Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

The San Francisco International Animation Festival continues through Sunday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema, featuring some of Walt Disney's earliest shorts and Tarik Saleh's futuristic thriller Metropia, in which a call-center drone (voiced by Vincent Gallo) breaks from his drab routine to become a wannabe spy. Elsewhere:

1. The Maid
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Winner of two highly coveted awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival, director Sebastián Silva's latest tells the story of Raquel (Catalina Saavedra), a domineering maid who has served the bourgeois Valdes family for more than 20 years. Rather than fire Raquel for her constant moping and increasing lapses in professionalism, the family hires a second maid to help her, but Raquel wages a ruthless (and ultimately successful) campaign to drive the newcomer away. Yet just when it seems Raquel will never willingly cede an inch of what she perceives as her territory in the Valdes household, she meets Lucy (Mariana Loyola), whose unflagging warmth helps Raquel see past her petty bitterness and experience a spiritual awakening. While Silva's sunny ending might strike some as contrived, Saavedra's bruising performance, which is at once intensely caustic and still strangely sympathetic, is a marvel to behold.

2. The Cove
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 15-17
Why: Put simply, The Cove is a stunning, heartbreaking achievement. Director Louie Psihoyos' documentary bravely exposes the savage slaughter of thousands of dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Japan, where fishermen use sonar emissions to drive their victims into a secluded cul-de-sac and spear them into submission; the sea literally turns red with blood. It's a horror show that unfolds with all the breathtaking suspense of an espionage thriller, and a necessary step toward raising awareness. If you missed it this summer at the Embarcadero, see it now at the Red Vic.

3. The Damned United
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: The Damned United recalls the astonishing downfall of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon), whose 44-day tenure as manager of the Leeds United football club sent a formerly championship-caliber team into an embarrassing tailspin. Director Tom Hooper seems fascinated by Clough, a confrontational sort who wastes little time before trying to change his rough-and-tumble squad's style of play (they resist) and alienating his bosses. Given Sheen's sharp performance, once again backed by a cleverly engaging Peter Morgan screenplay, it's hard to disagree.

4. The Hurt Locker
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 18-19
Why: Americans have cast their ballots at the polls and the box office, and the message is clear: Our military presence in the Middle East is only slightly less popular than the movies inspired by it. The Hurt Locker may not reverse that trend, which felled recent offerings like Ridley Scott’s underrated Body of Lies and the equally overlooked Rendition, but that takes nothing away from Kathryn Bigelow’s most gripping thriller to date. It’s as emotionally involving an action movie as you’re likely to find this year, but also a tense, forceful meditation on the addictive nature of combat. Come Oscar time, it will be remembered.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: Nov. 13-15
Why: Long before Steven Spielberg and George Lucas sullied his memory by sending him to the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, duh) first cemented his reputation for death-defying heroism in Raiders, a pulp masterpiece in which the world's most fabled archaeologist wages a one-man war against Nazis, venomous snakes and a small army of tribal warriors during his quest to recover the Lost Ark of the Covenant.

6. Art & Copy
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week
Why: Doug Pray's new documentary examines the work of the most influential advertisers of our time, uncovering the roots of popular catchphrases including "Where's the Beef?" and "Just Do It." Along the way, we encounter a group of industry titans whose maverick styles helped revolutionize the business in the '70s – among them, Lee Clow, the bohemian best known for co-creating Apple's "Think Different" slogan, and Hal Riney, whose commercials were critical to the success of President Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Are they concerned by the impact of their work? Not really, and Pray never suggests they should be. But he does provide fascinating insights into some of the ideas that have come to define our culture.

7. Coco Before Chanel
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: Played by Audrey Tautou, who radiated sweetness and warmth in Amélie but has no trouble doing the opposite here, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel would become one of the legendary fashionistas of her era. Yet director Anne Fontaine is more interested in the designer’s formative years, which began, in abject poverty, in an orphanage. The result is a chronicle of ambition pitted against a social system designed to keep women like Chanel in their place. Her legacy is proof of its failure.