Lars von Trier
December is here, leaving critics and industry insiders to sort through the year's offerings, separating the contenders from the pretenders in the race for Oscar gold. This weekend brings to the Bay Area a popular dark horse: The Artist, a love letter to the era of silent cinema that could upset expected favorites War Horse, The Descendants and Hugo this February at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
Still stuffed from Thursday's annual binge? Try a strictly popcorn diet (minus the artery-clogging globs of movie-theater butter) this weekend at one of the city's indie theaters, where you can choose between some of the year's rumored Oscar contenders (Hugo and The Descendants, both playing at the Sundance Kabuki) or seek out more obscure delights (C. Scott Willis' award-winning documentary The Woodmans, at the Roxie through Monday).
1. The Sing-A-Long Sound of Music
Martin Scorsese's Public Speaking, a revealing portrait of Fran Lebowitz in which the outspoken author and social critic shares her thoughts on gender, celebrity culture, gay rights, smoking bans and strollers, continues its run through Thanksgiving at the Roxie Theater. Elsewhere:
1. The Harry Potter Marathon
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Nov. 19-20
It's the End of the World As We Know It, and She Feels Fine: Kirsten Dunst Embraces Misery in 'Melancholia'
Kirsten Dunst needs a jolt. It’s 10 a.m. on the first Sunday of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, where Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic new drama Melancholia is making its North American debut. And though she arrives not a second late – punctuality is a point of pride with the Point Pleasant, New Jersey, native – the jetlag is beginning to show.
“Look at me, this is totally pathetic,” she says with a bemused grin. “Coca-Cola in one hand, a coffee in the other. Coca-Cola is absolutely terrible for you, but I drink it anyway. It’s one way to start the morning.”
The 3rd i's International South Asian Film Festival, featuring shorts, documentaries and dramatic features from countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet and England, runs through the weekend at the Roxie, with a special Saturday engagement at the Castro Theatre highlighting Lester James Peries' acclaimed 1964 family drama Gamperaliya and Abhinay Deo's new, Hangover-inspired Bollywood farce Delhi Belly. Elsewhere:
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
It’s common for critics to describe one movie by comparing it to another, as if, unable to accept something new on its own terms, they must fall back on whatever pre-existing standard is most convenient. It is a practice that seems to rankle filmmakers, who usually prefer to treat their ideas as immaculate conceptions rather than share the credit with peers.
It is startling, then, that Pedro Almodóvar, the celebrated Spanish auteur whose grotesque drama The Skin I Live In is now playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinema and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, is so quick to liken his latest to recent offerings by Terrence Malick and Danish provocateur Lars von Trier.
Though Lars von Trier is often hailed (or derided, depending on your sensibilities) as European cinema’s foremost provocateur, let’s not sell Michael Haneke short. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane recently described the German-born auteur as “unsmiling,” but that doesn’t go far enough. Haneke is an art-house terrorist, and I say that with no small admiration. He confronts us with images ranging from the vaguely unsettling to the downright appalling, and our discomfort is his reward.
A pair of anti-corporate celebrations of muckraking arrive at the Roxie this week, where The Yes Men Fix the World documents a series of elaborate pranks aimed at exposing hypocrisy and "unmasking global injustice," and Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story takes its final bow before exiting theaters. Elsewhere:
How does one begin to describe a film like Antichrist, aptly characterized in the press notes as director Lars von Trier’s latest provocation? It is repulsive and perplexing. It is also brutally effective.
This is not a film for the squeamish. It is, by design, a disquieting experience, filled with images of extreme violence, often perpetrated for no compelling or discernible reason. The question is not so much whether you’ll enjoy the film, but whether you have the stomach to tolerate it.