SFFilm Festival Friday: Long Excuse & Early Van Peebles

Another rainy day at the movies, with one new good film and one rare classic.

The Long Excuse

Two women die in a bus accident, and their husbands deal with loss in this Japanese drama laced with gentle humor. Sachio is a well-educated, successful writer. He carries guilt; he was screwing his mistress when his wife died. Yoichi is an uneducated truck driver. He carries responsibilities; he has two young kids. The lonely and childless Sachio offers to take on babysitting duties, and soon becomes a second dad. Both help the other heal. This otherwise excellent film seemed to end several times over in the last half hour before it finally ended. The kids are adorable.

I give it B.

There was no Q&A after the film.

You have one more chance to see The Long Excuse at the festival, on Sunday, April 9, at 7:30, at Dolby Cinema at 1275 Market. It may get a theatrical release.

Story of a 3-Day Pass

Melvin Van Peebles, known as a pioneer in African-American filmmaking, had to go to France to make his start. And what he made, in 1967, is a warm, sweet, sexy romance with almost no conflict.

Van Peebles was not able to attend the screening, but he provided a pre-recorded video introduction that wasn’t very useful.

An African American soldier stationed in France gets a three-day pass, goes to Paris, meets a French girl. They drive out to the coast and have a wonderful time. Van Peebles livens the simple story by playful use of the cinematic tools. For instance, in a scene when the couple is maneuvering towards the bed for the first time, comic sound effects emphasize the awkwardness of the moment. A terrific jazz-inflected score helps considerably.

Van Peebles goes surprisingly light on the French. No one seems to object to this mixed-race couple enjoying a romantic getaway. When racism does raise it’s head, it comes from a Spaniard (and much of this may have been a language error), and white American soldiers.

(Mel, a friend of the family in the 1970s, told me that while the French treated African Americans decently, they were horrible with Algerians.)

I give the movie a B+.

The movie was projected from swhat I believed was a letterboxed 16mm print. Not the best way to see a movie, but that’s probably all that was available.