Tuesday, April 29, 7 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Mango Yellow (Brazil, 2002)
Screenings take place at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theater (1881 Post at Fillmore); the Castro Theatre (429 Castro near Market); the Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft at Bowditch, UC Berkeley campus); and the CinéArts at Palo Alto Square (3000 El Camino Real at Page Mill, Building 6).
For festival information, call 931-FILM, and for tickets, call (925) 275-9490; for either, visit www.sffs.org
In the opening scene of Cláudio Assis' urban folklore, a waitress laments, "Love always goes wrong," then wishes the world would fuck itself. As Assis sees it, the film's titular color is overripe and starting to rot. The setting -- humid, seamy, and redolent of the forgotten urban underclass -- is perhaps pointedly neither Rio de Janeiro nor São Paulo, but the more provincial coastal city of Recife. The waitress is but one element of the ensemble, which also includes a hot-tempered butcher, an absorbingly queeny hotel chef, and a young wife who stands in for the city's tarnished religiosity. We meet them in vignettes, enduring or perpetrating their lives' traumas and petty schemes. Assis' style is aggressive and insouciant at once, if not especially novel. A roving, Altman-esque narrative swirl and a snap of American indie shock value are among the counterpoints of traceable influence at work here. The result is coarsely melodious. (Jonathan Kiefer)
Saturday, April 26, 9:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 29, 9:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Monday Morning (France/Italy, 2002)
This almost plotless film follows hangdog factory worker Vincent (Jacques Bidou) from his tedious rounds to an attempted escape south, to follow his dream and paint. In between scenes featuring Vincent getting drunk, hanging out with a transvestite, and gradually losing his money are lightly funny vignettes of French village life back home, bathed in a warm glow of nostalgia for a vanishing community. Georgian director Otar Iosseliani has been making lovely pastoral pieces like this for more than two decades, first back in the old U.S.S.R. and latterly in France, and is clearly a master of the small-scale human comedy. Sight gags in this movie raise smiles, not laughs, and Vincent's plight brings sighs, not tears; for long stretches everything stays in a modulated lower key. Monday Morning is soothing but never boring, as it makes you wish you, too, could be a Sunday painter in such pleasant company. (Gregg Rickman)
Thursday, April 24, 9:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Saturday, April 26, 2:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, May 1, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Film Archive
My Terrorist/ For My Children (both Israel, 2002)
Endless discussion points rather than exceptional filmmaking distinguish this double bill of provocative documentaries by Israeli women. Yulie Gerstel was wounded in a 1978 terrorist attack in London that left a fellow El Al flight attendant dead. Now she'd like to meet and perhaps forgive her assailant, who's still in a British prison. This intriguing idea goes nowhere in her shallow and self-indulgent My Terrorist, a deeply unsatisfying meditation on personal responsibility. In For My Children, former S.F. resident Michal Aviad and her husband debate whether it wouldn't be prudent to pack up the kids, leave their hypertense home in Tel Aviv, and return to the States. With disarming skill, the artist charts her family's precarious state, balanced somewhere between the integrity and idealism of Israel's founders and the repressive policies of its current leaders. (Michael Fox)
Saturday, April 26, 4:15 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Sunday, April 27, 3:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki
From its opening funeral procession for a dead parrot to its closing image of the head of Guinea-Bissau's founding father magically levitating off its pedestal, Flora Gomes' musical comedy gives a light touch to issues confronting Africa today. Cultural identity is particularly on the table -- a dead man whose friends wait till the priest leaves to bring out the sacrificial pig was both "a good Catholic and a good animist." "Here the Portuguese are sweepers," we learn of Paris (where the film spends half an hour), unlike back home, a former Portuguese colony. The heroine prefers a tasty white French musician to a striving, cell-phone-laden bourgeois from home. A parable of self-empowerment built around Vita's coming to terms with a family prohibition against women singing, Gomes' enjoyable but not urgent movie is modeled after Jacques Demy's 1960s musicals, like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; if it's less inventively staged, it is at least colorful, joyful, and beautifully sung. (Gregg Rickman)
Wednesday, April 23, 6:45 p.m., Castro; Thursday, April 24, 4 p.m., AMC Kabuki Women's Prison (Iran, 2002)
Neither the documentary exposé that its title implies nor a squalid remake of Caged Heat, this understated Iranian feature (aren't they all?) is nonetheless gripping and mysterious. The film begins in 1984 as a new female warden -- a stern proponent of the revolution -- takes over an anarchic jail. Tahereh's pitiless tactics earn the prisoners' enmity and, eventually, respect; she breaks one tough young woman named Mitra in order to tame her. Their icy relationship gradually evolves as the film jumps to 1992 and then 2001, by which time Tahereh's idealism, sadly, has faded along with Mitra's cynicism. First-time director Manijeh Hekmat has no use for sensationalism or cheap melodrama, staging everything from a birth to a suicide to a lesbian rape with detached medium shots that preserve her characters' dignity. She applies the same rigorously unsentimental perspective to the plight of women in Iran; over time, the prison becomes increasingly overcrowded and its inmates younger and more desperate.
Monday, April 28, 7:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 29, 1 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, May 1, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive
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