This week's drink recommendations come from Richard, the hard-surfing, fast-talking barman at Chambers Eat + Drink at the Phoenix Hotel. Having been to The Phoenix Hotel for many great outdoor events in the past, I recall eyeing the construction of Chambers with interest, but somehow I never made the time to stop by for a drink once it finally opened. Secretly congratulating myself on finding a good excuse to spend some time in to their sexy, record-lined lounge, I headed in for this week's indie theater picks:
Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Veteran feature director Lea Pool's indignant but mostly balanced expose of the "pink ribbon" industry surrounding breast cancer spends a great deal of time juxtaposing the feel-good walks, talks and pink-thinking of breast cancer's commercial opportunists with the reality of ever-increasing rates of affliction and chilling accounts of lagged medical progress in one of the most visible and supposedly well-funded philanthropic causes. With its most hard-won and ultimately compelling points delivered by cancer sufferers and survivors interviewed thoroughout, the doc also gives time to a rather cluless Nancy Brinker of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and PR flacks for Yoplait and other corporations profiteering from "cause marketing, the now omnipresent advertising technique whereby a brand associates itself with a humanitarian cause in hopes of driving sales from by creating an "emotional connection" with its consumer base. Though the notion that awareness in itself isn't a solution will be disquieting for many, if the spectacular and highly visible implosion of Invisible Children earlier this year is any indication, it may be a message people are ready to hear. Opera Plaza Cinemas, 601 Van Ness Avenue, 415-267-4893
Richard's drink recommendation: Birds and the Bees
By coincidence, Richard had actually already seen Pink Ribbons with a friend of his who is undergoing cancer treatments, and immediately had this selection from the house drink menu in mind. Concocted from a mixture of Stolichnaya honey vodka, house-made rosebud chrysanthemum tea, a sweet violet-derived liquer called Creme De Yvette and a few other ingredients, The Birds is the obvious choice: It's bright pink. There's also a bonus political undertone: "We have a lot of Stoli events here, so it's on the menu because of those. …in a sense, it's sponsored." With an ultra-floral nose and an light, juicy flavor profile, it's suspiciously easy to drink--which fits like a glove for the tough doc.
Beyond the Black Rainbow
Beyond the Black Rainbow is a film I never thought would actually make it to a screen in San Francisco. Netting an ignominious 47% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's been roundly panned by critics as claustrophobic, gloomy and boring. And it is. But it's also incredibly artful and evinces an unwavering singularity of vision that's almost frightening in its commitment to being totally and utterly bizarre. An 80s period piece set in a futuristic wellness institute where a heavily sedated girl is kept by a sadistic but fatherly doctor (TV regular Michael Rogers, executing an uncanny Christian Bale impersonation that makes things all the weirder), BBR makes a case for itself as the terminus of all filmic dystopia of the last 30 years. Cybernetic robots cast-out from the Tron, the oozing body-horror of David Cronenberg, and the antiseptic, booby-trapped environs of Vincent Natalie's Cube are all in evidence alongside oblique tributes to innumerable hard sci-fi touchstones. Dominated by a crushing, hypnotic soundtrack of John Carpenter-style synth workouts with Goblin-like flourishes, this is definitely this is not a film to be viewed at home, or alone. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St @ Valencia, 415-863-1087.
Richard recommends: The Bourbon Peel
"When you said 'weird' I started thinking of the Absinthe because of its association with the obscure" Richard tells me. The Peel is one of Richard's own creations made from Nob Creek bourbon, Grand Marnier, orange bitters and orange juice with an Absinthe rinse (a fancy name for coating the glass with a few drops of liqueur then pouring it out to give a faint flavoring that's mostly felt in the nose). "The flavor is really complex," Richard says. "Taste the bourbon, feel the orange, smell the Absinthe--it's a roller coaster." Definitely a delicious one, and it's quite a dose.
The antithesis of the sort of Hollywood transformation in another weekend opener, Magic Mike, Corpo Celeste is a minutely observed and deceptively physical take on the coming-of-age of a 13-year old girl in a small and dogmatically Catholic village in Southern Italy. Returning to her birthplace after being raised in Switzerland, Marta suddenly finds herself enrolled in confirmation class in a community in which religion is so institutionally rote as to be totally deactivated. Initially guffed, once Marta begins a journey with the prickly priest of her local parish to retrieve a crucifix he knew as a child, her eyes start to open to a broader kind of spirituality while her self-awareness simultaneously blossoms. Working best when it moves by implication instead of metaphor, the film rings true due in large part to it's dewy, prosaic cinematography and an excellent and at many times wordless performance of its young lead, Yle Vianello. Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post St @ Webster, 415-525-8000.
Richard recommends: The Italian Corpse Reviver
Chambers' twist on a classic cocktail, the geographical and nomenclatural tie-in of the drink make it a superb pairing with the Calabrian tale. A stirred, rather than shaken, concoction, the Italian is a blocky mixture of Galliano, an herbed Italian liqueur with Tanqueray 10 -- "the 'hottest' gin, in terms of alcohol," Richard tells me -- and just a couple splashes of Absinthe. Before I have my first sip, Richard warns "it's an old fashioned cocktail, very stiff." He's right. Like the town in Corpo, it's very monolithic with a certain rigidity, and it's certainly stiff. Somehow that doesn't stop me from drinking the whole thing.