Hidden among February 14th’s ubiquitous chocolates, candy hearts, and hastily signed cards is a specter of true love: what could be more frightening? Veering from last year's twee-tastic slate filled with hot American indie name filmmakers like Joel Swanberg and Amy Seimetz, this year’s SF Indiefest takes on a subtler shade, perhaps unwittingly playing up its Valentine’s Day slot with a series of flicks about how goddamn hard love can be.
Fresh from Slamdance, one of Indiefest’s prime inspirations, Fernando Frias’ Rezeta hits that nail on the head. Itinerant model Rezeta (the undeniably model-like Rezeta Veliu) is surprised to find herself falling for Alex (Roger Mendoza), a young metalhead she meets while in Mexico City on a shoot. The two grow closer and she finds herself sticking around to be with him, though he’s the polar opposite of the men she’s been with in the past—he’s directionless, somewhat morose, and uncomfortable with himself. There’s definitely a spark here though, and it burns hotter for Frias’ casting of the two relative non-actors (bonus points for Alex’s thready Isis and Eyehategod t-shirts) in the lead roles. It’s exactly the kind of film one thinks of when the word “indie” passes through the lips of studio execs: small, well-observed, and not without a certain craft. What this minimization neglects to account for is how something so little can sting so much. Rezeta hones in on what it can be like to be in love in your 20’s: passionate, confounding, and full of mistakes. As someone a few years past this, it was hard not to cringe at some of the moments where the truth looms so large you can read it from the crowd, but Rezeta and Alex can’t seem to grasp it.
If after Rezeta you haven’t had enough heartache—and you like your romance with a near-lethal dose of sarcasm and male self-loathing—there’s no better place to go than to one of Saturday or Sunday’s screenings of How To Be a Man. The Fox-distributed Gavin McInnes-starring comedy is just as vulgar, stupid and irony-laden as one would imagine, which is actually a good thing. Yukihiro Toda’s There Is Light starts out heading down a similarly dejected path with its protagonist Saori, a prostitute who provides sexual services to the disabled, but true to its title, the film resolves surprisingly into a heartwarming story of love and redemption that steers clear of melodrama while injecting some real human drama—and real disabled stars for that matter.
This year more than ever, Indiefest’s selections straddle the line between pop and art. A prime candidate is M. BlashChloe Sevigny ’s The Wait, in which Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone make a welcome return to independent cinema together as sisters whose mother has just passed (and may yet be resurrected). The Wait just might be the first millennial hipster occultist indie, but never mind the labels—this one succeeds in all its preciousness and magic.
Elsewhere in the fest, the air of death proliferates: Both screenings of Benny Vandendriessche’s spectacular visual poem of love and loss, Drift, have passed, but Forty Years from Yesterday, by local filmmakers Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, mines similar territory from a more earthy (and earthly) standpoint with their quiet character study of Bruce, a man whose wife of 40 years has just unexpectedly died. If you’re still fiending for some local color, hyper local slice-of-life Oakland rap yarn Remember You’re Special, by SF-to-NYC transplant Eliseo Cabrera (MLK Jr. Way), also has one more screening to come before the fest closes next Thursday.
SF Indiefest runs through February 20th, mostly at the Roxie Theater in the Mission.
Robocop - Does every great film deserve a remake? Brazilian director Jose Padilha (Elite Squad) seems to think so, even if many viewers wouldn’t buy that for a dollar. Bay Area Theaters. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Tim’s Vermeer - Directed by Teller (of Penn & Teller fame), this doc of Texas based inventor Tim Jenison’s attempts to duplicate an optical technique allegedly used by Vermeer to paint some of his masterpieces plays out as a just-right mix of myth-making and Myth Busters. Embarcadero Cinemas. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Like Father Like Son - The directing hand of Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life) has always been alternately fascinatingly and infuriatingly subtle. This tale of two babies switched at birth and their subsequent family reunion(s) seems to split the difference between the two—the choice is yours. Opera Plaza. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Marathon - City Arts & Lectures celebrates/mourns the too-soon passing of one of America’s finest thespians with a free two-day marathon of some of his best films, including The Master, The Big Lebowski and Boogie Nights at the gorgeous and seldom used Nourse. For both class and entertainment value, the selection is hard to top. Saturday and Sunday only, Nourse Theater.
Harold and Maude - Hal Ashby’s once-controversial black comedy shows in a pair of midnight screenings. Shot almost entirely in the Bay, it’s a certified V-day classic, second to Heathers for fueling teen fires for death and dismemberment (and possibly septuagenarian romance). Saturday and Sunday only, The Clay. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%.
One Chance - The life of Britain’s Got Talent’s surprise opera smash Paul Potts makes great fodder for this Hollywood-ified uplifter, which comes complete with a meet-cute romance and a great bit of stay-at-home tourism. May expire after Valentine’s day. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%.