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Out of the Past
The San Francisco International Film Festival announced its 40th anniversary edition at a Tuesday press conference. The lineup includes a generous boon to film buffs, a thoughtful nod to the festival's past, and a raspberry to Hollywood. The centerpiece is "Indelible Images," an inspired series of films from past festivals chosen by 14 Bay Area filmmakers, including Phil Kaufman (Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali), Walter Murch (Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest), and George Kuchar (James Whale's The Old Dark House). (Conspicuously absent is a selection from the Mogul of Marin. He was reportedly too busy negotiating licensing deals with Paraguay for Han Solo egg timers.)

Cinephiles will revel in revivals of Godard's Contempt and Tati's Jour de Fete, and tributes to Francesco Rosi (the godfather of Italian political thrillers) and Andre de Toth (Crime Wave, None Shall Escape), a hard-bitten relic of the studio system. Look for the celebrity-sniffing feature writers at the dailies to be thumb-wrestling over Annette Bening, the lone accommodation to Tinseltown glamour and the undeserving recipient of the Peter J. Owens Award for acting (her only great movie, The Grifters, will be shown). I know that Mayor Willie and Playboy Warren are palsy-walsy but -- nah, couldn't be, forget I mentioned it.

Brit Peter Greenaway, an intellectual provocateur of the first rank, brings The Pillow Book to the festival for its U.S. premiere and lectures on the subject of design at Center for the Arts on May 5. Other challenging works include Charles Burnett's drama Nightjohn, Claire Denis' Nenette and Boni, Ken Loach's Carla's Song, and the U.S. premiere of Otar Iosseliani's Brigands, Chapter VII. Meanwhile, the Golden Gate Awards lineup includes these familiar names: Anjelica Huston's directorial debut, Bastard Out of Carolina; Six O'Clock News from Ross McElwee (Sherman's March); a program of shorts by experimental filmmaker Jan Svankmajer; and Isaac Julien's Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask. Local filmmakers are represented by Debra Chasnoff (It's Elementary), Jo Menell (Mandela), and Finn Taylor, who four-walled the Alhambra a few weeks ago for a raucous cast-and-crew screening of his lightly likable Dream With the Fishes (which features an Easy Rider-ish acid-dropping scene at Pier 39).

The opening-night films -- there're four of them -- include the crowd-pleasing Love! Valour! Compassion!, based on Terrence McNally's play; Bliss, from Lance Young; an Argentine film called Wake Up Love by Eliseo Subiela; and Cedric Klapisch's When the Cat's Away, from France. For closing night, the festival offers Masayuki Suo's Shall We Dance?, which has allegedly started a ballroom-dancing craze in Japan, and another to be announced. Tix can be had after April 7 next door to the hosting Kabuki Theater in Japantown, and in the new Macy's furniture store in the old Emporium building downtown. Call the fest at 441-7373.

By Michael Fox

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