The S.F. International Film Fest, Week 2

* Indicates films recommended by our reviewers.

The Age of Possibilities
(France, 1996)
* Unsettled young Americans may find consolation in Pascale Ferran's amusing study of their French counterparts facing the agonies of fleeting love and underemployment, the uncertainty of the future, and reliable old ennui. An apartmentful of Strasbourg partygoers singing and dancing along to the Blues Brothers is way more fun than whatever it was Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder did in Reality Bites. Some of the translations seem funky and confusion occasionally results as the characters work through one degree of small-town separation, but a fresh cast, and the director's ear for dialogue and eye for detail, makes this an entertaining enterprise. (Wisner)

Plays Thursday, May 1, at 1:15 p.m., and Friday, May 2, at 10 p.m. (Also at the Lark Sunday, May 4, at 9 p.m.)

Brigands, Chapter VII
(France/Georgia, 1996)
* For its first half-hour this new film by ex-Soviet Georgian Otar Iosseliani shifts back and forth at will from a casually barbaric modern civil war and a cruelly comic medieval landscape vaguely suggestive of Monty Python. An hour's increasingly nightmarish and unfunny plunge into the revolutionary Georgia of Lenin and then Stalin forms the film's core, with a return to the post-communist chaos of the modern world serving as a dying-away coda. Guns, paranoia, torture, liquor, and foodstuffs are the director's motifs as his large, dead-eyed cast plays different roles in each era. Once a maker of lyrical hymns to nature, time and exile have made this Parisian-based filmmaker a no less lyrical exposer of human cruelty. Few words are spoken as Iosseliani's camera pans and zooms through the carnage in a world where every outrage is ironic and even irony's an outrage. (Rickman)

Plays Wednesday, May 7, at 6:45 p.m., and Thursday, May 8, at 1:30 p.m. (Also at the PFA Saturday, May 3, at 3:30 p.m.)

Colors Straight Up
(U.S.A., 1996)
* A gem of a documentary, with all the elements of great drama falling naturally into place. Director Michael Ohoyon profiles a year in the life of Colors United, an after-school drama program aimed at drawing besieged Watts youth away from drugs, violence, and crime. Harrowing footage of funeral services and court dates, racial tension and rocky family life spills over into sometimes raucous, sometimes heart-rending rehearsal footage and interviews with these sulky, articulate, determined kids. ("I wouldn't make a good gangbanger," says one. "It's not me. I'd get into a fight and be like, 'Don't mess up the hair.' ") (Wisner)

Plays Monday, May 5, at 7:15 p.m., and Tuesday, May 6, at 1 p.m.

Comrades, Almost a Love Story
(Hong Kong, 1996)
* This film made a well-deserved sweep of the Hong Kong Film Awards a couple of weeks ago. It's a splendid old-fashioned, three-hankie, street-level boy-meets-girl romance, the kind Hong Kong seems to do particularly well. Maggie Cheung is radiant as an ambitious mainlander determined to get rich in Hong Kong, and Chinese-pop star Leon Lai is wonderful as the hick who falls in love with her. The film unfortunately slathers on its music score a bit too thick. Aside from that and a too-neat denouement, Comrades is a true delight. (Booth)

Plays Monday, May 5, at 7 p.m.

Conspirators of Pleasure
(Czech Republic/Switzerland/U.K., 1996)
In Conspirators of Pleasure the fest's Persistence of Vision Award-winner, Jan Svankmajer, weaves together the story of six fanatical, sexually obsessed people into an LSD-like inspired orgy of concepts and images. In fact, in this film life is sexual obsession, but it's not the spread-your-legs sort -- rather, it's creative, bloody, feathery, puncturable, furry, and wet. I wish more filmmakers could or would dare to create like Svankmajer, but there's a problem -- this is one sloooooow movie. Where was the editor? (Stachura)

Plays Tuesday, May 6, at 7 p.m. (Also at the PFA Saturday, May 3, at 9:15 p.m.)

Crime Wave
(U.S.A., 1954)
* Fest honoree Andre de Toth's harsh, sardonic worldview is nowhere better expressed than in this short, sharp noir from 1954. (See Michael Sragow's interview with de Toth, Page 73.) Ex-con Gene Nelson lives in a world of endless suspicion where you're only as good as your word -- which no one believes. When some prison escapees botch a holdup in his neighborhood, both they and toothpick-sucking cop Sterling Hayden force Nelson's involvement in the resulting game of cross and double-cross across a nocturnal L.A. of all-night gas stations, diners, and police stations. Bert Glennon photographs these outposts of Purgatory in various hues of gray while the classic noir cast, including a young, notch-faced Charles Bronson, rises to de Toth's vivid direction. Hayden, the Nick Nolte of '50s B's (at once flabby and sharp, brutal and funny), incarnates every fear about Los Angeles policemen you've ever had and maybe a few you hadn't thought of. (Rickman)

Plays Thursday, May 1, at 7 p.m., and Monday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m.

Deep Crimson
(Mexico/France/ Spain, 1996)
Based on Leonard Kastle's campy 1970 film The Honeymoon Killers, which is itself inspired by a real-life murder case, Deep Crimson is both a fascinating and decidedly unpleasant experience. Like all of Mexican director Arturo Ripstein's work, it's beautifully crafted, handsomely photographed, and impressively acted. Unlike Kastle's original, Ripstein has removed most of the camp element and instead goes for a melancholy character study of two sad losers and their victims. Every character is so desperate for affection and love that it kills almost all of them. As morbidly seductive as Ripstein makes it, the result is, well, pretty damned depressing. (Booth)

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