Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival


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.

1. Get Low
Where:The Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: April 30, 7:30 p.m.
Why: It’s easy to understand why Bill Murray’s performance in Get Low is being touted as Oscar-worthy. Last nominated for his understated turn in 2003’s Lost in Translation, Murray plays to his strengths here as a business-starved funeral director with coffins to spare. He has a warm, likable presence, a gift for gallows humor and the world-weariness of a man resigned to disappointment. But it’s Robert Duvall, more than Murray, who commands the screen as a short-tempered hermit seeking a very public absolution before he dies. (Duvall, a six-time Oscar nominee who earned the award for his starring role in Tender Mercies (1983), will be present at Friday's screening to receive this year's Peter J. Owens Award.

2. Everyone Else
Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: April 25, 8:45 p.m., April 27, 3:30 p.m., April 29, 6:15 p.m.
Why: German director Maren Ade (2003's The Forest for the Trees) returns with a follow-up that is equally uncompromising and, often, no less uncomfortable. Here, a struggling couple (Birgit Minichmayr and Lars Eidinger) finds their relationship deteriorating into a series of petty slights and emotional cruelties during a vacation in picturesque Sardinia. Watching their descent into domestic combat is rarely fun, but their pain, and the ugly truths they discover, resonate powerfully.

3. Cairo Time
Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: April 28, 7 p.m., April 29, 7 p.m.
Why: Released last October exclusively in Canada, and winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film award at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, Rube Nadda's romance stars Patricia Clarkson, excellent as a magazine editor who falls in love with a retired Egyptian police officer (Alexander Siddig, of Syriana) during a forced stay in Cairo. Complicating matters is her marriage to another man.

4. Cracks

Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: April 24, 8 p.m., April 25, 9:15 p.m.
Why: Writer-director Jordan Scott, daughter of Ridley, makes a confident feature-length debut with Cracks, a story of infatuation and obsession set at an English all-girls boarding school in the 1930s. Starring Eva Green (2006's Casino Royale) as a teacher who forms an unhealthy bond with her newest pupil (María Valverde, of last year's The Anarchist's Wife), the movie is buoyed more by the terrific performances of its leads than by the strength of Scott's script, adapted from Sheila Kohler's novel. But its slow-burning drama benefits from the atmosphere of impending tragedy fostered by Scott.

5. Transcending Lynch
Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: April 24, 6:30 p.m., April 26, 9 p.m., April 27, 12:30 p.m.
Why: David Lynch, the famously eccentric director of Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Dr. (2001), is the fascinating (and sublimely tranquil) subject of Marcos Andrade's new documentary, which follows the 64-year-old filmmaker on the Brazilian leg of his recent book tour for Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity.

6. The Man Who Will Come
Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: April 25, 5:45 p.m., April 26, 3:30 p.m.
Why: The acclaimed story of a World War II massacre and its effect on an eight-year-old Italian peasant boy growing up in a village torn apart by German SS troops and rebellious partisans, The Man Who Will Come makes its North American debut at the festival. Director Giorgio Diritti's second feature received both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award for Best Film at last year's Rome International Film Festival.

7. You Think You're the Prettiest, but You Are the Sluttiest
Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: April 28, 4:30 p.m.
Why: Winner of the Best Film in Production prize at the Viña del Mar Film Festival, and previously screened as an official selection of the Toulouse and Buenos Aires film festivals, Ché Sandoval, 25, wrote, directed and coedited You Think You’re the Prettiest as his graduation project at the Escuela de Cine de Chile in Santiago. It finds bittersweet humor in the sad story of Javier, a 19-year-old wannabe Lothario who suffers through an increasingly crushing string of rejections. Needless to say, it also boasts one of the most intriguing titles of this year's official selections.

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