Past Forward

For its 40th year, the San Francisco International Film Festival boldly goes where it has gone before

1:15 p.m.
Nenette and Boni
See commentary under Saturday, April 26.

1:30 p.m.
Man of the Story
See commentary under Sunday, April 27.

4 p.m.
* Love Serenade
(Australia, 1996)

In this hilariously perverse fairy tale, the prince is in fact a frog, and the two princesses who vie for his favors are certifiable. Australian writer/director Shirley Barrett uses disco and Top 40 kitsch as a background for the Hurley sisters' fight over a smarmy big-city DJ (George Shevtsov), who moves in next door. In a comic high point, the sisters turn a leisurely canoe cruise with their bored prince into a screaming match over whether their dog, Sooty, was sucked into one of the river's mysterious "holes" or was eaten by a carp. (Morris)

4:15 p.m.
La Rencontre
See commentary under Saturday, April 26.

Clubbed to Death
See commentary under Saturday, April 26.

7 p.m.
Just for Laughs!
See commentary under Friday, April 25.

7 p.m. (at the CASTRO)
Love's Debris
See commentary under Sunday, April 27.

7 p.m. (PFA)
Little Angel
See commentary under Friday, April 25.

7:15 p.m.
Noel Field -- The Fictitious Spy
See commentary under Sunday, April 27.

7:30 p.m.
Two or Three Things About Women
(U.S.A., 1996)

Three documentaries by and about women. The program includes the presentation of the Mel Novikoff Award to S.F.'s Film Arts Foundation.

9:15 p.m.
When the Cat's Away
See commentary under Thursday, April 24.

9:15 p.m. (at the PFA)
Wake Up Love
See commentary under Thursday, April 24.

9:30 p.m.
* A Private Function
(England, 1984)

British playwright and TV writer Alan Bennett once complained that film directors confuse moviemaking with generalship, and thus fail to see his screenplays as "ready-made movie material" -- since in his scripts, "the infantry is recruited from aunties, and wheelchairs make up the armored division." But his first produced screenplay, A Private Function, about a pig and a bloke, proved to be prime British comedy on the hoof. It's set in 1947, when postwar food rationing is at its fiercest. Three Yorkshire professional men (Denholm Elliott, Richard Griffiths, and John Normington) plan a celebration banquet for the impending royal wedding. For a proper feast they buy an unlicensed pig and fatten her up in secret, out of reach of a sinister Ministry of Food inspector (Bill Patterson). Enter the new local loony in town, foot doctor Michael Palin, who ends up playing Androcles to the porker, relieving Betty of a painful splinter and ultimately pignapping her. Bennett has a wicked sense of how all our advanced-primate itches -- whether for food or affection, tradition or glory -- simply demand to be scratched, no matter what the circumstances. (Sragow)

9:45 p.m.
See commentary under Sunday, April 27.

10 p.m. (at the CASTRO)
* The Old Dark House
(U.S.A., 1932)

This delightful and still potent comic horror film, directed by James Whale with an impressive cast both famous (Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton) and forgotten (sic transit Gloria Stuart), can now be seen as the root from which grew both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It all depends on how the comedy and horror elements are portioned out. In this case the balance is neat indeed: In one scene, a macabre old woman confronts young Gloria Stuart with the inevitable corruption of her fine clothes and flesh. It moves from the funny to the profoundly unsettling in the space of a few moments. House is S.F. filmmaker George Kuchar's selection in the fest's "Indelible Images" series. (Rickman)

Wednesday, April 30

1 p.m.
Tableau Ferraille
(Senegal/France, 1997)
A drama of political corruption in Africa.

1:15 p.m.
* Pizzicata (Italy/Germany, 1996)
This feature from documentarist Edoardo Winspeare is set in the Salentine Peninsula of Italy during World War II. Politics have passed these people by, so when a young Italian-American pilot is shot down, he's able to fit in without too many questions asked. He even learns to dance the traditional dance of the region, the pizzicata. Well, he gets the steps down well enough, but he doesn't recognize the powerful traditions at work beneath the music. Naturally, he falls in love with the wrong woman. Pizzicata is great when the fiddles play, and the people sing. Winspeare's background as a documentarist serves him well in these scenes, but as a writer he has trouble with the story and in fact seems almost grateful to let it drift from his control. The audience won't feel gratitude when they leave the theater dissatisfied. (Maher)

1:30 p.m.
See commentary under Sunday, April 27.

3:30 p.m.
Bastard Out
of Carolina
See commentary under Saturday, April 26.

3:45 p.m.
Goodbye South,
See commentary under Saturday, April 26.

4 p.m.
Honey and Ashes
See commentary under Monday, April 28.

6:45 p.m.
* Festival
(South Korea, 1996)

Veteran director Im Kwon-Taek's film is almost ethnographic in its exhaustive detailing of a traditional Korean funeral, right down to explanatory titles during the various rituals. But it's also an engaging look at a huge extended family, with all its simmering rivalries and long-dormant lusts crashing together after a favorite matriarch's death. And threaded through this Altman-esque chaos is a gentle, occasionally maudlin, storybook fable, told from a child's point of view, of the matriarch's last years. These three strands don't quite weave together comfortably, but it's a lovely film despite the awkward structure. (Booth)

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