The Return of Martin Guerre

The beloved Fine Arts Cinema in Berkeley temporarily reopens

Berkeley's beloved Fine Arts Cinema, shuttered since June 30 and slated for demolition (followed by resurrection in 2004 at the same location in a new building with 100 housing units), reopened last Thursday. Keith Arnold, the devoted programmer who runs the show with technical wizard Josephine Scherer, seized an opportunity provided by the developer (Reel World, Feb. 6). "Panoramic Interests told me they made a mistake in timelining the project," Arnold explains. "Since January is the softest housing month, they don't want to open in January but in April or May" of 2004. As a result, the company revised its schedule, postponing teardown until after next February. "We proposed reoccupying the theater" through mid-January, Arnold says, "and got the OK."

The lineup, posted at www.fineartscinema.com, features the usual Arnold array of inspired double bills, such as the pairing of the primal Russian silent Earth with the recent corn documentary Hybrid (Oct. 17-23). The Fine Arts honors its community ties by hosting the ninth annual Berkeley Video & Film Festival (Nov. 2), the Arab Film Festival (Nov. 7-9), and the Latino Film Festival of Marin (Nov. 14-17). The calendar also introduces the Cinema Preservation Society, a new nonprofit organization spearheaded by Arnold and others, which will eventually have its own 100-seat screening room adjacent to the future Fine Arts Cinema. CPS presentations include Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (Sept. 19-26) and the restored 1924 Peter Pan (Sept. 27-29), which also lures Lost Boys to the Castro on Sept. 25 and 26.

I Am a CameraFor more than two years, Daniel Robin has taken the DIY ethic to an extreme: Every week, he single-handedly shoots, edits, and uploads slices of site-specific real life. Having posted 37 episodes of his street-level portrait of North Beach, The Valet Chronicles (Reel World, Sept. 20, 2000), at www.neighborhoodfilms.com, Robin is now 17 installments into Aquarius Records, shot at the music store owned by his old S.F. State film-school pal Wendy Chien. "This is the digital revolution," he proclaims, not low-budget, DV indie features. Still, the Mission District artist is plainly frustrated that so few of his peers have followed the path he cleared.

"Filmmakers who are putting up content don't think about the returning viewer, which is paramount to the Internet," Robin declares, disdaining the spoof narratives and one-off shorts favored by sites like www.ifilm.com. "It's about working with real people, or yourself -- that's the fodder for the Internet. Rather than watching some clever animation, what's really neat is watching people talking and working things out. It's borrowing from cinema, from old serials minus the cliffhanger endings, from television."

Robin envisions his Web site, which hosts filmmakers from New Zealand (and, in a few weeks, Paris), as a portal for "a virtual community of like-minded people traveling around the globe through the Internet via the neighborhood." Evangelistic in his zeal to swell the ranks, Robin will teach an eight-week class titled "Web Video: Production & Aesthetics," beginning Sept. 17 at the SFSU Downtown Center. For information or to register, call 405-7700 or visit http://msp.sfsu.edu.

I Walk the LineOur friends at the Roxie were a tad overenthusiastic in last week's column. The revivals of Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris and Andrei Roublev have, in fact, been booked to play the Castro after Christmas. ... Local critic David Thomson's fourth (and final, he swears) edition of A Biographical Dictionary of Film will hit bookstores in October. ... L.A.'s American Cinematheque stages a Sept. 5-8 tribute to peripatetic S.F. resident Werner Herzog. ... Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World has its TV premiere Friday, Aug. 30, on the Sundance Channel. The word from the L.A. set of his current comedy, Bad Santa, is that star Billy Bob Thornton isn't the easiest guy in the world to work with. Who'da thunk it?

 
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