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

The 41st San Francisco International Film Festival

7 p.m. (PFA): Future for the Past: A Tribute to Warren Sonbert & the Estate Project (U.S.A., Various)

Warren Sonbert's less known locally for his filmmaking, which spanned over 30 years from 1966 to his death in 1995, than for his biting presence as film critic and gadfly for the local gay press. This is an unfortunate situation that the Estate Project, an organization devoted to restoring and rereleasing the work of artists who died of AIDS, aims to correct. On this program is included Sonbert's last film, Whiplash, a 20-minute short that's both a coda to his career in underground film and an index of his powers as an observer and the decline of those powers as his disease progressed. Shot in many locales in Europe and America, Whiplash is in the avant-garde "diarist" tradition -- a term Sonbert hated but which has some usefulness in defining him as a highly personal artist who used the movie screen as a canvas filled with color and noise and light. Uncharacteristic of his style, but understandable as his health deteriorated, are the repetitions. Simple, beautifully composed images of a woman walking down the street, a trapeze artist in a dark circus, and fireworks bursting in the air reappear verbatim several times, as if to strengthen a failing hold on life. (Gary Morris)

9:15 p.m. (PFA): Edge City & short (U.S.A., 1998)
See Friday 7:15 p.m. for commentary.

Tuesday April 28

1 p.m.: Bird People of China (Japan, 1998)
See Saturday noon for commentary.
1:15 p.m.: The Underground Orchestra (Netherlands, 1997)
See Saturday 1:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

1:30 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.

4 p.m.: A Friend of the Deceased & short (Ukraine/France, 1997)
See Saturday 4 p.m. at the Clay for commentary.

4:30 p.m.: Graveyard of Dreams (Georgia, 1997)
The intelligentsia goes to war in (former Soviet) Georgia in this drama from Georgi Khaindrava.

5 p.m.: Barbie Nation:
An Unauthorized Tour
& shorts (U.S.A., 1997)

The really surprising part of this brief documentary isn't the legions of worshipful adult Barbie fans or the creative abuse of the pert plastic miss. It's Barbie creator Ruth Handler's admission that she created an adult doll, with breasts, to help adolescent girls become more comfortable with their own changing figures. Beyond that, director Susan Stern provides some fairly predictable but nonetheless entertaining coverage, from San Francisco pride parade footage of Barbie drag queens to a TV news segment that begins with an utterly straight-faced newscaster asking, "Is deep-frying a Barbie doll part of a satanic ritual?" The clamor of voices around Barbie, both pro and con, includes a former bulimic model-turned-art student who once yearned for skinny doll legs, two little girls doing the Barbie-and-Ken mating dance, and a tableful of senior Barbie conventioneers gazing dully at a centerpiece of Barbie in a Southern belle get-up. An unauthorized convention, meanwhile, includes the likes of Sweatshop Barbie, who makes clothes for the other dolls. The disagreement between camps turns ugly with scenes of breast cancer activists blaming women's breast implants on Barbie's pervasive and improbable anatomy juxtaposed with a tight-lipped Handler, who was ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer. There is passing reference, too, to the lawsuits that Barbie's parent company, Mattel, slapped against anyone who dared take Barbie's name or image in untrademarked vain. It's enough to make a person scream ("It's just a doll, for Chrissakes!"), but ultimately you have to concede that Barbie's cultural baggage is enough to have enjoyably drawn out the film far longer than its succinct 53 minutes. (Heather Wisner)

6:45 p.m.: Sopyonje
(South Korea, 1993)
From Kurosawa Award recipient Im Kwon-Taek; see "Im Kwon-Taek: Drawing Down the Moon" for details.

7 p.m.: TwentyFourSeven
& short (England, 1997)
See Sunday 2:30 p.m. for commentary.

7:30 p.m.: Future for the Past: A Tribute to Warren Sonbert & the Estate Project (U.S.A., Various)

See Monday 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

9:15 p.m.: Divine Body
(Belgium/Benin, 1998)
See Sunday 9:15 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

9:30 p.m.: Hard-Boiled Egg
(Italy, 1997)
See Monday 4 p.m. for commentary.

9:45 p.m.: Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y
& shorts (Belgium/France, 1997)
See Sunday 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive for commentary.

7 p.m. (Castro): Battleship Potemkin (U.S.S.R., 1925)
A perennial on many a list of the greatest films ever made, Eisenstein's 1925 masterpiece is set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. In its most famous sequence -- indeed, perhaps the most revered scene in cinema history -- seemingly endless lines of Cossacks in crisp white uniforms slaughter what look like thousands of good proletarians on the massive Odessa steps. Collaborating with fearless cameraman Edward Tisse, and with a rousing Shostakovich score, Eisenstein does the seemingly impossible in brilliantly isolating the personal tragedies in the midst of an epic event. On the lighter side, camp followers and muscle queens will find much to love in the director's trademark lingering shots of handsome, burly sailors lolling half-naked in their hammocks. (Gary Morris)

9:30 p.m. (Castro): Storefront Hitchcock (U.S.A., 1997)
Storefront Hitchcock is not a documentary, a rockumentary, or even a movie -- it's merely a concert video with good taste. In it, Robyn Hitchcock -- either a free-association genius with a knack for quirky storytelling or a babbling no-hit oddity, depending on who wants to know -- meanders through a dozen-or-so songs and as many funny tales. Director Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense, Philadelphia) sets Hitchcock in a New York storefront window, his back to the street and playing to an unseen but appreciative audience. As the college radio cult hero sings "I Don't Remember Gilford," "Let's Go Thundering," "1974," and "The Yip Song," the camera alternates between close-ups (a vibrating guitar string, the singer's wide eyes) and passers-by (some bald guy toting a cat poster). The spare set is ingenious: Putting Hitchcock inside the fishbowl, with all the crazies of New York goggle-eyed glaring at him, actually makes him look like the normal guy. A must for Hitchcock fans (both of them), a slow night for anyone else. (Jeff Stark)

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