Ian McKellen at the Mill Valley Film Festival

Sunday night, I attended the Sir Ian Mckellen tribute at the Rafael–all part of the Mill Valley Film Festival. The event started 20 minutes late; no explanation was given.

Executive Director Mark Fishkin started out with a brief summary of McKellen’s many awards, nominations, and honors. He has received six Olivier awards, two Oscar nominations, and, of course, a knighthood. He’s also been named a Freedman of the City of London. Unsure exactly of what that meant, Fishkin conjectured that may give him “permission to drive cattle over certain bridges.”

(All of the quotes in this article are from my typed notes. They may not be 100-percent accurate, but they’ll be close.)

Photo from Mill Valley Film Festival

After a clip reel of his work from Gods and Monsters through X-Men: The Last Stand, Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin came on stage to announce McKellen and present an award from the Festival. “I’m here because he’s one of my oldest and dearest friends,” Maupin explained. He mentioned a time when McKellen was an overnight guest in his house. In the morning, he found a note on the actor’s pillow: “Gandalf and Magneto slept here…together.”

Maupin told us that McKellen is “as charming in private as you’d expect. When he got his last award from the queen, she said ‘You’ve been doing this for a long time.’ He responded ‘Not as long as you.'”

With Armistead Maupin, MVFF_10_10_15_12 ©AdamClay

When McKellen finally came onstage, he talked of his love for the Bay Area. “It was in san Francisco that I learnt that if I was going to be a happy man I had to come out as a gay man.”

After the honors, the evening settled down for the main event, a talk with the Festival’s Director of Programming, Zoe Elton. The talk was broken up with clips from various films.

Some highlights:

  • About falling in love with theater and becoming an actor: “I wanted to know how it was done…I didn’t expect fame. I didn’t expect money. I didn’t intend to be in the movies. But my friends said ‘You always wanted to be in movies.'”
  • “The hero of my youth was Lawrence Olivier. We [he and other now-famous actors] were all there, all learning how to act. I think his legacy is the achievement of these actors he trained. “
  • “I’m interested in contacting the audience on stage. You can’t do that on film. Actors like me love an audience that you can see.”
  • Brian Singer saw McKellen’s Richard III film, and wanted him for Apt Pupil. But when he met the actor, he thought he was too young for the part. Then he found out that McKellen had played a much older character in Cold Comfort Farm. “‘Oh, you can play old people?” McKellen replied “Yes, I’m an actor.”

Richard III

  • The clip from Richard III (one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare films) was too short, cutting off the opening speech in mid-sentence. But McKellen recalled that “that movie was made for almost no money at all. It was made by friends who just came in because they approved of what we were doing…The director, who was not familiar with Shakespeare, kept saying there were too many words in it. I said we were making a talkie.”
  • After a Lord of the Rings clip where Gandalf faces the Balrog and falls to his seeming death: “That scene did not really have anything to do with me. Often in Lord of the Rings, we really were where we were supposed to be–up on a mountain and so forth. But you’d probably guess not this scene. The bridge was just a yellow strip on the studio floor.”

Lord of the Rings

  • On playing to an audience: “When I began, I was often required to play in very large theaters. My performance had to be big enough to reach the people in the back. When I’d been acting for 30 years, I landed in a production of Macbeth in a theater with only 100 people. I loved it. From then on, I never wanted to work in a big theater. That got me ready for the closest audience of all, the camera.”
  • On playing Sherlock Holmes, a character played by many different actors: “If you’ve played Hamlet, you don’t worry about other actors playing Sherlock Holmes.”

The audience Q&A was brief. Two highlights:

  • On whether straight actors should be allowed to play gay characters: “I don’t object to Tom Hanks playing a gay man because if I did, I couldn’t play a straight one. Heterosexuality is such a strange phenomenon that it should be explored.”
  • When asked about the TV show Vicious with Derek Jacobi: “We had the time of our lives. The trouble was we had a studio audience. The moment we see an audience we start acting for them and forgetting we should act for the camera. In the first series we were very broad. We were having fun.”

They weren’t the only ones. As near as I could tell, everyone in the auditorium were enjoying the show. I certainly was.

Note: I have altered this article since I first posted it, correcting several misspelled versions of the name McKellen.

Cars, Queens, and Eye Surgery: Saturday at the Mill Valley Film Festival

This event should really be called the Marin Film Festival. It uses theaters all over the county.

But I really did spend Saturday in Mill Valley, a town that I’ve never quite figured out geographically. I caught three films there.

B- Havana Motor Club

I’m not really a fan of car racing, which may affect my review. People who really love cars will probably enjoy it far more than I did.

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s documentary looks at how this especially loud sport plays in Cuba–a country where racing cars has been outlawed for more than half a century. The film focuses on the struggle of a few enthusiasts–many of whom have been racing illegally in the streets for years–to bring it back. The film’s best scenes show how the racers and mechanics (often the same people) creatively customize American cars from the 1950s, not only to keep them running but to make them run faster than was ever intended. But when the government finally allows an open race, you can only root for its existence; you don’t really care who wins.

I was unable to stay for the Q&A with the director.

The film will screen again this coming Monday, the 12th, at 12:30 at the Sequoia.

B The Girl King
This Swedish (but English-language) historical epic focuses on Queen Kristina, a young yet intellectual monarch holding onto her power in a men’s world, while religious wars ravage Europe. She tries to bring peace, improve her subjects’ lot, and–for various reasons–avoid marriage. Malin Buska anchors the film in her sublime performance in the title role. Director Mika Kaurismäki marshals an all-around good cast and provides the appropriate atmosphere. But the film lacks a strong story arc, and the complex court politics often felt complex and confusing. I suspect that screenwriter Michel Marc Bouchard stuck too close to actual history.

After the film, we were treated to a Q&A with Kaurismäki and Buska. Some highlights:

  • How did Buska prepare for the role? “I tried to find as many books as I could. That was very difficult, but I got a bunch of them. I stayed in a cottage for half a year. I didn’t have any Internet. I was learning horseback riding and sword fighting.”
  • Was Descartes really poisoned? (The film suggests he was.) “He wasn’t used to the cold climate, and they said it was pneumonia. But when they moved his body back to Paris, they discovered poison in him.
  • Why was this Swedish film, set in Sweden, made in English? “English is now the world language. In those days, the court spoke French, not Swedish.”
  • The greatest challenge in making the film: “Shooting it in 37 days, which was not enough. I think in Hollywood it would have been 100. The costume and makeup changes took hours. I ended up shooting only three or four hours a day. Every day was a fight.

This screening was The Girl King’s the US premiere. It will play at the festival one more time: Thursday, October 15, 2:00, at the Sequoia. But don’t fret if you miss it. It will have an American release in December.

Open Your Eyes

This event was more than a movie. It had to be; the movie itself ran only 34 minutes. It was also a celebration for bettering the world, and for the Seva Foundation, which works to eradicate blindness in the developing world.

Full disclosure: I occasionally donate money to Seva.

After introductions by director Irene Taylor Brodsky and producer Larry Brilliant, we were treated to a concert by the film’s composer, Salman Ahmad. The music was meditative and haunting–I just closed my eyes and drifted with it. Very pleasant.

The documentary itself was moving and joyful. It follows an elderly couple in Nepal, both all-but-completely blind, as they travel to a clinic where Seva workers restore their eyesight. We see their travel, their very quick operations (only one eye each; they’ll get the other eyes fixed four months later), and the amazement when they can see again. Then they return home and see their grandchildren for the first time.

The film was followed by a panel discussion. In addition to Brodsky and Brilliant, Indiewood producer Michael Shamberg (Pulp Fiction, Erin Brockovich), and Sandy Herz, Director of Global Partnerships for the Skoll Foundation sat in.

(Wouldn’t you love to have the last name Brilliant? You could legitimately introduce yourself with “Hello, I’m Brilliant.”)

A few comments:

Brilliant: “Seva projects and services have given sight to millions of people. You just saw the story of two of them. The intraocular lens [IOL; the implant that makes these surgeries possible] used to cost $500 dollars each. Seva purchased a manufacturing plant. Now IOLs cost $1.67.”

Brilliant and Shamberg worked together on the thriller Contagion, which they feel helped convince congress to not gut medical research.

Of all of her films, Brodsky is “most proud of this one. I was closer to it that most of my other films. I did all the filming myself.

The short will screen again on Saturday, October 17, 8:15, at the Lark, with another film called A Children’s Song. HBO will broadcast it next year.

Four nights at the movies: The Crowd, Preston Sturges, a Teenage Girl, & 2 Noirs

I managed to see four feature films theatrically in the last four nights–plus another on television.

Sunday: The Crowd

My wife and I, along with another couple, went to the Castro to see one of the greatest silent films ever made, and arguably the most difficult American masterpiece to see, King Vidor’s The Crowd. I’ve already written about the movie, so I’ll stick to the presentation.

This was something of a special event–the last silent film to be accompanied by the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ that has graced both silent films and before-the-movie concerts at the Castro for over 30 years. The Castro never owned the organ, and the owners are finding it more and more difficult to maintain. The Silent Film Festival hasn’t used it in years because of technical problems. The theater is raising money to replace it with what is being claimed as “the largest hybrid (pipe/digital) organ in the world.”

Unfortunately, this last hurrah for the old organ was disappointing–despite the great cinema up on the screen. Bruce Loeb’s improvised score felt off, often ignoring the actions and emotions on screen. Even obvious music cues, such as a close-up of a phonograph about to be put on the turntable, didn’t affect what Loeb was playing.

Monday: Christmas in July

My wife and I stayed home Monday night, and we watched the one movie I always wanted to screen on a double bill with The Crowd: Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July.

What does a talk-heavy comedy have to do with a silent drama? A lot. They’re both set in New York. Both protagonists have lower-level white-collar jobs adding numbers in a large office filled with similar employees. And each dreams of breakthrough success via advertising slogan contests.

Of course the big difference is that Christmas in July is funny. The hapless hero of a loser (Dick Powell) thinks he’s won a slogan contest with a “funny” catchphrase that other people just find bewildering. So he goes on a generous spending spree that’s headed to disaster. The ending is utterly and completely absurd–and hilarious. I give it a B+.

Just remember: If you can’t sleep at night, it isn’t the coffee. It’s the bunk.

Tuesday: Diary of a Teenage Girl

The next night, we went to the Shattuck to catch Diary of a Teenage Girl–the only new film we’ve seen this week. In fact, it’s the only film we saw this week that was made before after 1950.

We both loved it.

Minnie (Bel Powley in an amazing breakthrough performance) isn’t just any teenage girl. She’s the daughter of a irresponsible hippie mother in 1977 San Francisco–and when we first meet her, she’s just lost her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend. She’s also an inspiring cartoonist (the film is based on a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, and the images often burst into underground-comic-style animation). The movie follows her early sexual experimentations, mostly with the morally weak, age-inappropriate man who should be loyal to her mother. The film captures San Francisco in the late 70s flawlessly (I was there). But even better, it captures the rocky emotions of a young woman bursting with hormones and not sure what to do with them.

I give it an A.

At least when we saw it, the Shattuck was running Diary of a Teenage Girl in one of their tiny, hole-in-the-wall auditoriums. I hate these. The tiny screens are bad enough, but the very wide aisle down the middle of the theater makes it worse. There’s nowhere you can sit that isn’t very far off to the side.

Wednesday: I Wake Up Dreaming

The I Wake Up Dreaming film noir series moves to Berkeley this month. Every Wednesday in September, The California Theater will screen two classic or obscure noirs–mostly obscure.

That’s the good news. The bad: The $15 ticket price is high, and there are no discount prices. The other bad news: The films are being screened digitally, and I don’t think any of them will be off DCP. Some of the films will be projected off of Blu-ray, which is reasonably acceptable. Most, I suspect–including the two I saw Wednesday night–will be off of DVDs.

If you’re curious, there’s an easy way to tell if a film will be screened off a Blu-ray. Google the title, the year or star, and the word blu-ray. You’ll soon find out if a Blu-ray is available. If it is, chances are very high that California will screen it in the better format.

I attended the first double bill last night (my wife wasn’t able to join me that night). It was in the California’s large and lovely downstairs auditorium. Okay. Now onto the movies:

Phantom Lady: Enjoyable and fun, this 1944 murder mystery is awful light for a noir. The good guys are just too good. And thus, dull. But the bad guys are a lot of fun–especially Franchot Tone as a totally psychotic killer (don’t worry; I’m not giving anything away) and Elisha Cook Jr. as a horny drummer. But then, any noir with Elisha Cook Jr. is better than the same movie without him. By the way, the plot involves a man convicted of murdering his wife, and the loving secretary (Ella Raines) out to prove him innocent. Enjoyable but unexceptional. I give it a B-.

Criss Cross: This one is considered a minor classic. I wouldn’t go that far, but I liked it enough to give it a B+. Burt Lancaster plays an armored car driver who finds himself in a love triangle with his ex-wife and a gangster. And not just a love triangle. They also join forces to pull off the heist of the century. But as the name suggests, everyone is planning to double cross everyone else. Director Robert Siodmak keeps the story moving fast and tight. Look fast, and you’ll catch a not-yet-famous Tony Curtis in a non-speaking role that’s little more than an extra.

[[Thanks to my wife, Madeline, for catching that before/after error.]]

Resnais and Stroheim at the Pacific Film Archive

Friday night, I attended two very different screenings at the Pacific Film Archive. The first, Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour, is a widely-acknowledged masterpiece. The other, Erich von Stroheim’s Queen Kelly, is the uncompleted final work of great but controversial filmmaker.

It was my first experience seeing either film.

Hiroshima mon amour

Why did it take me so long to see Alain Resnais’ first feature film? Simple. For more than 40 years, I’ve actively hated his second feature, Last Year at Marienbad. But finally, I decided to give his first feature a chance.

I’m glad I did.

Hiroshima mon amour starts with a couple in bed, presumably naked, locked in love’s embrace. But their talk is not about love–or even sex. They’re talking about the bomb and Hiroshima. He wants to make sure that she has seen everything of importance in that victimized city and understands what it means. (The film was made in 1959. The end of World War II was as close then as 9/11 is to us today.)

Soon we get to know these lovers. The woman is a French actress (Emmanuèle Riva), working on location in Hiroshima. He’s a Japanese architect, and Hiroshima is his home–it always has been. He was in the army, serving elsewhere when the bomb hit. But his family was there.

They’re very much in love, but it’s not that simple. Not only are they of different cultures (he, conveniently, speaks fluent French), but both of them are already married. She will be gone soon, and presumably they will never see each other again.

But sex can lead to other forms of intimacy, and soon they’re telling each other their secrets. Actually, she tells more than he does, about the German lover she had during the occupation and the punishment she endured for “betraying France.”

Hiroshima mon amour is an intimate, hopeless love story set against the ruins of a massively horrific war that scarred everyone involved (mentally or physically). My one complaint: I would have liked to know more about the man’s past. The flashbacks were all the woman’s.

The film has just been restored, and was screened off a DCP. It looked fantastic.

I give it an A-.

Queen Kelly

How could this be anything except a disaster? Joseph Kennedy, without any real movie experience, financed Queen Kelly as a vehicle for his mistress, Gloria Swanson. He hired Erich von Stroheim to write and direct it–despite Stroheim’s reputation as an overspending, uncommercial, and uncontrollable egomaniac. (He was all those things, as well as a brilliant artist.)

It’s no surprise that Queen Kelly, made at the very end of the silent era, was never completed. Swanson and Kelly fired Stroheim, shelved the film, unshelved it, pieced it together, shot additional scenes, and eventually released it in various forms.

It’s probably remembered best today for a couple of scenes that appeared in Sunset Boulevard.

The film today, at least in the 1983 restoration screened Friday night, is of little but historical interest. The plot–or what’s left of it–is silly. The characters are cardboard. Its attempts at being kinky are just kind of annoying. The whole last part of the film is a series of intertitles–with a few photographs–that tell the audience what would have happened had Stroheim been able to complete his vision.

But then, of all the brilliant and daring auteurs who fought the Hollywood studio heads to have their visions brought to the screen, only Erich von Stroheim makes me feel sorry for the studio heads.

The 35mm print had serious focus issues, presumably because the sources were several generations away from the original negative. Although this was a silent movie, it was shown at the PFA with a recorded musical soundtrack–probably from a very early release. By the time the film came to paying audiences, movie theaters had laid off their musicians and the American silent cinema was dead.

And if it hadn’t been dead, this film might have killed it. I give Queen Kelly a D.

Dough and Opening night at the SF Jewish film festival

I attended opening night of the SF Jewish Film Festival at the Castro last night. It was, for the most part, an enjoyable evening.

Although it did start with the inevitable reserved seating problem. The whole front half of the theater was cordoned off for VIPs. Luckily, I convinced a volunteer usher that as press, I counted as a VIP, so I was able to sit in my preferred 3rd row center seat. Not that I was stealing that seat from a worthier person. For most of the film, I was the only person in the front three rows.

The show started soon after the official 6:15 starting time with a series of past Jewish Film Festival trailers. The last trailer, of course, was this year’s, and its’ one of the best.

The talking started at 6:23. SFJFF officers discussed the history of the Festival, the organization’s new name–the Jewish Film Institute–and their video-on-demand service. We were told that people under 35 can buy a festival pass for $35 (it doesn’t cover the big nights). We heard about other films coming up. And the director of this year’s film, John Goldschimdt, was introduced and talked briefly.

The movie started at 6:46. Not bad.

And the film itself? Not bad.

B+ Dough

This feel-good comedy succeeds in making you laugh and in making you feel good. Why not? The marijuana-laced challah makes the onscreen characters laugh and feel good. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief to accept the absurdities of the story and the conventional comic tropes, but if you do you can sit back and enjoy the movie. The story involves an orthodox kosher baker (Jonathan Pryce) who hires a Muslim, African refugee teenager (newcomer Jerome Holder) as his apprentice. And of course they bond while the bakery thrives. It’s a movie.

Dough will play three more times at the festival:

This British film may get an American theatrical release, although as near as I can tell, it has not yet been picked up my a distributor.

After the film, director Goldschimdt and star Holder came on stage for a Q&A. It happened to be Holder’s 21st birthday, and he was presented with a cake.

Some highlights:

  • How did you (Holder) get involved? “I got called in to come in, and I did and audition with Jonathan Pryce. I’d done a bit of TV work. This is my big break.”
  • On playing a character from Darfur (out of character, Holder speaks with a London accent): It came to me just speaking to people in that circle.
  • Goldschimdt: “We shot 60 percent of the film in Budapest. It was a very good experience.”
  • On casting Holder: “When you look at a video, you can see who the camera likes best.” He brought Pryce into the auditions to make sure they had chemistry together.
  • Holder: “It was the best 10 or 11 weeks of my life.”

After the show, I went to the opening night party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The current exhibit on Any Winehouse was open for us. There was plenty of good food, but alas, no marijuana-laced challah.

Technicolor experiences at the Pacific Film Archive

Over the last few days, I’ve attended two separate three-strip Technicolor screenings at the Pacific Film Archive, each projected in a very different way. The first, Jean Renior’s The River, was screened pretty much as the original audiences saw it in 1951. The second, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffmann, was presented in a way only possible in the 21st century.

I liked both films very much. And I loved both forms of projection. I’ll talk about how the films looked and why, then tell you what I thought about the movies–neither of which I’d seen before last week.

Technicolor’s three-strip format dominated commercial color filmmaking from the mid-1930s through the early 1950s. A special camera recorded each primary color on a separate strip of black-and-white film.

From The History and Science of Color Fi 1 From Filmmaker IQ

The prints made from these tree negatives were prints in a pre-photography sense of the word–as in a printing press. From each negative, Technicolor would make a special intermediate relief print that would be thick and thin instead of black and white. They would use these to stamp the color dyes onto the release prints. You can find more technical details at the Widescreen Museum and the Timeline of Historical Film Colors.

These dye-transfer prints (the official name was IB, for imbibition) had a beauty all their own, with gorgeous saturation and reds that really popped. The dyes used were extremely stable; even the oldest existing dye-transfer prints look gorgeous today.

Both films were released in 1951, near the end of the three-strip period, and arguably when the technology, and the artistic use of that technology, was at its zenith.

The PFA screened The River in an archival dye-transfer print made in 1952. And yes, the colors were amazing–beautiful in a way that you simply don’t find in today’s digital projection. Or for that matter, in yesterday’s conventionally-processed color film prints. On the other hand, focus was often unreliable and soft. I don’t know if that’s a problem with the printing, the print’s age, or a flaw in the film itself.

But the colors they had were always beautiful. Such dye-transfer prints will get rarer over the years, so you should never miss the chance to see one (unless you really hate the movie, of course).

The Tales of Hoffmann, on the other hand, has just gone through a full digital restoration. So it was projected digitally from a 4K DCP. The look was cleaner, brighter, and sharper than The River’s dye-transfer print. And while the gorgeous, highly-saturated colors certainly popped, they didn’t pop in the same way as dye-transfer print.

Film shrinks over time, and you can’t expect three separate reels to shrink in exactly the same way. So restoring three-strip Technicolor is an art in itself. You scan the original black-and-white negatives (assuming they survived) at a high resolution. Edge recognition software and human eyes resize the three images so that they match.

With The Tales of Hoffmann, the results were beautiful. The images were sharp (except when they shouldn’t be), and textured. And the color was just gorgeous.

So which was best? The dye-transfer print had a special excitement all its own. You watch it the way you read a first edition copy of a classic book–with awe. You’re experiencing a rare treat and you know it.

Digital projection isn’t a rare treat. But it provides a beautiful way to present these films, sharp and clean. And while the colors may not be as good as dye transfer, they’re still an improvement over conventional color film prints.

And before you talk about “How the film was intended to be seen,” consider this: IB prints were notoriously irregular. No two prints would have the exact same colors.

So what about the movies?

B+ The River

The clash of civilizations appears as a friendly melting pot in this coming of age story set in British India. A happy English family begins to get unglued when the two oldest daughters both develop crushes on the same American veteran–who just moved in with their next-door neighbor. There’s tragedy and near-tragedy, and gentle comedy, and the warm envelope of people who love each other, even when they’re angry. Renoir paints (an appropriate term for Technicolor) an idealized version of British India, where everyone gets along, no one rejects a mixed-race girl, and western and eastern ways of life merge happily.

A- The Tales of Hoffmann

The Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film of Jacques Offenbach’s episodic opera (with the libretto translated into English) merge stage and cinema like nothing else I’ve ever seen–at least at feature length. On one level, there’s no attempt at cinema realism. The sets, costumes, and makeup have all the expressionism of the live stage. But, like the great dance sequence in Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, it could only be created in a movie studio. The three stories (four if you count the framing device) are the simplest of fairy tales. But the dramatic use of music, dance, light, and acting makes it all (well, almost all) amazing.

Solaris at the Pacific Film Archive

The plot of Andrei Tarkovsky’s science fiction film Solaris could easily work as a Star Trek episode. Captain Kirk (or Picard) visits a troubled space station orbiting a strange, ocean-covered planet. The ocean appears to be sentient, and it’s playing tricks on minds of the human visitors, driving them mad.

But no Star Trek episode could feel so bleak and hopeless. And while it might bring up the question of what defines a human being, it would provide a clear and optimistic answer. Nor would it run nearly three hours, much of it made up of long takes of tormented faces. (Okay, the first Star Trek movie kind of matches that last description, but not in a good way.)

I caught Solaris Thursday night at the Pacific Film Archive, where it screened as part of the ongoing series, The Poetry of Time: Andrei Tarkovsky. This was my second Solaris experience; the first was probably around 1977. I don’t think I was mature enough to appreciate it then. This time around, I loved it. Definitely A material.

Tarkovsky keeps the story down to Earth for nearly 45 minutes. Psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis), troubled with his memories and his journey to the troubled space station, prepares to say goodbye to his father, son, and the rural home he clearly loves so much. That home, which shows very few hints that this story is set in the future, provides an extreme contrast to the space-age setting of the rest of the film.

When Kelvin arrives at the space station, it looks like the morning after a frat party. Garbage is strewn everywhere, and no one is in a mood to meet with the newcomer. Of the three crewmembers, one of them rarely leaves his laboratory. Another is only a bit more friendly. The third, an old friend of Kelvin’s, has committed suicide.

Then Kelvin’s late wife, dead the past ten years (another suicide), shows up. An hallucination? Not quite. The other crewmembers see her and interact with her. She is unquestionably, really there. But she suffers from mercurial emotional shifts. And physically, she heals with stunning speed–even from death. She has his wife’s looks and love for Kelvin, but no memory of the past. Natalya Bondarchuk gives an amazing performance here.

Based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem, Solaris suggests that connecting to extraterrestrial life will be far more difficult than we imagine. And that connecting to ourselves, and each other, is almost as difficult.

Like I said, it’s bleak.

The screening at the PFA was a sell-out via advanced tickets, but apparently some people didn’t make it. A few seats were empty.

The print, from Kino, looked as if it had seen better days. Scratches were heavy at the beginning and end of each reel, and the colors looked a bit faded. I think Solaris needs a full restoration.


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