The Bad Sleep Well

Film buffs seeking a choice for governor beyond Schwarzenegger, porn actress Mary Carey, and Larry Flynt (The People vs. Larry Flynt) might consider Audie Elizabeth Bock. Author of the 1985 college text Japanese Film Directors and a biography of auteur Mikio Naruse written in French, Bock is better known for her 1999 election to the state Legislature as a Green Party candidate from Oakland. "My association with Akira Kurosawa was instrumental in my later involvement in politics," Bock asserts by phone from her East Bay office. "The Seven Samurai is really about the discovery of one's humanitarianism. The lead samurai makes a decision to throw away his status to work for people of the lowest class. That's very, very significant to me politically. But Kurosawa [used to] say that if he had a message to get across he would paint a sign and carry it around on the street. That would be a lot easier than making a movie."

Around the time that Bock translated Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography (1982) into English, she arranged for reverential writer/director John Milius to meet the legendary filmmaker. Milius repaid her with a job on the Spanish location of his Conan the Barbarian, starring a bodybuilder-turned-actor. "I learned at that time that Arnold was already very interested in politics," Bock recalls. She and others would josh, "Hey, why don't you run for governor?" The last time Bock saw Schwarzenegger, when Kurosawa received an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 1990 Oscars, she made a similar jest. "I have to take some responsibility," she sighs, "because the joke has gone really far." Bock's campaign site is www.bettercalifornia.org.

Birdman of AlcatrazIn the late '90s, street musician Mark Bittner bonded with a flock of colorful conures that had taken up residence in the city's northeast quadrant. "It's a human-interest story and an avian-interest story," says veteran S.F. documentary-maker Judy Irving about The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, her tale of Bittner and the birds. "There's a human star, but there are also parrot stars. These are real characters with real personalities, and they are also immigrants to the city like the rest of us. In that sense, it's about urban habitat, and how people and animals adapt to the city. But it's not an issue film, it's a portrait movie."

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is one of 11 feature-length movies just completing a week at the InFACT 2003 festival in L.A., followed by runs this fall in San Diego, Austin, Little Rock, and Seattle. The International Documentary Association sponsored the fest and tour, to fulfill the doc requirements for Academy Award consideration. "[The IDA's] ideal is that it will get the attention of distributors," Irving says. "I'm certainly hoping it does that for my film." She's eyeing a February date for the local premiere, to coincide with the publication of Bittner's identically titled memoir. For further updates, log on to www.pelicanmedia.org.

Sullivan's TravelsSomehow, San Francisco screenwriter Sam Scribner, who died on July 17 after a couple of bouts with cancer, maintained a bemused view of Hollywood without slipping over the edge into cynicism. Since his only produced scripts were low-budget genre flicks (Delta Heat and The Criminal Mind), he hadn't been seduced by glamour or scarred by resentment. Sam, who was a friend of mine, accepted that the primary purpose of movies is entertainment, yet he genuflected before the artistry of Preston Sturges and Robert Towne and demanded that his screenwriting students (in his workshops and in courses at the Academy of Art College) tell personal stories in unique ways. His own voice was, to say the least, distinctive.

"I'm starting a new screenplay right now," Sam began his January 1998 column in the local monthly Film/Tape World. "It's like starting a new relationship only there's no sex. I'm currently dating a few ideas. Some are cute and funny and will play well at the multiplex. Others are intense and filled with angst. They'll only be seen once at Sundance. I've gone back and visited an old love that had a great beginning but a lousy second act and I'm also flirting with a perky little premise with a shapely denouement and big plot points. Sooner or later, though, I'm going to set up housekeeping with something that's smart and sassy, yet generic enough to have franchising potential for sequelization or perhaps even a television spin-off starring Tony Danza."

 
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