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SFIFF: Under the Influence

Everyone gathered at Tosca Cafe on Sunday seemed under the influence of silver screen stardust as they awaited the arrival of film star Gena Rowlands.

The beloved blonde and critically acclaimed actress was in town for a San Francisco International Film Festival screening of A Woman Under the Influence, in which she starred and was directed by her late husband, John Cassavetes who remains a towering figure of independent cinema.

Tosca, the beloved North Beach boite owned by Jeannette Etheredge (another famous blonde dame), is a lilly that needs no gilding. Still the dark wood bar glowed with an extra touch of old-school glamour by scene-setter Stanlee Gatti as glam guests noshed on nummy nibbles by Taste Catering’s MeMe Pederson.

This screening was presented during our Film Fest by The Film Foundation which was founded by Martin Scorsese. And in partnership with Gucci, they’ve formed Cinema Visionaries which is a traveling screening series of preserved and restored cinematic wonders.

Now in its 52nd year, the Film Festival seems to be returning to its former star-studded self. SF Film Society Director Graham Leggat agreed.

Film Foundation Director Jennifer Ahn and SF Film Society Director Graham Leggat

“The 50th anniversary season was crucial for us in that it became a springboard for our programming,” explained Leggat. “We built off that momentum and have essentially evolved into a year-round program of film offerings and educational programs.”

When credits rolled back at The Castro, Rowlands received a warm and prolonged standing ovation from dedicated cineastes.

She was thrilled with the results of Influence’s up-do, especially, she said, as the sound and color of the 1974 film were in thin shape and starting to show their wear.

“This is my favorite film; though I also enjoyed Opening Night. John wrote such great parts and his depth of understanding women was amazing,” said Rowlands, ensconced in one of Tosca’s signature red vinyl banquettes. “People always ask me how it was that he possessed such an understanding and I always answer, ‘I have no idea’.”

This particular screening seemed to inspire great promise for film-lovers of all ages: “I think John would have been thrilled to see the theater filled with 700 people, most of whom were born after the film was made!”

Check out the photos below.

Davia Nelson and Eleanor Coppola

Karen Caufield, her husband SFFS Board member Frank Caufield and Allison Speer

Willie Brown and Sonya Molodetskaya

Jeannette Etheredge, Gena Rowlands and Robert Forrest

Vanessa Getty and Stanlee Gatti

Nancy Livingston and her husband, SFFS Board member Fred Levin

Graham Leggat and actress Connie Nielsen

Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar

Cartier Manager Keith Scott and his partner, Ken Moore

Veronica Klaus, Mark Eitzel and Daniel Detorie

Elizabeth Ciabattari and Eoin Harrington


Norman and Norah Stone

Jeannette Etheredge and Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Filmmakers David Munro and Xandra Maria Castleton