The San Francisco International Film Festival will continue through Thursday, May 6, with a closing-night screening of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work at the Castro Theatre. Until then, the festival's eclectic showcase of international offerings, probing documentaries and soon-to-be cult classics will be playing at its primary venues, including the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the Castro Theatre, the Clay Theatre and the Pacific Film Archive. For tickets, showtimes and more information, click here.
1. Last Train Home
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
Robert Duvall, winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as an alcoholic country singer in Tender Mercies (1983), will receive the San Francisco Film Society’s Peter J. Owens Award tonight at the Castro Theatre. The award recognizes actors whose work “exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.”
It would be impossible to approach Samuel Bayer’s A Nightmare on Elm Street without some cynicism. Wes Craven’s 1984 original remains an imaginative cut above typical ’80s slasher fare, introducing audiences to a hideously deformed bogeyman who attacks his prey at their most defenseless, in the realm of their dreams. It is at once audacious, terrifying and darkly comical, and it even introduced the world to a fast-rising newcomer, Johnny Depp.
“If you want to have your situation fixed, you have to start dating,” a girlfriend tells Jane, setting the mechanics of her story in motion. “Anyone!”
Jane is a frustrated divorcée, played by the incomparable Meryl Streep, who warily watches her cheating ex Jake (Alec Baldwin) make off with his much-younger mistress turned wife (Lake Bell) as if going through some stereotypical midlife crisis. There’s still a spark between them – a family reunion leads them back to the bedroom after 10 years of separation – but is Jake still the one?
Brazilian-born filmmaker Walter Salles, whose past selections to the San Francisco Film Festival have included the melancholy romantic thriller Foreign Land (1995), which he directed, and the uncompromising drama Suely in the Sky (2007), which he produced, will be honored Wednesday night with the festival’s Founder’s Directing Award.
As a storyteller, Laura Poitras is at once provocative and probing, and if her style draws us in with footage that could be described as misleading – her primary subject, former Osama bin Laden bodyguard Abu Jandal, is more compassionate than he initially seems – she delivers a thoughtful portrait of a difficult subject. Jandal is, it turns out, not a violent revolutionary or an advocate of suicide bombings. Who he is, and the lessons he imparts to his young followers, are far more complicated, but always guided by a rigorous adherence to what he regards as Islamic principle.
A native Londoner, Idris Elba speaks with an almost undetectable British accent, one he’s masked successfully as Stringer Bell, a Baltimore drug lord in HBO’s celebrated The Wire, and, most recently, as Roque, an ornery black-ops specialist in the action-comedy The Losers.
Elba, 37, says he’s lived in the U.S. long enough to perfect his American dialect, but that he’s not entirely satisfied with it. That comes as news to Losers director Sylvain White, who sought out Elba after admiring his work in The Wire.
Three-time Oscar-winning editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who has frequently collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on movies including The Conversation (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979) and The Godfather: Part III (1990), will address San Francisco Film Festival attendees tonight about the origins of cinema and the innovators, such as Thomas Edison and Beethoven, who helped shape its prehistory.
The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival, the longest-running celebration of cinema in North America, is in full swing at its primary venues, including the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the Castro Theatre, the Clay Theatre and the Pacific Film Archive. Here's a list of some of this year's most tantalizing offerings. For tickets, click here.