We know that Hollywood will continue to rain bad romantic comedies, dumb action movies, and shameless Oscar fodder on our complaining but compliant heads all autumn. Discerning moviegoers still have alternatives.
The San Francisco Film Society — sponsor of spring's annual International Film Festival — continues its drive toward Bay Area domination with several programs, beginning with the opening of the Film Society Cinema on Sept. 22 at the New People building in Japantown (1746 Post at Webster). Ribbons will be cut, music will play, short films will screen, and sake will flow. This will be followed by the Hong Kong Cinema festival (Sept. 23-25) at the new venue. Friday's opening night film is Merry-Go-Round, about two women's journey from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Co-director Clement Cheng will attend. Other films in the festival's first weekend include two superhero spoofs (Mr. and Mrs. Incredible and City Under Siege) plus new works by established filmmakers Ann Hui (All About Love) and action master Johnny To, whose Don't Go Breaking My Heart sets a love story against a backdrop of economic calamity.
SFFS will also inaugurate an occasional series of foreign films, American independents, and documentaries at the Film Society Cinema, beginning with Henry Corra's The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan on Monday, Sept. 26, a documentary about a soldier who vanished four decades ago on the Vietnam-Cambodia border.
Other SFFS programs this fall include Taiwan Film Days (Oct. 14-16); NY/SF International Children's Film Festival (Oct. 21-23); French Cinema Now (Oct. 27-Nov. 2); a series devoted to area artists, Cinema by the Bay (Nov. 3-6); the San Francisco International Animation Festival (Nov. 10-13); New Italian Cinema (Nov. 13-20); and, beginning in December, KinoTek, programs of experimental theater and live cinema. For more information on these programs, see www.sffs.org.
San Francisco's venerable rep theaters have not completely disappeared, despite the recent, tragic loss of the Red Vic. The Castro Theatre (429 Castro at Market) continues to be a full-service venue, with such delights in store as former child star Patty McCormack and her 1956 family horror film The Bad Seed on Oct. 15, and Fritz Lang's silent epic Spies (1928), screening with an original score performed live by Tim Gane of Stereolab and Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas on Dec. 14.
The fabulous Roxie (3117 16th St. at Valencia) will not disappoint with such programs as a 20th anniversary tribute to David Lynch's Twin Peaks on Oct. 28, a program of dog films on Nov. 12, at least two noir series, and several premieres — Welsh import Sleep Furiously on Oct. 8 and Gainsbourg: The Man Who Loved Women on Oct. 28.
And if you choose to get out of town? The fourth annual Iranian Film Festival (www.iranianfilmfestival.org) will be held Sept. 10-11 in Tiburon, with a tribute to New Wave director Ebrahim Golestan. The Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (www.bampfa.berkeley.edu) has September and October series devoted to Hollywood in the 1970s and the annual avant garde event Alternative Visions. Niles' Silent Film Museum (www.nilessilentfilmmuseum.org) continues to screen great, rare, and sometimes strange movies every Saturday night in its cavern of wonders in Fremont. It's worth many visits.