S.F. International Film Festival

The 42nd annual San Francisco International Film Festival runs over 15 days and presents over 100 movies. It's the biggest annual celebration of cinema in this city -- which is saying a lot, given that we seem to have a film festival every month. SF Weekly staff and writers, including Tod Booth, Michael Fox, Frako Loden, Joe Mader, Gary Morris, Gregg Rickman, Michael Sragow, and Sura Wood, have prepared a comprehensive guide to the festival's most-anticipated selections. Get your programs here!

Screenings are at the Kabuki, 1881 Post (at Fillmore); the Castro, 429 Castro (at Market); the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College) in Berkeley; and the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St. (at A Street) in San Rafael.

Tickets are $9 or $8 for Film Institute members, seniors, students, and the disabled. Tickets are available at the festival box office at the Kabuki Tuesday through Sunday noon to 7 p.m., at ETM ticket machines in many Safeway stores throughout the Bay Area, over the phone by calling (888) ETM-TIXS, and online at www.sfiff.org.

Cipri & Maresco's Cinico TV (Italy, 1989-1996)/Toto Who Lived Twice (Italy, 1998)

These two programs are easily the most subversive, uncompromising, and (inevitably) controversial in the entire festival. The work of Sicilian filmmakers Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco is ferociously satirical, scatological, and blasphemous, drawing a bottomless font of inspiration from the island's domination by the Catholic Church and the Mafia. Cipri and Maresco employ a only handful of actors -- none of whom are women -- and use masturbation, bestiality, and gay-directed pejoratives as recurring gags to eviscerate Sicilian machismo. Crude, to be sure, but hardly primitive. Toto Who Lived Twice, a starkly lovely film in three chapters, evokes Bunuel, Pasolini, Python, and Leone in its reimagination of the life and legacy of Christ. The duo's television output ranges from hilariously deadpan sketch comedy (they effortlessly jerk laughs out of an interview with a rapist's dick), to parodies of Italian films and operas, to straightforward documentary segments. These programs will no doubt prove a Rorschach test of sorts; while a few offended moviegoers stomp out, the rest of the audience will be in stitches. (Michael Fox)

Cipri & Maresco's Cinico TV: Tuesday, April 27, 10 p.m., Kabuki; Wednesday, April 28, 7 p.m., PFA; Saturday, May 1, 10 p.m., Kabuki.

Toto Who Lived Twice: Friday, April 30, 10 p.m., Kabuki; Tuesday, May 4, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki; Wednesday, May 5, 9:15 p.m., PFA.

Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (U.S.A., 1998)
Bay Area documentary maker Lourdes Portillo's excruciatingly banal portrait of the murdered Tejana pop singer and her devoted fans asserts that Selena was an influential cultural phenomenon and role model for Mexican Americans. An inordinate number of interviews with sorrowful teenage girls, offering typically shallow teenage platitudes, is submitted as evidence. We're also subjected to several young girls eager to follow in Selena's footsteps lip-syncing bad love songs. What does this prove? Every pop star is worshipped by children. For the few meager insights this film provides, you're better off waiting until it airs on PBS this summer. (Michael Fox)

Monday, April 26, 7:20 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, April 29, 1 p.m., Kabuki

The Dove-Bell Ringer (Kazakhstan, 1993)
Apparently, things move slower in the country. In rural Kazakhstan, Timur is loved by one woman but is consumed by another. This rather opaque slice of life includes a death during childbirth, ensuing madness, and resulting manslaughter, yet despite the turgid plot points, there's nothing going on. Director Amir Karakulov uses a minimum of camera set-ups and holds each shot long after anything of interest has left the frame. The cast and scenery are attractive, but the film goes nowhere, and even at an hour's running time, it takes too long to get there. (Joe Mader)

Tuesday, May 4, 6:40 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 6, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki (double-billed with Last Holiday)

Eternity and a Day (Greece, 1998)
Greek director Theo Angelopoulos takes an eternity to tell of a dying poet's (Bruno Ganz) last day (or is it?). He plans a final hospital stay because of a painful terminal illness, and while trying to find someone to take care of his dog, reminisces about his dead wife and regrets his failure to participate in his own life. (Writers comment on life; they don't live it. Yeah, yeah.) He also helps out an Albanian street urchin who teaches him some life lessons. Angelopoulos loves long tracks, slow pans, and zooms that last forever: You'll learn to hate them. (Joe Mader)

Saturday, April 24, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, April 29, 9:30 p.m., PFA

Flowers of Shanghai (Taiwan, 1998)
Glorious to look at and listen to, with the exception of some very sloppy dubbing here and there, this film consists largely of a series of elegant, golden-hued tableaus of groups of people. Set in the late 1800s in several Shanghai brothels ("flower" was a contemporary euphemism for prostitute), it charts, with a languidly gliding camera, the gossip and negotiations that occur when Master Wang seemingly snubs his long-time favorite, Crimson, by "calling on" Jasmine as well. There's little action -- director Hou Hsiao-hsien has stripped this slow, still, and utterly fascinating film down to almost pure ritual. (Tod Booth)

Friday, April 23, 7:15 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 6, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki

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