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Seven Films to Watch this Weekend

Get a sneak peek of seven films and events happening in and around San Francisco over the weekend and into the week.

1) An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Have you ever wanted a friend to be more than just a friend? Such a simple hitch is the catalyst for Terrence Nance's debut film, an intriguing, intelligent mixture of animation, biography, and experimental storytelling that finally returns to Bay Area audiences after first appearing in SFIFF in 2012. If Magna Carta Holy Grail is any indication, An Oversimplification is the most sophisticated meditation on the black experience executive producer Jay-Z has been involved in for a while, so while those who automatically dismiss anything intelligent as pretentious may rankle at the film's description, those of us who know better are in for a treat. Starts Friday at The Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street.

2) The Hunt

Bond alumnus and Nicolas Winding Refn regular Mads Mikkelsen landed the Best Actor award at Cannes last year for his role as Lucas, a well-loved teacher in a small Danish town who is unjustly accused of molesting a friend's daughter. Unafraid to problematize the "honesty" of children and our willingness to believe them, The Hunt also marks the return of Thomas Vinterberg, director of The Celebration (Festen), from which Lars Von Trier borrowed more than a bit of for Melancholia (2011). Starts Friday at Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Street. 

3) Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori’s documentary about Alex Chilton's perennially rediscovered rock outfit Big Star succeeds by accomplishing one thing most documentaries forget to do: Satisfy our curiosity. It doesn't take a detective to figure out where all the interviews, photographs, and delicately twisted pop songs are headed, but the heartbreaking story of "the greatest band who never made it" is made only a little less sad by the fact that most of us already know how it ends. Starts Friday at The Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street.

4) Only God Forgives

Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn dials the lights down low and the violence all the way up in this gorgeous, surrealist psychodrama set and filmed in Thailand. An oedipal journey disguised as a crime thriller, Only God's particularly sketchy plot begins in earnest with the head-bashing death of cretinous Billy (Tom Burke), brother of Julian (Ryan Gosling), and from there Refn catapults into a delirious melting pot of samurai slasher style, spaghetti western-esque, Argento-nodding horror. It's not for everyone, but among its jewels are an absurd abundance of visual flair and a wonderfully mouthy Kristin Scott Thomas channeling a live action Cruella De Vil by way of The NannyStarts Friday at Presidio Theater, 2340 Chestnut St, 415-776-2388. 

5) SF Silent Film Festival

The 17th edition of the world-renowned festival of silent film starts Thursday at The Castro. Highlights include Balinese quasi-ethnography Legong: Dance of the Virgins accompanied by Club Foot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya, Soviet comedy The House on Trubnaya Square and the world premiere of the newly-restored San Francisco story The Last EditionRuns 7/18 - 7/21 at The Castro Theater, 429 Castro Street.

6) Crystal Fairy

Whether you love or hate (and especially if you hate) Michael Cera, you have to admit there's a certain kind of character for which he's perfectly suited. As luck would have it, Sebastian Silva's breezily naturalistic roadtripper calls for an awkward but charming man-boy with a deliberately guarded interior world and an all-consuming, Imperial-American outlook. In my haste to judge, I'd forgotten: The story concerns a road trip undertaken by three Chilean brothers (Silva's actual brothers), drug-seeking trust funder Jamie (Cera), and a hippie girl who calls herself Crystal Fairy (Gabby Hoffman). Until he grows up and becomes, perhaps, Alex Karpovsky (aka Ray from "Girls"), Crystal Fairy sees the 'Arrested Development' actor in top form. Starts Friday at Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness.

7) Dark Nights: Simenon and Cinema

The Roman policies of Georges Simenon and his Inspector Maigret have inspired directors ranging from Akira Kurosowa (Stray Dog) to Hungarian master Bela Tarr (The Man from London), often to high degrees of success. Berkeley's PFA is currently hosting a selection of the best results good enough to have garnered the attention of the Wall Street Journal all the way on the other coast. La Marie de Port, starring French chanteur Jean Gabin screens this Friday, American genre giant Phil Karlson (Walking Tall) tries his hand with The Brothers Rico Saturday; and one of the most hypnotizing realizations of Simenon's writing, Patrice Leconte's Monsieur Hire, shows next weekend. Screenings through August 29 at Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley.