Lost in America
These are prosperous times for our funkiest art houses, with hit revivals like Nights of Cabiria and Touch of Evil at the Castro and a steady stream of quirky first-run engagements at the Roxie and Lumiere. And a darn lucky thing it is, as the Castro and Roxie continue to edge away from their traditional reliance on repertory programming. Only Berkeley's UC Theater and Fine Arts Cinema offer an ever-changing slate of double bills, and that trick is getting harder to pull off all the time.
The problem isn't so much attracting audiences -- the convenience of home video is no match for big screens and the company of strangers -- but locating watchable prints. "It's easier to find a film from the '30s than from 1980 to 1995," laments Keith Arnold of the Fine Arts. Believe it or not, Arnold reports that there isn't a print of Tim Burton's Ed Wood available for theatrical booking. (Nor, for that matter, John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness.) Notwithstanding the studios' lip service to the value of their libraries, and the occasional "Greatest Hits" series such as "Universal Horror," Hollywood runs on money, not memories. As a sign of their disdain, two studios recently fired their diligent bookers of older fare.
Turning to other sources, the Fine Arts scored Orson Welles' personal print of The Trial for this week's program (thanks to Gary Graver, cinematographer of Welles' F for Fake). And the Fine Arts is joining with eight other theaters around the country in early 1999 to present Black Tears, a rousing documentary about a band of elderly Cuban musicians that played the S.F. International Film Festival and never landed American distribution. The new Fine Arts calendar also honors Akira Kurosawa with the rarely screened Ikiru and Drunken Angel (Dec. 6-8). "When you see a film scheduled at any local theater that hasn't played in a while, you've got to treat it like an urgent invitation," Arnold counsels. "This could be the last chance to see it."
Things to Come
Levi's Dockers Khakis' dalliance with indie films explodes into a five-city tour in 1999, kicking off May 7 in NYC and reaching San Francisco June 4. Dubbed "Dockers Classically Independent Film Festival Celebrating 20 Years of the IFP" (Independent Feature Project), the S.F. shows will benefit the Film Arts Foundation (FAF). ... Tickets are still available for "A Tribute to Gail Silva," an Oct. 16 salute to the FAF's longtime chief and a benefit for the nonprofit organization's Grants Endowment Fund. Says FAF board member and maverick local producer Henry S. Rosenthal, "Finally, an acknowledgement of Gail's 20 years of hard time on the rock pile of independent media!"
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