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Tattoo Artists, Three Film Festivals, And More

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The S.F. Bay Area’s art cinema has some great alternatives to the typical Hollywood summer fare.  The next few weeks offer three different film festivals, several music films, anniversary celebrations, an incredible South Korean political thriller that might otherwise slip under your radar, and a couple of Broke-Ass screenings for those short of money.

July 6

1987: When The Day Comes–This historical thriller is the first of two Free screenings listed here.  The South Korea military dictatorship’s most hated and feared branch is the Stasi-like Anti-Communist Bureau.  Director Park Cheo-Won’s police bureau subjected anti-government activists and demonstrators to super-enhanced interrogations.  When university linguistics student Park Jong-Chul dies from torture by Director Park’s goons, the cops scramble to cover up the killing.  But a hot-headed prosecutor who hates the Anti-Communist Bureau’s tactics refuses to play along. That refusal sets off a series of events that would eventually lead to the fall of South Korea’s military dictatorship.  Shows as part of LaborFest 2019. (518 Valencia)

Chimes At Midnight–This Orson Welles Shakespeare adaptation creates a new/old story out of The Bard of Avon’s plays.  Welles’ film draws from “Henry IV Parts I & II,” other Shakespearean plays, and Holinshed’s “Chronicles” to recount the life and death of Sir John Falstaff.  Part fool, part living symbol of old Merrie Englande, “this great hill of flesh” eventually becomes the embodiment of one of two life paths available to the young Prince Hal. (Pacific Film Archive)

July 6 & 7

War & Peace Encore Screenings–Got scared off by the Castro Theatre’s recent marathon screening of this Academy Award-winning adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel?  Still want to see it, but in more manageable chunks? The Castro Theatre has you covered with an encore 2-day screening of this epic, with each day featuring two parts of the film.  Your quick 101: during Russia’s Napoleonic Wars three characters get caught in the tumult: a good-hearted doofus, a tragic nobleman, and a beautiful woman. Before you ask, it’s separate admission for each screening. (Castro Theatre)

July 9

Dolls–It’s “Toy Story” for weirdos!  Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) directed this film which unfortunately went pretty much straight to video since (I guess) the distributor thought the world was getting yet another film about toys that come to malevolent life.  Short answer: yes, the world is. But seeing the world’s worst parents getting mauled by a mutated Teddy Bear has its cathartic charms. (Alamo Drafthouse)

Genghis Blues–20th Anniversary Screening–When a traveling Tuvan khoomei (throat singing) troupe visited San Francisco in 1993, blind San Francisco blues singer Paul Pena met the troupe backstage.   Pena’s performance of a few khoomei songs in Tuvan left the troupe members thunderstruck. The blues singer had taught himself khoomei after hearing a Radio Moscow performance.  In 1995, Pena got invited to Tuva to perform in their annual khoomei competition. Accompanying Pena were filmmakers Roko and Adrian Belic who returned with this astonishing chronicle of Pena’s adventures.  If you’ve never seen this amazing documentary (a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner), you owe it to yourself to correct this oversight. Roko Belic will appear at the screening along with some surprise guests.  (Roxie Theatre


July 11

The Art Of Self-Defense Advance Screening–After shy bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) gets randomly attacked on the street, he joins a strip-mall dojo so he can learn how to defend himself.  But he soon finds he’s entered an absurdly hyper-masculine world where everybody else effectively believes “might is right” and mind games are standard procedure.  The results resemble “‘Fight Club’ as written by Charlie Kaufman.” This screening is preceded by a livestream of the film’s Brooklyn red carpet premiere. (Alamo Drafthouse)

The Cure–Anniversary 1978-2018 Live In Hyde Park–On a July 2018 evening in London’s Hyde Park, legendary band The Cure took to the stage to sing songs generated from their four decades of music making.  Long-time collaborator Tim Pope captured the results in glorious 4K. Watch Robert Smith and his band perform such famous songs as “Lovesong,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “Friday I’m In Love.”  (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)

A Hard Day’s Night/Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965–Get a double-dose of the seminal 1960s bands The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in a Free Outdoor Screening.  Richard Lester’s legendary mix of songs by The Beatles with cinematic techniques from the French New Wave yielded what might be called an early ancestor of the music video.  The Rolling Stones film is a backstage musical following the band on a short Irish tour. This version of the film incorporates further footage of those concerts discovered in 2012.  (Pacific Film Archive)

Oddball Films’ 25th Anniversary Show–Celebrate the silver anniversary of a Bay Area cinematic treasure.  Stephen Parr’s organization specializes in being a repository of offbeat stock footage containing everything from cinematic rarities to classic and contemporary clips.  The celebration features screenings of two films: “Oddball” (an award-winning portrait of Parr and his organization) and “So Wrong They’re Right” (a documentary about collectors of 8-track tapes and their accessories).  (Balboa Theatre)


July 12

Luminous Procuress–Unless you’ve seen The Cockettes perform, you can’t say you’ve been fully exposed to the historical alternative art scene in S.F.  This film is part of a series shown in connection with the exhibit “Queer California: Untold Stories.” The setup: After taking a magical potion, two young hippies embark on a transformational journey through San Francisco.  Have trouble with explicit sexual content on film? Don’t watch this. (Oakland Museum of California)  

Tattoo Uprising–American tattooing as an art form has been around for generations.  This documentary traces the history and movements of this art form and looks at the work of such skin artists as Ed Hardy, Stoney St. Clair, and Jamie Summers.  In connection with this film, the De Young Museum starts up its “Ed Hardy: Deeper Than Skin” exhibit on July 13. Equally importantly, if you get tickets for the July 15 screening, you can see in person director Alan Govenar…and tattoo artist Ed Hardy! (Roxie Theatre)

July 12-14

Hong Kong Cinema–The 2019 edition of SFFILM’s annual Hong Kong Cinema film series gets an early date this year.  Included in this new collection of Hong Kong films are opening film “Tracey” (Middle-aged business owner and father Tai-Hung decides to live an honest life as a transgendered man, with ramifications for his family), “G Affairs” (when a severed head bounces into the apartment of a timid cello player, the incident starts opening up the disturbing backstories of several of the player’s classmates as well as quite a few corrupt cops), and “Missbehavior” (when executive assistant June accidentally puts her demanding boss’ breast milk in a client’s coffee, she and a couple of her estranged friends race against time to replace the expressed milk before the end of the workday).  (New People Cinema & Roxie Theatre)

July 13

Privilege–What if the state and corporations worked together to use rock music to turn its fans into sheeple?  That’s the premise of this Peter Watkins film set in “near-future Britain.” Watkins uses a documentary format to chart the emotional decline of rock star Steve Shorter, whose increasing fame leaves him more and more isolated. It’s not a coincidence that this film was released around the time of the Summer of Love and the Monterey Pop Festival. (Pacific Film Archive)

July 14

Dead The Ends–What do you get when you cross the 2011 London riots with “La Jetee?”  The answer: Benedict Seymour’s experimental feature film, which uses the Marker plot of “man sent back into the past to save the future” as a starting point.  But instead of mostly using a series of still photographs, Seymour’s story draws on emojis, gifs, dystopian science fiction, collage, and other cinematic riches provided by the last fifty years of film.  (Artists Television Access)

Last Year At Marienbad/Long Day’s Journey Into Night–Want to go for a double feature of avant garde cinematic mind-melting instead?  Alain Resnais’ classic cinematic enigma involves a man, a woman, and a meeting that may or may not have taken place a year ago.  Bi Gan’s acclaimed film follows a man whose return to his hometown leads to a search for a woman from his past. Colorful characters repeatedly cross our protagonist’s path.  Eventually, his search takes him to a dingy movie theatre and an immersion in a weird 3-D cityscape. Yes, this screening does present the film’s hour-long theatre sequence in 3-D. (Castro Theatre)


July 16-17

Hedwig And The Angry Inch/The Cockettes Double Feature–Get your gender-bending freak on with a double feature of these restored queer cinema classics.  “Hedwig” is the classic rock musical about the genderqueer Hedwig’s birddogging of ex-lover rock superstar Tommy Gnosis…whose fame rests on claiming sole credit for the music he stole from Hedwig.  Then, were you intrigued by The Cockettes after seeing “Luminous Procuress?” If so, you need to see this seminal documentary about the flamboyant band of gender-bending hippies who regularly put on LSD-fueled musicals in early 1970s San Francisco.  When Truman Capote and Rex Reed put The Cockettes on the radar of their East Coast chums, could the weird Cockette charm transfer to Off-off-Broadway? (Castro Theatre)

July 17-21

Frozen Film Festival–Sorry, this isn’t a film festival dedicated to a certain Disney animated film of the same name.  Instead, it’s the 13th edition of a local festival dedicated to giving a platform for short and feature films by independent filmmakers, conscientious filmmakers, filmmakers from underserved communities, and generally anybody who wants to make films but doesn’t have humongous professional networks or film studio deals.  In other words, the Frozen Film Festival welcomes broke-ass filmmakers. Not only will a filmmaker’s film be born by seeing it on the big screen, but the festival will provide budding filmmakers a chance to potentially meet future colleagues and collaborators. (PianoFight and Roxie Theatre)

July 18

The Shadow Of The Tyrant–When you piss off your country’s army and get your film banned for thirty years, you must have really struck a nerve.  The concluding film in the Julio Bracho film series depicts the post-Mexcian Revolution scramble for power between various strongmen, who are aided by their suck-ups.  The treachery and sleaze depicted in the film “coincidentally” happened to be based on the actions of real life Mexican politicians. Great location footage and a rousingly populist song or two spice up the film.  Bracho’s daughter, actress Diana Bracho, will appear in person to talk about the decades-long censorship of the film. (Pacific Film Archive)

July 18-22

Before Stonewall–2019 marks 50 years since the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn that led to the birth of the gay liberation movement.  But those riots didn’t happen out of thin air. In a way, they were the products of decades of repression of LGBTs. Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s acclaimed history of American LGBT life from the 1920s to the 1960s gets a new restoration for this 35th anniversary screening.  (Roxie Theatre)

July 18 – August 4

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 39–More will be written about this festival later.  Just know that this festival presents around the SF Bay Area a mix of domestic and world cinema touching in some manner on the past and present of the Jewish diaspora.  Yes, there are the expected films from the US and Israel here. But there are also films from Hungary, Canada, Mexico, and Germany as well. The variety of subjects covered include: an Israeli criminal defense lawyer for Palestinians (“Advocate”), a still photographer determined to get an up close and personal photograph of a polar bear without being killed (“Picture Of His Life”), a holiday resort fronting for a refugee rescue mission (“The Red Sea Diving Resort”), and an entertaining feminist musical re-telling of the Exodus and Passover that uses a famed 1970s children’s song in an unexpected way (“Seder Masochism”).  (Castro Theatre and other venues)   


July 19

Sword Of Trust–Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and Mary are a Birmingham couple whose life gets changed thanks to an inheritance from Cynthia’s grandfather.  Being left a grimy Civil War-era sword may not sound like much. But when pawn shop owner Mel (Marc Maron) does a little bit of Internet research, he discovers the ceremonial weapon is far more valuable than it appears. The sword supposedly provides symbolic proof that the South really did win the Civil War..and quite a few racist lunatics are willing to pay astronomical sums of money to possess the old weapon.  Accompanied by Mel’s man-child assistant Nathaniel, the quartet sets out for what they hope will be an incredible payday. Director Lynn Shelton returns with an insane semi-improvised comedy that’s crazy enough to possibly be true. (Opera Plaza Cinemas)

July 20

The Company Of Wolves–The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s film series “Modern Cinema: Haunted!” offers films adapted from gothic works written by women.  This Neil Jordan film turns the Angela Carter short-story collection The Bloody Chamber into a very twisted coming-of-age story.   Rosaleen regularly visits her grandmother (Angela Lansbury) by walking through the woods wearing her red hood.  The older woman warns the younger one that “wolves are men and almost all men are wolves.” But the girl is continually troubled by dreams about men who turn into wolves and the dangers of straying from the path through the woods.  Will the beast inside Rosaleen be her salvation? (SFMOMA)  

July 20-24

The Human Condition–Love powerful cinema challenging authority figures or systems?  Think watching the recently restored “War And Peace” in one sitting was for wussies?  Then you need to try this nine-hour epic (shown in three parts on separate days). The opener for the “Against Authority: The Cinema Of Masaki Kobayashi” film series, this epic follows the fortunes of would-be-socialist Kaji (famed Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai) during Japan’s occupation of China during World War II.  He attempts to resist the cruelties made possible by war as best he can. But can his efforts make a difference? (Pacific Film Archive)    


July 21

Leto–This film may not be part of the Pacific Film Archive’s “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” series, but it’s in that same spirit.  In early 1980s Leningrad, rock ‘n’ roll is very much an underground thing. Smuggling Lou Reed and David Bowie LPs were many Russian rock aficionados’ way of hearing new sounds from the West.  Mike and wife Natasha meet with young Viktor Tsoi. Aided by friends, this trio plans to change the course of Russian rock. (Alamo Drafthouse

July 23

Patrick–If you’ve never seen an Ozploitation (Australian exploitation) film before, this is a must-see.  When Mama’s boy Patrick hears Mom loudly screwing her lover in the next room, he goes super-nutzoid and torches both of them thanks to a space heater and a filled bathtub.  Years later, the now comatose and unresponsive young man comes under the care of a doctor studying metaphysics and a very pretty nurse named Kathie. The good news is the nurse discovers Patrick has extraordinary mental powers.  The bad news is that Patrick’s now sexually fixated on Kathie…and he’s using his new powers to kill! (Alamo Drafthouse

July 24

Emma Mae–Long before Jamaa Fanaka made his “Penitentiary” movies, he created this film which pre-dated the likes of Coffy and Cleopatra Jones.  Emma Mae is a plain and shy country girl who moves from Mississippi to Los Angeles following the death of her mother. But just because Emma Mae looks like a figurative doormat doesn’t mean she acts like one.  Disrespect her or her loved ones, and she will whoop your obnoxious ass before you can blink! (Alamo Drafthouse)

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.