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San Francisco International Film Festival Begins with 'Twenty Feet from Stardom,' 'Populaire,' 'The Artist and the Model'

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood April 30, 2013 at 12:49PM

The first screening of the first full day of the San Francisco International Film Festival begins, with Fernando Trueba's "The Artist and the Model," and "Twenty Feet from Stardom."
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The Artist and the Model
The Artist and the Model
The first screening of the first full day of the San Francisco International Film Festival: Fernando Trueba's "The Artist and the Model," set in France in 1944, starring the irresistible duo of Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale. I manage to find myself in a good seat, $4 cup o' Kabuki coffee clutched in my hand, and delicious sustenance from the fabulous Nijiya Market, located exactly in-between the two theaters on Post Street in Japantown where most of the festival unspools, secreted in my tote bag, having successfully negotiated the Bay Bridge and found a decent free parking space.  Perfection!

Except they can't get the DCP to work.  Programmer Sean Uyehara patiently explains to us that along with the digital cinema package, they're sent a digital key that will only unlock the print half-an-hour before it's scheduled to play.  Which is when they discovered that the subtitles were out of synch.  So they've requested a new key, or a new DCP, I'm unclear just which.

Half-an-hour passes.  Sean announces that the box office will offer refunds and, in addition, free passes to several of that day's later screenings -- he mentions "Twenty Feet from Stardom," and I yell out that it's a great movie, and Sean says "All of our movies are fantastic," and I say, "some of them are more fantastic than others."

After 40 minutes, the movie begins.  It becomes quickly apparently that, although the subtitles are in synch, we're only seeing a small portion of them. If a translation is long enough to require two lines, we see the top line; if it only requires one, we don't see anything.  The composition of the shots looks like they're showing it in the correct aspect ratio, but I still exit to suggest that they try to see if that's the problem.  

I speak French, so I stick around, but some of the audience does not. I find myself enjoying the movie -- black-and-white, well-acted, not as interesting thematically perhaps as "La Belle Noiseuse" or "Dream of Light," but charming -- right up until its very last shots, when there's a disturbing ending that I didn't feel was justified by what came before.

I have not quite five minutes to get to the New People Cinema across the street to see "Big Blue Lake," the very first American screening of a second feature from a very young female director, Tsang Tsui-Chan, shot in her native village outside of Hong Kong on a budget of $200,000.  

It's a slight tale of a young actress who returns to her small village to find that her mother is experiencing Alzheimer's, but of the most benign sort: she wanders off occasionally, but is soon found, and the main character seems to have lots of time to explore the village she's been away from for a decade. It's shown in a somewhat worn film print, although it was shot digitally. The director seems gratified by the response to the showing, and says she's now shooting a documentary in the same village -- "the line between fiction and non-fiction is blurry for me," a popular sentiment these days, often heard at film festivals and elsewhere (book festivals, for one).

This article is related to: San Francisco International Film Festival, 20 Feet From Stardom, Populaire, Raul Ruiz


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