SFIFF Report: Two Frightening Films on Wednesday

I saw two excellent films yesterday at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

They had a lot in common. They were both European. Each was told entirely from the protagonist’s point of view, with the lead actor in every scene, and the audience knowing nothing that he doesn’t know. And I do mean he; both protagonists were married men. Very, very horrible things happen to both of them, and both pictures were extremely scary.

But other than that they were entirely different. The first was a thriller, and scary in a funny, entertaining, and Hitchcockian way. The second one, based on a true story, was truly terrifying, because what happened in it could happen to anyone.

A Headhunters
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) leads the good life. He’s rich, powerful, and has a beautiful wife. But even his high-paying, high-status job can’t pay for his lavish lifestyle, so he headhuntersmoonlights as a burglar, breaking into homes and stealing expensive paintings. But then something goes seriously wrong. Then it gets worse. Much worse. Before long, avoiding the police is the least of his worries. Roger doesn’t start out as a likeable character, which allows the audience to enjoy his suffering–for awhile. But by the time he has to bury himself over his head in shit, he has our sympathies. Warning: This movie has several very violent scenes, and much of what Roger experiences is extremely gruesome. On more than one occasion he walks away from a scene that he could not possibly walk away from in real life. But that’s okay; this isn’t real life.

I saw the Festival’s final screening of Headhunters, but don’t despair. It’s opening in LA and New York tomorrow, and in the Bay Area next week.

A Guilty
Overnight, Alain Marécaux’s life became a nightmare. Police arrested him and his wife for raping children and running a child prostitution racket. Despite a complete lack ofguilty physical evidence and contradicting testimony from the accusers, he spent two years in prison and had his life ruined before finally being exonerated. That’s the true story. Guilty dramatically recreates this story from Marécaux’s point of view (he worked as a technical advisor on the film and apparently had veto power over its contents). The result is intense, harrowing, and frightening. Despite the help of a talented and caring attorney, Marécaux is at the mercy of a young judge determined to find him guilty no matter what the facts state. A very powerful film and a strong indictment of the French legal system.

You’ve got another chance to see Guilty, although you may have to cut work to do so. It’s playing at the Kabuki on Friday at noon.

Technical side note: So far, Guilty is the first new film I’ve seen at this year’s festival that was actually projected on film.