Reel World

The Party Crashers
After lo these many years of ale and grub swiping the spotlight from the movies on opening night, the San Francisco Inter-national Film Festival finally got it right. The preshow menu was limited to a festive but hardly mesmerizing repast of beer and wine (where was the champagne?), coffee, popcorn, cookies, tortilla chips and Ben & Jerry's. The bewildering assortment of freebies in a bag of sponsored goodies included three keychains, a Crocker Galleria pencil, biscotti, chocolate-covered raisins and a green Guardian highlighter (I gave mine to an impoverished local independent filmmaker to sell on the street). The pice de rŽsistance was a cool Starbucks coffee tumbler decorated with the SFIFF poster art (which made up for the coffee peddler's pretentious trailer). Crumb director Terry Zwigoff and the brother from another planet, Maxon Crumb, were surrounded by well-wishers; the rumor floated across the Kabuki lobby that R. was destroyed when he finally viewed the film on tape in France. Then there was filmmaker Craig Baldwin (Sonic Outlaws) — an honored guest just two years after embarrassing the festival by publically protesting its exclusion of Bay Area experimental films. A few steps from the Odwalla juice stand, Michael Sragow confirmed that he is the new film critic for Seattle Weekly but will cover the scene from here.

The hardcore food was held back for the postscreening bash at the Fillmore. At one point, the oyster-and-salmon-diving throngs parted and I was face to face with Seymour Cassel, the legendary Cassavetes actor who's here shooting Dream for an Insomniac, Tiffanie DeBartolo's feature debut. “Does she know what she's doing?” I asked. “Sure. She's got a great D.P.,” the white-mustachioed Cassell replied. He turned down a reunion with director Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup) in the Tarantino-led Four Rooms, because he detests Q.T.'s producer, Lawrence Bender. “Detests” is a euphemism, but Cassel didn't know he was talking to a journalist, so I won't print it — until I write my memoirs.

Surviving Desire
Hal Hartley fans are rejoicing about the long-awaited S.F. opening this weekend of Amateur, his latest deadpan study of mismatched lovers stumbling toward tender, elusive redemption. The mystery is why Sony Pictures Classics didn't lobby to premiere the flick locally in the film festival, which screened Hartley's Trust in 1991. Similarly, how come Gramercy didn't think to offer Steven Soderbergh's color-drenched arthouse noir, The Underneath, to the festival instead of dumping it in theaters a few days hence? Don't ask me; one man can't have all the answers all the time.

By Michael Fox

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