Films from the 44th San Francisco International Film Festival:

Metropolis: the International Revival Premiere -- Digitally restored with new technology of the most sought after good version. The movie was made in 1925 through 1926 when the Germans wanted to capture the movie market back from the Americans. It's budget exceeded 6 million deutschmarks and was a flop after its initial release. American critics scoffed at its communist propaganda and it was edited so much that it didn't make sense. There was a previous restoration by Giorgio Moroder that was drawn from bad materials that ended up as a much shorter film. The current restoration involved the original negative being recut. It is now on six reels and there is still a quarter of the film missing and will never be recovered. The restored version has titles reinserted according to the original screenplay. The grim reality of the making of Metropolis involves the people who built the sets. Elders and war invalids who collected nails on sticks with magnets then straightened them on iron plates. The Castro Theatre's premiere also included a live soundtrack by Dennis James and Gary Ulster performing on the organ and an effectron. Peter Scarlett, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Film Society interpreted the German titles into English magnificently. Some of the great scenes involved the futuristic city landscape, the congested traffic, the primitive airplanes; art deco set design and intricately designed racey costumes. The seven deadly sins were zombie-like when they came to life. The choreography was excellent -- the masses marching to and from work keeping in step with each other. It is too real a comparison to our modern day.

Baise Moi movie page. One wonders how much impact the film's message has on the audience after they see a ridiculous amount of graphic sex and violence. Here's a review.

The Princess and the Warrior directed by Tom Tykwer who made Run Lola Run. The same actress from Run Lola Run, Franka Potente, plays Sissi. More themes of fate, coincidence, love and time. The microcosmos of questions raised in Run Lola Run is looked at from a new perspective. The original cut was four and a half hours long and further referenced a television show in Germany about Sissi, an Austrian empress. In the movie, Sissi watches this show -- it's her only source for understanding romance. The film also stars the talented Benno Fürmann.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell. It opens on July 20. Music composed by Stephen Trask and for the most part performed by Girls Against Boys off camera and it was recorded live with the back tracks pre-recorded. There was a mini-recording studio on the set. Themes of the Origin of Love by Plato is a sub-plot of the movie. Mitchell was also inspired by women who lived in trailers in the midwest who wear tube tops and smoke Capris. The animation in the film is by Faith Hubley who's dad invented Mr. Magoo. Her brother is John Hubley of Yo La Tengo. The movie was filmed in 28 days in Toronto and the costumes came from the cast offs from the stars. The hair dress is made of real hair from a woman in Malaysia. Scenes in the film that were not in the play included the Gummi Bear scene with close-ups and the Korean army wives.

Magick Lantern Cycle shorts by Kenneth Anger, recipient of the 2001 Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award from the San Francisco Film Society. Anton LaVey made an appearance in Invocation of My Demon Brother and Mick Jagger gave the score to Anger; it was written on a Moog synthesizer. Anton LaVey's grandson was in the audience for the shorts. Lucifer Rising with Marianne Faithful was another featured short. It was the most complete version ever shown. Incredible scenes in the desert with a mixture of Egyptology and the occult. Anger also showed a work print of The Man We Want to Hang which was on the art of Aleister Crowley. The title is a reference to a headline in the Sunday Express but is an allusion to the paintings. He hopes that it will be released by Phantoma Films on DVD by the end of the year as part of a collection of Anger's short films. Anger filled in the audience with information about the paintings. Crowley loved demonic eyes and women with red hair. If a woman didn't have red hair, he gave them henna to change their hair color. Crowley signed his name with a phallic "a". Some of the subject matter: Apache dancing in Paris, a spiritual dream of Tibet, Judaism, Christianity, Mt. Fuji, landscapes, nature; fingers forming a "6", and portraits of his spiritual self. Jimmy Page lent works to the collection--the exhibition included collections from as far away as Australia. It was the most complete exhibit of all the works united together. The exhibition was held at the October Gallery in London in 1998. One of the most prized pieces is Crowley's bronze wand with the inscriptions "The Beast" and "666". In one of the portraits, Crowley's hair at the front of his head was shaped into a spike like that of a unicorn. Crowley died in 1947.

Cobra Woman was introduced by Kenneth Anger. It's a beautiful technicolor film from 1944. It starred Maria Montez. Her fame was self-made in that she authored letters to movie executives under false names to encourage them to give her bigger roles. She was preoccupied with her beauty. She gained the typical weight that comes with pregnancy and tried to lose it by giving herself boiling hot baths. She was 34 when she died in a bathtub. Her daughter has been forlorn with guilt, feeling responsible for her mother's death.

Yo La Tengo: Sounds of Science (films by Jean Painleve) consisted of eight short films mostly covering undersea creatures often filmed with magnification. Liquid Crystal was the exception to the subject involving the mix of urea and caffeine creating an abstract art film.

The Weight of Water by Kathryn Bigelow is based on the book by Anita Shreve. The film stars Sarah Polley, Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley. This film was worth seeing only for Sarah Polley's performance. I thought it was a terrible film because blending two storylines that don't work together is the biggest flaw. The story that takes place in the 1700s is interesting enough without the reinvestigation of the same story in the 21st century. It was shown at the festival as a test and I doubt anyone feel it is of any quality worthy of distribution. I certainly noted on my ballot that it shouldn't be distributed to save the other actor's careers. It should be redone without the modern story so at the forefront.

Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale by Laurie Gwen Shapiro and David Shapiro. The film took six years to make and they originally planned to make a feautre film. There was no funding which is why it took so long. The documentary about Tobias Schneebaum, a former painter turned anthropologist, was probably one of the most riveting stories to ever be told regarding primitive cultures. Schneebaum quit painting in 1955 and dissappeared into the jungles of Peru to seek primitive cultures in order to understand the essence of man. He was fascinated with the Wild Man of Borneo whom he first saw in a touring circus. He felt that he needed to understand what it was to be wild -- it was purely masochistic to live with the tribes. He entered the jungle with no weapon and with just the clothes and very little supplies he needed to reach the mission where the Amarekaire tribe lived. The title of the film and subsequently his book refers to he direction he was given by an archeologist to find the mission in the Cloud Forest in the Amazon. He practically hitchhiked from New York to Peru and upon arrival he was accepted by the tribe. He lived with them for several months and participated in their rituals. He learned that there was no such thing as personal property. He learned about primitive compassion; primitive love and humanity. They had given him the name "Habe" which he thought meant "the ignorant one," but the film reveals its true meaning which turns out to be rather humorous. They painted themselves and painted Schneebaum. He went with them when they raided another village and he watched in horror as they killed the other tribe. He got violently sick during the raid. It was at that point that he up and left without letting them know. In the film he states that he doesn't want to go back to Peru. It's 45 years later and he doesn't want the initial experience tainted by his return which becomes a reverse odyssey for Schneebaum in the film.

His return visit to the island of Papua New Guinea is also part of the film. He spent a great deal of time with the Asmat tribe and had a homosexual relationship with a member as it is a natural aspect of the tribe. They put him through an adoption ceremony and he still considers them to be his relatives. He said that their daily activities such as carving or just the intensity by which they lived made it easy to fall in love with them. Had he not participated in a homosexual relationship with the tribe member, he would not have gotten so much information. For example, the way to greet one another is to hold the testicles of your male friend.

Schneebaum often gave lectures on the luxury ships that sailed to various areas around Indonesia. Tourists like to go to the area in the South Pacific where Nelson Rockefeller became lost. Rumor was that he was found and eaten by a tribe in Papua New Guinea. In the film he is seen describing artifacts such as a bride prize which is a tool to make a hole in the temple to extract the brain. Present day headhunting does not exist. It was interesting to see clips from the Charlie Rose Show from the 1970s and, in a recent Charlie Rose interview, he replayed his own clip from his earlier interview. Obviously, it was homophobic of Charlie Rose to pursue the angle of "why have a homosexual relationship?" back in the '70s and it was his way of acknowledging it in 2001.

The cannibalism issue was raised on the Mike Douglas show which was another ugly mirror to society. Schneebaum did taste human flesh while he was in Peru and stated that it tasted like a common meat everyone has eaten. Cannibalism is downplayed in the documentary which is good because it wasn't the main life-changing experience in Schneebaum's pursuit of knowledge. The Q&A after the film gave a man in the audience the opportunity to tell Schneebaum that he was so inspired by him after seeing him give a free lecture on a cruise and then reading his book that he named his son "Tobias". Watch for the documentary on PBS.

Ebert's review and the Washington Post's review and the review on indieWIRE

The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda will be shown commercially. It's an excellent film done with a handheld camera that covers the concept of gleaning from ancient times to modern day. Her original idea was to look at people as they bent in the street after the farmer's market was closed. Varda spends time exploring paintings about wheat gleaners and takes us to present day where after crops such as potatos are harvested, people are allowed to come in and pick through what the machine leaves behind. She also takes us to the city where people salvage food that is thrown away because the expiration date is passed, however it is still okay to eat... it is unopened and good for seven days past the expiration date. There is a man in rubber boots who gives his opinion on trash and how we're killing animals with big businesses'neglect to the environment. There was also someone who invented a theory on the anti-ego way of being.

Southern Comfort by Kate Davis (Girltalk) was shown on HBO. This fascinating documentary is about Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual, living in rural Georgia. He had been told he didn't need a hysterectomy and subsequently was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The lack of treatment or the second-rate treatment in the medical community is astounding. The people interviewed in the movie are concerned about the repercussions in their community since it hasn't been shown yet in the Atlanta area. You will not take your readily available healthcare for granted after seeing this movie. On the otherhand this film will bring awareness of this problem to the forefront. What sex a person chooses to be should have no bearings on treating a person for medical purposes. The film depicts a great deal of humanity within the immediate circle that includes other female-to-males, male-to-females and his family.

New York Times review AND an article on the largest organized annual gathering of transgendered people

A Natural History of Chicken by Mark Lewis. Hilarious and disturbing, this documentary included reenactments that were simply priceless. Watch for its run on PBS. Lewis uses a cinematographer who worked on Babe. It was shot on Super 6D film. One of the reenactments took six months just to train the chickens. A farm was rented, chickens were bought, coops were built and stocked with backyard chickens. Three to four-day old chicks were brought in and fertile eggs brought in 21 days prior to prepare for hatching. It was a full-on drama assembled for the film's final reenactment.

The statistics that appeared on the screen were most disturbing. We eat 80 lbs. of chicken per person per year. Eight billion are slaughtered per year to meet consumer demand. There are 250 million egg-producing hens in the U.S.

The story of the headless rooster was also disturbing. Apparently this family raised chickens for food and when they cut the head off a rooster, they found it still alive. They kept it alive by feeding it through its esophagus. They exhibited the chicken in nearly every state and perhaps even in England.

Another weird story involved a woman in West Palm Beach that keeps a chicken named "Cotton" in the house. It wears red satin panties lined with a diaper pad and she takes it with her into the pool and cradles it as she swims.

Lewis grew up on a farm and feels sympathetic towards chickens. He likes to explore animals and their relationships with humans. The film took two to three years of researching and it was shot in one seven week period. He found the woman in West Palm Beach through a poultry club. Originally the film was going to be a three-parter with cows and sheep. He is currently researching wolves and air rage with a maltese terrier.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, a biographical film by Jan Harlan, the brother-in-law of Stanley Kubrick. The film covers the early years to the present. Funny moments include Kubrick's sister Barbara describing him as a playful brother, "an Addams Family kind of playful." Kubrick was an award-winning photographer prior to him becoming a filmmaker. He won an award for the famous picture of a newstand clerk reacting to the death of F.D. Roosevelt. The documentary delves into the making of the movies such as Barry Lyndon. Kubrick intentionally created a situation with no depth of field for the candle scene in the movie to achieve the presence of the period (18th Century) and had costumes designed to be authentic to the paintings of that time. Harlan was present to clarify some issues that have always been of question. For example, it has been long misunderstood that Kubrick never got Ligeti's permission to use his music in 2001: Space Odyssey. On the contrary, Kubrick go the rights from the publisher without need to get rights to use it from the composer. Ligeti's argument was the that license was for background music and it was used for more than background music. Another misconception was that Kubrick was interested in doing a film based on the book Perfume, but it was not true. The author said that he would only give the rights to Kubrick if a film was to be made of his book. Kubrick was not interested in making a film of Perfume. Lastly, Kubrick was not one to focus on what's negative, as assumed by most people. He was an optimistic person who believed in ghosts and the afterlife. He saw The Shining as an optimistic film. The lengths he went to make everything perfect was best articulated in a discussion he had with a veterinarian about how much water one of his cats was drinking. He considered measuring the laps to find out.

the UK's Guardian talks with Harlan about the documentary. Kubrick's movies are now on DVD

ATTENTION: People who attend film festivals or movies in general:

Film Festival etiquette

1. Do not wear perfume, after shave or cologne (people need to breathe) and it dries out people's throats, hence the coughing and throat-clearing sounds.
2. Turn off your cell phones and set your pagers to silent or vibrate mode.
3. No talking during the movie.
4. Refrain from eating food with strong odors during screenings (onions, garlic, or fish).
5. Chew with your mouth closed -- crunching noises are amplified by the room's acoustics.
6. Do not show up at a movie 20 minutes into the film.
7. Do not save seats for 10 of your friends at a time (if they want good seats they can purchase passes).
8. Don't kick the back of other people's seats or rest your feet on the backs of occupied seats.

Teach your children to do the same and you will create a future of positive movie viewing experiences. Thank You.

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