"Short 'n' Bittersweet"
There's little that could be more suggestive of the elemental appeal of cinema than movies being shown outdoors on a screen hanging from a tree limb. Anyone who recalls the community feeling of the plaza screenings in the Italian movie Cinema Paradiso with the grizzled old projectionist, cute little boy, and enthralled mass public will appreciate what the Outdoor Cinema collective shoots for on the first Tuesday of every month. Their venue is the patio out back of the El Rio bar in the Outer Mission, and screenings are "rain or shine" -- although they wisely skip the blustery winter months. (Blankets are encouraged; as Mark Twain once famously said, "The coldest screening I ever attended was a summer drive-in on Geneva.") The collective consists of three hard-working women -- Xandra Castleton, Kim Hawkins, and "Kara the projectionist" -- aided this month by Dominic Angerame of another collective, San Francisco's venerable Canyon Cinema.
This Tuesday's program goes right to the heart of the motion picture experience with a program of 22 one- to seven-minute films, all made between 1935 and 1990, drawn from the Canyon archives. Perhaps the evening will recapture the feel of the earliest movie screenings, the programs of similarly short films on many disparate topics put on by the Lumiere Brothers 100 years ago. Tonight's filmmakers include everyone from George Kuchar to Les Blank to Barbara Hammer, and topics include "hot rods, rejection, obsession with cigarettes, death and the nature of the blues, eavesdropping, underwater humor, witch doctors, unsuccessful rocket launchings, Queen Elizabeth ... and a thunderstorm as it rages in full fury." Come early -- last month's Jane Campion program left 200 people on the sidewalk.