Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Bouncing eyeballs, heaving bosoms, and buckets of blood -- this year's celebration of Bastille Day is awfully ... American. "Breaking the Shackles: De Sade, Grand Guignol, and the French Body," a lecture/performance on all things gross and Gallic, is hardly your normal French national holiday party. But then, with Brigitte Bardot getting popped for inciting racial hatred (again), the whole Freedom Fries thing, and a Texan set to win the Tour de France (again), relations between the United States and France are at a weird point anyway, so perhaps it's appropriate. UC Berkeley theater prof Mel Gordon offers a multimedia presentation on de Sade and late-18th-century notions of the "free body" while horror-crazed acting company the Thrillpeddlers performs some classic Grand Guignol(emphatically not a children's puppet show), including scenes from Le Marquis de Sade and a little play once called the most sickening work of art of the 19th century, The Torture Garden. Check eet out, eef you dare, at 7 p.m. at the San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $15; call 255-4800 or visit www.sfpalm.org.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
David Boyer's examination of queer teens and their high school prom experiences, Kings and Queens, is irritatingly difficult to put down. The first-person stories from a wide range of adolescents are riveting, the subject in general both common and refreshing, and the pictures -- oh, the pictures. Here's Tony, class of 1979 in Decatur, Ala., at his roller disco competition; he's now a porn star. And Summer, whose softball photos and obviously rapturous commitment ceremony contrast nicely with her thuggish prom date. But best of all are the prom snaps from the 1930s and the accompanying portraits of really happy-looking folks with gray hair. Boyer reads, shows slides (yay!), and is joined by locals featured in the book starting at 7:30 p.m. at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com. (He also appears at Books Inc., 2275 Market, tomorrow at 7 p.m., sans special guests.)
Friday, July 16, 2004
Though the July 2 announcement of Marlon Brando's death brought on a predictable wave of jokes about piano-box burials, there are those who haven't forgotten that the late actor created some of the most stunning portrayals ever on-screen. There were, of course, the brilliant early performances: On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire. But these high points were followed by a string of forgettable roles as well as controversy, so much so that by the time Francis Ford Coppola suggested Brando to play Don Corleone in the director's first gangster epic, Paramount studio execs nixed the idea outright. But Brando so wanted the part that he submitted to a screen test -- and the hoarse, indelible character who emerged became a cinematic touchstone. Remember the quintessential don fondly as The Godfather screens at 7 tonight (and again at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with The Godfather Part II at 7:30 p.m.) at the Auctions by the Bay Theater, 2700 Saratoga (near West Red Line), Alameda. Admission is $5-7; call (510) 740-0220 or visit www.auctionsbythebay.com.
Saturday, July 17, 2004
Don't be scared. Don't run off. It's OK. We know the words "chamber music" aren't familiar, unless they've been inflicted on you by a middle-aged harpsichordist uncle or someone equally frightening. Relax this time, because hipster chamber is here, and its harbinger is Iron & the Albatross, a self-described "junky circus and carnival funk" band featuring mad composer Ara Anderson and beloved local murder balladeer Jolie Holland on violin. A shadow-puppet show by HummingbirdWORKS completes the scene, which is inspired by Tom Waits. See? That wasn't so bad. Obo Martin joins the acts in opening for Sean Hayes at 8 p.m. at the Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $12; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
We usually try to resist the lure of shtick-y bands, despite the mountains of press releases we receive describing such outfits ("Primal Rage consists of two conjoined twin sisters, a trained seal, and a fun-loving robot" -- we wish). And so when we first heard of the Polyphonic Spree, we admit we sneered. Fake cult, is it? Wear robes and cram dozens of faux acolytes onstage to sing dippy lyrics about love and sunshine, do they? Look here, buddy, we lived through the Up With People era, and we're not going to let a glorified glee club turn our head. But that was before we heard the band play. The Spree's sweet, bubbly, ever-so-slightly-off-kilter pop confections sound as if the cast of Godspell listened to Pet Sounds one too many times before going on an all-night songwriting bender, and the effect absolutely kills. Wipe off that cynical scowl starting at 8 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $16; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims-sf.com.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Want to be flummoxed and charmed at the same time? Here's our advice: Study up on a band called One Ring Zero and its new album, As Smart as We Are. Having gotten a passel of hot-dang literary figures to write lyrics for them, the two guys who form the act dove into their theremins, toy pianos, and keyboards and did their thing. Now they're touring with the authors who wrote for them: Tonight, the scribbler is Jonathan Ames, touting his new novel, Wake Up, Sir! The other writers include Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, and Rick Moody. And the music? It's They Might Be Giants meets the Magnetic Fields, and Danny Elfman had better watch his back. The whole project reeks of inordinately talented people having more fun than the rest of us. Luckily, they share; and besides, we didn't have to make music around lines like "Imperturbability will be your birthright." The musicians and the pen pusher appear at 7 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.