'After Lucia'
'After Lucia'

Oddly, then, the film being shown today is, well, a narrative feature, "Museum Hours," which I saw last September at the Toronto International Film Festival -- it was the last film I saw at the festival, I adored it, and it sent me into the night excited and nostalgic and in the perfect mood to go see Christian Marclay's "The Clock," but that's another story. 

I'm entirely happy to see it again, especially on the biggest screen at the Kabuki, and happy to listen to the conversation between the soft-spoken Cohen (he has me at "I've always loved looking out the windows of trains or buses")  and even-more-soft-spoken Pacific Film Archive programmer Steve Seid, but I wish the festival could have also mounted an additional program of some of his hard-to-see films that are "outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking."

OK, much of "Museum Hours," superficially the story of a Canadian woman who makes friends with an Austrian museum guard while she stays in Vienna to visit her cousin, lying in a coma in a hospital, is "outside the realm" itself: there are many lovely digressions, often about the collection of the Kunsthistoriches Museum where they meet.  But I want more!

From the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous: the day ends with "The Kings of Summer," a coming-of-teenage movie in which three high school kids build a house in the woods to escape their family situations, with some surprising grace notes -- a reverence for nature prompting lush landscape photography, charming improvised sequences featuring a particularly quirky but somehow not-annoying sidekick character, and unsaccharine family interactions with familiar actors including Nick Offernan, Megan Mullaly, and Alison Brie. The film is supported at SFIFF by its three young leads,  Nick "Melissa and Joey" Robinson, Gabriel "The Big C" Basso (both of whom were 17 during filming), and the quirky Moises "Hannah Montana" Arias, who are delighted to be onstage.  And I am not unhappy, either.56 San Francisco International Film Festival

The day before, I checked out a new Hong Kong police action film, "Cold War," and "After Lucia," a new Mexican film which won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes last year, and was the official Mexican entry for the Academy Awards (though not one of the five final nominated films).

One of the first "Cold War" titles-- "This story is not based on any real life cases"-- elicits laughter, but I soon remember it, as the story (or stories, it seems) of kidnapping, murder, theft, and corruption influencing political moves within an unbelievably complicated bureaucratic police hierarchy becomes as entangled and incomprehensible as this sentence. I laugh grimly when one charter says "I totally don't know what you mean."  Neither do I.

The action sequences are muddled and disappointing, too.  I grasp at straws: some of the actors are cute.  The woman playing the PR guru has a swell haircut -- a strict straight bob, Louise-Brooks-iconic -- and a couple of nice outfits.  There are occasional striking shots.  But on the whole "Cold War" is no "Infernal Affairs." (Understatement of the year.  I love "Infernal Affairs." Ou sont les Hong Kong action movies d'antan? Tsui Hark, come home, all is forgiven.) 

"After Lucia," in which an accident that leaves a father and adolescent daughter without their wife and mother sets in motion simple actions that snowball and turn inexorably ugly, ending in a shocking sequence that seems like Greek tragedy, is spare and elegantly shot.  I am indeed glad to have seen it.  Especially because it seems unlikely to get even an arthouse release.