Italian cinema's heyday was indubitably in the 1960s and '70s, when directors like Pasolini, Antonioni, and Fellini made films with undeniable influence. Since then, despite the occasional breakthrough (Il Postino and Life Is Beautiful come to mind), the scene has cooled somewhat, particularly since the rise of the American indie. But vibrant pictures are still breaking out of Italy's borders -- you just may not know about them. Unless, that is, you focus in on the San Francisco Film Society's "New Italian Cinema" series, a weeklong feast of features and shorts that range from dramas (Sophia Loren is a ripe housewife in Lina Wertmüller's Too Much Romance ... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers) to thrillers (director David Grieco and actor Malcolm McDowell address the life story of Russian cannibal killer Andrei Chikatilo in Evilenko) to frothy romantic comedies (Marco Ponti's giddy heist flick Round Trip). All are new, neat, and unlikely to get full theatrical releases (perhaps not even at local rep houses). In-person appearances from Wertmüller and star F. Murray Abraham accompany the opener, Too Much Romance, at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14 (the fest runs through Nov. 21), at the AMC Kabuki, 1881 Post (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $8.50-30; call 561-5012 or visit www.sffs.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Women vs. Wal-Mart
Anyone who read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed probably already had suspicions about the mega-chain store Wal-Mart. In the book, Ehrenreich made it clear that all was not well in the land of blue vests. Now, Liza Featherstone's Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart traces the path of a class action suit originally brought against the company by a lady who works in the Pittsburg store as a greeter, Betty Dukes. But since Dukes' situation (passed over for promotions, underpaid, etc.) is hardly unique, the case could represent as many as 1.6 million women against their employer. What's Wal-Mart's problem? The Washington Post quoted one of the retail mega-corp's managers in a way that might explain: "Men are here to make a career and women aren't. Retail is for housewives who just need to earn extra money." Tell it to the judge, buddy. Featherstone reads from her book at 7:30 p.m. at Modern Times, 888 Valencia (at 20th St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
No beer goggles necessary at this bash
At most parties the eye candy is located directly on the bodies of your fellow attendees (we're talking about clothes here, people), which makes appreciating it somewhat awkward. But a mere $5 at the giant blowout Chillin' buys you the right to wander around a space jammed with the work of 40 painters and photographers, display booths from 40 urban-fabulous fashion designers, and repeating loops of short films from 30 fledgling directors. And while you're looking, you can listen to live rock en Español from Orixa and spun grooves from six local mixmasters. Start gawking at 8 p.m. at Studio Z, 314 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $5; call 252-7666 or visit www.chillinproductions.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
In Her Prima
It can be hard to love poetry, but San Francisco does a bang-up job of adoring it anyway. One big reason: Diane di Prima, a woman who produces and inspires poems that give versification a good name. Tonight she celebrates her 70th birthday by doing just that, at 7:30 at the Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church, 32 Ocean (at Watson), S.F. Admission is $10-25; call 437-4859.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser