Get a sneak peak of seven indie gems screening in San Francisco over the weekend and into the week.
1) The Silence
Twenty-three years ago a young woman disappeared next to a wheat field in the heat of summer. Thirteen years later, another child is taken in precisely the same way. Hinting at European masterwork The Vanishing, Baran bo Odar’s highly polished, Fincher-like thriller is shot through with anxiety and despair, its highly capable German cast deftly capturing the void left by loss. The at times oppressive pall of loss and regret that hangs over the entire film will make it difficult for some audiences to spend a weekend indoors with, but diehards will appreciate the film's air of emotional authenticity. Starts Friday at Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Avenue.
David Wozniak (everyman French-Canadian actor Patrick Huard) is a worthless layabout, crushed by debt and henpecked by his pregnant girlfriend–until he finds he has surreptitiously fathered 533 children as an all-star sperm donor and they want to find out who he is. Refreshingly unconcerned with dramatic heft, Starbuck is both hopelessly corny and entirely effective, despite a few obvious flaws. Bearing shades of career-high (dare we say it?) Gerard Depardieu, Huard's appeal as Starbuck is too great to be denied. Starts Friday at Embarcadero Center Cinemas, 1 Embarcadero Center.
3) From Up on Poppy Hill
This film's directed by Goro Miyazaki from a script written by his father Hayao Miyazaki and adapted from a classic manga. All the signatures of Studio Ghibli are present in this one, from gorgeous hand-drawn animation to abusively cute love matches, save for the elder Miyazaki’s more magical leanings, which have been replaced by a heartfelt and rather direct nostalgia. Fantasy fans may weep crystal tears, others will rejoice. Starts Friday at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street.
4) Antique Animal Antics
Are you secretly crazy for C.M. Coolidge’s oil paintings of dogs playing poker? You know, these dogs? How about these ones? (fun fact: There are actually 16 "Dogs Playing Poker" paintings.) It's not your fault, there's something about anthropomorphized animals that appeals to a deeply stupid part of the brain–one cultural critic called them "indelibly burned into ... the American collective-schlock subconscious." This Friday, vintage pet food commericals, conga lines of dogs, and madcap marsupial antics share space with off-centre exposés like The Cat Who Drank and Used Too Much in Oddball’s all-singing all-dancing tribute to the "human" side of animals. Think of it as classic Youtube. Plays Friday at Oddball Film + Video, 275 Capp Street.
The Cat Who Drank (and Used) Too Much
You wake up and run into your neighbor dressed for a run, he swears up and down while jogging that he's not going for one; your gardener calls you to disclose that something is seriously wrong with the palm tree in your front yard, but he'll only tell you in person; you go to work and it's raining again, inside. All of these things happen in what is, by all accounts, a typical day for Dolph (an elastic Jack Plotnick of Gods and Monsters), who does his best to maintain rigidity in the face of a series of mountingly absurd scenarios in director Quentin Dupieux's hilarious follow up to his equally bizarre Rubber. A goofy hybrid of Dali and David Lynch, Dupieux has a dead-on ability to defy expectation that hasn't been seen since Better Off Dead. Starts Friday at The Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street.
In this feel-good romper from down under, veteran poop-disturber Toni Collette snarls and mugs a deeply dysfunctional family back to health after they lose their mother to a bout of mental illness. Hitting the usual highs, Mental is mostly a pleasure, but be warned: Inside its candy coated cinematography lurks a rather dark heart. Starts Friday at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street.
The appeal of this newly minted fest lies less in the five films screening, some of which you’ve already probably seen (Disney’s animated Ratatouille, Cinema-by-the-Bay hit Trattoria, Les Blank’s Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers), and others you likely haven't (The Last Shepherd and Betting the Farm), but the real treat is that each film comes with an appropriately paired fresh-and-local foodie treat, from Bi-Rite Ice Cream to "Polpettine d’Agnello con Menta Zucchine e Sultana"–delicate lamb meatballs made by local hotspot Farina. Runs Friday through Saturday at The Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street.