SFIFF Preview, Part II

These two films aren’t scheduled for theatrical release after the San Francisco International Film Festival, so if you don’t catch them at the Festival, you may never get another chance.

But with one of them, that’s not a bad thing.

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, Kabuki, Sunday, May 3, 3:45 and Monday, May 4, 6:15; Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, May 7, 8:40. The very idea of reviewing a history of film criticism  sounds like a journalistic conflict of interest. It doesn’t help when the loveofmoviesdocumentary begins and ends with the warning that film criticism is a dying profession, and that bloggers who work for free are a large part of the problem. So let me add my disclaimer: I review all sorts of things professionally, but when it comes to movies, I’m another unpaid blogger. For the Love of Movies celebrates the people who have defined our film culture for the last century, telling us what’s worth seeing and defining greatness both in films and filmmakers. It introduces us to great critics living and dead, and gives plenty of time to the multi-decade Pauline Kael/Andrew Sarris feud. It’s informative and entertaining, but unless you’re a real fanatic, it’s hardly essential.

Bluebeard, Kabuki; Friday, April 24, 7:15; Saturday, April 25, 9:30; Wednesday, April 29, 4:15. To put Catherine Breillat’s name on a film with no  sex or nudity almost constitutes false advertising. This is her family film; if it wasn’t for two very stylized bloody scenes near the end, Bluebeard could easily get a PG, or even a G, rating. But despite the brief bits of gore, Breillat’s latest remains bluebeardbloodless, lacking the passion and excitement that make her other efforts watchable even when their stories get ridiculous. In addition to being ridiculous, dull, lifeless, and asexual, Bluebeard looks cheap. Set in the 17th century, the settings seem oddly devoid of people, and when a few straggling extras finally show up, they appear to be recruited from a local Renaissance Faire. The one saving grace is a modern framing story involving two little girls in an attic, with one reading the story of Bluebeard to the other. They’re adorable, and very funny when they discuss things they clearly no nothing about.