Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll. Korea.

The 41st San Francisco International Film Festival

4:15 p.m. (PFA): Saltmen of Tibet (Germany/Switzerland, 1997)
See Saturday 1 p.m. at the Castro Theater for commentary.

7 p.m. (PFA): Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y & shorts (Belgium/France, 1997)
This ragged Craig Baldwin-style found-footage romp through the golden era of "skyjacking" brings back those hazy, crazy days of the '60s and '70s when airplanes and their passengers became the international terrorist's currency of choice. With some of Don DeLillo's juicier aphorisms from his novels intoned in voice-over, lots of cheerful, miniskirted stewardesses, and familiar folks like Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro, and the Japanese Red Army shaking their fingers at each other, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y traffics a little too much in easy irony ("Do the Hustle" on the soundtrack over slow-motion airplane crash footage, for instance) but is still a thoroughly absorbing look at a nearly forgotten slice of recent history. (Tod Booth)

9:15 p.m. (PFA): Divine Body (Belgium/Benin, 1998)
Dominique Loreau's quasi-documentary about the travails of an old black Peugeot in Benin illuminates the country's condition.

Monday April 27

12:30 p.m.: Immigrant Memories -- The North African Inheritance (France, 1997)

The story of North African immigrants brought to France as cheap labor from the 1950s to the 1970s might seem of purely historical interest, but this practice continues today throughout the world, a hallmark of the First World's endless harvesting of the human power of the Third World with little regard for the ultimate fate of those it imports. Yamina Benguigui's moving three-part documentary on this subject, made for French TV, takes an exhaustive look at the lives of whole communities of social outcasts, the elders living in shantytowns and too poor to ever retire, the youth struggling with pervasive French racism. A Tunisian man speaks for many when he contrasts his bleak life as a factory worker in the '50s with the simple, lost pleasures of his homeland, where "the sun shines and strangers form a bond with you." (Gary Morris)

1 p.m.: Life According to Muriel (Argentina, 1997)
See Thursday 9:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

1:30 p.m.: The Other Shore
(France, 1997)
See Friday 7:30 p.m. for commentary.

4 p.m.: Hard-Boiled Egg (Italy, 1997)
A grimy neighborhood of Livorno, Italy, is the fertile breeding ground for this portrait of the artist as a rascal and would-be intellectual. Mom has only been in the grave a few hours, when Dad, a small-time criminal, brings his shrewish pregnant girlfriend home to take care of Piero and his brother. As fast as you can say "Odyssey," Piero's knack for the classics lands him in an elite school and on a better side of town where he befriends Tommaso, the disaffected son of a wealthy industrialist. Tommaso pleads poverty and wishes "to live like a dog and rummage through the garbage of life" -- a goal only the rich could afford. This is a fast-paced, subversive little film with a dry delivery and wry observations on class, politics, literature, and intellectual hypocrisy. (Sura Wood)

4:30 p.m.: Following & short (England, 1998)
See Friday 9:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

5 p.m.: Somersault in a Coffin (Turkey, 1996)
See Thursday 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

6:45 p.m.: A Brother (France, 1997)
Brother and sister in this debut from director Sylvie Verheyde.

7 p.m.: Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog & short (U.S.A., 1997)
See Sunday 1:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

7:15 p.m.: Sacrifice & short (U.S.A./Burma/Thailand, 1998)
See Friday 1:30 p.m. for commentary.

9:15 p.m.: Bird People of China (Japan, 1998)
See Saturday noon for commentary.

9:30 p.m.: The Life of Jesus
(France, 1997)
See Sunday 5 p.m. for commentary.

9:45 p.m.: Junk Mail (Norway, 1997)
The schlubby postman anti-hero of this Norwegian comedy sighs and whimpers his way through his rounds, discarding mail that doesn't interest him and spying on patrons who do. Bit by bit this postman -- Robert Skjarstad, who resembles the prematurely aging William Sanderson character in Blade Runner -- becomes involved in the life of a larcenous, hearing-impaired dry cleaner who only eats Sugar Frosted Flakes. What develops is a very tasty comedy-thriller by director Pol Sletaune. There's even a moral about responsibility hidden inside this brisk (80-minute) sleeper. (Gregg Rickman)

7 p.m. (Castro): Gadjo Dilo
(France, 1997)
Friendship, love, and racism among the Gypsies, from director Tony Gatlif (Latcho Drom).

9:30 p.m. (Castro): My Beautiful Laundrette (England, 1986)
Explaining why Stephen Frears' breakthrough film is their pick for the "Indelible Images" series, Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, the team behind the documentaries Common Threads and The Celluloid Closet, say "the gay relationship developed organically" (Friedman) and "the gay-themed story is just part of a panoply of human possibilities" (Epstein). How right are they? Well, when I did a capsule review of it during the 1986 festival, I never even mentioned the homosexual affair between one-time fascist punk Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the film's Pakistani hero, Omar (Gordon Warnecke). Instead, I ranked it with Mike Leigh's Grown Ups and Meantime as the best of the festival's British discoveries. I wrote, "It pivots on a Pakistani lad who decides to emulate his businessman uncle rather than his intellectual dad. The boy is more the excuse than the center of the story, but My Beautiful Laundrette has an exciting, even intoxicating spin because of the hucksters, punks, and lovers who swirl around him. Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi has orchestrated their comings and goings into a script that can be read as a South London-style Bronx cheer directed at Thatcher's England and a Pakistani's spiritual Passage to Britannia. It has the smell and feel of real experience. Kureishi has copped a key line or two from a friend of his uncle's, whom he quotes in Granta as saying, 'This country [Pakistan] is being sodomized by religion. It is even beginning to interfere with the making of money.' " (Michael Sragow)

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