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Punk Cops, French Film Noir, and DIY Jasons in SF

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Even if you’re too late to get a ticket to the Alamo Drafthouse (or even the Roxie) screenings of “Greener Grass,” there are still worthy film options available this month.  Straight off the Mill Valley Film Festival, Bay Area viewers can soon see “Frankie,” “The Irishman,” and “Knives Out.”  Or they can take advantage of the proverbial second chance to see the original “Fleabag,” the anti-lynching documentary “Always In Season,” or even the mushroom documentary “Fantastic Fungi.”

Here’s a highly selective list of what’s coming up this November:


November 1

The Cave–The amazing new documentary from Feras Fayyad (“Last Men In Aleppo”) tells another story from the Syrian civil war.  The title refers to the underground hospital run by pediatrician Dr. Amani Ballour. Here, she and her colleagues provide medical care to besieged civilians while also dealing with both constant supply shortages and daily bombardments. (Opera Plaza Cinemas


Downtown 81

Downtown 81–See graffiti artist Jean-Michael Basquiat before he became famous!  Back in 1981, Basquiat, Warhol associate Glenn O’Brien, and Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio decided to make a cinematic love letter to the creatively volatile if broke-ass parts of Manhattan.  Basquiat playing himself wandes around mange-era Manhattan trying to sell one of his paintings and score a place to sleep. Features appearances by (among others) John Lurie, Debbie Harry, and Kid Creole and The Coconuts. (Roxie Theatre)


November 1-4

Doc Stories-The folks at SFFILM return with their fall documentary film festival, which this year features some extraordinary individuals.  There’s a portrait of the Italian photojournalist who’s produced over 60,000 images in her decades-long career of “Shooting The Mafia.”  The new collection of the best of the New York Times Op-Docs includes the man vs. poultry tale “Tungrus & The Chicken From Hell.”  And “A Tribute To The Non-Fiction Films Of Martin Scorsese” features the famed filmmaker in person.  Scorsese will talk about his lesser known documentary work and show his new film “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.”  Remember not to be a dick who needles Scorsese about his hating on Marvel movies. (Vogue and Castro Theatres)


November 2 & 10

Satantango–More adventurous cinemagoers can spend a day catching the 25th anniversary restoration of Bela Tarr’s classic of slow cinema.  (For the uninitiated: slow cinema is characterized by long takes, plotlessness, and an emphasis on meditative observation.) The film concerns the opportunity offered by a huge financial windfall for members of a defunct Hungarian agricultural collective to finally leave their village.  Selfish greed strikes some of these ex-collective members. But a messianic character’s arrival throws all the villagers’ plans into turmoil. Did I mention the film runs seven hours (plus two intermissions)? (Roxie Theatre

November 3

Quasi At The Quackadero

Films By Sally Cruikshank–Catch a program of the 1930s surrealist-style animation of Sally Cruikshank at a broke-ass screening.  Cruikshank’s visually wild and incredibly animated shorts have found places in the National Film Registry and even “Sesame Street.”  For those who want to enhance their viewing of the classic “Quasi At The Quackadero” with a few recreational pharmaceuticals, please do so outside the theater building.   This is a Family Day screening. (Pacific Film Archive)


November 6

Tammy And The T-Rex–What do you get when you cross a romantic comedy with “Jurassic Park?”  You get this jaw-dropping tale starring Denise Richards as the titular girl and the late Paul Walker (“The Fast And The Furious”) as the eventual dinosaur.  Let’s just say this strange movie involves an unfortunate mauling, an animatronic dinosaur, and a villain played by the titular Bernie from “Weekend At Bernie’s.” (Alamo Drafthouse)  


November 6-10

Perfumed Nightmare

Strange: Surrealist Tendencies In Cinema–This small film series is shown in conjunction with City Lights Books’ event series “Inside The Magnetic Fields: Surrealism At 100” and the Berkeley Art Museum’s own “Strange” exhibit.  Things kick off with Kidlat Tahimik’s “Perfumed Nightmare,” an essay film on colonialism which follows jeepney driver “Kidlat Tahimik”’s travels from the Philippines to Europe to fulfill his dream of traveling to the Moon.  “Still Raining Still Dreaming” is a shorts program where the filmmakers repurposed everything from Victorian engravings to the video game “Grand Theft Auto” to ends unimagined by the original content creators.  In “Sidney Peterson’s San Francisco Surrealism,” the titular San Francisco Art Institute’s first filmmaking teacher collaborated with his Workshop 20 students to create several shorts which transformed the City by the Bay into a bizarre dreamscape. (Pacific Film Archive).


November 7-10


Transgender Film Festival–North America’s oldest transgender film festival returns with its newest edition.  It’s the place to go to see short and feature films providing both authentic representation of trans community lives and an antidote to MSM misrepresentation of this community.  Among this year’s offerings are “The Drum Tower” (China’s first all-transgender cast film tells the story of a student’s encounter with a magical vintage clothing shop), “Eat Rich” (a Latinx trans zombie’s first day as one of the undead is marked by indecision over who to eat), and “Tender” (three black trans women, their Tenderloin connections, and SF’s housing affordability crisis)   (Roxie Theater)


November 7-10 & 16 


17th 3rd i International South Asian Film Festival–The South Asian identity encompasses more than just Indians and Pakistanis.  This annual festival may bring independent films from those countries, but it also presents films from Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the global South Asian diaspora. This year’s festival includes “Cat Sticks” (Slamdance sensation tells the stories of several synthetic heroin addicts over the course of one rainy Kolkata night), “Ravening” (two people with a shared taste for unconventional meats mixes gentle romance with body horror…and might persuade a viewer to turn vegetarian), “Children Of The Sun” (In 1814 Sri Lanka, an abortive rebellion results in the aristocratic Sinhalese wives being forced to marry men from the Rodiya community, the group at the bottom of the country’s social ladder), “Bangla” (Young Italian-Bengali Phaim starts to wonder how his love for a free-spirited Italian girl can overcome a life dominated by social rules), and “31 Foot Ladders” (a satirical look at the Orange Skull’s border wall).  (Castro Theatre, New People Cinema & Palo Alto Arts Center)

Cat Sticks

November 8


Collisions–This unfortunately still timely multiple festival award-winner is the feature debut of local filmmaker Richard Levien.  12-year-old Mission District junior high student Itan Bautista studies to be a scientist while also helping mother Yoana take care of younger brother Neto.  But after Yoana gets nabbed in an ICE raid on their apartment, the two kids are forced to turn to semi-irresponsible Uncle Evincio for help. They soon embark on a cross-country odyssey to stop Yoana’s deportation.  (Roxie Theatre)

Synonyms–Nadav Lapid (“The Kindergarten Teacher”) directs this must-see semi-autobiographical tale that won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.  Yoav, an Israeli traveler in Paris, is fiercely determined to re-invent himself as French. But what role do Yoav’s tangled feelings regarding his national heritage play in his efforts at reinvention?  (Opera Plaza Cinemas)


November 9

Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts–Part of SFMOMA’s “Voices Carry: Women In Film” film series, this Indonesian reinvention of the Spaghetti western tells the story of a young widow who seeks revenge after being brutally attacked and robbed.  Marlina’s journey through the desolate rural Indonesian landscape will set her on a path of retribution, empowerment, and eventual redemption. (SF Museum Of Modern Art)


November 10


So Close–Veteran Hong Kong action director Corey Yuen helms this film featuring three beautiful women and cheeseball uses of The Carpenters’ music.  Thanks to their father’s World Panorama invention, sister assassin team Lynn (Shu Qi) and Sue (Zhao Wei) can hack into any CCTV system to help perform their hits.  However, determined cop Hong (Karen Mok) is hot on their trail. But a bigger problem awaits the women in the form of a life-threatening double-cross. (The New Parkway)

November 13

Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour

Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour–Don’t be that person who needs to be told outright that Shakira is NOT performing in person at the Roxie.  The singer partly directs this concert film of a world tour celebrating her return to the concert stage. Among the hits to be performed are “Chantaje” and “Hips Don’t Lie.”  (Roxie Theatre)


November 14

Cops vs. Aliens:  An Evening Of Rock ‘n’ Roll Film with “Crime” and “Ziggy Stardust”–Catch this concert film/live performance event honoring two musical trailblazers that’s also a DVD/soundtrack combo release party.  “San Francisco’s First And Only Rock’n’Roll Movie: Crime 1978” takes you back to the Mabuhay Gardens aka S.F. Punk Rock Central. It’s 1978, and the first nationally recognized West Coast punk band Crime is performing in their police-style uniforms.  Get ready to get beaten by sonic truncheons, as the band members perform nearly a dozen songs. Then, if you missed the recent Pacific Film Archive screening of “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars,” don’t sleep on this opportunity to watch this classic David Bowie concert film in a theater with your closest friends.   Besides the movie screenings, you get a Ziggy Stardust lookalike contest, live performance by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and an in-person appearance by original Crime drummer Henry S. Rosenthal. (Victoria Theatre)


November 14-18


The French Had A Name For It 6–Don Malcolm’s amazing festival of resurrected French film noir reaches the 1960s.  This edition, which will mark over 100 French film noirs introduced via this festival to Bay Area audiences, once again presents films featuring such well-known talent as Jean Gabin, Yves Montand, and Julien Duvivier.  The 2019 offerings include: “One Does Not Bury Sunday” (A Paris-based celebrity colonial student writer’s dream of settling down with his Swedish girlfriend gets disrupted by his publisher’s wife ), “Hexes” (On a remote island, Juliette Greco’s femme fatale may be using magic to slowly kill her future love slave’s wife), and “Objective: 500 Millions” (Haunted Algerian War veteran Bruno Cremer’s plan to cash in on an airplane robbery/hijacking gets undermined by his discovery that his partner is the guy who ratted him out for war crimes ).  (Roxie Theatre)


November 15

Celebration–Filmmaker Olivier Meyrou embedded with Yves Saint-Laurent’s couture house to document the famed fashion designer’s final show.  The resulting film was suppressed for many years because YSL’s business (and on-and-off romantic) partner Pierre Berge objected to the film’s unflattering depiction of the duo.  Now Meyrou’s chronicle is finally commercially available. (Roxie Theatre)

Honey Boy–Actor Shia LeBoeuf writes and stars in this acclaimed semi-autobiographical film that’s one of the month’s must-sees.  As part of his PTSD rehab process, 22-year-old hotshot actor Otis must recall his relationship with his father James (LeBoeuf).  Doing so means Otis must remember his child actor days and how James’ chaperoning couldn’t cover the fact that he’s a felon, an addict, and a physically abusive parent.    (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)

Honey Boy

Scandalous–It’s the media outlet that’s done everything from obsessing over Elvis’ death to trying to kill the story of Stormy Daniels’ relationship with the Orange Skull.  Now learn the amazing 60-year history of the tabloid that prospered by feeding Americans’ curiosity about the darker sides of the rich and powerful. (Opera Plaza Cinemas)


November 22

Cinespin: The Unholy Three–Another Broke-Ass screening this month is this silent collaboration between director Tod Browning and star Lon Chaney.  A suddenly unemployed ventriloquist, a dwarf, and a strongman decide to apply their talents to steal a valuable ruby necklace.  Live musical accompaniment provided by local student musicians and DJs. (Pacific Film Archive)


Dark Waters–Todd Haynes’ new film dramatizes the true story of Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) who makes a living as a corporate defense attorney.  His decision to take on an environmental lawsuit involving a large number of chemical-related deaths winds up pitting Bilott against DuPont Chemical.  The corporation, though, has profitably polluted the environment for decades and they’ll do anything to keep their business model going. (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)


November 24

The F13 Fan Film Mixtape

The F13th Fan Film Mixtape–Q: When is mixing “Friday The 13th” fandom with camcorders not the wisest of ideas?  A: When you have teen fans whose love of series villain Jason Voorhees leads them to make DIY tributes.  This compilation film compiles the best of these insane efforts, as teens engage in underage driving, rip off The Beastie Boys, and even set themselves on fire with a blowtorch. (Alamo Drafthouse)

Fellow Citizen–Abbas Kiarostami captured via a telephoto lens eighteen hours of footage of ordinary but bossy citizens trying to convince a beleaguered traffic policeman why they (and no one else) should be allowed into a restricted area.  Culling the best moments from the footage, the legendary Iranian director has created a real-life study in the endless human capacity for lying through one’s teeth. Part of the “Abbas Kiarostami: Life As Art” film series. (Pacific Film Archive)


November 26

Blood Rage–Make your Thanksgiving more interesting with this vintage Thanksgiving slasher film.  Take a pair of twin brothers, one of whom is an axe-wielding homicidal maniac. When the institutionalized brother escapes on Thanksgiving, it’s not just the family turkey that starts getting carved up.  (Alamo Drafthouse)


November 29

White Snake–No, this isn’t a Chinese animated film about an English rock band.  Instead, it’s the story of Blanca, a snake spirit who can assume human form at the cost of forgetting who she really is.  However, a magical hairpin from sister Verta helps Blanca remember her mission to assassinate the evil General. The military man has been sucking out snakes’ life energies in a bid for complete power.  (Opera Plaza Cinemas)

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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.