The Original Fleabag & 3 Film Festivals in SF!

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This October might best be dubbed Embarrassment of Riches Month for lovers of non-Hollywood films.  To list all of what this month has to offer requires chopping this preview up into several pieces.  This segment features three different film festivals (including one which gives you an excuse to visit a bar every night), an acclaimed twisted comedy from Takashi Miike, and a film of the solo performance version of “Fleabag.”

September 27, 2019 – January 18, 2020

Blazing And Blasted: Post-Punk Pre-Tech Underground Film In 1990s San Francisco–Former Yerba Buena Center For The Arts Film Curator Joel Shepard curates this series of over a dozen experimental short films made in 1990s San Francisco.  These zesty experiments in filmmaking mixed DIY inventiveness and street energy to produce unforgettable cinematic experiences. Included in the series are Jenni Olsen’s “Blue Diary” (walk the streets of San Francisco with a lesbian pining over a chance encounter with a straight girl) and Craig Baldwin’s spectacularly weird critique of U.S. government futzing in post-World War II Latin American politics “Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America.”  The series is broken up into four distinct programs, each of which plays at the top of the hour. Admission is the Broke-Ass price of Free. (McEvoy Foundation For The Arts)     

Image from “Spiders In Love”

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October 1 


The Housemaid–This classic Kim Ki-young melodrama provided the inspiration for the upcoming Bong Joon-Ho film “Parasite.”  Chaos befalls a bourgeois Korean family thanks to the arrival of a mentally unstable housemaid. If nothing else, take away this life lesson from Kim’s film: a wife who stands by you after you murder someone and chop their corpse into little pieces isn’t necessarily the same person who’d stand by you when you’re unfaithful and get another woman pregnant. (Alamo Drafthouse)


October 3 

Emerald Cities–Part-time department store Santa Ed Nyland pursues his runaway daughter from Death Valley to San Francisco.  In search of his daughter and her punk rock Romeo, he encounters some very weird characters along the way, including a power-mad politician who wants to turn the entire US into a national park and a space alien mask-wearing ex-convict.  Featuring performances by legendary punk rock legends Flipper and The Mutants. Catch the digital restoration of a film showing off San Francisco punk culture circa 1979-1981. (Roxie Theatre)

October 3-13 

Olivia Wilde

42nd Mill Valley Film Festival–The 900-pound gorilla of fall Bay Area film festivals offers plenty of reasons to make the trip up to the San Rafael area for a visit.  There’s a chance to see some hot films before their commercial release, such as “Marriage Story,” “Frankie,” and “Dolemite Is My Name.”  Celebrity watchers can see Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Wilde, and Danny Trejo among others make personal appearances.  There are concerts featuring such performers as the first all-female rock band Ace of Cups (with friends), Grammy-nominated Americana singer Hayes Carll, and the band which blends Japanese pop with 1960s go-go music Petra Hanson & Gaijin A Go-Go.  And that’s only scratching the surface of what’s available at this festival. When else will you get a chance to ask Trejo the details behind his once robbing a liquor store using a hand grenade?  (Various venues in Mill Valley)

October 4


First Love–Famed Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike returns with one of his best films to date.  Sullen prizefighter Leo learns he’s got an inoperable brain tumor. When the prizefighter runs into sex worker Monica, he decides to help her escape sociopathic yakuza Kase, who needs her in his crappy plan to steal a massive drug shipment.  Add to this insane mix the following: a yakuza vs. Chinese mafia gang war, the half-naked ghost of Monica’s abusive father, and revenge-seeking Julie who wants to off the killer of her pimp boyfriend. And that’s just some of the film’s wacky plot elements.  Did we mention Miike’s new film is a very twisted comedy? (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)

Poster for “First Love”

Memory: The Origins Of Alien–Have you ever heard of the 1971 Dan O’Bannon script “Memory?”  That script provided the nucleus for the famed Ridley Scott science-fiction/horror film “Alien.”  Yet the story behind how “Alien” came to be has not been told until now. Heavy dips into the O’Bannon and H.R. Giger archives will show the genesis of the film that gave the world one of the most memorable movie monsters ever, Sigourney Weaver’s indelible Ripley, and Jones The Cat.  (Roxie Theatre


Midnight Traveler–When Afghan documentarian Hassan Fazili earns a death warrant from the Taliban, he’s forced to flee Afghanistan with his family.  To reach safety, the Fazili family must travel along one of Europe’s most notorious smuggling routes for years, making stops in Serbian and Hungarian refugee camps among other places.  Thanks to the Fazili family’s smartphones, encounters with fellow refugees, smugglers, cops, and others get recorded and shared. The amazing must-see result is a movingly intimate look at the refugee experience.  Winner of a 2019 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award. (Opera Plaza Cinemas)


October 4 – 12

2nd Annual Drunken Film Festival–Your Broke-Ass Film Festival for this round is what East Bay Express readers voted as the Best New Cultural Event.  Where else can you both support independent film and get a great drink at the same time? This Oakland-based event screens local and internationally made short films and features at such watering holes as Eli’s Mile High Club, Stay Gold Deli, and the Telegraph Beer Garden.  The event’s worth it alone for a chance to see in person legendary animator Phil Tippett, the man who brought the famed cantina scene from “Star Wars” to life.  Admission is free, but don’t be that guy or gal who watches the festival’s films without buying a drink or three at the screening venues. (Various Oakland venues)

Eli’s Mile High Club

October 4-13


Japan Film Festival Of San Francisco 2019–The annual festival of new Japanese films offers everything from anime to classic kabuki to award-winning documentaries to even a concert film or two.  The films to be shown include “We Are Little Zombies” (four orphaned children form a rock band and search for their emotions), “Kagotsurube, The Haunted Sword” (a courtesan’s smile at a country merchant leads to mass murder), “A Journey Through Genders” (Takamasa Kobayashi became one of the first students to persuade a Japanese school to accept her as a boy…but what happens next when he finds his identity lies beyond gender binaries), “I Go Gaga, My Dear” (Director Naoko Nobutomo depicts her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s-related dementia while also showing her own struggles with breast cancer), and “Cencoroll Connect” (Yuki knows her friend Tetsu has developed a bond with a strange alien creature called Cenco…a relationship which also interests the master of a huge creature which has thrown the city into panic mode).  For Broke-Ass readers, the festival offerings marked “Reserve Your Seats” are free screenings. (New People Cinema)


October 5-12

Still from “Varda By Agnes”

Mill Valley Film Festival At BAM/PFA–For those who can’t make the trek up to Mill Valley to catch the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Pacific Film Archive can at least offer a little taste of the festival’s selections.  The films to be screened include “Varda By Agnes” (the late French New Wave legend’s last film, a warmly irreverent personal career retrospective), “Coup 53” (an expose using never-before-seen footage to retell the story of the U.S. and U.K.’s toppling of Iran’s elected Mosaddegh government to protect “national interests”), and “The Whistlers” (in this homage to classic Hollywood genre films, an undercover cop must learn an obscure whistling language to bring down the local mob).  (Pacific Film Archive)


October 7

Inequality For All–Another Broke-Ass Screening this month is Jacob Kornbluth’s documentary featuring economist Robert Reich talking about why economic inequality is widening in the US and its effects on American democracy.  Kornbluth appears in person along with Robin Fryday. (Pacific Film Archive)


October 8


Stagefright–Take a group of actors and crew accidentally locked in a theater while rehearsing a new play.  Loosen them up with a bit of recreational cocaine. Now make their long night really interesting by tossing in a murderous ax-wielding psycho who wears a stuffed owl head.  The result? A great Italian giallo. (Alamo Drafthouse)   


October 15 & 29

Phoebe Waller- Bridge

NT Live: Fleabag–Don’t sleep on getting a super hot ticket for this film.  As of this writing, there’s one front-row ticket left for the 10/15 screening and slightly over a dozen tickets left for mostly seats in the first two rows for the 10/29 screening.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” began life as a one-woman solo performance piece.  Now the woman who turned that piece into a hit BBC series later shown on Amazon Prime TV does the original performance piece for the very last time on London’s West End.  Waller-Bridge plays an oversexed and emotionally unfiltered woman living her sort of life. But when relations with family and friends get badly strained and her guinea pig cafe might go under, it’s time for her to enter Nothing Left To Lose Land.  (Rialto Cinemas Elmwood)     

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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.