The graffiti artists in the documentary Infamy could spend the entire film bitching about the art world's limp interest and no one would bat an eye. But they don't, because for these people -- the form's marquee names -- graffiti is about one thing: mad bombing. From Jase's train-car throw-ups (numbering 40,000, by his count) to Saber's dizzying masterpieces ("There's a lot of visual math going on," he admits), it's about getting your name out there, in paint. It's about breaking the law.
And it's absolutely refreshing. Hearing people like Earsnot of New York's IRAK crew talk about the criminal element makes this film. "Have I ever felt guilty?" he wonders. "I don't think so. No." A large, threatening gay man who considers fighting therapeutic, Earsnot tags in broad daylight, lifts markers from shops, and is essentially out of control. A shortlist of things he considers himself duty-bound to steal: "A Gore-Tex jacket. Any types of meats: chicken cutlets, steaks ... definitely jacking that."
Saber, a name widely seen in San Francisco, rose to fame draining 97 gallons of paint on a 250-by-55-foot piece, which begs the question: Who does this shit? "Every single graffiti writer is a manic-depressive, insecure person," Saber explains. Arrests, fights, sad parents, and the hazards of unsavory locales are just a few of the craft's low points. "The amount of homeless sex I've seen on the street is ridiculous," says Saber. "You see things you're not supposed to see."
The film's main dissenter is Joe Connolly, a carpet salesman who cruises L.A. cleaning up tags (and who sometimes adds his own: "A.M.B.," which stands for "All My Bitches," meaning he now owns the offenders). Connolly, surprisingly, loves the intricate work; he just hates tags, a feeling shared by most people past puberty. But watching Infamy could change your view. It screens Saturday as part of Resfest, a festival of more than 150 films and shorts, at 8 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon (at Bay), S.F. Admission is $10; call 567-6642. Resfest runs Sept. 21-25 at various venues around town. Admission is free-$79; visit www.resfest.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Huey Lewis and the ... Blues?
Besieged by hurricanes and beleaguered by a tyranny of dunces, we can at least always go to that old standby of the bewildered: the indomitable idiom known as the blues. Over the past century, no musical genre has so accurately captured despair -- providing a body of work that often sounds like the distilled voice of the downtrodden. The Bay Area is home to the longest-running blues fest in the country, the San Francisco Blues Festival (going strong since 1973), which this year presents a somewhat lighter rendition of its baleful legacy. Among the performers are eternally-square-and-loving-it rocker Huey Lewis; Mavis Staples; and the Legends of Chicago Blues, including the raw Delta sound of James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin. In the wake of the devastation that recently hit one of the wellsprings of American music, restoration may seem far away, but at least we can still sing the blues. The festival runs from Friday evening's free waterfront concert through Sunday at Fort Mason's Great Meadow, Marina & Laguna, S.F. Admission is $25-30 per day or $40 for a two-day ticket; call 979-5588 or visit www.sfblues.com.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Ben Katchor's faded haunts
Anyone who's ever pored over Ben Katchor's disorienting comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer eventually feels that an explanation is due. Featuring a canvas of New York buildings and characters who speak bizarre truths, it's at once a throwback to midcentury city life and a peek into an alternate universe. Pleasures of Urban Decay, directed by Sam Ball of S.F.'s Citizen Film, is a delightful, noirish short revealing Katchor's world, mixing city footage with the strip and overlaid with bursts of jazz. Predictably, Katchor is fascinated by signage and old storefronts, and declares that his own strip is a "low-level commodity ... buried among ads for other desperate businesses."
Decay screens with Throwing Curves -- Eva Zeisel, a documentary about the modernist designer who fled Nazi Germany to become an American icon, as part of the "Architecture and the City Film Series" starting at 6 p.m. in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; visit http://sfpl.lib.ca.us.
-- Michael Leaverton
The Other George
The name George Galloway provokes various reactions from people, ranging from disgust to respect. Some abhor the Scottish politician's distaste for capitalism and alleged unscrupulous overinvolvement with nonhumanitarian regimes (like those of Iraq), while über-lefty supporters dig his anti-war policies and socialist political party RESPECT (standing for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, and Trade Unionism). From Galloway giving supposedly jihad-encouraging speeches in Iraq to organizing massive anti-war demonstrations in the United States, there is a lot of material out there about him, and it's hard to know what to think. His most infamous stunt was a recent verbal blasting of the U.S. Senate, which he delivered this past May in response to accusations that he was connected to dirty Iraqi oil dealings. His new book, Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington, details this event, which he'll be bringing to public light at 7 p.m. at Mission High School, 3750 18th St. (at Dolores), S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 607-1924 or visit www.mrgallowaygoestowashington.com.
-- Karen Macklin