranoia grows as he tries to uncover the reason behind his coworker’s death. At the same time, he is unnerved by the sudden disappearance of a man who everyone but him seems to have immediately forgotten. Wire is on par with the best of European science fiction, but Fassbinder, rather than playing the genre straight, makes it his own. Subverting the material with characteristic elements of camp, pastiche and Sirkian melodrama, Fassbinder lends the film his distinctive sensibility, and it is all the richer for it. One of the major cinematic rediscoveries in recent years, World on a Wire is a beguilingly eccentric fusion of styles as well as a breathtaking visual achievement.?—Jesse Dubus

MY TAKE — WOW. I was worried; it didn’t start until 8.45 and then it’s over 3 hours long… I’ll surly get bored or go to sleep. NOT. Shot in highly saturated technicolor showing of men in dark suits with vivid ties and women in brightly colored dresses, it is riveting. The main guy drives a white Corvette Stingray, the main girl is voluptuous with long, perfect blonde hair and just hangin’ around, decorating many scenes.
Todd Haynes, the director of HBO’s recent Mildred Pierce, said he was strongly influenced by Fassbinder and we can see it here with lots of mirrors and reflections and shooting through windows and doors, all intensely compelling although sometimes a bit contrived. This ranks among the best films I’ve ever seen.

AT ELLEN’S AGE
Im alter von Ellen
New Directors
Pia Marais?Germany, 2010, 95 min, In German, French and English with subtitles.

“Promise me not to go all mad, OK?” Ellen’s boyfriend Florian asks her before revealing that he’s going to have a child with another woman. But go a bit mad she does, ditching both home and her longtime flight attendant job and setting forth on an uncertain trajectory. Pia Marais’s modern fable of dislocation takes us down the rabbit hole, dropping into a variety of unnerving, oddly humorous and slightly surreal situations as Ellen searches for grounding in a rootless world. Adrift, broke and unused to being alone, Ellen attaches herself to a daisy chain of acquaintances and complete strangers. Her need to be with others results in some undignified hotel-room mornings before she falls in with a group of militant animal rights activists. Ellen is attracted to their passion, and perhaps to their endless discussion of rules, but it’s unclear whether they can provide the sense of purpose she’s seeking. Moving from anonymous hotel rooms, airports and lobbies to the chaotic warmth of a Frankfurt commune, where sleeping bodies lie in a jumble among semi-domesticated animals, At Ellen’s Age is filled with striking images: the red caps of a gaggle of airline attendants, a cheetah strolling regally across an airport tarmac, the otherworldly glow of a swarm of white lab rats running on black asphalt at night. Jeanne Balibar’s ethereal beauty and controlled performance accentuate Ellen’s standing as a perpetual stranger in a strange world, adding a distinctive center to a character and a film as mysterious and unpredictable as modern life.?—Rachel Rosen

MY TAKE — I hit the jackpot, three German films in a row. As soon as I saw Ellen’s boyfriend, my mind said, “jerk alert.” He picked Ellen up at the Frankfort airport as she came home from her business as a flight attendant. Sure enough, once home, she was amorous, he cold, complaining that she’s always away. “Is something wrong?” she says. After hemming and hawing… “Anne is 3 months pregnant with my child.”
Ellen is in turmoil, bored with her job, a jerk boyfriend who is planning to get two flats, one for her, one for the other girlfriend, and no prospects for a life. Her next trip is to somewhere in Africa. At the airport on the tarmac when they’re ready to take off, a cheetah approaches the plane. Animal control people quickly approach. She talks to a 14 year old African boy with an automatic rifle. She learns he’s a soldier, fighting against poachers, and though he doesn’t get paid, he calls himself a professional.
On the plane, Ellen is visably upset as she is giving her safety spiel when she sees out the window that the cheetah is shot. She suddenly stops in mid-spiel, grabs her luggage from the overhead and flees the plane.
Back in Frankfort, she has no job and no place to stay. She hangs around at the “flight attendants hotel” bunking with other attendants as long as she can. By chance, she meets a group of fervent animal rights activists, about half her age. She is impressed by their commitment, and she can temporarily stay with them (and their animals) at their commune. She goes on a few of their missions as an observer: hijacking a truck and “freeing” the chickens it carries; breaking into a laboratory and “freeing” the white mice; protesting in the nude at a busy Frankfort intersection.
One of the group asks her to marry him, so he can avoid the military draft. This will provide her a place to stay… win, win. After the wedding, when he makes sexual advances, she resists saying,
“This may be the end for you, but for me it’s only a step along the way.” We next see Ellen in a truck to join the boy “professional” at the camp of the army against poachers.

I was disturbed watching this film. I feel that the radical – so called – animal rights activists do more harm to animals – including humans – than good. And yet, I didn’t want my beliefs to get in the way of the storytelling. The scenes in the commune reminded me of nightmares I’ve had, where I’m in an awful place and can’t get out. But discussing it over dinner, Carol, Sarah and I agreed that we had seen a fascinating slice of a world we had not before seen, from the airline hotel parties to the inside of activists minds. Enough to make this film a worthy choice.

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
Documentaries ?USA, 2010, 95 min
Werner Herzog


The surprise resurgence of 3-D has prompted everything from blanket claims that it’s the future of cinema to dismissals that it will again exhaust public patience through indiscriminate application to inappropriate films. But this process too often associated with routine genre films and cheesy FX can be surprisingly apt for some auteurs. Who better to adopt the form than Werner Herzog, our veteran guide to landscapes and mindscapes dislocative yet immersive? Eternally attracted to the spectacular, mystic and strange, he’s forever plunging head-first into exotica his bemused point-of-view renders gently inviting. There’s scarcely a Herzog feature—from Even Dwarves Started Small (1970) to recent Antarctica documentary Encounters at the End of the World—whose outré content, personalities and imagery wouldn’t make perfect sense in the stereoscopic form. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about southern France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc caverns, discovered in 1994. An Ice Age landslide had hidden (and preserved) prehistoric art dating back as far as 32,000 years ago, the oldest such expressions known today. Herzog was given exclusive access to this publicly sealed-off site of human prehistory. Its spectacular wall drawings from a near-unimaginable distant past are no less photogenic than the deep-focus vistas of limestone-stalagmite caverns à la Carlsbad. As ever, Herzog proves a wry, philosophically inclined, idiosyncratically personal guide to the extraordinary. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is like no 3-D movie you’ve seen: It thrusts out not to show off but to ponder more deeply the “humanness” of human life over millennia.?—Dennis Harvey

MY TAKE — Yo Dennis, you use big words but don’t say much. In extolling the talents of Herzog he didn’t say much about the film (and the dude in the picture is playing the star spangled banner on a flute found on the floor of the cave – he had about a minute of screen time).
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is basically in two parts: outside and inside. Outside is the history and vivid shots of the surrounding French countryside. The great stone arch, Pont d’Arc, spanning the Ardeche River contribute to the wonder and beauty of the site.
Also outside are the restrictions, planning and rules. The rock paintings have been preserved for 32,000 years (I cannot relate to that) because the cave has been sealed since the Ice Age. Since it was discovered in 1994, with scant exposure to human body heat, breath and so forth have had their effect. The cave is sealed with a vault door; a two foot wide metal walkway was built through the cave. Aside from Herzog’s filming visits described above, a team of 8 scientists were allowed to visit for a brief time — art historian, archaeologist, engineers and the like — to fully document the physical space. This, along with Herzog’s film may be all anyone will ever see of the cave again.
Rachael Rosen, the
Programming Director of SFFS said in her introduction to the film, “I’d like to shake hands with the person who said, ‘We must film the cave and close it forever. Let’s call Walter Herzog.’”
Inside, the cave paintings are quite wonderful, although somewhat repetitive; basically figure drawings of horses, lions (without mane), rhinoceros, and so forth. No depictions of humans, landscapes or buildings. The last 15 minutes of the film are especially moving as the camera carefully examines each painting accompanied by haunting music of cello and perhaps a female duet.

NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY
Tue, Apr 26
9:00 / Kabuki
Live & Onstage ?95 min

Leonard Cohen has enthralled us with his writing and music for over 50 years. This three-part evening features films and music produced in response to the profound beauty and unexpected humor of Cohen’s work. Cohen’s 1974 album New Skin for the Old Ceremony is the source for 11 new short films, each by a different director, each set to a different track from the album. The project was developed and first presented at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles by curators Lorca Cohen (Leonard Cohen’s daughter) and Darin Klein. The films are projected uninterrupted with the album as a soundtrack. The eclectic selection includes shorts by a number of fine artists, musicians and animators, including Theo Angell, Kelly Sears, Brent Green and Lucky Dragons. To accompany this new compilation, we present a classic documentary focusing on Cohen’s literary work and public persona in the late ’60s, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Mr. Leonard Cohen (Donald Brittain, Don Owen, Canada 1967, 45 min). This wonderful film reveals Cohen at work and with friends, and the multifaceted nature of his popularity. At turns reserved and brash, self-deprecating and self-assured, the young Cohen is a complicated and intriguing subject. Finally, we present live renditions of several Cohen songs, in performances anchored by local songsmith and Sub Pop artist Kelley Stoltz and beloved duo Pale Hoarse.??—Sean Uyehara??Total running time 95 min. Presented in association with City Lights Booksellers and Publishers.

MY TAKE — From the beginning, the documentary was lively and fascinating. Who could imagine that Leonard Cohen would commit to a monastery for 10 years of his life. Pale Hoarse was introduced and they started right off with their rendition of Hallelujah; not quite k d lang or Rufus Wainwright, but certainly a passable version — and they knew all the words. (Somebody said, Leonard Cohen sure uses a lot of words.) The films of the album songs are performed by various artists, none sung by Leonard Cohen. That’s OK. They were spotty, but very good overall.

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
Wed, Apr 27   6:30 / Kabuki
La belle endormie?World Cinema ?France, 2010, 82 min
Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat has always pursued her own distinct direction in cinema. Her films are discordant, boldly sexual, sometimes erotic and sometimes repellent and sometimes both. She is interested in what’s underneath — in the primal, in the animal, in the hidden. Two years ago, she gave us her take on “Bluebeard.” Now she turns to “The Sleeping Beauty” and goes even further in presenting childhood as a time of terror and fantasy.

Four different spells at birth combine to force the little princess into a long sleep, and for most of the film we see her dreams, which are fantastic and menacing and faintly erotic. Later, she wakes up after a hundred years of slumber to find herself in the modern world, at age 16, having to confront the realities of a blossoming sexuality. There’s a quietness about “The Sleeping Beauty” that’s unusual for Breillat, that feels almost like Jacques Rivette’s explorations of history.
— Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle pink pages

MY TAKE — It’s a fairy tale about the adventures of a six-year old girl playing princess. I must have been hooked by the “boldly sexual sometimes erotic” part. Anyway, it was kinda fun. I loved some of the visuals, like the train chugging through the backyard grass, the little princess, Anastasia, riding to Lapland on the back of a deer, and knocking over sticks with tossed sculls as ordered by a boil-covered bully. And then there’s her slightly older stepbrother, Peter, making out with the snow queen. All in all, kind of fun.

THE MILL AND THE CROSS
Wed, Apr 27   9:00 / Kabuki     with the director Lech Majewski
World Cinema ?Poland/Sweden, 2010, 97 min

A miracle of technology in the service of the artistic imagination, Lech Majewski’s brilliant film transports its viewers into the living, breathing world of Pieter Bruegel’s dense frieze of Christ’s passion, The Way to Calvary. And live and breathe it does. Though carefully organized along symbolic axes, Bruegel’s 1564 painting sets the drama of the crucifixion within a rustic Flanders scene teeming with everyday life. (“About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters,” wrote W.H. Auden. “How well they understood / Its human position; how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.”) Likewise Majewski—using computer-generated blue-screen compositing, new 3-D technology, just-so location shooting in Poland, Austria and New Zealand and a massive backdrop he painted by hand—tells the story of the painting largely through closely observed secular rituals of 16th-century Flemish daily life, in all its earth-toned grubbiness, with occasional scenes revealing Bruegel’s artistic choices and the politics of the day. Windmilling, calf-hauling, bread-peddling, villagers dancing and children horsing around take up the better part of the narrative, while cameos by Rutger Hauer (as Bruegel), Michael York (as his patron and friend) and Charlotte Rampling (as a limpid Virgin Mary) give historical context and symbolic depth. But the narrative is not the point—the extraordinary imagery is. The painting literally comes to life in this spellbinding film, its wondrous scenes entering the viewer like a dream enters a sleeping body.?—Graham Leggat
In English and Flemish with subtitles. This is a World Cinema Spotlight film. Special support for this program generously provided by Visionary Circle member Diane B. Wilsey. Presented in association with San Francisco Bay Area Polish American Portal and The Polish Arts & Culture Foundation.

MY TAKE — Graham described the film as well as can be.
Words that came to my mind were “fantastic, beautiful, lucid, cruel.” Lech Majewski, the director, writer, painter, art historian, was given a 300 page book about the painting by its author; so beautifully written that it brought the painting to life, he reported. He talked with the writer; “How can I make a film about this painting?” They picked a few people from the painting… Who are these people? Where are they going? What are they doing? What do they do in everyday life?
Over three years, Majewski and his crew had to invent not only the stories, but the fabric of the clothing in the painting (fabric that drapes like that doesn’t exist today) — indeed, the very setting itself (Flanders is flat, there are no rock towers). He talked about symbolism in renaissance art in general and this painting in particular. The Bruegel character explains much of this to his friend and patron, while discussing sketches for the painting in the film. I’m not a big fan of period costume
films, but this one is at once powerful and delicate. It convinced me that I’m quite happy living in the 21st century and not in the 16th.

LOVE IN A PUFF
Thu, Apr 28   8:45 / Kabuki
Chi ming yu chun giu
World Cinema ?Hong Kong, 2010, 103 min
Pang Ho-cheung

Boy meets girl during a cigarette break, unaware that his loose-lipped colleagues have just shared the details of his recent, embarrassing split from his girlfriend with his crew of fellow smokers. They all feign ignorance when ad man Jimmy (Shawn Yue) arrives and offers a light to cosmetics saleswoman Cherie (Miriam Yeung). “You’re Jimmy?” she asks knowingly. A connection is made, and a hip, Hong Kong–style modern romance ensues. Although Cherie is a few years older and already has a boyfriend (albeit an unappreciative one), her fledgling courtship with Jimmy is given an opportunity to grow when a friend’s social media blunder and an intercepted text message abruptly bring her existing relationship to an end. Not quite prepared for what comes next, Jimmy and Cherie willingly move forward into an uncertain future. Despite its nicotine-centric plot, liberal use of Cantonese profanity and focus on a fast-tracked relationship that takes place against the backdrop of a sometimes gritty urban setting, there is a distinctly innocent feel to Love in a Puff. Director Pang Ho-cheung keeps this romantic comedy lighthearted and the interactions between Jimmy and Cherie simple and sweet. Interspersed throughout the film and credits are a series of humorous mini-interviews with both lead and supporting characters, à la When Harry Met Sally, shot with a shaky handheld camera and an occasional boom microphone in the frame. The characters talk about love and each other, demonstrating that when it comes to human emotions, no translation is required.?—Monique Montibon

MY TAKE — Monique nailed it. I loved the teasing, flirting, jabbing, and yes, loving banter flying back and forth between these two. Good and not-so-innocent fun.

Mid-Festival observations:

At my midpoint of the International, I am refreshed by the films I’ve seen so far:

Bodies are treated differently; naturally. They show teenage boobies in a natural way without sex or self-consciousness (The Sleeping Beauty). And 16th century women have the same equipment as 21st century women. And guess what, naked males have dicks and balls. Who knew? (The Mill and the Cross)

Gratuitous explosions and car crashes are absent, as well as excessive violence (unless you count whipping and crucifixion)(The Mill and the Cross). I don’t remember seeing a single gun, certainly not one pulled in anger.

Go to SFIFF54 Week Two for our remaining films.

Coming up: Detroit Wild City

One thought on “SFIFF54

  1. Wonderful reviews, Marcus. I am quite impressed with your reviews. I have heard some buzz about Meeks but the others were unknown. I am going to cross reference to see if any of these will be shown at the ATL Film Festival in the next 10 days.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.