SFIFF Film Capsules

Saturday, April 22, 9:15 p.m., Castro; Monday, April 24, 3:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki

A Perfect Couple

(France/Japan, 2005)

Factotum
Factotum
The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai
The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai
In Bed
In Bed
A Perfect Couple
A Perfect Couple
Perhaps Love
Perhaps Love
Play
Play
Sa-Kwa
Sa-Kwa
Taking Father Home
Taking Father Home

A mini-masterpiece of emotional subtlety, Nobuhiro Suwa's richly ambiguous study of a French couple at the crossroads takes place in a Paris that has lost its eminence as a romantic capital. Or, au contraire, perhaps it's the ideal place to heal a marriage strained by living in Lisbon. Nicolas (Bruno Todeschini) lights the fuse by announcing his imminent separation from Marie (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) — after 15 years — over dinner with a friend. There's no explosion, though, only the simmering and feinting of longtime lovers anxiously assessing whether they're better off going forward without each other. The naturalistic performances, especially Bruni-Tedeschi's, are so exquisite that it's impossible to determine what's scripted and what's improvised. Suwa favors long, unflinching takes in warmly lit rooms that distill the tensions and silences (there's maybe 30 seconds of music in the whole film) into delicate vignettes of apprehension and loneliness. See it with someone you just met. (Michael Fox)

Friday, April 21, 9:15 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Sunday, April 23, 12:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 25, 9:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Perhaps Love

(Hong Kong, 2005)

This feverishly romantic tale of love's memories lost is also a shamelessly derivative melange of recent Western musicals — only set in China and boasting a handsome pan-Asian cast. Director Jacky Cheung (in real life as big a Hong Kong pop singer as he is a movie star) shoots a musical starring his former lover, Zhou Xun (Suzhou River), and her own ex, Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers), about an amnesiac trapeze artist who's forgotten her still-yearning partner. The director, also still yearning for his star, inserts himself in a major role as the emcee in order to keep the two actors from rekindling their romance on the set. The history and outcome of this love triangle unspool in flashbacks to the beginnings of the actors' affair in Beijing (with references to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), as well as a delirious movie-within-a-movie featuring musical nods to Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, and Moulin Rouge. (Frako Loden)

Thursday, April 20, 7 p.m., Castro

Play

(Chile, 2005)

Two lost souls spy on a world that has excluded them in this excellent Chilean film by Alicia Scherson. Christina (Viviana Herrera), a country girl nursing an elderly man in the big city of Santiago, finds the discarded briefcase of a depressed, freshly cuckolded yuppie who's been beaten and robbed. Christina uses the case's contents to explore the good life of Santiago, rejecting the very idea of the country, in which everything "smells of smoke and wet wool." The battered Tristan (Andrew Ulloa), meanwhile, wanders the same landscape like a shipwreck victim, paddling through the fragments of his former life. Scherson's film offers a cross-section of a land in rapid change, where the country girls look to video games like Street Fighter IIfor inspiration and old men nod off to tales of extinct Indians in National Geographic. Highly recommended. (Gregg Rickman)

Sunday, April 23, 9 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Wednesday, April 26, 4 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Friday, April 28, 6:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Wednesday, May 3, 9:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Sa-Kwa

(South Korea, 2005)

Dumped by her longtime lover, lovely Hyun-jung (So-ri Moon) marries a needy, nerdy engineer on the rebound. Kang Yi-kwan's delicate film takes its time in explaining the subtleties of these relationships, along the way exploring the underpinnings of Korea's family life, corporate culture, and role for women in the new, globalized era. In a less rarefied way Kang does for So-ri what Michelangelo Antonioni did for Monica Vitti 45 years ago in films like Eclipse. He uses the actor to personify the shift from an older, traditional culture (represented here by Hyun-jung's father, looked up to even though he's frequently drunk) to the brave new world of disposable lifestyles in a suddenly ultramodern society. The dislocated anomie of a Ferris wheel meeting of two lovers late in the movie is right out of the Antonioni toolkit: architecture in empty plazas as metaphor for empty lives. On the other hand, the film ultimately endorses the eternal verities of marriage, cued by the translation of the title offered in the press notes ("Apology") and the engineer's growth as a character from stalker to lover to hero. (Gregg Rickman)

Friday, April 21, 4:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Monday, May 1, 8:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, May 4, 4:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Taking Father Home (China, 2005)

A country boy from Sichuan, carrying two ducks and a dagger engraved with his father's name, arrives lost and clueless in a big city ripped apart by new construction projects and record rainfall. He enlists first a gangster and then a cop, both reluctant but touched by his determination, in a search for his rumored-to-be-rich father. Not one to be easily shaken off, the kid stubbornly tags after his successive father figures, who feed him and lend him razors but have a penchant for violence that entangles them in confrontations with street punks and criminal elements. There's little mercy in this ironic odyssey of an innocent in a fast-changing modern China, a society in which sons are separated from their fathers and must use force to be reunited, and in which communities are uprooted for the sake of environmental and economic transformation. (Frako Loden)

Saturday, April 22, 1:30 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Sunday, April 30, 3:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Wednesday, May 3, 6:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki

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