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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Here's a list of some of the finest films currently in rotation at a San Francisco indie theater near you.

1. Two Lovers
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: It would be difficult to view Two Lovers completely heedless of Joaquin Phoenix’s decision to abandon acting for an unlikely career in hip-hop, but if this is his final acting turn – and I’m guessing it’s not – it would be a shame. Here, he offers one of his most powerful performances, all too convincing as Leonard, a mercurial soul teetering on the brink of self-destruction and eagerly embracing his demise. In the end, he saves himself, almost by accident, and there is a hopefulness in his salvation that makes director James Gray’s latest memorably affecting.

2. The Black Rock: The Untold Story of the Black Experience on Alcatraz

Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Feb. 28-March 5
Why: Using archival footage, interviews with historians and reenactments, director Kevin Epps (Straight Outta Hunters Point) presents a fascinating portrait of one of America’s most infamous prisons from an angle previously unexplored on film.

3. Crips and Bloods: Made in America
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week
Why: Directed by acclaimed documentarian Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys) and produced by former Golden State Warriors star Baron Davis, Crips and Bloods: Made in America traces the origins of gang culture that have turned some of South Central L.A.’s neighborhoods into urban war zones.

4. The Wrestler
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: After nearly two decades spent disfiguring his once-pretty face, suffering embarrassing run-ins with the law and starring sporadically in straight-to-DVD clunkers, Mickey Rourke may have seen his Oscar dreams dashed at the Kodak Theatre, but there’s still time to catch his stunning performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in theaters as the awards-season darlings take their final bow.

5. Gomorrah
Where:
Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Winner of the grand prize at Cannes 2008 and the European Film Award, Matteo Garrone’s fierce crime epic (inspired by Robert Saviano’s bestseller of the same name) depicts the foot soldiers of the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate casually slaughtering one another in the name of business. That Garrone chose to present his story in documentary-like fashion, using actors whose performances can only be described as workmanlike, strips the blunt-force drama on screen of any hint of Hollywood-style glamour.

6. The Class
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Laurent Cantet’s absorbing slice of classroom life (adapted from the novel by François Bégaudeau, who also stars) eschews Dangerous Minds-style melodrama for gritty, high-energy realism.

7. Milk
Where:
Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Gus Van Sant treats Harvey Milk’s story as a traditional biopic, but as in his recent efforts Elephant and Paranoid Park, there is no concession to melodrama or a moment wasted. Van Sant casts an unflinching eye on of Milk’s San Francisco odyssey, right down to the instant of pointless violence that ended his life. This is a movie that could have been maudlin or hagiographic in the hands of a lesser director, but Van Sant’s minimalist approach serves Dustin Lance Black’s Oscar-winning screenplay well. And Sean Penn, who took home the Academy Award for his performance in the lead, is typically sublime.