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The Midnight Story  

Wishing for rain-slicked streets during the S.F. Film Noir Festival

Wednesday, Sep 18 2002
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One of the reigning authorities in film noir, waggish Alameda historian and novelist Eddie Muller, is plotting a major retrospective with Castro Theatre programmer Anita Monga. The San Francisco Film Noir Festival will unspool Jan. 17-26 at the Castro with 20 black-and-white flicks from the '40s and '50s. The hook is that every film -- from benchmarks such as The Maltese Falcon and The Lady From Shanghai to the little-known Ann Sheridan vehicle Woman on the Run -- has a Fog City connection.

Muller wrote the books Dark City and Dark City Dames and programmed several noir series for L.A.'s American Cinematheque, so he knows every shadowy twist in the genre's history. Add Monga's contacts and the Castro's rep, and the event will boast several rarely screened prints from archives and collectors (including a few you'd never see otherwise, since the films have never been released on video). Muller aims to lure some special guests from out of the past, though none has been confirmed yet. He also hopes to make the fest annual, but with a different theme, since there aren't enough noir films set in the city to fill even a second series. Me, I'm just hoping for rain-slicked streets in January.

Waking Life When ResFest started up in San Francisco in the mid-'90s, it was as much a showcase for computer-based tools as a salute to next-generation filmmakers. The digital festival (now based in New York) often seemed to favor technique over content in its selections, which meshed neatly with the ethos of the Web site designers, graphics hotshots, and dot-com kids it attracted. The programming may not differ much this time around, but I do see one change for the better: The moviemakers aren't nearly as full of themselves as they used to be.

"In some ways, it's a technical exercise," CCAC student Chih Cheng Peng concedes when discussing his short, Whizeewhig (in "Shorts #1: State of the Art," 8 p.m. on Sept. 18), which has fun manipulating traffic and skyline landmarks such as the Transamerica Pyramid. "The Embarcadero Center looks like it could move, to me," Peng explains. "The idea came out of being frustrated with the city, which is put together in really strange ways, and wishing it was organized better. Maybe it was a venting session," he says with a chuckle. As for his DV gear -- a consumer camera and a laptop -- Peng notes, "You can make a film the way a rock band can come out of a garage."

S.F. filmmaker Eun-Ha Paek's mood-enhancing ResFest entry, The Fancy ("Videos That Rock!," 10 p.m. on Sept. 19), is the last episode in a series of still comics and animations that she created for her Web site, www.milkyelephant.com. "I do corporate Web sites and presentations, and this was my way of having fun," Paek explains. "It's a long story about an elephant that decides it wants to fly, and in order to do that it needs a special pair of red shoes." Takako Minekawa's "Maxi On!" provides the perfect pop soundtrack to The Fancy, which in, oh, five years or so, some corporation will realize is cool and snap up. ResFest screens Sept. 18-22 at the Palace of Fine Arts; see additional coverage on Page 31. You can also get more info at resfest.com or by calling (866) 737-3378.

Stand and Deliver San Francisco filmmaker Pepe Urquijo's marvelous half-hour narrative Everyday Eastlake would make a terrific TV pilot. Linking a variety of fascinating characters inspired by real folks in Oakland's diverse Eastlake neighborhood, the movie is funny, smart, and honest. Urquijo, who runs a project for teenagers called Reel Peeps Video under the auspices of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, pulled off his ensemble piece with a crew of three and a bunch of teens learning as they went.

"Each youngster served as an assistant director [for a specific story thread] and contributed to the writing," explains Urquijo. "I was trying to make the story simple enough so the youngsters could take ownership of knowing the characters. But it wasn't foreign to them -- it was part of their life." Everyday Eastlake wraps its run of the local film festivals at 9 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Brava Theater as part of Festival ¡Cine Latino! For info, go to www.cineaccion.com.

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Michael Fox

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