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Matthew Robbins; Stuart Gaffney; 2001: A Space Odyssey

Wednesday, Nov 22 2000
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Bingo! Shedding years of Hollywood hesitations, veteran San Francisco writer/director Matthew Robbins is gearing up for "Action!" again. "Guillermo del Toro and I have partnered on a lot of scripts, but this is one that's under way slightly," Robbins says dryly. Robbins may not be as well known as del Toro, the talented Mexican director (now based in Austin) of Cronos and the forthcoming The Devil's Backbone and Blade 2. Nor does he have the following of his college roommate and pal Walter Murch (the Oscar-winning sound and film editor) or his old friend Francis Ford Coppola (for whom he wrote an unproduced screenplay years ago), but you know his work. Robbins helmed the cult faves *batteries not included and Bingo!, and co-wrote Mimic with del Toro.

A dark crime melodrama that plays out on the road between Los Angeles and Denver, the team's newest project, Riding Shotgun, is well beyond the pipe-dream stage. It's set up at Mike Newell's production company with Barbara De Fina (Scorsese's producer) on board. "We are just now drawing up our list of actors -- the lead is a man in his 60s -- but it is a completed script with [financial] backing," Robbins reports. Asked about Tinseltown tomfoolery, Robbins sighs. "It's been my battlefield for my entire career. I feel very lucky that I was part of the exodus, the great migration north in the Zoetrope days." Although Robbins is primed to get behind the camera, he's learned not to twiddle his thumbs waiting for the cast to come together. "I'm working on another script to keep myself distracted," he confides.

The Living End "I had some background in AIDS activism, but when I decided to speak about AIDS on video it came out as a very personal statement," recalls local avant-garde filmmaker Stuart Gaffney. In a recent phone chat, he describes his fictional 1994 short, Virus, as "a look at how one person's worldview is affected by the knowledge he has AIDS." As the epidemic progressed in the '90s, Gaffney confides, his perspective also evolved. "It's funny to think of [unsafe sex] as a subidentity," he explains. "Maybe people have been [having unsafe sex] throughout the epidemic, but now they have a name." Thus the equally short Bareback (1999), which Gaffney calls "a presentation of some real confusion about the idea of unsafe sex as a movement."

Gaffney's films, along with vintage work by local filmmakers Vivian Kleiman, Eric Slade, and Carol Leigh, screen the first week of December at New York's Guggenheim Museum in a series of AIDS activists' videotapes called "Fever in the Archive." "I think it's making the point that the epidemic -- and art addressing the epidemic -- lives on," Gaffney says. "At the same time, it is a retrospective of a movement, which can feel like a period at the end of a sentence."

My Life as a Dog Forget about kicking off 2001 with 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Castro. Warner Bros.' plans to revive the Kubrick landmark in N.Y., L.A., and S.F. have been delayed until new prints are ready -- in October. ... "This is our moment," trumpeted Latino Film Festival tributee Gregory Nava (El Norte) at last week's Financial District reception in his honor. "New Line would do anything to get Jennifer Lopez in a film," he declared. "This was the exact same studio that didn't want Jennifer Lopez in Mi Familia."

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Michael Fox

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