SF International Film Festival Preview, Part II

I’ve previewed three more films that will screen in this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. Here’s what I thought about them.

In case you missed Part I, you’ll find it here.

All of these films will likely receive a theatrical release in the near future. So if you miss them at the festival, you’ll likely be able to see them later.

A- Bonsái, Kabuki, Friday, April 20, 9:30 and Sunday, April 22, 12:45; Pacific Film Archive, Tuesday, April 24, 6:30. Right at the start, a narrator tells us that Emilia will die before the end of the film, but that Julio will live. You know what you’re getting into. Cutting back and forth between two timeframes, placed eight years apart, writer/director Cristián Jiménez presents two romances in the life of one young man. In the first, the ill-fated Emilia meets Julio in college. They read to each other in bed, discuss great literature (mostly Proust), go to punk-rock concerts, and enjoy each other’s bodies with the hot single-mindedness of youth. In the later romance, Julio tells his lover Emilia that he’s helping an established author write a new novel. But to keep up the hoax, the young man must become a novelist himself. Jiménez uses a deadpan, matter-of-fact approach of early Jim Jarmusch, to very good effect.

B Farewell, My Queen, Castro, Thursday, April 19, 7:00, opening night. What was it Versailles like in the final days of the French monarchy? Was the court panicked? In farewell_my_queendenial? Did anyone realize that they would soon lose their heads? Benoît Jacquot creates an answer to these questions in this small yet visually impressive drama set in the French court in July of 1789. Although seriously marred by an uninteresting central character, Farewell, My Queen gives us a peak into a different world–a beautiful palace in which the realities of normal people seldom intrude. But it is utterly dependent on a bigger world that it thinks it controls, and it can’t last forever. I wish this picture had run longer.

D+ Darling Companion, Kabuki, Monday, April 23, 6:45, and Tuesday, April 24,    12:00 noon. I hate watching good actors, some of whom I’ve admired for decades, struggle through a bad script. This particular bad script concerns a long-married couple (Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline) and several relatives searching for a missing dog. It’s supposed to turn into a search for self-discovery, but the people are too shallow and contrived to be worth discovering. So what we get is a character-driven comedy almost entirely lacking in believable characters or laughs. If it were not for the inspired cast, which also includes Dianne Wiest and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, the movie would have been an entire loss.