Monday, May 4, 9:15 p.m., PFA; Wednesday, May 6, 7:15 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 7, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki

So There, (France, 1997)
The marvelous French actor Michel Piccoli (Contempt, May Fools) steps behind the camera with defiantly unexpected results. His willfully offbeat study of an oversexed and chaotic extended French family living under one roof is alternately biting and bemused, impatient and contemplative. That's not necessarily surprising for a septuagenarian making his debut as a director; what's odd is the tone of woozy farce, suggesting an English domestic drama, that opens the picture. An array of fascinating performances from an outstanding ensemble carries the show when the plot drifts out of sight; Piccoli rations information about his characters in oblique snippets that's the antithesis of Hollywood spoon feeding. All in all, a perverse, confounding, and utterly fascinating slice of life. (Michael Fox)

Sunday, May 3, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 7, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki

The Spider's Stratagem (Italy, 1971)
Prime Bernardo Bertolucci: voluptuous, iconoclastic, and almost alarmingly original. Just before he made The Conformist, the precocious director, only 30, turned a brief Borges short story ("The Theme of the Traitor and Hero") into this political Oedipal saga in which the hero's father's eyes are symbolically plucked out and painted over. Giulio Brogi (who looks like a matinee-idol version of American comic actor Joe Bologna) plays the son of a militant anti-Fascist murdered in 1936 while attending a performance of Rigoletto. Brogi plays the father, too -- and as he scours his ancestral town for the real story behind the killing, he keeps running in and out of his sire's shoes. This movie is like an entire film festival rolled into one bracing 97-minute package: The town is called Tara; the father's frozen-in-time mistress (Alida Valli of The Third Man) is a juiced-up version of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations; there's a nod to the motorcycle messengers of death in Cocteau's Orpheus; and the whole setup bears a resemblance to Bad Day at Black Rock. Bertolucci's references to the opera and drama of Verdi and Shakespeare are just as specific -- and, what's crucial, just as expressive. For within the framework of a modernist narrative that could be called Deconstructing Daddy, Bertolucci captures the befuddlement of youth trying to wrest a usable legacy from past politics and culture. (Michael Sragow)

Wednesday, April 29, 7 p.m., Castro

Sweet Degeneration (Taiwan/China, 1997)
A deep dive into modern alienation (seemingly a specialty among Taiwanese filmmakers) -- so much so that Sweet Degeneration daringly risks alienating the audience, too. Lin Cheng-sheng's film takes its sweet time telling parallel stories, slowly and enigmatically revealed layer by layer in Egoyan-esque fashion, centering on a brother and sister whose twisted family relationships have derailed their lives. It's frankly frustrating for a while trying to figure out who's who, but the film gains terrific power as the stories spill into each other. The cumulative effect is potent indeed, but terribly bleak. (Tod Booth)

Thursday, April 30, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki; Tuesday, May 5, 9:30 p.m., PFA; Thursday, May 7, 4 p.m., Kabuki

Taafe Fanga & short (Mali, 1997)
"The skirt has defeated the pants" is how one villager describes the transformation of a Mali village in which women and men reverse social roles after an overburdened local woman impersonates a god and issues an ultimatum. But one clearheaded little girl stubbornly refuses to play by the new rules, and director Adama Drabo uses her resistance to illustrate how a direct flip-flop of power doesn't lead to any kind of real equality, although the consternation it creates sparks much-needed debates among both sexes about the delegation of power and responsibility. With traditional griot storytelling, African music, and the stunning clay-colored cliffs of Mali as a backdrop, Drabo weaves an engaging tale highlighted by bits of truly magical cinematic imagery. (Heather Wisner)

Friday, May 1, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; Saturday, May 2, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki

Whatever (U.S.A., 1997)
Susan Skoog's film is packed with great rock 'n' roll, songs by the Ramones, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and the Pretenders peculiar to its early '80s setting. Anna is a high school senior who doesn't know what she wants. Her single mom is dating an icky married guy, her best friend Brenda is coping with familial trauma by getting wasted and sleeping around, and her artistic ambitions are undermined by both nagging uncertainties and the untrustworthy advice of an older guy who just wants to sleep with her. Actress Liza Weil is entirely persuasive as a confused and pissed-off Anna trying to keep her cool, offering viewers an acute reminder of all the turmoil that age can bring. Skoog pays strict attention to details of time and teen-age life, right down to the bong hits from a hollowed-out apple, and turns in a likable tale of a girl on the scary but liberating brink of adulthood. (Heather Wisner)

Tuesday, May 5, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki; Wednesday, May 6, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki

WR: Mysteries of the Organism
(Yugoslavia/West Germany, 1971)
Dusan Makavejev starts this amusing 1971 period piece as a biography of Wilhelm Reich, renegade Freudian and creator of the notorious "orgone box," an alleged cancer-curing device that landed Reich in prison, where he died. But Makavejev's tribute to this still-misunderstood character expands generously to become itself a series of tableaux illustrating Reich's imagined sexual utopia, complete with plaster-cast cocks, hard-core footage, and visual quotes from an imaginary Yugoslavian film about sex and revolution. A comic ensemble of countercultural icons -- Tuli Kupferberg from the Fugs, Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis, sex artist Betty Dodson -- acts out Reich's still-resonant mantra of "Enjoy, Feel, Laugh." And few would quarrel with typical Reich pronouncements like "Fascism is the frenzy of sexual cripples" or my personal favorite, the incomparably terse "Fuck freely!" (Gary Morris)

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